The History of Jews in the Liquor Trade

Aug. 12 2020

In North America, the Middle East, and Central and Eastern Europe, Jews played an outsized role in the production and sale of alcohol in the 17th through 19th centuries. Joel Haber writes:

While many [Polish] Jews turned to trading and peddling, the lords saw a different opportunity. Jews were considered good with business . . . and would be unlikely to drink up the product. So, under a leasing system known in Polish as propinacja, [individual] Jews were granted exclusive rights to run the alcohol industries [on individual estates]. By the middle of the 19th century, approximately 85 percent of all Polish taverns had Jewish management. Jews similarly dominated the industry in the [Russian] Pale of Settlement, . . . though on a slightly lesser scale. Jewish participation in the alcohol business was so prevalent that . . . between 30 and 40 percent of Poland’s Jews (including women and children) worked in the industry.

Simultaneously, back in Ottoman Palestine, wine production was returning for the first time in hundreds of years. Though ancient Israel was well-known as a wine-producing region, hundreds of years of rule by Muslims (for whom alcohol is forbidden) turned the industry into little more than a memory. But when more Jews began immigrating and joining the small community that was already living there, viticulture gradually returned.

Jews rapidly left the business toward the [19th] century’s end, thanks to both increased competition and government oppression, leaving this chapter in our history largely forgotten.

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Read more at My Jewish Learning

More about: Alcohol, Jewish history, Ottoman Empire, Polish Jewry

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy