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New York Rabbis Protest Against Prohibition Director’s Ruling on Sacramental Wine

August 30, 1926
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A statement protesting against the action of New York Prohibition Director Chester P. Mills, in closing sacramental wine shops and suspending their permits and in compelling rabbis to make personal application at his office for the withdrawing of wines needed for the coming Jewish high holidays, was published in the metropolitan press by Samuel Joseph, New York attorney, who declared he speaks in the name of three rabbinical organizations. These organizations, he stated, are the Rabbinical Board or Association of Orthodox Rabbis, the Union of Orthodox Rabbis and the Union of Grand Rabbis of the United States and Canada (?), representing 600 of the 800 rabbis in New York City.

“Although it appears that Major Mills, prohibition administrator for this district, intends to help the rabbis obtain wine for the holidays, his plan will make this quite impossible,” the statement declared.

“If a personal interview is desired with each rabbi at the administrator’s office, whether one or a dozen interpreters are present, Major Mills could not handle the number of applicants and fill out the application blanks in time for the first holiday on September 9.

“But at this time of the year, the rabbis cannot leave their synagogues and worshippers. They are engaged in praying, visits to the cemeteries and their other religious duties.

“Eighty per cent of them cannot speak enough English to find their way to the prohibition offices. Many of those who could would hesitate because of their objection to a possible ‘third degree’ interview in connection with the United States District Attorney’s office’s present determined effort to trace the leaks through the prohibition force which have led to the present regulations.

“Major Mills declared that he had conferred with the leading rabbis in the city to determine the needs for their religion, and that he had not issued permits for wine during the summer because there had been no holidays. I deny that he has consulted the leading rabbis and disagree with his contention that wines are used only for holidays. Under the Jewish laws wines are used every day for prayer services and they should have been released during the summer.

“I have submitted to the prohibition administrator on behalf of the rabbis that while the Government is undecided on a plan of distribution of wine for sacramental purposes, permits should be issued to the rabbis and Major Mills might fix, in the application, the amount to be delivered and should mail the permit to each rabbi. There is barely sufficient time, even under this plan, to secure distribution for Rosh Hashana.

“I personally discussed the question with Gen. Andrews and Major Mills on August 25 and submitted to them the proposition that the rabbis could not personally call at the office, for the reasons enumerated.

“There was a further understanding that in view of the fact that the rabbis had not been notified that all past irregularities in the department were to be condoned and the rabbis were to start on a clean slate and the general agreed there was lack of time for the rabbis to interview the major personally.

“If Major Mills adheres to a personal interview to obtain wines for these holidays, there is no doubt that the great majority of the rabbis will be compelled to have their worshippers obtain bootleg wine.”

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