The Rise and Fall of the Third Seder in America

Sometime before World War II, many U.S. Jews began celebrating a third ritual meal on Passover, as Jenna Weissman Joselit writes:

A supplement to, rather than a substitute for, the . . . first and second seders commonly observed outside of Israel, it was usually held during the latter part of Passover. More of a communal gathering, a public event, than an intimate family occasion, its origins date to the interwar years. In a replay of that era’s cultural politics, when both socialism and Zionism held high cachet among East European Jewish immigrants, some attribute its creation to the Arbeter Ring (Workmen’s Circle); other, equally insistent voices, credit the Labor Zionist Farband. There’s no consensus, either, on when the third seder made its debut. Some say 1922, others 1927, and still others aren’t sure whether it’s 1932 or 1937.

No matter. At some point within a few years of one another, both communal organizations harnessed the structure and sensibility of the traditional seder—or, more to the point, perhaps, that of the model seder conducted in their respective afternoon schools—to their own ends. Emending, interpolating, politicizing, contemporizing, and theatricalizing the venerable Haggadah, the Arbeter Ring produced a text called Naye hagode shel peysakh (the new Passover Haggadah); the Farband, in turn, produced its own Hagode shel peysakh farn dritn seder (Passover Haggadah for the third Seder). . . .

The Farband linked the age-old story of deliverance to the establishment of a just and equitable homeland for the Jews, while the Arbeter Ring, for its part, linked the same story to the struggle for economic justice and political freedom more generally. . . . Well into the 1980s, people in New York and Chicago turned out in droves for the annual third seder of their choice, held in a hotel ballroom grand enough to accommodate over 1,000 guests. For a generation or two, the event drew a crowd even in places where the number of Jews was much smaller. They came for the camaraderie, not the food: to lay claim to and celebrate a common history, a shared ideology, and a better future.

Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewish History, American Judaism, History & Ideas, Passover, Seder, Socialism, Zionism

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy