A New Read on Jewish Life
Updated: 5 hours 41 minutes ago
From Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook
1 small garlic clove
The entrance of the United States into World War II in December 1941 ultimately transformed the relationship of many Jews to their religion. Obliged to eat Army rations, Jewish soldiers found it almost impossible to keep kosher on a regular basis. In G.I. Jews, Deborah Dash Moore’s book about Jews in the Army, Moore discusses the ways in which many Jewish soldiers, especially those raised in kosher homes, were compelled to modify their eating patterns in order to survive on army rations. “Eating ham for Uncle Sam” became, Moore has found, a patriotic act of self-sacrifice. But not all servicemen were obliged to subsist on nonkosher food; the practice soon developed of sending hard salamis, which keep for a long time without refrigeration, to sons who were serving abroad. For the most part, however, Jews learned that they could do without familiar foods and still maintain their Jewish identity.
Louis Schwartz, a waiter in the Sixth Avenue Delicatessen who was famous for selling more than $4 million worth of war bonds, claimed to have invented the famous slogan “Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army,” which became a permanent catchphrase at Katz’s Delicatessen and other delicatessens in the city. The slogan seems to have originated with Hal David, a lyricist whose Austrian Jewish parents owned a kosher delicatessen in Brooklyn; David is best known for a string of 1960s hit songs with the Jewish composer Burt Bacharach. David penned it while serving in the Army in the Central Pacific Entertainment Section, based at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu; the unit developed songs, sketches, and musicals to be performed for the troops throughout the Central and South Pacific. (The lyric continued, “Don’t just send him things to wear/ Send him something he can chew.”) The slogan carried a potent unconscious thrust; given the phallic associations that salamis have, sending one to one’s son was perhaps unconsciously attempting to give him a boost of virility in order to enable him to win the war and return safely to the bosom of his family.
When Philadelphia-based chef Michael Solomonov and his business partner Steven Cook opened their first restaurant Zahav in 2008, diners didn’t really know from modern Israeli cuisine. Sure, there was plenty of falafel and hummus in rotation on menus at cheap eateries. The adventurous home cook had perhaps tried her hand with homemade baba ghanouj or baklava. But the delicious subtleties of the innovative cuisine emerging within Israel were not yet on most Americans’ radar. A mention of za’atar or labneh would be met with blank stares.
Flash forward seven years, and Israeli food has taken a seat among the world’s celebrated cuisines. Zahav, meanwhile, is one of the most popular restaurants in the country. Solomonov and Cook have a mini empire of eateries in Philly (some Jewishly focused, some not). And, just this month, they released their first cookbook, Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking.
One of the major film artists of our day, Chantal Akerman died suddenly in Paris, earlier this week. The cause of death has not been announced. Akerman is best-known for her 3.5 hour domestic epic Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai de Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, a monumental study of a housewife’s routine, made in 1975 when the filmmaker was 25.
Jeanne Dielman is not only a classic but a canonical film, a movie of tremendous force and originality—at once a film-object, a feminist manifesto, and a formalist masterpiece. Marked by a strong visual style and recurring personal interests, Akerman’s other work ranged from travelogue documentaries, made in New York, Israel, and on the US-Mexican border, to psychodramas to musical comedies. She created video installations, filmed an adaptation of Proust and made a movie on Jewish humor that was set in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge. Although less famous (or infamous) than Jeanne Dielman, these pieces make up an oeuvre that may be the most substantial of any filmmaker of her generation.
Two congregations are involved in a long-running lawsuit. Both are claiming ownership over a pair of rimonim (decorative Torah bells) worth a whopping $7.4 million, reported the AP on September 18. After closing statements were made in a Providence, Rhode Island courtroom, U.S. District Judge John McConnell, who is presiding over the trial, said there was “no smoking gun” in the case. He has yet to make a decision.
Conflict started in 2012 when Congregation Jeshuat Israel, who prays at Touro Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the Unites States, was having financial issues and decided to sell those multi-million dollar bells to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts in an effort to establish an endowment. Sounds innocent enough, right?
Another chapter has this been written in the Dov Charney versus American Apparel saga. On Thursday, The New York Post reported the clothier sent out a memo to its retail managers, instructing them to remove all images or signage—every vestige—of ex-CEO Charney, including those of his family, from the company’s stores.
Charney founded the locally-made, overpriced “shmata business” in 1991, and transformed it into a socially-conscious, vertically integrated retail giant, with manufacturing and distributions based entirely out of its headquarters in L.A. Renowned perhaps for being a helicopter CEO, Charney was involved in most aspects of the manufacturing process; that is, until he was canned by American Apparel’s board of directors on account of alleged misconduct in 2014, after 23 years of leading the firm, and almost as many of sexual harassment allegations and rumors.
A prominent Nazi banner was draped over the facade of the Palais de la Prefecture in Nice, France on Monday. Naturally, it caused quite a stir because, well, that’s what happens when a giant swastika appears without apparent explanation just below the French flag waving atop a 17th century ducal palace. The uproar was first picked up by French daily Nice-Matin, which reported surprised onlookers taking photos and selfies.
“People started screaming… they were really agitated,” American tourist Andrew Gentry told the BBC. “There was nothing around to explain what was going on. The scene was just surreal.”
Editor’s Note: Every Friday, we publish a selection of letters our readers have sent in regarding articles and podcasts published the week prior on Tablet.
In response to Adam Kirsch’s “Primo Levi’s Unlikely Suicide Haunts His Lasting Work“:
This Is Not Going to End Well: Ancient Hebraic Battles, Reconstructed With LEGOs and Cut-Out Paper Castles
This week, among the children’s book deliveries on my desk, I found an oversized volume: Build! A Knight’s Castle. On the cover was a medieval citadel surrounded by archers, armed horsemen, and sword-wielding foot soldiers in chain mail. And the first thing I thought was: This story is not going to end well for the Jews.
I joke, but—not really. Have castles ever meant happy endings for Hebrews? When I see a stone fortress, I think: Crusades! King Edward I kicking all the Jews out of England in 1290! The expulsion from Spain in 1492! Given the facts of Jewish history, I wondered who, precisely, thought, “Yes! Let’s send this book to Tablet!”
Make way for Lower East Side Pickle Day, seizing downtown Manhattan this Sunday. This annual 5-hour long extravaganza, held in LES since the late 1990s, “is a neighborhood-wide celebration of all things pickled,” where Orchard and Delancey “streets come alive with internationally renowned picklers, local vendors, live music, and activities…[and draw] enthusiasts from ’round the globe to remember their pickled roots!”
Although the festival is not explicitly Jewish, it is in fact set in the heart of pickle-making territory, the Lower East Side, where pickles became a staple of the Jewish immigrant’s diet. In July, Tablet columnist Marjorie Ingall described LES’ historic pickle scene thus:
Last night, Eitam Henkin, a doctoral student at Tel-Aviv University, where he won the prestigious Nathan Rotenstreich scholarship, and his wife Na’ama, an accomplished graphic designer who ran her own studio, were driving back from a class reunion to their home in Neria, a small community of 250 families in Samaria. In the back of their white Subaru station wagon, four of their six children—the oldest one nine, the youngest four months—were dozing off. As they drove past the Palestinian village of Beit Furik, gunmen affiliated with the PLO approached the Henkins’ car and shot both adults to death at close range. The children watched in silence from the back seat as their parents’ torsos were torn apart by a hail of bullets. The children’s silence saved their lives: likely unnoticed by the murderers, they seemed to have been spared a similar fate.
The world’s silence in response to the murders of Eitam and Na’ama, and the spate of similar murders recently perpetrated by Palestinian terror organizations acting with the encouragement and oftentimes at the direction of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian national movement, has no such silver lining. When asked by an Israeli news reporter how the Henkins’ orphaned children were responding to their parents’ death, a neighbor responded, “They are crying.” Those whose eyes are dry have something to answer for.
About three months after the Spanish government approved a law that would enable descendants of Sephardi Jews—the kin of 300,000 Jews who were exiled from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition in 1492—to apply for dual citizenship, 4,302 people, most of whom were reportedly from Morocco, Turkey and Venezuela, were granted the paperwork.
The applicants are now naturalized citizens of Spain and can live and work anywhere in the entire 28-nation European Union. “Like others seeking Spanish citizenship,” reported the AP, “applicants must be tested in basic Spanish and pass a current events and culture test about Spain. They also must establish a modern-day link to Spain, which can be as simple as donating to a Spanish charity or as expensive as buying property.”
In a landmark decision, the U.S. Department of Transportation ruled on Wednesday that Kuwait Airways’ longtime boycott of Israeli passengers violates America’s anti-discrimination laws. The airline says it maintains the ban out of deference to Kuwait’s own laws against doing business with Israel. But that rationale will no longer fly in the United States.
“We expect [Kuwait Airways] to sell tickets to and transport Israeli citizens between the U.S. and any third country where they are allowed to disembark based on the laws of that country,” Blane Workie, the Department of Transportation’s assistant general counsel for enforcement, said in a letter to the airline. “Any airline that wishes to operate in the U.S. should know that we will not tolerate discrimination of any kind in our skies,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told the AP.
By all accounts, August is an especially difficult month for Israeli parents who have to entertain their kids during summer vacation in the smoldering heat. One recent summer, I remember seeing a cartoon, published in one of Israel’s daily newspapers, that depicted a sweaty, unkempt, tired mom holding an infant on her hip, while schlepping two more kids behind her, being awarded a medal by an army general. “This is for August,” the general informs her as she weakly smiles.
And one might think this challenging time ends come September when the kids return to school, but oh no! Just two weeks after school starts, Israelis are faced with yet another ungodly challenge: the Tishrei Holidays. In fact, the start of the school year provides Israelis with a very false sense of calm. False because just a short time later (sometimes a few days or a couple of weeks), Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah all bring with them the specter of endless days-off.
Shemini Atzeret—the Jewish holiday that comes at the end of Sukkot—is a time when Jews around the world say Tefilat HaGeshem, a prayer for rain. And the people who will gather to mark the holiday at Jewitch Camp outside San Francisco on the evening of Oct. 4 are no exception.
But this gathering, described as “a sanctuary of spirit drawing on earth-based magic to pursue tikkun olam,” will go further in its rituals. The group of around 50 feminist, eco-conscious, Jewish-influenced witches who will convene in a sukkah constructed around a hot tub in Richmond, California, won’t just be shaking the lulav and the etrog. They’ll also be casting a circle, calling in the directions, and invoking everyone from the Native American ancestors of the land where they gather, to Ba’al Hadad (literally Master of Thunder), an ancient Canaanite storm and rain god.
The previous pope made more sense to me. He wanted to reposition the Catholic Church in a modern world that has not been favorable to the Church, and one of his ways of doing so was to argue with people. This did not give him a favorable press, but it made him a force, intellectually speaking. He was keen on taking up the terrorist challenge from the Islamist movement. He blundered in how he went about it in a famous lecture at the University of Regensburg and afterward had to go apologize to the entire Muslim world. But it was good that he raised the argument. He worried about totalitarianism. His most impressive thought was to accept the fact that, in Europe and perhaps elsewhere, the Catholic Church has shrunk into a minority religion. And, having accepted, he found, in the pages of Tocqueville, an advantage. The America of the 1830s that Tocqueville described in Democracy in America was a Protestant country and a liberal democracy, but it contained a small Catholic minority, whom Tocqueville described as principally poor people. This meant the Irish immigration, perhaps together with French Canadians on the American side of the Canadian border. Tocqueville considered that America’s Catholic Church was doing a good job of standing up for those people, which was to the benefit of the country as a whole. And the Church was maintaining an alternative approach to spiritual matters.
Benedict XVI saw in this an inspiration for the Catholic Church of our own time, at least in Europe. He wanted the Church to be a thread in the modern liberal tapestry, instead of waging a constant losing protest. Was there something to this idea? Or did it amount merely to a new disguise for the never-ending war against the liberal sexual reforms of the 1960s, as some people thought? The modern spirit of sexual honesty was hard on the Church in Benedict’s time. Still, his attraction to Tocqueville was attractive.
It’s much too soon to predict, with anything approaching precision, the likely ripples of the Iran deal, but one of Washington’s formerly feared hunters now finds itself in the crosshairs: On left and on right, everybody seems to have it in for AIPAC.
While the Iran deal brought the absolute best out of smaller and more modestly endowed organizations like The Israel Project or the Foundation for Defense of Democracies—the first campaigned tirelessly in the media, the second scorched Congress with a string of devastating and illuminating testimonies—AIPAC pursued an oddly milquetoast strategy and failed to convert even supportive senators like Cory Booker to the anti-deal cause. Anti-Israel detractors who for the last decade declared that AIPAC was all-powerful are now rushing to declare the lobby irrelevant, and some in Congress—Democrats and Republicans alike—are inclined to agree. What is being perceived as AIPAC’s refusal to run an aggressive campaign against Democrats supportive of the Iran deal is causing some former allies on the right and on the left to ponder whether the formerly formidable organization has any purpose anymore.
On Thursday, a day after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the Oslo Peace Accords in a speech to the UN general assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the pulpit in New York, choosing first to communicate his complete dissatisfaction with the Iran Nuclear Deal before addressing Abbas and name-dropping Yogi Berra, the New York Yankee legend who died earlier this week.
“Iran’s rulers promised to destroy my country, murder my people,” said Netanyahu. “And the response from this body, the response from nearly every one of the governments represented here, has been absolutely nothing. Utter silence. Deafening silence.”
Had there been a Baseball Hall of Fame at the turn of the 19th century, Lipman Emanuel “Lip” Pike would have been an overwhelming choice. The Jewish superstar, who died in 1893, led the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (the forerunner to the present-day National League) in home runs the first three years of professional ball. Pike once hit six home runs in a single game; in 1872 for the Baltimore Canaries, Pike hit 17.2 percent of all homers in the league, a number not bested until 1920 when Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees broke Pike’s record (20.07 percent).
When the Baseball Hall of Fame was founded in 1936, Pike was on the ballot and received only one vote. The five players who were inducted into that inaugural Hall of Fame class were Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. These ballplayers, especially the first three, are household names, but Pike has been slowly forgotten, forced out of the public imagination as the game grew in popularity. His legacy remains in relative obscurity—and there is no plaque for him in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In Defense of Women's Reproductive Freedoms: As Members of Congress Fight to Defund Planned Parenthood, We Must Speak Up
Republicans in Congress remains fanatically devoted to their pointless, cruel, and (one hopes) ultimately futile mission of defunding and destroying Planned Parenthood and replacing it with (one assumes) some sort of gulag-type system for poor and pregnant women. In this new system, I imagine that those women who seek care will be punished for the sin of having female reproductive organs by being addressed only as “Uterus #24601” while being forcibly made to breed more disposable humans for the military-industrial complex. I’m furious, and I’m not the only one.
More and more private citizens have begun to step up their fight by making generous donations to ensure Planned Parenthood clinics can continue offering services to woman who need them—that is, in the event of such a political and social catastrophe. The latest philanthropists in this lengthening list are Daniel Handler, better known as Lemony Snicket, the author of the phenomenally best-selling children’s books A Series of Unfortunate Events, and his wife, the writer and illustrator Lisa Brown (her Baby, Be Of Use series is always my go-to gift for expecting couples). They have just pledged to give $1 million to the embattled health organization.