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America’s New Corporate Tyranny

The American political and legal systems are working just fine, despite a few hiccups. Meanwhile, American corporations are depriving citizens of basic rights and freedoms and destroying our democracy.

by Michael Lind
The Three Stigmata of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

More than a half century after the civil rights leader’s assassination, the trauma of his death keeps expanding

by B. Duncan Moench
Martin Luther King Jr.’s Speech On Soviet Jewry

The original text of King’s December 1966 address to the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry

by Jesse Bernstein
Everything Is Broken

And how to fix it

by Alana Newhouse
A Prayer on the Capitol

Why the historical significance of the storming of Washington is still in our hands

by Bernard-Henri Lévy
The New Truth

When the moral imperative trumps the rational evidence, there’s no arguing

by Jacob Siegel
The Great American Breakup

Political scientist Louis Hartz accurately described the United States’ underlying cultural hyperindividualism

by B. Duncan Moench
What Is a Boogaloo?

And will the group be at the forefront of organized nationwide violence and rioting on Sunday, January 17?

by Jacob Siegel
The Normalization of the Post-Sept. 11 Regime

Nearing the 20th anniversary of the USA Patriot Act, how did laws ostensibly structured to protect Americans from threats from abroad come to reimagine the legal basis for our freedoms at home?

by Stephen I. Vladeck
Is ‘Wong Wai’ the Right Way to Understand Ethnoreligious Discrimination in the Face of COVID?

The racial scapegoating of Asian Americans during a bubonic plague outbreak in 1900 may offer a key legal precedent for defenders of religious and ethnic communities in 2021

by Maggie Phillips
Levinas Would Have Banned Facial Recognition Technology. We Should Too.

The surveillance state is a deeply threatening and immoral structure for human social existence. It’s here now.

by David Zvi Kalman
The Five Crises of the American Regime

The mob assault on the Capitol is simply another entry in the catalog of American decline

by Michael Lind
The Origin of the COVID-19 Outbreak in Wuhan

We don’t know yet. But contrary to recent reporting, science does not rule out a lab accident or even bioterrorism.

by Khaled Talaat
Wuhan Denialism

Dismissing the possibility that COVID-19 escaped from a lab in China as ‘a conspiracy theory’ is bad science

by Khaled Talaat
China’s Global Lockdown Propaganda Campaign

Inside the CCP’s use of social media bots and other disinformation tactics to promote its own response to the coronavirus pandemic and attack its critics

by Michael P. Senger
The American Elite Declares Its Independence From America

A decade-old Tom Friedman column serves as a Rosetta stone for the elite embrace of China; with comment from Tom Friedman

by Lee Smith
The Fact-Checkers

How a respected but peripheral editorial job evolved into a partisan bludgeon for both sides of the American divide

by Sean Cooper
Trump and the Joys of Hatred

Explaining the nihilist candidate’s brutish appeal

by Paul Berman
Matt Drudge Logs Off

The Drudge Report has become a conformist shadow of its formerly bratty, oppositional self. Why?

by Armin Rosen
The Office Space Apocalypse

The era of massive densely packed urban office towers is over for good. What will take its place?

by Joel Kotkin
Israeli Oppression Comes to Durham

The city council’s 2018 vote on Israel left many local Jews feeling unwelcome. Is it the new normal across midsize-town America?

by Sean Cooper
Europe’s Highest Court Gives Its Approval to Attempts to Outlaw Jewish and Muslim Life

In upholding bans on kosher and halal animal slaughter, Europe’s Court of Justice affirmed the acceptability of an ugly new expression of an old prejudice

by Yair Rosenberg
Joe Rogan Is the Aleph

The massively popular podcast host provides a glimpse into Borges’ ‘multitudes of America’

by Jacob Siegel
The Great Repair

Americans want life to feel normal again. It’s been a while.

by Peter Savodnik
The Satmar Way of Life and Death Used to Be Our Way, Too

A massive illegal funeral for a community judge in Williamsburg is a reminder of just how much of our humanity we have lost to the pandemic

by Armin Rosen
The Coronavirus Is Killing Off American Jewish Institutional Life

With emptying coffers and no end in sight, many Jewish institutions no longer see COVID-19 as a crisis to weather, but rather as a new reality

by Armin Rosen
The Kornbluh Riot

The discontent over unfair coronavirus restrictions in Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox communities is boiling over and turning inward

by Armin Rosen
The Coronavirus Erases Our Living Memory of the Holocaust

And gives fresh life to old traumas

by Armin Rosen
The Mass Murder of Nigerian Christians

The world is determined to look away from a horrific campaign of killings being perpetrated in Africa under the name of Islam

by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Rev. Johnnie Moore
Israeli Oppression Comes to Durham

The city council’s 2018 vote on Israel left many local Jews feeling unwelcome. Is it the new normal across midsize-town America?

by Sean Cooper
What’s up, Doc?

The controversy over whether Jill Biden should be addressed as ‘doctor’ is a sign of the importance of educational credentialing as a social sorting mechanism

by Nicholas Clairmont
Young Love

Thirty-year-old lawyers throwing bombs are ‘just kids,’ while 12-year-olds are prosecuted for ‘racism.’ How youth went from a stage of human development to a protected political class.

by Kat Rosenfield
The Revenge of the Yankees

How Social Gospel became Social Justice

by Michael Lind
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France’s Sins, and Yours

Sex, race, and religion divide two revolutionary universalist nations

by Pascal Bruckner
The Vanishing

The Jewish communities of America and France created liberal modernity, so it’s no accident they’re dissolving

by Marc Weitzmann
Islamophobia and Post-Colonial Guilt

Pascal Bruckner’s ‘brave and necessary’ book examines how Muslims came to be known as victims of the West

by David Mikics
An Enemy of the People

Finkielkraut, attacked (and defended)

by Paul Berman
The Case for Cautious Optimism

On campus and across America, there’s more room for conversation and discussion on race, conflict, and justice than often appears to be the case. Many young people just need to be taught the negative implications of seeing the world in a narrow or binary manner.

by Ilana Redstone
The Doctor and the Rabbi

Tablet Original Fiction: When a man of science loves a woman of God, what lies between them?

by Aimee Bender
All We Need Is Hate?

Jeffrey Israel’s new ‘Living with Hate in American Politics and Religion’ examines why we keep trying, and failing, to ignore the hatreds that define us

by Blake Smith
The City Without Jews

A chillingly prescient 1924 Austrian film gets new life—and ‘incandescent’ relevance—in a miraculous Blu-ray restoration

by Thomas Doherty
A Jew Is a Jew Is a Jew

Novelist and critic Clive James and theater director Jonathan Miller, who died within days of each other this fall, shared breadth of passions and influential cultural positions. One was Jewish. The other was not—but he understood Jews better.

by Howard Jacobson
The Wanderers

Daniel Mendelsohn’s genre-bending critical lectures gathered in the new ‘Three Rings’ looks at the Odyssean exiles of Erich Auerbach, Francois Fénelon, and W.G. Sebald, and their characters

by Michael S. Roth
My War Criminal

Twenty-five years after the end of the Bosnian War, Jessica Stern’s psychologizing approach to imprisoned Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić muddies historical understanding. But the calls to boycott her new book undermine open, intelligent discussion.

by Mardean Isaac
Year Zero

The age of the machines demands its own samizdat

by David Samuels
My War Criminal

Twenty-five years after the end of the Bosnian War, Jessica Stern’s psychologizing approach to imprisoned Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić muddies historical understanding. But the calls to boycott her new book undermine open, intelligent discussion.

by Mardean Isaac
Whitman and the American Revelation

The epiphany that led to a national literature’s single greatest achievement: tucked in a prosaic, newly discovered early novel are the seeds of ‘Leaves of Grass’

by Paul Berman
The Golden HYFR

Drake comes of age

by Thomas Chatterton Williams
The Jewish Auden

The poet’s philo-Semitism and visit to Jerusalem had a profound influence on him, and on Yehuda Amichai

by Shalom Goldman
An In-Person Report From a Virtual Film Festival

Binging documentaries while under quarantine in Haifa offers a much-needed window into a country that can feel unreal

by Izabella Tabarovsky
A Casual Spectator’s Guide to the Twitter Armies of the Earth

Like video game zombies they roam the fields of battle from Armenia and Syria to Iran, India, France, and Israel, engaging in a simulacrum of warfare, without risk

by Armin Rosen
Double Exposure: Jean-Pierre Melville

The ambiguities and darkness of Nazi-occupied France propelled him to flee his country, take a new name, fight in the Resistance, and then invent film noir. But the past continued to haunt him.

by Adrien Bosc
Lost Yiddish Words

The language contemporary Hasidim use in everyday life borrows from English and simplifies a richer linguistic ancestor—and yet is more alive

by Rose Waldman
The Dharma of David Ben-Gurion

Two European Jewish refugees helped remake the landscape of the possible through their friendship: One was the first prime minister of Israel, and the other was a Buddhist monk

by Shalom Goldman
American ‘Auschwitz’

A late-1970s surge in interest in the Holocaust coincided with a new ‘survivor’ mentality found in unexpected places, including Detroit and the Bee Gees

by Henry Greenspan
Hannah Arendt’s Critique of Social Media

How personal judgment—essential to a diverse democratic public sphere—gets subsumed by our clichéd attempts to join the crowd

by Blake Smith
‘jews’

How a single painting in the New York Jewish Museum’s collection helps define Jewish art

by Maya Balakirsky Katz
Space Babel

On the undignified end of the Arecibo Observatory and our search for the heavens

by Adam Kirsch
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Honoring the Body in Death

Jewish laws and traditions have much to say about what happens after we die. But there is still much for us to consider.

by Mary Lane Potter
Psalms No More

King David’s poems are ubiquitous, especially during COVID-19. But should they be?

by A.J. Berkovitz
A Rabbi of Inclusion

Remembering Rabbi Yehuda Kelemer, who opened doors for the developmentally disabled

by Raphael B. Butler
When Great Trees Fall

Lessons from a year of losses from Maya Angelou and the Talmud

by Yehuda Fogel
Women’s Talmud Study Picks Up During the Pandemic

The current cycle of ‘Daf Yomi’ learning has seen more resources aimed at women from all levels of observance

by Nomi Kaltmann
Coronaspection: Introspections 1-13

Cardinal Cristoph Schonborn, Elder Jeffrey Holland, Rabbi Dov Singer

by Alon Goshen-Gottstein
Coronaspection: World Religious Leaders Look Inward During a Time of Global Hardship

One of the most important insights of the Coronaspection project, which brings together 40 world religious leaders for their insights on faith during the time of the coronavirus, has to do with the sense of solidarity and interconnectedness of humanity. Unity is one outcome that almost all participants recognize, and this unity extends also to some significant dimension of unity across religions. United in their struggle with the spiritual challenges of one virus, religious leaders of different traditions share their particular vision across religious boundaries.

by Alon Goshen-Gottstein
Eating Our Way to Holiness

The spirit and the letter of keeping kosher

by Mary Lane Potter
Why We Didn’t Circumcise Our Second Son

Our first son got the traditional brit. But not this time around.

by Yagi Morris
Choosing Life

After giving birth to a stillborn baby, finding comfort in Jewish ritual and scripture

by Kate McGee
What My Kippah Means to Me

As a butch lesbian, wearing a yarmulke connects me to my people—and to myself

by Olivia Swasey
The Battle of the Baal Shem Tov

What I learned as a child, listening to my father and grandfather argue over the founder of Hasidic Judaism

by Alter Yisrael Shimon Feuerman
Learning Hebrew—at Last

Without knowing the language, there was no way to fully participate in my community—not in the way I wanted to

by Roseanne Benjamin
Becoming a Man

How expectations around gender and sexuality led me to embrace Orthodoxy—and then leave it

by Lance Tukell
Secular Synagogues Take Root in Israel

A new kind of spiritual community blossoms

by Paula Jacobs
The Orthodox Jew and the Atheist

How I learned that righteousness and morality are a question of behavior, not belief

by Rebecca Klempner
Pants, Pants Revolution: How My First Pair of Jeans Redefined Modesty for Me

When I bought jeans recently, I redefined what ‘tzniut’ means to me as an Orthodox woman

by Simi Lampert
Lost and Found

How I lost my Mormonism and came to embrace the Jewish way

by Nathan Steiger
Why a Conservative Female Rabbi Decided To Pull Away From Her Male Friends

‘I had to dial back my friendships with men, for the sake of my marriage’

by Rachel Miller Solomin
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The Death of the Arab-Israeli Conflict

A big problem that the Biden administration suddenly won’t have to deal with

by Michael Oren
Growing Peace in the Middle East

American Jews can help Israel and the entire region by strengthening the Abraham Accord. And please, come visit us.

by Hend Al Otaiba
How Denmark, Sweden, the U.N., and the EU Got Suckered Into Funding a Terror Organization

The PFLP’s grotesque hybrid of a terror arm and an NGO network murders innocent people while raking in millions from the West

by Yosef Kuperwasser
The Emperor’s New Clothes

The Abraham Accords prove that Trump’s majestic robes are real—at least in the Middle East

by Michael Doran
The Abraham Accords!

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks at the White House upon the signing of the amazing and unexpected peace treaty between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain

by Benjamin Netanyahu
Qatar’s State-of-the-Art Foreign Lobbying Campaign

Think tanks, universities, museums, newspapers, and key congressional committees are all pieces in a game of 3D chess that the tiny Gulf state is playing with its rivals, using Washington, D.C., as its game board

by Lee Smith
The Aboriginal Rights of the Jewish People

Do the Jewish people have legal ‘rights of entry, sojourn, and settlement’ to the land of Israel?

by Allen Z. Hertz
Are Jews Indigenous to the Land of Israel?

Yes.

by Ryan Bellerose
Bringing the Middle East Back Home

The American Orientalist Class attempts to paint a fantasy Middle Eastern landscape on the American canvas

by Tony Badran
A Rabbi in Riyadh

The first Jewish faith leader received by a Saudi monarch recounts his visit with King Salman

by David Rosen
Lebanon’s Interwoven Fantasy Worlds All Lead to War With Israel

How much should America pay to maintain the fraying fabric?

by Tony Badran
China’s Emerging Middle Eastern Kingdom

China’s drive for supremacy is now underway in the Middle East—and it won’t end there

by Michael Doran, Peter Rough
How Iran Became a Global Vector of Infection for COVID-19

The authoritarian theocracy faces specific challenges in dealing with the coronavirus

by Noam Blum
When May Day Was a Major Event in Israel

In some Israeli communities, the international workers holiday was just as important as the Jewish holidays

by Armin Rosen
A Q&A With Dorit Rabinyan, the Wonder Woman of New Israeli Lit

In a landscape vacated of the two literary giants Aharon Appelfeld and Amos Oz, Israeli fiction ushers in the rise of a new generation of women writers. The author of ‘All the Rivers’ talks about sabras in New York, American Jewry’s allure, and learning to listen for the perfect watermelon.

by David Samuels
The New MMA Hotbed: Israel

A father passes the fighting torch to his prodigal son, and a new generation of combat athletes makes a name for the Promised Land

by Hillel Kuttler
How Osama Bin Laden Outsmarted the U.S. and Got What He Wanted

The point of Sept. 11 wasn’t to terrorize the West. It was to get the U.S. out of the Muslim world—and it worked.

by David Samuels
Bibi, King of Israel

The most talented politician in Israeli history cracks his demented foes like walnuts

by Liel Leibovitz
Q&A With Israel’s Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak

A conversation with the Israeli leader on the cusp of an election that he hopes will restore his center-left political coalition to power and once again put him in charge of Israel’s future

by David Samuels
Obama Passed the Buck. Trump Refused to Play.

The Iran deal was never meant to stop Iran from building a bomb—it was supposed to delay it until disaster happened on someone else’s watch

by Lee Smith
One Last Interview

Three weeks before his death in 2016, Shimon Peres sat for what he intended to be a Rosh Hashanah-timed discussion about the state of the world. It was also his final one.

by David Samuels
The Jews Make it to the Moon

But not without misfortunes

by Armin Rosen
Malley in Wonderland

How Obama’s ‘progressive’ foreign policy vision—to backpedal away from the Middle East, fast, while kicking our former allies in the region to the curb—became consensus in D.C.

by Tony Badran
Spies in the Basement

The extraordinary true cloak-and-dagger tale of how a chance encounter in a London bookstore made peace possible, on the 25th anniversary of the Israel-Jordan accords

by Haim Be’er
Arafat and the Ayatollahs

The PLO’s greatest single contribution to the Iranian Revolution was the formation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, but the Palestinian leader’s involvement with Iran didn’t end there

by Tony Badran
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Bringing Bagels Back to Vilnius

After a long absence, the Jewish staple has returned to the Lithuanian capital

by Wailana Kalama
The Rise and Fall of Israel’s Oranges

The country’s iconic fruit is on the decline

by Janna Gur
In Search of Lost Fish

Kapchunka was once a staple of Jewish appetizing stores. Today it has nearly vanished. So I set off on a journey across New York to taste what I’d been missing.

by Andrew Silverstein
Saying Goodbye to Seafood

When I converted to Judaism, I left behind part of my Norwegian heritage

by Nina Lichtenstein
How Mustard Became the King of Jewish Condiments

Its delicious legacy stretches from the corner deli all the way back to Abraham

by Edie Jarolim
Matzo Ball Soup—and Hold the Eggs

If you want to make matzo balls, you’ve got to break some eggs. Right? Wrong.

by Rebecca Klempner
Jewish Minestrone

Warm up with this traditional Italian recipe for white bean soup—no matzo ball needed

by Joan Nathan
How To Make the Ultimate Matzo Ball Soup

Make perfect chicken soup and matzo balls from scratch

by Joan Nathan
The Ashkenazi Version of Mac and Cheese

While holiday and Shabbat specialties fill Jewish cookbooks, we often forget the pleasures of seemingly ordinary, everyday food—like egg noodles with cottage cheese

by Leah Koenig
The Trouble With Tsimmes—and How to Fix It

This stew of root vegetables and dried fruit is a staple of Ashkenazi cooking, but it doesn’t have to be the bland, gloppy mess we’ve come to know

by Leah Koenig
How to Make Kosher Prosciutto

The Jews of Italy used goose instead of pork to make their distinctive charcuterie

by Benedetta Jasmine Guetta
Saying Goodbye to Bacon

Deciding to keep kosher really meant grappling with one meaty addiction

by Liel Leibovitz
Searching for Babka’s Soul

This ‘traditional’ Ashkenazi favorite has evolved many times over the years—and it continues to change with the times

by Leah Koenig
A Prescription for Sauerkraut

Exploring the health benefits of fermented foods

by Erik Ofgang
Eating Our Way to Holiness

The spirit and the letter of keeping kosher

by Mary Lane Potter
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The Jewish Ethics of Vaccine Triage

After the health care heroes get their shots, how do we decide who should come next? And then? And then?

by Marjorie Ingall
The Best Jewish Children’s Books of 2020

A comic novel set in the 1980s with a biracial lead. A picture book set in the 1880s based on a real-life Purim Ball in Tucson. A sad-funny graphic memoir about loss. An epistolary novel about baseball and autism. And more!

by Marjorie Ingall
The Rise of Mommy Doulas

COVID-19 brought restrictions on how many people are allowed in a delivery room. But for Jewish grandmothers-to-be who are willing to put in the hours, there’s a way to make an exception.

by Esther Levy-Chehebar
Downtown, in Exile

Rokhl’s Golden City: The Yiddish sounds of New York’s past—and present

by Rokhl Kafrissen
Outside the Gender Binary

How nonbinary Jews navigate gendered spaces

by Marie-Rose Sheinerman
‘Come With Me’

I spent much of my life keeping my father company, until it was time to let him go

by Alter Yisrael Shimon Feuerman
Seven Civil Rights Heroes to Teach Your Kids About

Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t the only one. So tell your family about the dreams of these other, perhaps lesser-known, leaders.

by Marjorie Ingall
The Haftarah Reading That Inspired Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’

King’s speech draws on a part of Isaiah that Jews recite after Tisha B’Av—offering a model for revitalizing his mission

by Charles Kopel
The Power of a Circle: Standing Hand-in-Hand to Overcome Discrimination

Listen to Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1958 speech at my synagogue, and you’ll understand how his words continue to inspire activism

by Ellen Blum Barish
How to Talk to Your Kids About Police Brutality

And how to talk to them about anti-racist protesting

by Marjorie Ingall
Our True Colors

Coming face-to-face with racism in the Jewish community

by Marra B. Gad
In Defense of Wokeness

Awaking to systemic racism is good for America, good for the Jews, and just plain good ethical behavior

by Carly Pildis
What It Feels Like to Sit Shiva Alone

I wanted to be comforted by friends, and to hear stories about my dad. The COVID pandemic made that impossible.

by Jamie Betesh Carter
The Resilience of Rituals

Attending a virtual shiva, I saw how Jewish traditions still hold up under the most extraordinary circumstances

by Alanna E. Cooper
Missing My Dad’s Yahrzeit

When my shul closed during the pandemic, I lost the place where I usually commemorate my father’s death and say Kaddish for him

by Leonard Felson
Shul in the Time of Coronavirus

With COVID-19 pushing synagogues to consider virtual gatherings, we should understand what it means to come together physically

by David Zvi Kalman
The Ethics of Takeout

How do we balance the seemingly contradictory virtues of supporting our local businesses and protecting workers during the pandemic?

by Marjorie Ingall
A Jew Named Christine

People say the darnedest things to us converts. Please stop.

by Christine Beresniova
Lessons From Jewish Sexual Law (in a Sexless Pandemic)

Judaism has something to say about enforced sexual separation, and not just for the Orthodox

by Merissa Nathan Gerson
Day School Bullies

I was ridiculed and physically abused for being the wrong kind of Jewish boy. As a result, it took decades to come to terms with my identity.

by Aaron Hamburger
My Crushes on Rabbis

My youthful admiration for religious teachers, and my desire to please and even emulate them, ultimately helped me connect with myself as a Jewish adult

by Alter Yisrael Shimon Feuerman
Among the Mourners

As a woman, I felt left out of Jewish mourning rituals after my father died. Thirty years later, I found a new place where I finally feel like I count.

by Anna El-Eini
Sex and the Religious Girl

Growing up in a religious family where premarital sex was forbidden and sex wasn’t discussed, I wasn’t taught how to deal with the dangers I’d face

by Yona Rose
Why the Right Is Obsessed With Cancel Culture

Who’s worked up about it, and why

by Marjorie Ingall
Will the Coronavirus Wedding Model Outlive the Coronavirus?

The pandemic turned 300-person hotel weddings into 10-person backyard affairs. Some newlyweds say it was for the best.

by Marie-Rose Sheinerman
Judaism During—and After—the Pandemic

Social distancing has, in a way, allowed us into each other’s homes more than ever. Will being apart end up bringing Jews together?

by Micah Streiffer
My Nonbinary Journey

After years of confusion around my gender identity and sexuality, I realized I wasn’t gay or bisexual, or a man or a woman. And as I led my congregation through Yom Kippur services, I finally showed up as myself.

by JB Levine
Mourning RBG

Trying to learn life lessons from the Supreme Court justice

by Marjorie Ingall
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Civil Rights Hero Bayard Rustin

One of Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest associates shared his strong and clear support for Zionism

by Shalom Goldman
The Rebellion Against Rashi

New scholarship captures the fierce but failed attempt to dethrone Judaism’s preeminent biblical commentator

by Eric Lawee
The Battle for the Court of Sadiger

A Hasidic sect has maintained a regal aura through a century of turmoil and migration. Now a contentious succession threatens to bring a noble family down.

by Pini Dunner
Inscriptions From a Jewish Cemetery in Germany

Medieval stones offer a glimpse into the lives of 12th- to 13th-century Würzburg Jews, such as one who ‘served the Lord with his sweet voice,’ ‘Asher known as Bonfil,’ and ‘lady Rosa,’ who was ‘like a rose between thorns’

by Simon Schwarzfuchs
Recognizing Jewish Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust

Memorial institutions are finally working to redress an imbalance in the numbers of Jews versus non-Jews hailed for their heroism in defense of victims of the Shoah

by Patrick Henry
Why Did So Many Doctors Become Nazis?

In the answer, and its consequences, a bioethicist finds moral lessons for today’s professional healer

by Ashley K. Fernandes
A Guide of the Perplexed

How Philadelphia’s local ‘Jewish Exponent’ came to host in 1963 S.D. Goitein’s insightful but overlooked scholarly essay on Maimonides, now reprinted here

by Warren Zev Harvey
How Think Tanks Became Engines of Royal Propaganda

What their French origins, and their waning and rising relevance to the power structures over the centuries, say about the new Washington

by Jacob Soll
Hijacking History

Fifty years ago today in Leningrad, a small group of Soviet Jews was tried for attempting a daring escape to Israel. Eerily, their story is relevant again—this time, for American Jews.

by Izabella Tabarovsky
Declaration and ‘Last Will’ of the Leningrad Hijackers

Composed before 16 Soviet Jews attempted to hijack a small plane in 1970, this declaration calls out the U.N. for turning a blind eye to their human rights and pleads for the Jewish world not to take its freedom for granted

by Izabella Tabarovsky
My Great-Grandfather, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Lamport, Author of ‘Piskei ha-Gra’

With some of his writings being reprinted for an Orthodox audience, my relative’s scholarly achievements are revealed

by Natalie Zemon Davis
A Scholar of Kabbalah

How I left Romania for Israel and learned to study without preconceptions

by Moshe Idel
The Price of Redemption

‘Who was I to decide which commandments to obey?’ With searing honesty, an eminent theologian recounts the eclectic educational journey of his training.

by Richard L. Rubenstein
Is It Permitted to Flee the City?

The coronavirus creates an unsettling tunnel in time between 21st-century New York and the world of 16th-century rabbis

by Tamara Morsel-Eisenberg
Teddy Kollek, the British Spy Who Never Was

Was the mayor of Jerusalem the liaison code-named Scorpion?

by Marc Goldberg
The Politics of the Pale

Are Jewish politics as they exist today a result of our Russian past?

by Joshua Meyers
Bibliomancy, and the Sacred Lottery of the Vilna Gaon

How the technique of chancing upon a passage in a Torah scroll or printed Pentateuch came to be a staple of fortune tellers

by Shraga Bar-On
An Erroneous Diagram in the Vilna Shas

A comparison of multiple Talmudic editions provides a bibliographical solution to an interpretive quandary

by Eli Genauer
How ‘The New York Times’ Helped Hide Stalin’s Mass Murders in Ukraine

Journalism doesn’t have to stifle the truth in the service of fashionable causes and personal narcissism. It’s a choice.

by Izabella Tabarovsky
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A 20th Century Jewish Life

Scientist, Zionist, man of nature: My father, the biologist Jacob Biale, represented all the possibilities of Jewish American life

by David Biale
The Hybrid Forest

A Q&A with Moshe Shtrauch, whose idea for a solar-powered farm system might make the deserts bloom

by David Samuels
Hydroxychloroquine: A Morality Tale

A startling investigation into how a cheap, well-known drug became a political football in the midst of a pandemic

by Norman Doidge
Medicine’s Fundamentalists

The randomized control trial controversy: Why one size doesn’t fit all and why we need observational studies, case histories, and even anecdotes if we are to have personalized medicine

by Norman Doidge
Diabetes, the Jewish Disease

Did turn-of-the-century Jews suffer disproportionately from diabetes, or was the early research anti-Semitic? An excerpt from a new history.

by Arleen Marcia Tuchman
Wuhan Denialism

Dismissing the possibility that COVID-19 escaped from a lab in China as ‘a conspiracy theory’ is bad science

by Khaled Talaat
Plague as Punishment

On the eve of Tisha B’Av, a rumination on how we experience our worst misfortunes as punishments, and how some move from that to self-punishment and then to punishing others

by Norman Doidge
Will Fast, Cheap, and Plentiful Energy Be a Legacy of Los Alamos?

The atomic bombing over Japan 75 years ago today marked the beginning of an era we are only now fully coming into

by Khaled Talaat
Vera Rubin, Astronomer

The influential Jewish scientist, who would have been 92 today, now has an observatory named after her

by John Tuttle
Koshering Your IVF Embryo

How a ‘mashgicha’ religious fertility supervisor watches over lab eggs and sperm to make sure there are no mix-ups

by Amy Klein
Google Censorship Is a Danger to Public Health

The monopoly platform’s new policy of disappearing documents at odds with the expert opinion of the moment is both sinister and stupid

by Jacob Siegel
The Science of Risk

Who knows best how to avoid harm?

by Steven Landsburg
Viral Math

For hundreds of years, mathematical epidemiology has helped us understand how diseases spread and what treatments will be effective against them

by Fred Brauer
Do Jews Carry Trauma in Our Genes? A Conversation With Rachel Yehuda.

by David Samuels
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Up next
Tu B’Shevat
Sundown: 10:08 PM
9 days, 7 hours, 27 minutes until sundown

What is Tu B'Shevat? It’s the holiday that marks the new year for trees—a kind of Jewish arbor day. In Israel, it traditionally signals the beginning of spring.

When is Tu B'Shevat? The holiday’s name refers to its date on the Hebrew calendar, the 15th of the month of Shevat. On the English calendar, Tu B’Shevat 2021 begins at sundown on Wednesday, January 27, and ends at sundown on Thursday, January 28.

What's it all about? In the Mishnah’s tractate Rosh Hashanah, the rabbis engage in their trademark Talmudic discussions and determine that we must celebrate the beginning of the new year not once but four times. The first celebration, in the month of Nissan, is dedicated to the reigns of Israel’s kings. The second, in Elul, to animal tithes. The third is the one we all know, Rosh Hashanah, which falls on the first of Tishrei, when the Hebrew calendar starts anew. Finally, there’s Tu B’Shevat, the 15th day of Shevat (a one-day holiday which begins at sundown), when we are to calculate the agricultural cycle and all biblical tithes involving trees and fruit.

Though a minor light in the holiday constellation, Tu B’Shevat nonetheless was of great importance when the people of Israel made a living working the land. In those ancient days, a host of prohibitions and demands—many still observed—guided Jewish life. Among those restrictions is orlah, the biblical prohibition against eating fruit produced during the first three years of the tree’s life, and ma’aser oni, the obligation to set aside a certain portion of crops for the poor. A calendar was necessary to help ensure that all these rules were observed on time. That calendar started in the middle of Shevat. And since the 15th day is marked by the Hebrew letters yud and heh—which, combined, spell out the direct name of God—the adjacent letters tet and vav were selected to signify the date instead.

Learn more about Tu B’Shevat →︎
Purim
February 26, 2021Sundown: 10:43 PM
Passover
March 27, 2021Sundown: 11:19 PM
Shavuot
May 17, 2021Sundown: 12:18 AM
Tisha B’Av
July 18, 2021Sundown: 12:31 AM
Rosh Hashanah
September 6, 2021Sundown: 10:59 PM
Yom Kippur
September 15, 2021Sundown: 10:44 PM
Sukkot
September 20, 2021Sundown: 10:36 PM
Shemini Atzeret Simchat Torah
September 27, 2021Sundown: 10:24 PM
Hanukkah
November 28, 2021Sundown: 9:29 PM
Christmas
December 25, 2021Sundown: 5:00 AM

The Life of Iran’s Most Celebrated Mass Killer

A new biography of Iranian terror chief Qassem Soleimani

by
Peter Theroux
January 07, 2021
A newly unveiled statue of Qassem Soleimani in the predominantly Shiite Muslim Beirut southern suburb of Ghobeiry, on Jan. 5, 2021Joseph Eid/AFP via Getty Images
A newly unveiled statue of Qassem Soleimani in the predominantly Shiite Muslim Beirut southern suburb of Ghobeiry, on Jan. 5, 2021Joseph Eid/AFP via Getty Images

Late in Arash Azizi’s fluent and groundbreaking new biography of the late Qassem Soleimani, The Shadow Commander: Soleimani, the U.S., and Iran’s Global Ambitions, the author tells us that the summer before Soleimani was killed, “Israel’s former prime minister Ehud Olmert spoke of his old adversary Soleimani in a radio interview: ‘There is something that he knows, that he knows I know, that I know he knows, and both of us know what that something is.’ He paused for a moment and added: ‘What that is, that’s another story.’”

Welcome to the shadows. Azizi reads Olmert’s remarks as a threat, and perhaps they were, but amid the apocalyptic and violent threats launched from Tehran over 40 years—mostly directed at Olmert’s country—the former Israeli PM sounds positively neighborly. Soleimani’s hatred of Israel was obsessive. So many things he touched were named Quds (Jerusalem by its Arabic name)—the Quds Training Barracks, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, and a couple of operations in the Iran-Iraq War.

Soleimani endured a Dickensian rural boyhood of shame due to impoverishing family debt and menial jobs. He moved on to steady work, a love for karate, a fondness for Scarface-style men’s fashion outfits, and religious radicalization. With the coming of the revolution and Iran-Iraq War, he sought ever closer engagement at the front, as a member of the nascent IRGC, a militia “which grew to overshadow and dwarf the army … [Soleimani’s] calm and quiet demeanor did little to hide his ambition. He planned to make this war his own.” He was wounded in the grandly titled Operation Path to Jerusalem, which more modestly did liberate the town of Bostan from Iraqi control.

The recapture of Khorramshahr was followed by a string of regional events that might have ended the war: signal Iranian victories, the Palestinian attempt to murder Israeli Ambassador Shlomo Argov in London, and the resulting Israeli push into Lebanon to expel the Palestine Liberation Organization. By now “Saddam had his back against the wall” and so withdrew his forces from Iran and declared a ceasefire, a face-saving tactic accompanied by his invitation to Iran to join him in an “anti-Zionist” front against Israel along with the Palestinians, Lebanon, and Syria. An end to the war in 1982 would have allowed Iran to emerge victorious and saved many thousands of lives, especially since Iranian tactics still involved the use of suicidal waves of young men, adolescents, and children serving as human minesweepers. Yet the IRGC urgently lobbied Ruhollah Khomeini to remain at war, export the revolution, topple Saddam, and destroy Israel. Khomeini followed this catastrophic advice until 1988, when a defeated Iran accepted a ceasefire, leaving both Saddam Hussein and Israel unscathed. Humiliated, Khomeini attempted to restore his menacing reputation by ordering the massacre of thousands of political prisoners, mostly from the Mojahedin-e Khalq opposition group.

The Iraq war showcased Soleimani’s fearlessness within the young man’s damaged psyche. His role in operations Dawn 8 and Karbala 4 are noted twice; both were debacles. The butcher’s bill of Karbala 4 and 5, indeed the whole futile Iranian war against Iraq from 1982-88, was atrocious—James Buchan called it the greatest catastrophe to befall Iran since the Mongol invasions—but in Soleimani’s world view there was no disaster or guilt.

The self-aggrandizement and tolerance for slaughter that were planted in Soleimani’s youth achieved their greatest scope in the destruction of Syria in order to buttress the Assad regime and the near destruction of Lebanon through the arming of Hezbollah and backing of its attacks on Israel. Soleimani was also particularly proud of the IRGC’s role in arming Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and training their bomb-makers and logistics officers to wage missile warfare and suicide attacks. Azizi offers a superb account of the latter group’s suicide bomb attack at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa in October 2003 and of the IRGC’s real-time delight at the bloodshed from the Quds Force safe room in Damascus. “As Yasser Arafat condemned the attack in the strongest terms,” we read, “the Iranians were jubilant at the credibility it would bring them.”

Following the terror attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, American diplomat Ryan Crocker opened a diplomatic channel to the Iranians on working together against al-Qaida. Shortly thereafter, in January 2002, President George W. Bush scolded Tehran as being part of an “Axis of Evil.” In D.C. mythology, the president’s description of Tehran’s elites—“an unelected few repress[ing] the Iranian people’s hope for freedom” and “pursuing nuclear weapons”—so offended the Iranians that their negotiators quit, and American diplomats experienced a “traumatic moment.” At the State Department, Bill Burns was especially dejected.

My own tiny mind boggles at the fact that a regime that kept up a daily stream of insults at the United States, with “Death to America” being chanted in its parliament, mosques, schools, along with ritual immolation and trampling of the American flag for four decades retreated to a fainting couch at a single insulting reference in a speech and ruled out working together against al-Qaida—many of whose surviving leaders found refuge in Tehran.

Whether Soleimani and his IRGC cohort preferred to partner with Osama bin Laden, or whether Bush’s words were the cause, Soleimani was spared the prospect of partnering with the United States until negotiations came to fruition in Barack Obama’s second term. The first locus of that cooperation was in support of the mass-murdering regime of Bashar Assad in Syria, whose survival Obama committed early on in his presidency to recognizing as an Iranian “interest” that the United States would accommodate in his blueprint for a new regional security architecture. This would “balance” enhanced Iranian power, guaranteed by the United States, against the power of traditional American allies and Iranian enemies including Israel and the Gulf states.

Yet the Iranian regime itself was hardly unanimous in its embrace of Syria’s brutal and corrupt tyrant. “We knew Assad was a dictator with no religion,” a Quds Force member says. “Some people grumbled about this early on. But when it became clear that the leader had decided personally on this strategy, we all obeyed.”

By the time the Arab Spring reached Syria, Tehran had decided that this Baathist domino must not fall, and the Iranian foreign ministry and army were sidelined to give the entire pro-Damascus project to the IRGC. “Iran would later link its massive armed intervention in Syria to the rise of ISIS,” Azizi writes, but “evidence suggests otherwise. From the very moment Assad faced popular protests, the Quds Force and Tehran were ready to do all they could to save the rule of the Baath Party.”

ISIS—“an American-Zionist group,” in Soleimani’s words—became the IRGC’s target in Iraq after the Americans agreed to withdraw. The Iranian war inside Iraq was part of a decidedly imperialist Iranian strategy of controlling foreign lands through powerful militias that answered to Tehran. After Hezbollah in Lebanon came Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq among others, which included Afghan and Pakistani mercenaries recruited by Iranian agents with Iranian—and later American—money. The formerly discreet Soleimani now strutted around these ruined domains like a Roman proconsul, seeing only proud conquest—his basis of comparison being poverty, carnage, and short, brutal lives that had become normal in Iran under Khomeinist rule.

Azizi is a skillful interpreter of Soleimani’s moves, and an astute analyst of how Iran’s “living martyr” lied, schemed, and abetted the ugly torture and murder of true revolutionaries and Muslims across the Middle East, and wherever else the IRGC’s reach permitted. The supposedly humble and obedient patriot from Kerman sought and achieved authority in the highest altitudes of Iran’s military and terrorist power structure, and was the second-most-powerful man in the regime at the time of his death.

Even so, some of Azizi’s revelations verge on the amazing. He records Soleimani’s direct order for a Houthi sniper to kill former President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen. In a well-sourced work of history, this nugget is not footnoted, but it seems consistent with Soleimani’s callousness, especially given Saleh’s on-and-off ties to the United States and Saudi Arabia. Yet how many critics of the American action to kill Soleimani knew of the latter’s own order to murder a foreign head of state—and a Shia Muslim one at that? Further, Azizi asserts that the militias rioting and siege at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in January 2020—almost a mirror image of Tehran in 1979—occurred on a direct order from Soleimani.

Azizi is also at his best sketching out the complex and shifting array of the pre-revolution feuds and alliances among Iranians in the diaspora. The devout, canny, Qom-born Sayyid Musa Sadr in Lebanon exemplified one model of patriotic soft power—“one of the most successful transnational transplantations of a political figure in modern history.” Azizi also places Ali Shariati, Mostafa Chamran, and Ebrahim Yazdi in this company. Had Tehran gone the Shia soft power route, versus its choice to export the revolution, it might today be a dominant and peaceful regional power enjoying good relations with Washington and the West.

Soleimani’s death was greeted with both mourning and rejoicing inside Iran. Azizi describes the joy of Syrians whose country had been savaged by the Baath regime and its Iranian overlords. Iranians, particularly the young and freedom-seeking, would have remembered the paramilitary violence against protesters that Soleimani had personally urged on. They may also have appreciated that the American missiles that incinerated him had spared them his final ambition: “In November 2019, [Soleimani] asked some of his men to look into a presidential run.”

Against a backdrop of solid history and groundbreaking reporting, it seems almost churlish to note a few errors of fact in Azizi’s fine book. Richard Nixon served in the U.S. Congress as a representative and senator from California, not its governor, as Azizi writes. The Lebanese Phalange Party’s armed men, not the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army, committed the massacres in Sabra and Shatila. There are other such examples, none of them major.

Osama bin Laden merits understandably few mentions in Azizi’s book, since the two killers never met, and yet to grasp Soleimani it is worth a comparison with his Arab coeval (the two men may have been born less than a week apart in March 1957; historians spar over the three possible birth dates for Soleimani, with Azizi favoring the earliest one). They had much in common: high intelligence, a flair for theatrics and motivational speaking, and similar pathologies rooted in early-life humiliation. Both showed the world, and their closest confidants, modest, humble, and soft-spoken exteriors that masked ruthless egoism and bloodlust.

Some parallels originate in the two regional wars birthed by the Islamic revolution. Iran’s torching of its relations with its American ally, and the diplomatic isolation brought on by the hostage-taking of American diplomats—plus the purge of its own senior military personnel (possibly exceeding 12,000, according to historian Abbas Amanat)—emboldened the Soviet Union to invade Afghanistan and Iraq to invade Iran, two aggressions unthinkable had the shah been in power. The Afghan jihad shaped Osama as the Iran-Iraq War shaped Qassem. Both budding psychopaths experienced slaughter at an early age, and both men’s world views were formed during the barbarities of those wars, both of which were consequences of a revolution that was a disaster not only for Iran but for multiple neighboring countries—yet is still often treated as a somehow necessary and desirable consequence of the shah’s rule, for which the United States is assumed to bear a large portion of responsibility.

Shaped by the consequences of the Iranian revolution, bin Laden and Soleimani became new-style heroes of anti-American jihad running vivid but divergent public relations campaigns. In the mid-2000s, bin Laden suddenly ceased appearing in open-air al-Qaida propaganda videos. The doe-eyed mujahid, raised in Saudi Arabian luxury, had seemed to relish a soldierly image, clambering over boulders for the camera with his sidekick Ayman al-Zawahiri, or humping his backpack and Russian rifle over rugged terrain in Afghanistan during the war against the Soviets. A wide-shot video clip of a heavily armed Osama and Ayman navigating a steep hike down a gully, stepping like mountain goats while preaching jihad to the camera, probably altered his fondness for outdoor theatrics: Legend has it that the U.S. intelligence community ran the clip past botanists, geologists, and lepidopterists, who studied the rock formations, birdsong in the background, butterflies, and the slant of the sun, and are said to have identified almost to the exact day and square kilometer the site in Helmand Province where the clip was shot. Bin Laden quickly adapted to a more cautious Punch-and-Judy puppet show format where he spoke within a sort of little stage within a tent with a colorful fabric background, until he later dispensed with video altogether in favor of audio maledictions.

Soleimani’s trajectory when it came to discretion versus preening was the opposite. After 20 years in the shadows, he hit his stride in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, and seemed to relish that he enjoyed the de facto protection of American power after the 2015 nuclear deal. His threats grew bolder, promising a “bloody intifada” in Bahrain in June 2016 and mocking President Trump in a famously boastful speech in July 2018. He promiscuously immortalized visits to his militia fighters in Iraq with selfies. Whereas bin Laden knew he was being hunted, Soleimani seemed confident that he wasn’t. Azizi cites Ryan Crocker as observing that the general “allowed his ego to overcome his judgment … The shadow commander came out of the shadows. He did not live long beyond that world of shadows.”

Peter Theroux is a Los Angeles-based writer and translator.