A Brandy Long Favored by East European Jews Gets Its Due

At a conference last week, the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) honored Serbia by declaring slivovitz—a plum brandy popular throughout Eastern Europe, and especially in the former Yugoslavia—a beverage with “intangible cultural heritage.” David Klein explains why Ashkenazi Jews long favored the beverage:

The spirit became particularly associated with Polish Jewry in the 19th century, as Jews became prominent in the field of alcohol production and the running of inns and taverns. They found special utility in slivovitz when it came to maintaining the Jewish laws around keeping kosher.

Unlike wine, traditional brandy, and some types of vodka, being made from plums (the root sliva means plum in several Slavic languages) meant that slivovitz was not subject to the same stringent rules that apply to grape-based alcoholic beverages. And unlike beer, whiskey, and other types of vodka, it had no wheat or other grains, so it was acceptable for consumption on Passover. It was also relatively inexpensive.

When masses of Polish Jews arrived in America, they brought slivovitz with them, and it quickly became associated with the Jewish community. Today, much of the slivovitz sold in the United States is marketed to Jewish consumers, typically around Passover each spring.

Read more at Jewish Telegraphic Agency

More about: Alcohol, East European Jewry, Eastern Europe, UNESCO

Iran’s President May Be Dead. What Next?

At the moment, Hizballah’s superiors in Tehran probably aren’t giving much thought to the militia’s next move. More likely, they are focused on the fact that their country’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, along with the foreign minister, may have been killed in a helicopter crash near the Iran-Azerbaijan border. Iranians set off fireworks to celebrate the possible death of this man known as “butcher of Tehran” for his role in executing dissidents. Shay Khatiri explains what will happen next:

If the president is dead or unable to perform his duties for longer than two months, the first vice-president, the speaker of the parliament, and the chief justice, with the consent of the supreme leader, form a council to choose the succession mechanism. In effect, this means that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will decide [how to proceed]. Either a new election is called, or Khamenei will dictate that the council chooses a single person to avoid an election in time of crisis.

Whatever happens next, however, Raisi’s “hard landing” will mark the first chapter in a game of musical chairs that will consume the Islamic Republic for months and will set the stage not only for the post-Raisi era, but the post-Khamenei one as well.

As for the inevitable speculation that Raisi’s death wasn’t an accident: everything I have read so far suggests that it was. Still, that its foremost enemy will be distracted by a succession struggle is good news for Israel. And it wouldn’t be terrible if Iran’s leaders suspect that the Mossad just might have taken out Raisi. For all their rhetoric about martyrdom, I doubt they relish the prospect of becoming martyrs themselves.

Read more at Middle East Forum

More about: Ali Khamenei, Iran, Mossad