How the “Temperance Question” Became a “Jewish Question”

In the early 20th century, writes Jenna Weissman Joselit, American Jews played an outsized role in the production and sale of hard liquor. Thus, as the temperance movement gained steam—eventually leading to prohibition in 1920—many Jewish businessmen grew worried:

Willy-nilly . . . the “temperance question” became a “Jewish question,” a matter of pressing concern for the American Jewish community at large. Even though Miss Frances Willard, the formidable head of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, a powerhouse of an organization with hundreds of thousands of dues-paying members, had made overtures to “the Hebrews,” inviting them to join its ranks, many of their number felt that Americans who, like Willard and her followers, practiced “abstinence as a religion” had it in for them.

But . . . unlike other moral-reform campaigns of the modern era such as animal rights, temperance didn’t anathematize Judaism per se as much as individual Jews. Its animus was directed against the manufacturers of “spirituous liquor” who happened to be Jewish, not against the theological beliefs they might have held or the rituals they practiced such as downing four cups of wine at the seder or ushering in, and celebrating, the Sabbath with Kiddush (the benediction over wine).

Besides, as those intimately familiar with Jewish life liked to point out, Jews were known to drink in moderation, not to excess. Among them, drunkenness was an anomaly rather than a feature of daily life. The “practical tenor” of Jewish life and with it, the cultivation of a “wise moderation in all things,” proudly declared Esther Jane Ruskay in Hearth and Home Essays, her 1901 celebration of American Jewish domesticity, kept Demon Rum and its counterparts at bay.

Despite Ruskay’s reassuring language, American Jews at the grassroots as well as those businessmen and their families caught in the crosshairs of temperance’s “Blue Ribbon,” women found the distinction between Jews and Judaism of small comfort.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Alcohol, American Jewish History, Jewish-Christian relations

In the Next Phase of the War, Israel’s Biggest Obstacles May Be Political Rather Than Military

To defeat Hamas, Israel will have to attack the city of Rafah, which lies on the border between Egypt and Gaza, and which now contains the bulk of the terrorist group’s fighting forces as well as, most likely, the Israeli hostages. Edward Luttwak examines how this stage of the war will be different from those that preceded it:

To start with, Rafah has very few of the high-rise apartment houses, condo towers, and mansions of Gaza City and Khan Yunis. This makes street-fighting much simpler because there are no multilevel basements from which many fighters can erupt at once, nor looming heights with firing positions for snipers. Above all, if a building must be entered and cleared room-by-room, perhaps because a high-value target is thought to be hiding there, it does not take hundreds of soldiers to search the place quickly.

Luttwak also argues that the IDF will be able to evacuate a portion of the civilian population without allowing large numbers of Hamas guerrillas to escape. In his view, the biggest challenge facing Israel, therefore, is a political one:

Israel will have to contend with one final hurdle: the fact that its forces cannot proceed without close coordination with Egypt’s rulers. President Sisi’s government detests Hamas—the Gaza offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood they overthrew—and shed no tears at the prospect of its further destruction in Rafah. However, they also greatly fear the arrival of a flood of Palestinians fleeing from the Israeli offensive.

As for the Israeli war cabinet, it is equally determined to win this war in Rafah and to preserve strategic cooperation with Egypt, which has served both sides very well. That takes some doing, and accounts for the IDF’s failure to move quickly into Rafah. But victory is Israel’s aim—and it’s not going to give up on that.

Read more at UnHerd

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security