Jiří Langer: Jewish Mystic, Hebrew Poet, Friend of Kafka

Jiří (or Georg) Mordechai Langer forsook his bourgeois Jewish upbringing in Prague for a life of strict religious observance, studying in the hasidic centers of Poland. He later became a committed Zionist. But he is best known for his books on Jewish mysticism, which helped introduce hasidic thought to Western Jews, and for his friendship with Franz Kafka, whom he tutored in Hebrew. Langer was also a talented Hebrew poet. A collection of his poetry has now been translated into Hebrew, along with a biographical study, by Elana Wolff, that also explores the previously unexamined subject of his sexuality. Kenneth Sherman writes:

The collection Piyyutim ve-Shirei Yedidot is a sequence of sixteen poems written in Hebrew. . . with titles such as “Handsome Lad” and “To My Companion.” Their homoerotic imagery point[s] to the fact that Langer was gay—an item not mentioned by any of Kafka’s biographers. Langer’s older brother, František, who knew of his brother’s sexual orientation and whose Foreword to the English translation of [Langer’s] Nine Gates remains a prime source of biographical information, is also mum on the subject. The omission would hardly matter, except that Langer’s sexuality was an essential part of his art and philosophy. [His biographer Elana]Wolff calls Langer’s disclosure of his homosexuality through his poetry “a daring act of self-expression.”

Read more at Tablet

More about: Ball teshuvah, Franz Kafka, Hasidism, Hebrew poetry, Homosexuality, Jiří Langer

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