Even When They Are Apart, Jews Are Never Alone

As of March 14, New York City’s Shearith Israel synagogue—America’s oldest Jewish congregation—suspended Sabbath services due to the pandemic. This is the first time that services have been canceled since 1776, when the congregants fled Manhattan ahead of the advancing British army. Its rabbi, Meir Soloveichik, contemplates the current situation and what it means for Jews’ religious and communal life:

The Hebrew term for synagogue is Beit Knesset, a house of gathering, and it is called so because, in the rabbinic tradition, the phrase Knesset Yisrael refers to the mysterious bonds that connect Jews to one another. A synagogue is not merely a physical gathering of individuals, but rather, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik explained, it reflects “an invisible Knesset Yisrael, which embraces not only contemporaries, but every Jew who has ever lived.” The synagogue is meant to embody this bond, this connection to all Jews past and present. But there are other ways to experience it.

Loneliness and aloneness [according to Joseph Soloveitchik], are different phenomena. Contemporary Western man, [when not in the midst of a pandemic], is physically surrounded by people. But that does not mean that he has covenantal communion with people. Contemporary man goes to parties, bars, coffee shops, stores; he tweets with likeminded political partisans or communicates on Facebook with his many thousands of “friends.” He is not alone. But he lacks true spiritual communion. And so, lonely he remains.

Human beings have an innate need to be among others, but now we are seeing a kind of antisocial social mixing, when we are constantly [connected to] people with whom we have no bond. The only true remedy to loneliness is in a covenant, not only the covenant of marriage, but the larger covenant of faith. There, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik writes, “not only hands are joined, but experiences as well; . . . one lonely soul finds another soul tormented by loneliness and solitude yet unqualifiedly committed.”

Read more at Commentary

More about: Coronavirus, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Judaism, Shearith Israel, Synagogue

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy