Slivovitz, a plum brandy traditionally associated with Passover by many Ashkenazi Jews, has been added to the United Nations’ list of items with “intangible cultural heritage.”
The decision was made at UNESCO’s conference in Morocco this week where France successfully campaigned for the inclusion of the baguette on the list, a complement to the regular tally of physical sites that the agency seeks to preserve.
It wasn’t Jews leading the charge for the hard-burning brandy, but rather Serbia, where the spirit is a mainstay, as it is across much of the Balkans, Eastern and Central Europe.
That’s where Jews first got turned onto the drink, according to Martin Votruba, a Slovak studies professor whose research included the history of slivovitz and who died in 2019.
“Jews would acquire this local drink after moving into European kingdoms,” Votruba told Moment magazine in 2014. “They would simply pick it up as part of the culture.”
The spirit became particularly associated with Polish Jewry in the 19th century, as Jews became prominent in the field of alcohol production and the running of inns and taverns. They found special utility in slivovitz when it came to maintaining the Jewish laws around keeping kosher.
Unlike wine, traditional brandy and some types of vodka, being made from plums (the root “sliva” means plum in several Slavic languages) meant that slivovitz was not subject to the same stringent rules that apply to grape-based alcoholic beverages. And unlike beer, whiskey and other types of vodka, it had no wheat or other grains, so it was acceptable for consumption on Passover. It was also relatively inexpensive.
As a result, the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity at Italy’s University of Gastronomic Sciences wrote in a primer on the drink, “the Polish Orthodox Jews adopted the plum brandy as [their] festive spirit,” which in some cases became known in Polish as Śliwowica Paschalna or literally Passover slivovitz.
When masses of Polish Jews arrived in America, they brought slivovitz with them, and it quickly became associated with the Jewish community. Today, much of the slivovitz sold in the United States is marketed to Jewish consumers, typically around Passover each spring.
Though its popularity has waned, it can still be found on some synagogue kiddush tables, and remains in the cultural memory of American Jewry.
Author Michael Chabon chose it as the spirit of choice for his hard drinking, Yiddish-speaking detective, Meyer Landsman in “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union,” a crime novel set in an alt-history Jewish state in Sitka, Alaska.
Meanwhile, the 1990 Barry Levinson film, “Avalon,” which tells the story of a family of Polish Jewish immigrants in the United States, presents it as the drink of choice of the main character’s father in the old country.
“He never drank water. And oh, boy, could he drink! What was that stuff called he always used to drink?” one character asks. Another answers, “Slivovitz. Slivovitz. He used to call it ‘block and fall.’ You have one drink of that, you walk one block and you fall!”
Slivovitz gradually gave way to other favored spirits as Eastern European immigrants, Jewish and otherwise, assimilated in the United States. But the drink is having a bit of a nostalgic renaissance: It’s on the menu at several swanky bars in New York City, such as the Second Avenue Deli’s Second Floor Bar & Essen, which makes Jewish themed cocktails with both Manischewitz and slivovitz, as well as Kafana, a high-end Serbian restaurant in Alphabet City.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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