Yiddish Theater in the Warsaw Ghetto

During World War II, multiple Yiddish theaters functioned in the Warsaw Ghetto. Even more remarkably, those involved in them were deeply concerned, despite everything, with maintaining high artistic standards. Michael Steinlauf writes:

The single most controversial issue in prewar Yiddish theater discourse was the subject of shund, referring to so-called trash, theater that was judged to be “mere entertainment,” and poor entertainment at that, filled with singing and dancing, badly acted and frequently vulgar. This was contrasted with the productions of “serious” or “dramatic” or “artistic” theater. . . .

What’s extraordinary when looking at theater in the Warsaw Ghetto is not just the continuity of this distinction but its intensification. While in the prewar years there was already an ethical component to this distinction, in the ghetto it became central. . . . A “better” theater was better because, first, amidst the radical immorality of daily life in a world built on obliviousness to the suffering and death of others, this theater recalled its audience to humanity.

Read more at Digital Yiddish Theatre Project

More about: Holocaust, Polish Jewry, Warsaw Ghetto, Yiddish theater


Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy