Remembering David Ellenson’s Reform Zionist Theology

On December 7, Rabbi David Ellenson, a theologian, scholar, and former president of the Hebrew Union College, died at the age of seventy-six. Ellenson wrote important studies of the history of Orthodoxy while serving as one of the great theorists and leaders of Reform. He was also, as Gil Troy notes, a devoted Zionist:

In his 2014 book, Jewish Meaning in a World of Choice: Studies in Tradition and Modernity, Ellenson recalls living decades earlier on Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek, a secular kibbutz . . . in the Jezreel Valley. In a passage that is agonizing to read after October 7, he says that whenever he viewed the lovely, busy, productive kibbutz from above while wandering the hills, he would recall the prophet Amos’s vision of the people of Israel being restored. However, while “deeply moved” by the scene, he continues, “no blessing would emerge” [from his lips].

But, he adds, whenever he climbed down the mountain, a different feeling overwhelmed him as he reentered the kibbutz. Watching parents kibbitz with one another on the lawn while their children scampered about happily, peacefully, and safely, this child of the American experience, born in 1947, a year before Israel’s re-establishment, would inevitably start pronouncing the She-heḥeyanu thanksgiving prayer for having lived to this moment. “In those moments,” Ellenson writes, “my spirit moved me instinctively to thank God for the kiddush ha-ḥayyim, the sanctification of life, that the Jewish state and Jewish existence embody.”

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: American Judaism, Reform Judaism, Religious Zionism

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security