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Over the centuries, Jews enjoyed various government-paid positions in the Ottoman Empire. Yes, among them there were advisors and tax farmers. But there was also a Jewish member of the feudal cavalry in the year 1431, and, in 1600, Jewish court physicians outnumbered their Muslim colleagues. By the turn of the 19th century, Jewish civil service had waned until 1856 when the sultan declared all subjects eligible for public employment with the Islahat Ferman. Relying on government registries that begin in 1879, the historian Abdulhamit Kirmizi provides a detailed statistical analysis of hundreds of Jewish civil servants in the Ottoman state. Kirmizi writes: “An official of Jewish origin was not merely ‘a Jewish official.’ [...] Religious, ethnic, and imperial identities and loyalties overlapped with one another; they were not necessarily in conflict or mutually exclusive.”

Auguste Hippolyte Collard/Public Domain
Auguste Hippolyte Collard/Public Domain
The Paris Commune at 150

France’s second revolutionary sequel was a failure. But it looks better than its successors.

On March 18, 1871, troops of the new Third French Republic were ordered to seize the 250 cannons stationed around Paris. France had just been defeated by the Prussians in a war that their now-former emperor, Napoleon III, had provoked. Paris had suffered a horrific siege lasting from September 1870 to January 1871, during which its residents had been reduced to eating, among other things, salami made from rats. When the siege was finally lifted, Parisians were forced to submit to the indignity of Prussian troops marching through the city and to pay an enormous indemnity to the victors. So when word spread of the plan to seize the cannons in the working-class quarter of Montmartre, cannons paid for by the workers themselves, the residents in the heights of the city rebelled. By the late afternoon, the crowd had killed two generals leading the troops to remove the artillery, and within hours the people had seized the Hotel de Ville and placed the city under the rule of the Central Committee of the National Guard. Only they, and not the regularly constituted government, which had fled to Versailles behind its leader, Adolphe Thiers, could properly defend the city and the republic. The spark that set off the revolution established it as something sui generis. As Antoine Brunel, a member of the National Guard and the Commune’s elected council, wrote years later, “The insurrection of 1871 is still misunderstood. It was first provoked by a patriotic sentiment and by the determination to prevent the monarchical form of government from taking possession of the country.” Only in France could a revolutionary seizure of power be set off by love for the patrie, the fatherland defended by the revolutionary army of 1793. It is commonly said that generals refight the last wars. The Paris Commune, for its part, refought the greatest of France’s revolutions, the one that began with the taking of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. ...

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Whence the unusual design features of the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, the oldest extant synagogue in the United States? The Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam and the Bevis Marks Synagogue in London offer clues. The scholar Laura Leib argues that the greatest design source is actually Rabbi Jacob Judah Leon de Templo’s messianic study, the Retrato del Templo de Se lomo (1642). Leib explains, “Early modern synagogue architects mimicked both the proportions prescribed by Leon de Templo and key symbolic design features of the Temple. By echoing the divinely-inspired structures, eighteenth-century Sephardic Jews in colonial America hoped to draw their worship closer to God and to help bring about the messianic era.”

Tourosynagogue.org

before the fall

Tower of London: prison or sanctuary for the Jews of medieval England? Some 700 surviving manuscripts from this era suggest that it was a little of both. According to recent research, the Constable of the Tower had sole authority to arrest a Jew in London and Jews arrested outside of London were also promptly sent to do their time in the Tower of London. But the Constable also protected the city’s Jews during pogroms. “The Jewish community even helped defend the castle from a siege by rebel barons in 1267.” The Jews were expelled from England in 1290.

Throughout the centuries, Karaites maintained an alternate form of Judaism, one that denied the validity of the Rabbinic Oral Torah as embodied in the Talmud.

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Those who do not remember the past are ... probably not Jewish

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Trees of emanation

According to the scholar of kabbalah J. H. Chajes, medieval kabbalists thought a lot about how to visualize the sefirot, and ultimately favored arboreal diagrams over the astronomical. Consider Pardes rimonim (Pomegranate Orchard). a survey of Kabbalah—or, as Chajes puts it, “an inventory with an attitude”—completed in 1548 by the brilliant young kabbalist R. Moses Cordevero. In Cordevero’s own words: And I have already explained that the constellation ofAṣilut (Emanation—the highest of the four “worlds”) is the ilan (tree) of Aṣilut, and no (demonic) shell will rule it whatsoever.

jewish time

Smithsonian

A pocket watch with Hebrew letters that belonged to Sinai Kantor, a Russian immigrant who went down with the Titanic when it sunk on its maiden voyage in 1912. His wife Miriam survived the accident.

jewish museum of switzerland


A silver and brass pocket watch made by Jules Levy in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1901.

yadvashem

A pocket watch on which Yeshayahu Markowitz (d. 1944) of Szilágysomlyó, Transylvania, pasted the photographs of his twelve children in order of birth.

jewish news

Sholem Aleichem’s 18k gold watch. The writer received the watch in 1911 in commemoration of the 10th Zionist Congress in Basel.

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