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Fizz ed: The Brooklyn Seltzer Museum tells the fascinating history of ‘Jewish champagne’

(New York Jewish Week) — On a recent Sunday in Brooklyn, some 100 people, mostly families, gathered for a Hanukkah party that offered something a bit different than the typical latkes and games of dreidel. Instead, there was a factory tour, instructions on how to manufacture a classic seltzer bottle and freshly-made egg creams.

That’s because this particular holiday party took place at Brooklyn Seltzer Boys, the last remaining seltzer factory in New York City. The bustling seltzer works, which makes the so-called “Jewish champagne” the old-fashioned way, is located in the Cypress Hills neighborhood on the border with Queens and is also home to the Brooklyn Seltzer Museum.

“This is New York history, Brooklyn history, Jewish history,” fourth-generation “seltzer boy” Alex Gomberg, 36, told the New York Jewish Week. 

The museum tells the 2,500-year-old history of seltzer, from the first mentions of carbonated water in Ancient Greece through the mass production and sale of seltzer in the modern day. The museum also focuses on seltzer’s significance in New York City and its Jewish community, detailing how seltzer took the city by storm. The narrative hones in specifically on the history of the Gomberg family, who established their seltzer business in 1953 as Gomberg Seltzer Works. 

“We wanted to promote that we’re here and that we’re still going — we want to bring people’s attention here,” Gomberg said about incorporating a museum into his family’s seltzer factory. “We want to bring people to come see the old machinery. It’s a working factory, but people can walk in and they can read about the history and see how our current machinery works and how the bottles are fixed and filled.”

Seltzer first came to this country from German and Russian immigrants who had enjoyed the bottled beverage back home. New York City, the largest hub of Jewish immigration, had a large supply of aqueduct-fed water for entrepreneurial seltzer men to pull from. As The New York Times reported in the spring, “many Eastern European Jews who enjoyed seltzer overseas began making, delivering and selling it in the early 1900s, largely on the Lower East Side.”

Seltzer’s popularity took off in part because many of the neighborhood’s tenements were not connected to the city’s clean tap water stream. Jewish immigrants, among others, were faced with the option of drinking polluted water or purchasing seltzer.

By the end of World War II, most Americans moved away from seltzer in favor of sodas from distinctly American brands. But, like rye bread, pastrami and bagels, seltzer’s popularity among Ashkenazi households has endured.

Seltzer expert Barry Joseph, left, and fourth-generation “seltzer man” Alex Gomberg at the entrance to the Brooklyn Seltzer Museum. (Courtesy of the Brooklyn Seltzer Museum)

At the seltzer museum — which is typically open by reservation to the public on Fridays, and one Saturday each month — visitors learn how seltzer is made the old-fashioned way. Brooklyn Seltzer Boys takes New York City tap water that has been triple filtered through layers of sand, charcoal and paper, and then, using a century-old carbonator, the 43-degree water is fizzed up with carbon dioxide. The bubbly delight is then pumped into glass bottles — most of which were hand-blown in Austria and Czechoslovakia in the 1800s — and then crated for delivery. The result is a beverage with bite that makes Brooklyn Seltzer punchier than its mass market competitors like La Croix and Polar.

In addition to videos, displays, and 3-D models that provide an inside look at the 100-year-old machines used by the seltzer works, the museum has a “siphon station” where visitors are encouraged to “feel the spritz” — the museum’s phrase — by holding an old-school siphon and spritzing the seltzer directly into their mouths. 

It’s precisely this type of experience that attracted self-proclaimed “Seltzer King” Jon Posen, who runs Instagram and TikTok accounts in which he reviews different seltzer brands, to the Hanukkah event at the seltzer works. “Alex Gomberg has been in the [New York] Times every few years saying good seltzer should hurt, which is my personal philosophy as well,” Posen told the New York Jewish Week. As someone who grew up with seltzer delivery, he added, he was most excited about using a seltzer siphon once again. 

As it happens, delivery was once the foundation of the Gomberg family’s seltzer business. Alex Gomberg’s great-grandfather, Moe Gomberg, was originally in the seltzer delivery business but transitioned to filling bottles for seltzer men.

Around a decade ago, Alex Gomberg had the idea to restart the seltzer-delivery service, and in 2020, when faced with declining sales, he kicked off a new marketing campaign. “During the pandemic, people wanted home delivery of anything and everything and we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel — this is what we’ve been doing for many, many years,” he said. 

It was an inspired move: Brooklyn Seltzer Boys now boasts some 600 customers (both restaurants and residences) as well as a waiting list of 300. “People are coming back to this old seltzer because it’s cool, it’s retro, it’s the original way that seltzer was bottled and the taste is great,” Gomberg said. 

In 2020, the business relocated from their original location in Canarsie, Brooklyn, to a larger space in Cypress Hills. It was then that the idea to establish a museum was born, a project that  Gomberg collaborated on with seltzer expert Barry Joseph, the author of “Seltzertopia.”

A baby enjoys here visit to the Brooklyn Seltzer Museum. (Courtesy of the Brooklyn Seltzer Museum)

The museum, said Joseph, employs “very different ways of exploring how we can use the tools of a museum to tell the story of seltzer, and tell that story in a physical place that’s literally mapped on top of an active working seltzer works.” 

At the Hanukkah party, visitors were able to drink unlimited seltzer, do a factory-wide scavenger hunt and play seltzer cornhole. Among the revelers were married couple Dasha and David, who declined to give their last names and who had brought their two young sons with them. “The whole experience here brings nostalgia,” Dasha said.  

While Dasha’s comment may be true for many, Gomberg’s thoughts are on the present as well as the future. In fact, if the father of two sons and a daughter gets his way, the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys may eventually need a name change: He hopes the family business will extend to a fifth generation, possibly bringing his daughter on board, too. 

 “Seltzer is a part of us, it’s what we do,” Gomberg said. “I say I got seltzer in my blood and my veins. It’s who we are as Gombergs. We’re gonna keep going as long as we can.”


The post Fizz ed: The Brooklyn Seltzer Museum tells the fascinating history of ‘Jewish champagne’ appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Russia Extends Invitation to Palestinian Factions for Talks in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

i24 NewsRussia has extended invitations to various Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, for discussions on the Israel-Hamas conflict and broader issues in the Middle East.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov announced the initiative on Friday, highlighting Moscow’s desire to engage with all major players in the region amid heightened tensions.

The invitation included a dozen Palestinian groups and is slated for “inter-Palestinian” talks scheduled to commence on February 29.

Bogdanov, serving as President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for the Middle East, emphasized the inclusivity of the invitation, stating, “We invited all Palestinian representatives — all political forces that have their positions in different countries, including Syria, Lebanon, and other countries in the region.”

Among the invitees are Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, alongside representatives of Fatah and the broader Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

The invitation comes at a critical juncture as the Israel-Hamas conflict continues to escalate, drawing international attention and concern. Russia’s proactive stance in convening discussions reflects its growing criticism of Israel and its Western allies, underscoring Moscow’s efforts to assert its influence in the region.

The post Russia Extends Invitation to Palestinian Factions for Talks in Moscow first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Netanyahu: Those Who Want us to Desist from Rafah Op Are Telling Us to Lose

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 28, 2023. Photo: ABIR SULTAN POOL/Pool via REUTERS

i24 NewsHamas drops its “delusional” demands, productive hostage talks could begin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday, stressing Israel would not agree to the terror group’s current demands.

WATCH: PM Netanyahu delivers a statement after Hamas suspended negotiations pic.twitter.com/nxISPb4JUm

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 17, 2024

“I insist that Hamas should abandon its delusional demands – and when it does, we will be able to move forward,” Netanyahu said in a statement live on TV.

“Those who want us to desist from the Rafah operation,” the leader said in an apparent reference to the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden, “are telling us we should lose. We won’t be dictated to.”

The post Netanyahu: Those Who Want us to Desist from Rafah Op Are Telling Us to Lose first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Iran Unveils New Air Defense Weaponry

Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani speaks at a press conference during the unveiling of a new surface-to-surface 4th generation Khorramshahr ballistic missile. Photo: Reuters/West Asia News Agency

i24 NewsIran demonstrated new weaponry on Saturday, including what it said was the locally made Arman anti-ballistic missile system and the Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system, said the official IRNA news agency. Saturday’s unveiling ceremony of the two vehicle-mounted systems was held in the presence of Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani.

“With the entry of new systems into the country’s defense network, the air defense capability of the Islamic Republic of Iran will increase significantly,” said IRNA.

Video of the new Azarakhsh SHORAD engaging a target drone

It’s radar has a detection range of 50km, with 25km for it’s EO/IR suite https://t.co/cZSCk4AmZj pic.twitter.com/7gEnZh0uef

— Iran Defense|نیروهای مسلح جمهوری اسلامی ایران (@IranDefense) February 17, 2024

The Arman missile system is said to be able to “simultaneously confront six targets at a distance of 120 to 180 km,” while the Azarakhsh missile system “can identify and destroy targets up to a range of 50 km with four ready-to-fire missiles.”

The announcement comes amid tensions across the Middle East, with Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis attacking vessels linked to the United States, UK and Israel in the Red Sea in a show of solidarity with the Gaza Strip.

Iran unveils domestically-manufactured Arman anti-ballistic missile and Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system https://t.co/69YBsGqT0F pic.twitter.com/PVWlw0sIuj

— Press TV (@PressTV) February 17, 2024

The U.S. and its allies in the Middle East are concerned with Iran’s growing role at the international global arms market, The Wall Street Journal said on Friday. The transformation of the industry, boosted by Russia’s “purchase of thousands of drones that altered the battlefield in Ukraine, has helped Tehran scale up its support of militia allies in Middle East conflicts,” read the report.

The post Iran Unveils New Air Defense Weaponry first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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