Dairy Restaurants’ Lost World of American Jewish Sociability

While the kosher deli is a staple of American Jewish nostalgia, its more modest cousin, the dairy restaurant, has largely been forgotten. The Brooklyn-born cartoonist Ben Katchor attempts to correct this state of affairs in his recent illustrated history of the institution. Jenna Weissman Joselit writes in her review:

The text that accompanies [Katchor’s] images is [highly] idiosyncratic; not so much composed as accumulated, it’s history à la carte. Where conventional historical accounts place a premium on context and a sustained narrative, not to mention a table of contents and formal chapters, this sprawling volume purposefully eschews all that. Instead, it throws everything it has at the reader: the intricacies of the Jewish dietary laws; the history of the restaurant, which first took off in Paris in the wake of the French Revolution; the relationship between temperance and its banishing of beer to vegetarianism and its embrace of milk; the emergence of the “milkhedike personality,” who preferred contemplation to action.

[But] I’d even go so far as to say that food doesn’t really fire [Katchor’s] imagination. . . . Recovering [the dairy restaurant’] mild-mannered patterns of sociability, its chatter and conviviality, drives him forward. That much of it was informed by “Yiddishkayt,” the constellation of behaviors, gestures, and sensibilities carried from the Old World into the New by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, raises the stakes, prompting this keen-eyed observer of urban life to linger a while longer.

He mourns the passing of a way of life—“these intimations of a better time”—that once encompassed the simpler pleasures of the palate along with a place to hang one’s battered hat. Contemporary readers of The Dairy Restaurant may no longer be familiar with baskets of onion rolls set atop a stainless-steel counter, or, for that matter, with protose steak [a precursor to today’s veggie burger], but, in their current hungering for the kind of community this humble eatery once provided, they’re apt to recognize themselves.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American Jewish History, Food

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7