Preserving the Synagogues of the American South

In the 19th century, Jewish communities were scattered across the American South, in small towns as well as big cities. Changing demographic patterns led many synagogues to fall into disuse. Some have been destroyed, or sold off, while others have been preserved as landmarks or museums. Yet others have been disassembled and relocated, as recently happened to the synagogue of Brenham, TX, now to be found in Austin. Samuel Grubner writes:

This past week, during Hanukkah, the 121-year-old wood-frame, clapboard-sided B’nai Abraham synagogue of Brenham, Texas, has been sliced in pieces, trucked across four counties, and re-erected on the Dell Jewish Community Campus in Austin. For the first time in decades, the synagogue will host a daily Orthodox minyan and be the central place for an active Texas Jewish community. . . . B’nai Abraham’s Orthodox identity is one of the distinctive aspects about the Brenham shul. It is the oldest standing intact synagogue in Texas, founded by Orthodox Jews from Poland and Lithuania in the 1880s and rebuilt in 1893 after a fire. . . . The building is modest in appearance. Its pointed arched entryway and the triangular window heads give a simple Gothic look, like many small-town Southern churches, but without a steeple. Inside, however, it is arranged like an East-European shul, with a central lectern and a gallery for women over an entrance vestibule opposite the ark.

Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewry, Jewish architecture, Synagogues, Texas

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