Tag Archives: Jews

From George Antonius’ classic 1938 “The Arab Awakening.”

23 May

“…Posterity will not exonerate any country that fails to bear its proper share of the sacrifices needed to alleviate Jewish suffering and distress. To place the brunt of the burden upon Arab Palestine is a miserable evasion of the duty that lies upon the whole civilized world.  It is also morally outrageous.  No code of morals can justify the persecution of one people in an attempt to relieve the persecution of another.  The cure for the eviction of Jews from Germany is not to be sought in the eviction of the Arabs from their homeland; and the relief of Jewish distress may not be accomplished at the cost of inflicting a corresponding distress upon an innocent an people population.”

Map of Ottoman Palestine showing the Kaza subdivisions. date unknown.

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Luke Ranieri: “Christmas Eve with ScorpioMartianus 🎄 Latin & Greek Lesson · Christmas story from the Bible” — a live chat video everyone should watch

31 Dec

Luke Ranieri is more than a classicist; he’s what Greek aunties used to call “a beast of learning”. He makes professional — challenging but accessible — videos on a whole range of linguistic issues, but mostly Latin and secondarily, Greek.

Here he runs through chapter 2 of Luke, the most quoted of the gospels where Christmas narratives are concerned while surfing a live chat of questions for 2:30 hours…completely in Latin! easy, fluent, what sounds like conversational Latin. It’s kinna freaky and very cool to listen to.

(Luke is also generally considered the best writer of the four evangelists, though my grasp of Koinē is hardly good enough to judge; he tells a good story though, probably because he was the only Greek of the four.)

I’ll be back with more of Ranieri’s videos soon.

In the meantime, for those less academically inclined, here is perhaps our civilization’s most famous and influential reading of LukeLinus:

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Wonderful Jewish grandmother who speaks a ton of languages

30 Dec

Check out this cute video from sehr-cute Jewish boy, Nathaniel Drew (kind of goyische-sounding last name? Yeah, I thought so too) who talks to his polyglot grandma about the languages she speaks and how she acquired them.

Money moment at 3:25:

Nate: “We could say you’re a sponge for languages?

Grandma: “Yes” (chuckles)

Nate: “Do you know why you have this ability?”

Grandma: “I love languages. I love learning. I love to know.”

Translation: “I come from a very ancient tradition of Mediterranean and MENA urbanism and cosmopolitanism which was destroyed by the modern ethnic nation-state and its ridiculous ideas about cultural uniformity”

Or…

Translation: “I’m Jewish.”

Readers who want to remember the pre-Nasser Alexandria this woman was born in might want to revisit “The Other Homeland” documentary by Yorgos Augeropoulos for Al Jazeera.

Egypte, Alexandrie, le front de mer

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Nesi Altaras: “We do not live in the Ottoman Empire and we are not subjects. As citizens we demand and deserve EQUAL CITIZENSHIP not TOLERANCE.”

28 Dec

Watch Nesi Altaras‘ — one of the editors of Avlaremoz, Istanbul Jewish daily — commentary on Twitter.

And check out full discussion at the USCIRF: Conversation with USCIRF: Religious Freedom in Turkey.

(And enjoy Altaras himself, a cute, smart Jewish boy fluent in Ladino, which, from what I gather, is not such a common skill anymore among Turkey’s young Jews. Embarrassed-smile emoji…)

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Turkey and its Jews: Avlaremoz, the Varlık Vergisi and Şekip Bey, the appropriation of minority capital, Sephardic Jews and Spain

26 Dec

Next time a Turk or Turkey/Islam apologist tells you that progressive, tolerant, cosmopolitan Turkey gave refuge to Jewish intellectuals and scientists persecuted by the Nazis during the 1930s, remind them that a few years later the Turkish Republic imposed an over 100% estate tax — the Varlık Vergisi, also imposed on Greeks and Armenians — on its own Jews, which ruined most and saw many sent to lethal work camps in Anatolia as punishment, where many died.

One voice of protest:

Context: from the massacres of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Lausanne Population Exchange, the various rulings and legal restrictions placed on non-Turkish speakers and non-Muslims following the founding of the Republic, the 1934 Thrace Pogrom against Jews, the estate tax (above), the anti-Greek Pogrom of 1955, the Deportations of Greeks in 1964-65 and the general climate of fear and violence and harassment non-Muslims still live under in contemporary Turkey — the Varlık Vergisi represents just one episode in a process of a massive transfer of capital from non-Muslim to Muslim hands in the 20th century – a transfer which laid the groundwork for late 20th and early 21st century Turkey’s booming (or now not-so-booming) economy.

But history does provide us with some delicious ironies: currently, when Turks need a visa to travel anywhere in Europe or North America — given they could even afford such travel with their steadily plunging Erdo-lira — Turkish Jews can just go and fill out some paperwork at the Spanish consulate and be granted the Spanish citizenship with which they can start a new life in any country in Europe tomorrow! Snag…

And follow Avlaremoz (“Hablaremos” in Ladino, of course) on Twitter; it’s a fascinating, informative account.

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Hanukkah in Ortaköy: It’s so nice to celebrate religious minorities’ culture when the minorities have been safely eliminated

17 Dec

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Jews, Yiddish, past participles and the Rzeczpospolita

15 Dec

Stumbled upon this map (present day borders) the other day, of the distribution of past passive participle endings in Yiddish…

…that confirms a point I made in a post this past September ( Jews, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Romania and how “the borders kept changing” ) that is, that Jews never migrated to Russia or Ukraine, but only to the Polish-Lithuanian Rzeczpospolita and then ended up in other states when Poland was partitioned. The two maps overlap perfectly.

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Salonica p.s.: cool map

8 Dec

Click here to see full size:

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Ekathimerini: The ghosts of Thessaloniki are still here, by Leon Saltiel

8 Dec

When I say that “Salonica and Izmir are both giant graveyards for me” this is part of what I mean.

Thessaloniki’s Jewish cemetery as it was before it was destroyed in 1942, during the German occupation of Greece. The cemetery was established in ancient times and on the eve of the Second World War counted approximately 500,000 graves in an area of 350,000 square meters, making it probably the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe and maybe the world.

Seventy-five years ago today, during the German occupation of Greece, began the destruction of the historic Jewish cemetery of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city. The cemetery was established in ancient times and on the eve of the Second World War counted approximately 500,000 graves in an area of 350,000 square meters, making it probably the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe and maybe the world. Within a few weeks, wrote an eyewitness, “the vast necropolis, scattered with fragments of stone and rubble, resembled a city that had been bombed, or destroyed by a volcanic eruption.” According to a report by the US consul in Istanbul, “recently buried dead were thrown to the dogs.”

This act was not a purely German initiative. Besides, one can visit Jewish cemeteries today in the center of Berlin. The initiative came from the local authorities, which for a long time had tried to remove the cemetery from its location, close to the city center. “And this damned German occupation had to come, when, with the collaboration of an ironic fate, this old unsolvable problem of Thessaloniki found its dramatic solution,” in the words of Thessaloniki intellectual Georgios Vafopoulos. In its place today is the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

Its destruction traumatized the Jewish community, which at the time constituted 25 percent of the city’s population. It removed the symbolic roots of the Jewish residents from their native city. They were eyewitnesses of the sacrilegious flattening of the tombs of their ancestors. This destruction solidified the convergence of interests between the German and the local authorities, to the degree that it was described as the “harbinger of the soon total destruction of the whole Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, the most numerous center of the Jewry of the Orient.” In fact, a few months later commenced the transport of the vast majority of the Jewish population of the city, some 46,000 souls, to the extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In 2014, during the inauguration of the monument for the destroyed Jewish necropolis on the grounds of the university, Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris stated that the city “is ashamed of this unjust and guilty silence” and the stance of the city authorities at the time. The late vice rector of the university, Ioannis Pantis, stressed that, “today, however, the Aristotle University, free from guilt syndromes, regards this past, the history and loss of the Jews of Thessaloniki, as part of its own history as well.” Indeed, in recent years, a lot of progress has been made in the context of Jewish memory in the city, as shown by the planned creation of a Holocaust Museum, the re-establishment of the university chair of Jewish studies, the multilevel educational initiatives at Greek schools and the integration of this history into the school curriculum, the annual march of memory and the placement of memory stones.

Nevertheless, there are still issues that remain open: With the destruction of the cemetery, the place became a huge quarry and its materials were used for construction purposes. In Thessaloniki’s Cathedral of Saint Demetrius, one of at least 17 churches in the city for whose construction materials from the cemetery were used, one can still find marbles with Jewish inscriptions, from the “500 pieces of marble” which those then responsible had requested in October 1943 for the “reconstruction of the temple.”

The Royal Theater of Thessaloniki was laid in 1943 with “250 square meters of plaques 50 x 50 cm from marble from the former Jewish cemeteries,” according to the tender of the municipality, which can still be seen today. Vafopoulos narrates that German officer Max Merten “was jumping on them with his boots, saying that he could hear the squeaks from the bones of the Jews.”

The university’s medical school, established in 1943, used tombstones as anatomy tables, “constructed three troughs made of concrete and took bodies from the cemetery which were put inside for the practice of the students.” Unfortunately, notwithstanding how macabre all these facts may be, such examples in the city are many and visible to this day.

This sacrilege was legitimized by the widespread use of the materials by so many city institutions and the deafening silence that followed. The mayor and the university authorities made an important first step – admittedly with a grand delay. Seventy-five years later, in the name of historical memory and in a spirit of respect, brotherhood and humanity, the other institutions have the responsibility to expose this history and the origin of the materials with which they were built.

[My emphases]


* Leon Saltiel holds a PhD in contemporary Greek history from the University of Macedonia and is a postdoctoral fellow at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva with more than 15 years’ experience on human rights issues around the world, the majority of which was working with the United Nations institutions in Geneva.

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Jews, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Romania and how “the borders kept changing”.

17 Sep

Flying Dacian@FlyingDacian Tweeted the following:

This is a map of the distribution of Jews in Romania in 1930. 728,115 or 4% of the country was Jewish. Notice that the territories lost in 1940 to Russia and Hungary account for the majority of Jewish people in Romania in 1930.

And I asked him…so…what conclusions are we supposed to draw from his map?

And immediately I realized what the most important conclusion was for me and should, therefore, be for everyone: Jewish migration into eastern Europe and the nature of the Polish state at the time.

Don’t tell me you haven’t heard it; you can’t be from New York and not have heard it. You ask a now third or fourth generation Ashkenazi Jew where his ancestors were from and he says: “Oh, Russia or Poland…the borders kept changing.”

It’s a misconception that the Jews who fled pogroms, massacres, persecution and the social chaos of the 14th and 15th centuries in Europe of which they were the primary victims, migrated east to different countries in eastern Europe. They didn’t. They only moved to Poland.

People wonder what it was that led so many Jews to migrate to poor and socially backwards areas of Europe like Russia or Ukraine. Again, they didn’t. What Jew in his right mind would have fled persecution in the Rhineland, say, and sought refuge in Russia, for God’s sake? A relatively primitive mediaeval theocracy, which it arguably still is. Jews, however, ended up in Russia and Ukraine, when Poland was partitioned twice in the late eighteenth century by Russia, Austria and Prussia/Germany. The Pale of Settlement, which my hypothetical New York Ashkenazi Jew above might have heard of — the parts of the Russian Empire were it was legal for Jews to live — were simply the parts of what is now Poland, Ukraine, Belarus’ and Lithuania that Russia got out of the partition of Poland. Upon taking control of these lands, Tsarist Russia also inherited the largest part of Polish Jewry as well.

Why did they go to Poland then? Because at the time that persecution of Jews in western Europe was booming the Rzeczpospolita, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (shown in its various constituent parts in map below) was by far the most tolerant and progressive Christian state in Europe, which surprises many people, and like the Ottomans, Poles saw that Jews’ talents would benefit their state, and allowed and even organized their settlement throughout Poland.

So to address @FlyingDacian‘s curiosity, the parts of contemporary Romania that had the largest number of Jews in 1930, were simply those regions that had been Polish, then passed, some to Hungary, but most to Russia, and then ended up in modern Romania.

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