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The Soviet Campaign against Passover

April 14 2016

In the 1920s, the Soviet Union authorized Jewish sections of the Communist Party to bring government propaganda, often in Yiddish, to the Jewish masses; the same bureaucrats also worked to discourage, sometimes forcibly, Jewish belief and practice. Henry Abramson describes an attempt to turn Passover into a secular, socialist holiday:

Recognizing the powerful hold that religion had on Soviet Jews, the Jewish sections . . . attempted to co-opt the population by capturing and transforming Jewish traditions and texts, including the Passover Haggadah. Called “Red Haggadahs,” several were published in the 1920s with the explicit goal of replacing belief in God with faith in the Soviet Union. . . .

The traditional text . . . reads . . . “If the Holy One, Blessed be He, did not take our ancestors out of Egypt, then we, our children, and our children’s children would remain slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt.” The officially atheistic Soviet Union could not tolerate such a passage, so the text of a Red Haggadah read instead: “We were slaves to capitalism until October [i.e., the Communist Revolution of 1917] led us out of the land of exploitation with a strong hand. Were it not for October, we and our children would still be slaves.” . . .

At the seder’s conclusion, Jews famously proclaim “This year we are here—next year in Jerusalem!” Following the Red Haggadah, participants at the seder are urged to pronounce, “This year, we have revolution in this land—next year we will have a world revolution!”

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More about: Communism, Haggadah, History & Ideas, Passover, Soviet Jewry, Soviet Union

Germany’s Bid to Keep Israel off the UN Security Council

March 21 2018

The Jewish state has never held a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council. For the first 50 years of its existence, it was denied membership in any of the UN’s regional groups, which control candidacies for these rotating seats. Then it was finally admitted to the Western European and Others Group, which promptly agreed to wait another twenty years before approving Jerusalem for a Security Council candidacy. Now, Benny Avni notes, Germany is poised to block action:

As a good-faith gesture, the Western European and Others Group promised Israel that it and Belgium would run uncontested for the two open 2019-20 [Security Council] seats. Then, in 2016, Germany announced it would also run—even though it already served as a council member [multiple times, including] as recently as 2011-12. . . . [U]nless Belgium yields, Israel’s hopes for UN respect seem doomed for now—and maybe for the foreseeable future.

Why? Diplomats have been telling me Israel violates too many Security Council resolutions to be a member—as in the one passed during the last weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, which marked Jewish holy sites as occupied Palestinian territory. But is building a porch in [the West Bank town of] Ma’ale Adumim really such a huge threat to world peace?

How about, then, a report released last week by UN experts on the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions? It found Germany violated a council ban on sparkling wines, exporting $151,840 worth of bubbly and other luxury goods to Kim Jong Un’s cronies. Or how about, as the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal reports, German companies exporting to Iran banned materials that were later used in chemical attacks in Syria?

Never mind. Germany (and Belgium) will surely benefit from the UN’s habit of magnifying Israel’s violations beyond all proportion. Thus, Israel’s petition to join the most prestigious UN club will likely be rejected, thanks to a late entry by a shameless [and] cynical German power play against the Jewish state.

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More about: Germany, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-German relations, United Nations