How Sephardi Jews Brought Their Traditional Alcohol to America

April 20 2015

Raki, an anise-flavored liquor (similar to arak or ouzo), was a favorite beverage of Sephardim living in Turkey, Greece, and Bulgaria. Since it is generally made from raisins—i.e., dried grapes—it requires special kosher supervision, so Jews often made their own. Eugene Normand and Albert S. Maimon relate the history of Jewish raki production in the Old World and the New:

One of the keys to the hallowed status of raki over the generations is the fact that it was usually made at home, with a home-made still, by the few men in the community to whom the brewing art was known, having been handed down by brewers of the previous generations. . . . One of the famous raki makers of the 19th century was in fact a rabbi, Meir Jacob Nahmias, who produced fine-quality raki in the city of Salonika on a commercial scale. Apparently his production secrets were passed down to his children. . . .

When the Ottoman Sephardim began immigrating to the United States, those who had the knowledge of how to make the raki set up shop on these shores. We see this very clearly in the experiences of the Turkish Sephardim who settled in Seattle. . . . All of these men, and some of the women too, loved their raki, so in short order those men who knew how to make the raki set up shop in their own homes and began producing because there was a large customer base waiting for the product.

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Read more at Sephardic Horizons

More about: Alcohol, American Jewry, History & Ideas, Ottoman Empire, Seattle, Sephardim

 

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy