L.L. Zamenhof and Esperanto (This Week in Jewish History)

L.L. Zamenhof (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
L.L. Zamenhof (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

L.L. Zamenhof (1859-1917) was a Polish Jew who invented the world’s most successful artificial language, Esperanto.  Conceived as a vehicle for world peace, Esperanto is even regarded by the Oomoto religion of Japan as the “language of heaven.”

Origins of Polish Jewry (This Week in Jewish History)

Jan Matejko (1838-1893), "Reception of the Jews in Poland in 1096,"
Jan Matejko (1838-1893), “Reception of the Jews in Poland in 1096,”

This week marks the death anniversary of King Boleslaw V (The Chaste) in 1279.  Boleslaw followed the tradition of his predecessors in Poland by creating incentives for Jewish settlement in Poland, including the establishment of Magdeburg Recht.  Ultimately, these policies proved extremely attractive to Ashkenazi Jews from the Rhineland, making Poland a great center of Jewish civilization by the early modern period.

The Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 (This Week in Jewish History)

Depiction of Host Desecration in Sternberg, Germany (1492). Diebold Schilling the Younger [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Depiction of Host Desecration in Sternberg, Germany (1492). Diebold Schilling the Younger [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Fourth Lateran Council, which met in 1215 at the behest of Pope Innocent III, issued several pieces of Church legislation with dire implications for Jews. The doctrine of transubstantiation was confirmed, leading to a new element in antisemitic canards: accusations that Jews “desecrated the host.”

Anwar Sadat Visits Israel (This Week in Jewish History)

Menachem Begin, Jimmy Carter, and Anwar Sadat at Camp David (1978). By Fitz-Patrick, Bill, photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Menachem Begin, Jimmy Carter, and Anwar Sadat at Camp David (1978). By Fitz-Patrick, Bill, photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In November of 1977, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat flew to Israel to address the Knesset.  His meeting with his former enemy Prime Minister Menachem Begin ultimately resulted in the sometimes strained but nevertheless enduring Israel-Egypt peace accord, but his unpopularity with hardline Egyptians, opposed to making peace with Israel, resulted in his assassination in 1981.

Jacob Frank and the Burning of the Talmud (This Week in Jewish History)

Jacob Frank. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Jacob Frank. Source: Wikimedia Commons

One of the more colorful false messiahs in Jewish history, Jacob Frank made a career of conversion–first to Islam, then to Christianity, all the while leading a neo-Sabbatean movement that emphasized antinomian “purification through transgression.” His appeal to the Church in 1757 resulted in a modern-day disputation over the Talmud, and ultimately the burning of tens of thousands of precious volumes.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/lUExCX_yXIY]

The Martyrs of Mumbai (This Week in Jewish History)

NYT2008112822242898C

Pakistani terrorists attacked the Chabad House in Mumbai, India, on Wednesday, 29th of Heshvan, 5769 (26 November 2008).  Part of a concerted attack that killed 179 and wounded hundreds, they murdered the young Chabad emissaries running the house, Rabbi Gavriel and Mrs. Rivky Holtzberg. Their infant son, who turned two the day after his parents were brutally killed, was heroically rescued by his Indian caregiver.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2LcQh1Sxr4]

Hannah Szenes: Poet-Martyr of the Resistance (This Week In Jewish History)

Hannah Szenes on her arrival in Israel (1939).  Source: Wikimedia Commons
Hannah Szenes on her arrival in Israel (1939). Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

Hannah Szenes was a young Hungarian Jewish woman who joined the resistance in 1943, parachuting into Nazi-occupied territories with British support. She was captured and tortured, but did not divulge secret information on her colleagues. Her poetry, including the classic “Blessed is the Match,” survive and add to her legacy.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/RK2eYCHZFCY]

The Dreyfus Affair (This Week in Jewish History)

The Degradation of Alfred Dreyfus by Henri Meyer. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
The Degradation of Alfred Dreyfus by Henri Meyer. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Wrongly accused of espionage, Captain Alfred Dreyfus was sentenced to Devil’s Island on the basis of remarkably tenuous evidence. May critics, including the famous writer Emile Zola, argued that Dreyfus was unfairly charged simply because he was a Jew in the French army. As evidence mounted that another officer was guilty, the Dreyfus Affair exposed the persistence of pervasive and deep-rooted antisemitism, questioning how effectively Jews were accepted in French society a full century after they were first emancipated.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMwR-54ZwLk]

Rembrandt and the Jews (This Week in Jewish History)

Rembrandt self-portrait.
Rembrandt self-portrait.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ARj1L5fE2U&feature=youtu.be]

Rembrandt is well-known for his depictions of Jewish subjects, both as contemporary portraits and as models for Christian biblical characters.