How Sephardi Jews Brought Their Traditional Alcohol to America

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.

Read more at Sephardic Horizons

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


Would an American-Backed UN Resolution Calling for a Temporary Ceasefire Undermine Israel?

Yesterday morning, the U.S. vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution, sponsored by Algeria, that demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. As an alternative, the American delegation has been circulating a draft resolution calling for a “temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released.” Benny Avni comments:

While the Israel Defense Force may be able to maintain its Gaza operations under that provision, the U.S.-proposed resolution also warns the military against proceeding with its plan to enter the southern Gaza town of Rafah. Israel says that a critical number of Hamas fighters are hiding inside tunnels and in civilian buildings at Rafah, surrounded by a number of the remaining 134 hostages.

In one paragraph, the text of the new American resolution says that the council “determines that under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries, which would have serious implications for regional peace and security, and therefore underscores that such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances.”

In addition to the paragraph about Rafah, the American-proposed resolution is admonishing Israel not to create a buffer zone inside Gaza. Such a narrow zone, as wide as two miles, is seen by many Israelis as a future protection against infiltration from Gaza.

Perhaps, as Robert Satloff argues, the resolution isn’t intended to forestall an IDF operation in Rafah, but only—consistent with prior statements from the Biden administration—to demand that Israel come up with a plan to move civilians out of harms way before advancing on the city.

If that is so, the resolution wouldn’t change much if passed. But why is the U.S. proposing an alternative ceasefire resolution at all? Strategically, Washington has nothing to gain from stopping Israel, its ally, from achieving a complete victory over Hamas. Why not instead pass a resolution condemning Hamas (something the Security Council has not done), calling for the release of hostages, and demanding that Qatar and Iran stop providing the group with arms and funds? Better yet, demand that these two countries—along with Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon—arrest Hamas leaders on their territory.

Surely Russia would veto such a resolution, but still, why not go on the offensive, rather than trying to come up with another UN resolution aimed at restraining Israel?

Read more at New York Sun

More about: Gaza War 2023, U.S.-Israel relationship, United Nations