Cover Photo: Shanghai, China, April 1910, A Purim party.

Credit: Yad Vashem

Classic Sephardic Judaism, Made in China

Both in Israel and abroad Jews are lining up according to a conventional divide: the conservative and religious nationalists on one side, universalist secularists on the other. Yet at the turn of the twentieth century in late-Ottoman Jerusalem, a third, integral path was visible, a Sephardic tradition that was religious, Zionist, and universalistic. Deeply rooted in Jewish law, poetry and theology, the Sephardic Judaism of old Jerusalem was fluent in kabbalistic texts and free in its interpretation and use of those texts. It was not, however, ‘modern orthodoxy,’ because it understood itself to be an organic continuation of a venerable Jewish tradition with Spanish bona fides. Called by its present-day practitioners ‘classic’ in order to distinguish it from later developments among Sephardic thinkers and communities, the Classic Sephardic tradition combines deep Jewish learning with a celebration of human excellence, and for a short period, it occupied center stage in Jazz Age Shanghai…

When Excellence is a Necessity: Bilahari Kausikan on the Singapore-Israel Connection

When Singapore found itself independent in 1965, it was very poor and without any natural resources, but today it is a multi-cultural, free market city-state and global economic powerhouse. Kausikan opens the discussion by returning to 1965 and recalling how Israel provided military aid to Singapore when everyone else refused: “I don’t know why Israel agreed to assist us… but we are profoundly grateful for the central role that Israel played in establishing our armed forces.” Kausikan then adds that “in my opinion, the Singaporean youth of all ethnicities should know this history.” The rest of the discussion explores three parallels between these two outposts of human flourishing in west and southeast Asia: both Israel and Singapore were rejected by their neighbours, both are small states that need to be extraordinary in order to survive, and both states face profound challenges connected to the question of identity…

Middle Eastern Countries Are Rebalancing Relations With the US and China

Gulf states aren’t choosing China over the U.S., but rather weaning themselves away from overdependence on Washington by engaging with a variety of other partners.

A recent flurry of Chinese diplomatic initiatives in the Middle East seems to be drawing countries closer to Beijing’s orbit while chipping away at the United States regional influence. Some analysts have gone as far as to suggest that a “Pax Sinica” is emerging in the region. But Middle Eastern countries are not necessarily viewing these developments in such binary terms…

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