The Fake Jews of Prohibition, and Their Fake Rabbis

The Volstead Act of 1919 forbade the manufacture and sale of alcohol, but carved out special exceptions for Jews and Catholics who use wine for sacramental purposes. As Alice Kassens writes, this provision had some unintended consequences:

Given that Jews conduct some ceremonies in the home, rabbis served as middlemen for their congregations, submitting a list of their congregations’ membership to Prohibition officials in exchange for permits for their members to purchase ten gallons of wine per year from authorized dealers. This workaround led, perhaps unsurprisingly, to a rapid expansion in Jewish congregations and the number of rabbis.

In some states, a person needed only ten signatures to a petition attesting that he was a rabbi in order to get a rabbinical license from the secretary of state. License in hand, the only obstacle to the wine permits was a list of congregation members. Fake rabbis took names from city directories, phone books, and other public listings to create congregations.

According to a Sept. 9, 1922 article in the San Francisco Examiner, . . . Irish, Swedish, Scottish, and Greek residents of San Francisco were getting monthly supplies of sacramental wine “under the names of Goldstein, Blumberg, Silverstein, Levinsky and other adopted Jewish cognomens.”

Banning booze did not halt its demand, and thus offered ample opportunity to intemperate spirits. . . . One former junk dealer from Denver made more than $100,000 in profits by selling wine under a permit issued by the government—nearly $1.5 million in 2019 dollars. Fake rabbis often sold permits to restaurants for $200 to $500 ($3,000 to $7,500 today) apiece.

Read more at Jewish Telegraphic Agency

More about: Alcohol, American Jewish History, Wine

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security