Remembering Yehoshua Mondshine, Historian and Hasid

Historians of religion and true believers often find themselves at odds. Thus Yehoshua Mondshine—devout Chabad Hasid and scrupulous historian—was something very rare, winning the respect both of academic scholars and of members of his own community. Mondshine, who passed away last week, was responsible for publishing, editing, and sometimes discovering important manuscripts, as well as producing a staggering number of scholarly articles, bibliographies, and polemical essays. Eli Rubin writes:

In a 1992 article, the [historian David] Assaf described Mondshine’s special ability to uncompromisingly combine his unambiguously hasidic identity with the rigors of academic scholarship. He wrote that Mondshine “labors on the margins of the professional academy, but he knows well how to use the tools of that world. . . . His writing is characterized by comprehensive and impressive knowledge, originality, provocativeness—and a willingness to battle against what he sees as distortion of Chabad’s image by outsiders.”

Indeed, Mondshine wielded the scholar’s pen with surprising force. His textual knowledge, analytical skills, and perception as a hasidic insider were sometimes complemented by biting sarcasm to undo a thesis he disagreed with. As a Hasid operating in the academic sphere, he was unapologetic and unintimidated. Elements within each of the communities he straddled may have accused him of being under the sway of “external” influences, but Mondshine understood that the tools of critical research would help Hasidim better understand their own tradition.


More about: Chabad, Hasidism


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