Even When They Are Apart, Jews Are Never Alone

April 22 2020

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.”

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Read more at Commentary

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

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia