Category Archives: JEWDAYO: A Daily Blast of Pride

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September 18: The Nazi-Hunter

190_wellesElliot Welles (Kurt Sauerquell), who headed the Anti-Defamation League’s Task Force on Nazi War Criminals from its founding in 1979 until 2003, was born in Vienna on this date in 1927. He and his mother Anna were deported by the Nazis to Riga, where they executed Anna on a transport bus. Welles then spent years of his boyhood in the Riga ghetto before being interned at the Stutthof concentration camp in Poland. Settling in New York in 1949, he eventually became a co-owner of a restaurant in Yorkville, a German neighborhood in Manhattan, where he began to gather information on former Nazis and their whereabouts. Welles eventually tracked down in Germany the SS officer who had selected his mother for death, and had him prosecuted in 1976. This kind of hunt became Welles’ calling, and he grew, writes Margalit Fox in the New York Times, into “one of the most influential forces in identifying Nazis who had settled in the United States and having them extradited to stand trial abroad.” Among the men he identified and brought to justice were Boleslav Maikovskis, responsible for the mass execution of 200 Latvian villagers during the war, who had settled in Mineola, NY (Maikovskis proved too ill to stand trial and shortly afterwards died), and Josef Schwammberger, a former Nazi labor camp commander who hid in Argentina for forty years before Welles succeeded him having him extradited to Germany, where he was convicted and died in prison. Welles died at 79 in 2006.

“Welles spent years trolling dusty archives and marble corridors in the United States, Germany, Austria and elsewhere, painstakingly tracing the whereabouts of men and women who had hoped to vanish into obscurity. He tenaciously pressed reluctant governments around the world to divulge information, to find suspects, to apprehend them and bring them to trial.”—Margalit Fox

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September 17: Einstein’s Letter to Ataturk

Einsteinin_Ataturke-mektubuAlbert Einstein wrote a letter to Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, through his prime minister, on this date in 1933, urging Turkey to give sanctuary and research facilities to forty German Jewish scientists and doctors who had been removed from their work by the rise of Nazism. Einstein’s letter was urged by Sami M. Günzberg, a Jewish Turkish dentist who met the physicist at an International Conference in Paris of the Union for the Protection of the Well-Being of the Jewish Population (OSE), of which Einstein was the honorary president. Günzberg was Ataturk’s dentist and knew much about the Turkish leader’s desire to modernize his country. According to Bulent Atalay at the National Geographic website, “Not just the forty that Einstein requested, but many scores of German and Austrian Jewish scientists, their families, and their assistants, moved to Turkey. For the next ten to fifteen years the medical schools, and science and technology departments, especially in Istanbul flourished. By the 1950s many of these scientists immigrated to the newly created State of Israel, and to the United States.”

“These scientists are willing to work for a year without any remuneration in any of your institutions, according to the orders of your Government….In supporting this application, I take the liberty to express my hope, that in granting this request your Government will not only perform an act of high humanity, but will also bring profit to your own country” —Albert Einstein

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September 16: The Great Seal

ussealThe Great Seal of the United States of America was impressed upon a document for the first time on this date in 1782, three months after its design was approved by Congress. Used on passports, military insignia, embassy placards,  flags and other government documents, the Great Seal portrays an eagle clasping an olive branch and thirteen arrows, and a “glory” with thirteen stars arranged on a blue field — in the pattern of a Jewish star. This pattern, which also has appeared since 1935 on dollar bills, has produced a nonsensical, sometimes anti-Semitic literature about Jewish influence over the United States. The best-known myth is that Haym Solomon, an important financier of the American Revolution, requested the Star of David configuration to George Washington. Washington, however, had no input into the design of the Great Seal. “The reason why artist Robert Scot chose to arrange that constellation of 13 stars into the shape of a hexagram when engraving the first die of the Great Seal in 1782 . . . is unknown,” says Snopes.com, “but the best guess is that he was emulating the arrangement of stars on the first American flag.”

“[T]he official State Department document describing the history of the seal makes no mention of any Jewish symbolism. Darlene Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which manufactures paper money, says there is no intentional Jewish symbolism on the dollar bill…. So why has this myth captured the imagination of American Jews? Dr. Jonathan Sarna . . . says it has helped American Jews proudly connect themselves to their country’s formative era.” —Benjamin Goldberg. Snopes.com
JEWDAYO ROCKS: Justine Frischmann, lead singer of Elastica, was born in London on this date in 1969. To see her leading the band on the song “Stutter,” look below.

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September 15: Slow Train Coming

Bob_Dylan_-_Slow_Train_ComingBob Dylan’s newly released, Slow Train Coming, an album with born-again Christian themes, was reviewed by Jann Wenner in Rolling Stone on this date in 1979. Wenner called it “one of the finest records Dylan has ever made. In time, it is possible that it might even be considered his greatest.” Yet “so much emotion has become invested in Dylan’s public image,” he continued, “that the greater numbers of his critics and devotees torture themselves before they will put aside their previous definitions of him.” The album emerged following a conversionary experience in which “Jesus did appear to me as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords,” Dylan reported. “There was a presence in the room that couldn’t have been anybody but Jesus . . . I felt it all over me. . . .The glory of the Lord knocked me down and picked me up.” Produced by Jerry Wexler (who resisted Dylan’s evangelizing by saying, “Bob, you’re dealing with a 62-year-old confirmed Jewish atheist. I’m hopeless. Let’s just make an album”), the album included Mark Knopfler as lead guitar and featured “Gotta Serve Somebody,” which became Dylan’s first hit in three years and won him a Grammy. Slow Train Coming was listed at #16 in the 2001 book CCM Presents: The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music and went platinum in the US, where it reached #3. Within a few years, Dylan was hanging around with Lubavitcher Hasidim, en route to a more enigmatic religious stance today. To see Mavis Staples and Jonny Lang singing Dylan’s hit, look below.

“You might be a rock’n’ roll adict prancing on the stage
Might have money and drugs at your commands, women in a cage
You may be a business man or some high degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief.
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” –Bob Dylan

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September 14: Justice in Israel

2_waDorit Beinisch became the first woman President, or head justice, of the 15-member Supreme Court of Israel when she was appointed to that post on this date in 2006, after serving for 28 years in the justice ministry, often as the first woman appointed to various positions, including as State Attorney General. The most well-known decisions of the Supreme Court during her tenure included denying parents the right to use corporal punishment with their children; denying the Israeli Defense Force’s right to use Palestinian as human shields; limiting the detention of noncombatants; forbidding the privatization of prisons; and strengthening women’s capacities to sue for equal pay for equal work. In February, 2012, after 15 years on the Supreme Court, Beinisch was officially replaced in her role by Justice Asher Dan Grunis. One of her rightwing critics labeled her “a controversial judge whose radical left-wing ideology guided her and jurisprudence was just a tool for her.” Shimon Peres described her as “one of the most important and bravest figures that has served at the head of the highest judicial institution in Israel.”

“We must be attentive to the distress of the public and to what it feels in its heart without being subject to the influence of groups of one kind or another.”—Dorit Beinisch

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September 13: Miss Manners

missmannersJudith Martin (Judith Sylvia Perlman), the Washington DC journalist who at the height of the revolutionary 1970s told the baby-boomer generation NOT to “let it all hang out” in her role as etiquette columnist “Miss Manners,” was born on this date in 1938. She launched her column in the Washington Post in 1978. It now appears three times a week in some 200 newspapers. Martin has identified “blatant greed” as the most serious etiquette problem in America. In 2006 she served as special correspondent for the Colbert Report, reporting on the White House press corps’ mostly bad manners. Her many books include Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior and Miss Manners’ Guide to Raising Perfect Children. Martin attributes much of her etiquette knowledge to her grandmother, who “lived a very formal social life in Europe. I learned many things from her: One should only wear odd numbers of circles of pearls; a lady never checks her coat in a restaurant; when you set the table, you have to set it for four even if you have fewer people coming.” More significantly, she notes that “If you’re a hermit on a mountain, you don’t have to worry about etiquette; if someone comes up on the mountain, then you’ve got a problem.”

“My grandmother lived a very formal social life in Europe. I learned many things from her: One should only wear odd numbers of circles of pearls; a lady never checks her coat in a restaurant; when you set the table, you have to set it for four even if you have fewer people coming.” – See more at: http://www.jwmag.org/page.aspx?pid=557#sthash.lJIkXpNJ.dpuf

“In my family, Jewish values were expressed in valuing education. Everybody taught. . . . None of us are capable of learning the smallest thing without having someone to teach it to.” —Judith Martin

In my family, Jewish values were expressed in valuing education. Everybody taught. My mother was a fifth-grade teacher, and my father was an economist. Wherever he was, he always taught a course. None of us are capable of learning the smallest thing without having someone to teach it to.” – See more at: http://www.jwmag.org/page.aspx?pid=557#sthash.lJIkXpNJ.dpuf
In my family, Jewish values were expressed in valuing education. Everybody taught. My mother was a fifth-grade teacher, and my father was an economist. Wherever he was, he always taught a course. None of us are capable of learning the smallest thing without having someone to teach it to.” – See more at: http://www.jwmag.org/page.aspx?pid=557#sthash.lJIkXpNJ.dpuf
In my family, Jewish values were expressed in valuing education. Everybody taught. My mother was a fifth-grade teacher, and my father was an economist. Wherever he was, he always taught a course. None of us are capable of learning the smallest thing without having someone to teach it to.” – See more at: http://www.jwmag.org/page.aspx?pid=557#sthash.lJIkXpNJ.dpuf
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September 12: Stanislaw Lem

Stanislaw-Lem-6Stanislaw Lem, the philosophical science fiction writer and polymath whose 1961 novel, Solaris, has been made into a film three different times, was born in Lvov, Poland/ Ukraine, on this date in 1921. During the World War II Nazi occupation, Lem worked in a German auto shop as a mechanic while at night working with the anti-Nazi resistance. “During that period,” he wrote in The New Yorker in 1984, “I learned in a very personal, practical way that I was no ‘Aryan.’ I knew that my ancestors were Jews, but I knew nothing of the Mosaic faith and, regrettably, nothing at all of Jewish culture. So it was, strictly speaking, only the Nazi legislation that brought home to me the realization that I had Jewish blood in my veins. We succeeded in evading imprisonment in the ghetto, however. With false papers, my parents and I survived that ordeal.” Before his death in 2006, Lem’s books had sold close to 30 million copies and been translated into 41 languages. Between 1956 and 1968, as Poland underwent a process of partial de-Stalinization, he wrote 17 books, including the kind of non-fiction, philosophical, and speculative-science works that eventually overtook science fiction in his output.

“We have no need of other worlds. We need mirrors. We don’t know what to do with other worlds. A single world, our own, suffices us; but we can’t accept it for what it is.”—Stanislaw Lem

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September 11: David Ricardo and Comparative Advantage

david-ricardo“A Jew, born in Holland, he was one of the first free traders and a famous Radical in his day.” These are the words inscribed on the grave of David Ricardo, the classical economist who died at 51 on this date in 1823. Ricardo broke with his Orthodox Jewish family when he eloped with a Quaker and became a Unitarian. A wealthy stockbroker, at 27 he read Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations and determined to become an economist; he wrote his first article ten years later. Ricardo is best-known for his Theory of Comparative Advantage, which argues that a country that trades for products it can get at lower cost from another country is better off than if it had made the products at home. Nations should therefore specialize in certain manufacturing industries, he believed, and rely on international trade for other needs. The theory challenged the mercantile system, in which nations sought trade surpluses on all fronts and the accumulation of gold and other precious metals. Instead, Ricardo advocated a free trade system without tariff protections. He also proposed the labor theory of value, which leftwing economists later interpreted as a foundation of socialist ideology.

“Ricardo is still esteemed for his uncanny ability to arrive at complex conclusions without any of the mathematical tools now deemed essential. As economist David Friedman put it in his 1990 textbook, Price Theory, ‘The modern economist reading Ricardo’s Principles feels rather as a member of one of the Mount Everest expeditions would feel if, arriving at the top of the mountain, he encountered a hiker clad in T-shirt and tennis shoes.’”The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics

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September 10: Garbage Can Flora

fspiegelbergFlora Langerman Spiegelberg, who successfully campaigned to improve New York City’s sanitation services for more than a decade in the early 20th century, was born there to German Jewish parents on this date in 1857. Langerman was educated in Germany and married Willi Spiegelberg, thirteen years her senior, at 17. After a year-long European honeymoon, took her to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he was a successful merchant and she would become a community activist, helping to establish the frontier town’s first non-sectarian school and first children’s playground and garden. (Years later she would write a memoir, Reminiscences of a Jewish Bride of the Santa Fe Trail.) The Spiegelbergs and their two daughters moved to New York in 1889, where Flora became a founding member of the Committee for Jewish Women and the Temple Emanu-El Sisterhood. She began writing and lecturing about garbage collection and disposal and public health, and her campaign included a film made for her by Thomas Edison in 1914. “Garbage Can Flora,” as she was soon called, reached out to sanitation workers with suggestions of better wages and working conditions, and served on several New York City commissions concerned with public health. A pacifist, Spiegelberg also promoted her “Ten Commandments for World Peace” (1919), which called for a constitutional amendment to ensure that war could be declared only by popular vote. To read more details about her life, click here.

“After having enjoyed the best in accommodations, Flora now faced a grueling trip by railroad, stagecoach and army ambulance over rough country. The cuisine consisted of dried buffalo, bear meat, buffalo tongue, buffalo steaks, beans and chiles; Flora did not exactly enjoy the meals. And the bumpy, bruising, jarring ride itself was more than uncomfortable; it caused Flora to miscarry. The young bride was ‘terribly frightened’ when she saw Indians for the first time because ‘they were the first live Indians I had ever seen.’” –Sheri Goldstein Gleicher

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September 9: The Talmud Burns in Rome

tn_8503_Pope-Paul-IVA committee of six cardinals, led by Giampietro Caraffa, head of the Inquisition in Rome and the future Pope Paul IV, ordered all copies of the Talmud to be confiscated in a house-to-house search of Jewish residences and burned publicly on the Campo de’ Fiori on this date — Rosh Hashone — in 1553. Other Talmuds were burned shortly thereafter in several other Italian cities. These deeds were part of the Catholic Church’s reaction to the Protestant Reformation, which prompted authorities to stamp out heresies of any kind. Twenty-five years later, when papal permission was given to reprint the Talmud in Basle, Switzerland, the books were expurgated of all passages considered offensive to Christianity, and the name “Talmud” was not used, as it was on the Index of Forbidden Books. The name of the tractate Avodah Zarah (“Idolatry”) was sufficient to have it entirely omitted. As pope, Paul IV renewed all previous anti-Jewish legislation and installed a ghetto in Rome.

“As it is completely absurd and improper . . . that the Jews, who through their own fault were condemned by God to eternal servitude, can under the pretext that pious Christians must accept them and sustain their habitation, are so ungrateful to Christians, as, instead of thanks for gracious treatment, they return contumely, and among themselves, instead of the slavery, which they deserve . . .”– Pope Paul IV

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