by Ilana Rossoff, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History
This post is part of the Jews and Social Justice Series. To view all posts in the series, click here.
Throughout its near 20-year history, the American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism organization served as a channel for Berger’s writing, traveling, and testifying before Congress.
About twice a year, Berger (President) and his team of Mrs. Arthur Gutman (Vice President), Mrs. Isaac Witkin (Secretary) and Harry Lesser (Treasurer) produced a report to summarize important political events in the Middle East and the United States related to the “Israeli/Arab/Zionist conflict” and offer Berger’s and others’ commentary. Some of the recurring topics included U.S. media coverage of the conflict, American diplomatic and military aid to Israel, Palestinian organizational leadership, oil politics between the Middle East and Europe/the U.S., activities of American Zionist organizations, conflicts, peace negotiations, the debate around anti-Semitism, and arguments about Zionism’s role in the conflict.
Additionally, Elmer Berger, in the name of the organization, gave numerous talks around the U.S. and around the world. These talks were held in Australia, Ireland, Lebanon, England and various cities in the U.S. including Memphis, Cincinnati, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and others .
According to my email correspondence with author Jack Ross, Elmer Berger identified himself with AJAZ in a letter published in The New York Times in 1990 about Thomas Kolsky’s book; however, the last serious output of the organization was around 1988. It is safe to assume that the organization’s gradual decline occurred between those times .
The impact of the American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism is difficult to measure. In a 1986 review in the Journal of Palestine Studies, Andrea Barron writes of American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism that as the “the only Jewish anti-Zionist group which exists,” “its impact has been so miniscule that other Jewish groups do not even bother attacking it” . As Ross explains, the AJAZ was never meant to be a membership-based organization . However, most AJAZ reports list 13-15 people from all around the country under its Board of Directors (presumably comprised of its main financial supporters), which changed slightly over the years . One of the organization’s long-time supporters was Moshe Menuhin, emigrant to pre-Israel Palestine and author of The Decadence of Judaism in our Time and Jewish Critics of Zionism.
AJAZ is listed in a 1990 list of U.S. organizations “involved in the struggle for Palestinian/Israeli peace” in a Middle East Report publication, but after the time it was most active and with a New York address . Though the group did not engage in direct organizing or political work to create the conditions for Middle East peace, Berger’s speeches and writings received notable press coverage and the organization’s reports provided critical information and commentary for anti-Zionist understanding of the issues of the time.
Most of the organization’s reports, as well as accounts of Berger’s various speaking tours around the world and reprinted news coverage of Berger’s work, can be found in the American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism’s archival collection, which is held in the American Jewish Historical Society archives here at the Center for Jewish History.
 Report #1, 1969, Page 3. Folder: Report #1-11. American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society here at the Center. (Finding aid.)
 Report #2, undated. Folder: Report #1-11. American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society here at the Center.
 Various publications and newspaper article reprints, 1969-1981. Folder: Berger, Elmer: Articles, essays, lectures, n.d., 1969-1981. American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society here at the Center.
 Ilana Rossoff, email correspondence with Jack Ross, 24 May 2013
 Andrea Barron, “Winning American Jews to Zionism.” Review of The Political World of American Zionism by Samuel Halperin and All My Causes by I. L. Kenen. Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Autumn, 1986), Page 159. This article can be found in JSTOR and accessed here at the Center for Jewish History.
 Ross, Page 151
 Reports, Folders 4-14, American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society.
 Steve Niva, “US Organizations and the Intifada” Middle East Report, No. 164/165, Intifada Year Three (May - Aug., 1990), page 72. This article can be found in JSTOR and accessed here at the Center for Jewish History.
American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society. (Finding aid.)
by Elli Smerling, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History
Official Jewish law requires 10 to be in attendance for communal prayer. Unofficial Jewish law requires that if 10 people are in a room, there must be food.
Every Jewish gathering, celebration or holiday revolves around food. You may ask: What about fast days? Well, they’re about food as well. Fact: Not eating food is just as much about food as eating it.
Americans like to eat too… I’m not talking about our bad reputations for unhealthy excess and obesity. Americans use food to celebrate. Though most of our holidays revolve around a grill (Memorial Day, Labor Day, Independence Day), one holiday really does come close to a Jewish celebration: Thanksgiving.
But this isn’t such a surprise. Some believe that the Pilgrims based the holiday on Sukkot. Known as the Feast of Tabernacles, this holiday predominantly occurs in the fall, for the Jews of the Northern Hemisphere. Like Thanksgiving, Sukkot is a time for giving thanks for a bountiful harvest. The holiday commemorates the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering the dessert and the fall harvest. It heavily revolves around meals, which are eaten in sukkot (temporary structures) to commemorate the structures used for shelter in the desert. These meals traditionally incorporate fall harvest vegetables, creating dishes appropriate for a Thanksgiving feast. It would be convenient for these holidays to fall together.
Instead, this year America’s signature Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, falls upon the most epic of American feasts, Thanksgiving. Hanukkah’s historic connection to Sukkot makes the holiday compatible with Thanksgiving. It commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple as a result of the Maccabean revolt. It is observed for eight days to celebrate the miracle of the oil lasting in the temple. The first celebration of this miracle, found in the Second Book of the Maccabees, describes this festivity coinciding with the observance of Sukkot. In essence, then, it is fitting for Hanukkah to fall on Thanksgiving, a holiday that resembles Sukkot.
Thanksgivukkah, as it is has become known, is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. And what better way to celebrate “the American Feast” with Hanukkah than with food! As stated earlier, many dishes served on Sukkot resemble those of Thanksgiving, so they will fit quite well on the Thanksgiving table—including “Moroccan Pumpkin Soup with Chick-Peas” from Joan Nathan’s book Jewish Cooking in America (Nathan 128-129). Unlike Sukkot foods, Hanukkah treats place emphasis on oil. Fried delicacies such as potato latkes and jelly doughnuts are staples on this holiday.
Without doubt, families will be bringing traditional Hanukkah and Jewish dishes to the Thanksgiving table. They may even take it a step further by creating fusion recipes. Manischewtiz Company has created a whole website dedicated to the holiday with videos, e-cards, and recipes for the occasion. They are even holding a contest for best “Mashed Up Recipe.”
I decided to take on the challenge myself. I went through numerous resources in the Lillian Goldman Reading Room here at the Center for Jewish History to gain inspiration.
I found some interesting and helpful sources:
Page 86 of Jewish Cooking Boot Camp is dedicated to suggestions of toppings that could be put on potato latkes. Many of these toppings would be fitting for the Thanksgiving feast. In the picture below I have pointed out some of the suggestions that can be used to make your latkes more “harvesty.” Additionally, page 85 of the cookbook offered some quirky tips on latke making; they are also included below.
In Jewish Cooking In America, I discovered a recipe for “Curried Sweet Potato Latkes” on page 261. The recipe is a perfect use of traditional harvest vegetables eaten on Thanksgiving and fused with a Hanukkah favorite.
I was inspired by the topping options, and knew if I really wanted to go crazy, I would have to simplify my sweet potato latkes. I found some simpler recipes online and picked an awesome Thanksgiving topping, which lead me to this creation:
Sweet Potato Latkes with Marshmallow Topping
1 medium yellow onion, halved
1 large sweet potato, peeled
1 large russet potato, peeled
¾ cup panko bread crumbs
3 large eggs
¼ cup green onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bag of marshmallow – large or mini
These can be baked or fried. If baking grease the baking sheet with butter or parve substitute to make them extra crispy. If frying use peanut or vegetable oil.
Grate onions and potatoes; drain and place into a large mixing bowl.
Add green onions, panko, eggs, salt and pepper into the mix.
Mix well and form into palm-sized round balls. Place on baking sheet and flatten.
Place in oven on 425 for 20 minutes each side. During the last 5 minutes of baking – turn to broil and place marshmallows on top of the latkes.
Heat a large pan and add 4 tablespoons of oil. Carefully drop sweet latkes into the pan to fry, turning when crisp. Put on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Place onto cookie sheet and add marshmallow on top. Broil for 5 minutes or until marshmallows have melted.
Enjoy hot, with cranberry sauce, apple sauce, or maple syrup.
Some Other Thanksgivukkah Ideas:
A Jelly Turkey:
Deep fried Turkey stuffed with cranberry jelly filling. Make sure to use enough oil to last 8 days.
Pumpkin flavored doughnuts stuffed with jelly filling.
Cranberry Apple Sauce:
What better way to top your latkes on Thanksgiving Day?
Pumpkin Hanukkah Cookies:
Pumpkin cookies can be made into Hanukkah cookies by using Hanukkah cookie cutters.
Manischewitz Cocktails (found in the Manischewitz Company Records here at the Center for Jewish History):
Try the Manischewitz Hi-Boy: Two to three jiggers of Manischewitz Concord Grape in a tall cup of ice with ginger ale and a slice of lemon.
Or try the Manischewitz Stinger:
Three parts Manischewitz Blackberry one part brandy.