How Labor Zionists Turned Central European Jelly Doughnuts into Israeli Hanukkah Fare

Dec. 15 2020

While for American Jews the latke (potato pancake) is the dish most associated with Hanukkah, in Israel it is the sufganiyah, or jelly doughnut. But—contrary to popular belief—the latter as much of the former has its origins in Ashkenazi cuisine. Jam-filled pastries, writes the great Jewish food writer Gil Marks first originated in Germany, whence they spread eastward (2010):

Poles named jelly doughnuts pączki (flower buds). Polish Jews fried these doughnuts in schmaltz or oil instead of lard and called them ponchiks. In certain areas of Poland, they became the favorite Hanukkah dessert. . . . Polish-Jewish immigrants brought ponchiks to Israel, along with the custom of eating them on Hanukkah. In Israel, however, ponchiks soon took the name sufganiyah (plural, sufganiyot), from a “spongy dough” mentioned in the Talmud, [called] sofgan or sfogga.

In the late 1920s, the Histadrut, the Zionist labor federation, decided to champion the less widespread jelly doughnut as a Hanukkah treat rather than l’vivot (latkes), because latkes were relatively easy and homemade, while sufganiyot were rather difficult for most home cooks, thereby providing work (preparing, transporting, and selling the doughnuts) for its members. Companies began turning out the doughnuts days or even weeks before Hanukkah, stretching both the amount of work and the period of enjoyment for eating them, although there are those who insist on waiting to eat one until after lighting the first candle. Sufganiyot subsequently emerged as by far the most popular Israeli Hanukkah food.

In 2009, about 18 million sufganiyot were consumed in the weeks before and during the holiday, or about three doughnuts per Israeli, with the with the Israeli Defense Force alone purchasing around a half million that year.

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Read more at Leite’s Culinaria

More about: Hanukkah, Histadrut, Jewish food, Labor Zionism

 

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship