Samuel H. Friedman: An Anti-Communist, Zionist, Synagogue-Going Socialist

With U.S. politicians like Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib creating renewed interest in socialism, Elliot Jager reminisces about Samuel H. Friedman (1897-1990), who was the Socialist candidate for vice-president in the 1952 and 1956 elections. Late in his life, Friedman became a regular at the synagogue the young Jager attended on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He writes:

Friedman, like many left-leaning Jews during the 1960s, engaged in civil disobedience on behalf of African-American and Puerto Ricans. To my mind, at the time, this agenda seemed perverse. Yet in this respect, he was very much in the acculturated Jewish mainstream.

Here is the place to point out that, for poor working-class Jews like me living in Alphabet City on the Lower East Side, it was not the blacks and Puerto Ricans who needed help from the Jews; it was we who needed to be saved from them. During the 1960s and 1970s, [these] communities were the main source of violent anti-Semitism in New York City.

There were 10,000 mostly elderly Jews living under the poverty level in my neighborhood. Most Jewish establishment organizations (the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, for instance) were spending the money they raised within the Jewish community on programs and institutions (like the Educational Alliance) that mostly catered to non-Jews—at a time when these monies were needed, desperately, in our community to fight poverty, to relocate at-risk elderly people, and help with yeshiva tuition. . . .

Like all democratic socialists, [Friedman] loathed Stalin for creating a genocidal totalitarian polity. By contrast, the U.S. Communist party led by Gus Hall was slavishly pro-Moscow. We once had a conversation about the Lower East Side congresswoman Bella Abzug who served in the House of Representatives from 1971 to 1977. . . . Friedman disparaged Abzug as a Stalinist fellow-traveler, [while] he supported NATO as a bulwark against Soviet aggression. I doubt [Friedman] would have been comfortable with the direction taken by today’s American socialists and self-identified progressives as they maneuver to realign the Democratic party into an illiberal and anti-Zionist orbit.

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Read more at Jager File

More about: American Jewish History, American Zionism, Civil rights movement, Communism, History & Ideas, Lower East Side, Socialism

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism