Why Jews Opposed Prohibition, and Why Prohibitionists Became Anti-Semites

Jan. 26 2022

In much of Eastern Europe from the 16th century onward, Jews often obtained exclusive rights to distill and sell alcohol, and ran taverns where both Jewish and non-Jewish customers gathered. American Jews’ role in the trade of intoxicating beverages was less pronounced, but hardly negligible. Reviewing Marni Davis’s 2012 book Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition, Allan Arkush writes:

The story Davis tells of [those] Jews who made their fortunes in the alcohol business doesn’t heat up until the temperance movement begins to gain some traction in the second half of the 19th century. Jews then lined up mostly on the side of the “wets,” both because their own religion commanded the use of some alcohol and because they feared the Christianization of the public realm.

American Jews didn’t deny the dangers of alcohol abuse. They just recommended that other people drink moderately and “do as we Israelites do,” as Philadelphia’s Rabbi Marcus Jastrow put it in 1874, a decade before he began to publish his Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Babli, Talmud Yerushalmi, and Midrashic Literature, which remains quite helpful today even if his advice to Gentile drinkers may no longer be so.

Neither the stance taken by leading rabbis nor the growing presence of Jews in the alcohol industry provoked the advocates of temperance or the prohibitionists to retaliate. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union “consistently extended themselves to Jewish sisterhoods and avoided anti-Semitic rhetoric,” and the early leadership of the Anti-Saloon League “eschewed direct criticism of Jews.” Things changed, however, with the gradual infiltration of populist anti-Semitism into the prohibitionist movement, especially in the South.

Prohibitionists didn’t win the day, or rather the decade of the 1920s, by targeting them, but once they succeeded in having the National Prohibition Act passed, American Jews found themselves in a rather unique situation, one that may have inspired a Ku Klux Klan-affiliated rabble-rouser to declare that, “My fight right now is against the Homebrew and the Hebrew.”

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Alcohol, American Jewish History, Anti-Semitism, Ku Klux Klan

 

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror