October 2: Bombing Parisian Synagogues

7380428_f520Seven synagogues in Paris (some sources say six) were bombed by Nazi sympathizers, authorized by the Gestapo, on this date in 1941. Jews in Paris were also ordered to surrender all bicycles, telephones, and radios. Two months later, 750 Jews were arrested and the community was fined one billion francs for alleged responsibility for resistance activities. By the end of the year, Jews were forbidden to leave the city or change their addresses. Deportations began by March, 1942. By the end of World War II, 77,000 out of 350,000 French Jews were dead.

The Nazis “acted only when, at the highest level, Jewry had been forcefully designated as the culpable incendiary in Europe, one which must definitively disappear from Europe.” —Reinhard Heydrich


October 1: Vladimir Horowitz

T13767_Vladimir+HorowitzVirtuoso pianist Vladimir Horowitz was born in Kiev on this date in 1903. He received piano lessons as a young child from his mother, then entered the Kiev Conservatory at age 9. Horowitz made his first appearance outside the USSR in 1925, and did not return; he was soon touring in Paris, London, and New York, and gave his debut in Carnegie Hall on January 12, 1928. “[I]t has been years since a pianist created such a furor with an audience in this city,” commented the New York Times. Despite his great success at an early age, however, Horowitz was an unconfident, self-critical musican who suffered from depression and self-loathing about his homosexuality, and withdrew from public performance for years at a time (1936-38, 1953-65, 1969-74, 1983-85). His recordings and television appearances nevertheless sustained his reputation as one of the greatest classical musicians in history. Horowitz died at 86 in 1989.To see him playing Chopin for seven minutes, look below.

“I take terrible risks. Because my playing is very clear, when I make a mistake you hear it. If you want me to play only the notes without any specific dynamics, I will never make one mistake. Never be afraid to dare.” –Vladimir Horowitz


September 30: Barry Commoner

barry-commoner_470Ecologist and political activist Barry Commoner died at 95 on this date in 2012. In the early 1960s, his research and advocacy about strontium-90, which was concentrating in babies’ bones during the worst days of nuclear-weapons testing, helped to prompt the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963). In 1970, during the first Earth Day, Time magazine put him on its cover and called him the “Paul Revere of Ecology.” Commoner wrote these four laws of ecology in his best-selling 1971 book, The Closing Circle, which introduced the idea of a sustainable economy: “Everything is connected to everything else… Everything must go somewhere… Nature knows best… There is no such thing as a free lunch.” In 1980, Commoner founded the Citizens Party and ran for President of the United States on its ticket, but won only 234,000 votes. His other books included The Poverty of Power: Energy and the Economic Crisis (1976), The Politics of Energy (1979), and Making Peace with the Planet (1990).

“I don’t believe in environmentalism as the solution to anything. What I believe is that environmentalism illuminates the things that need to be done to solve all of the problems together. For example, if you’re going to revise the productive system to make cars or anything else in such a way as to suit the environmental necessities, at the same time why not see to it that women earn as much as men for the same work?” —Barry Commoner


September 29: The First Integrated Nightclub

Sarah_Vaughan,_Café_Society_(Downtown),_New_York,_N.Y.,_ca._Aug._1946_(William_P._Gottlieb_08801)Barney Josephson, who in 1938 founded New York’s first integrated nightclub, the Cafe Society, in the basement of 2 Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village, died at 88 on this date in 1988. Formerly a shoe salesman, Josephson said that he “wanted a club where blacks and whites worked together behind the footlights and sat together out front.” Moreover, “I would not have any black waiters. Why?… Given the history of slavery, I felt it was wrong to put black Americans in what would appear to be a servile situation.” Josephson also founded an uptown version of the Cafe Society, but when his brother Leon (who had lent him $6,000 to start the Cafe Society) was held in contempt of Congress in the late 1940s for refusing to testify before the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities, Josephson’s clubs were blacklisted and he was forced to close them. (He would return to open The Cookery in 1962.) Among the performers Josephson “discovered” (greatly aided by John Hammond) were Billie Holiday, who sang in Cafe Society’s opening show (emceed by Jack Gilford) in 1938, Lena Horne, Zero Mostel, Sarah Vaughan (pictured at right), Josh White, Teddy Wilson, Alberta Hunter, and Big Joe Turner. The Cafe’s walls were covered with murals by Village artists such as William Gropper and Ad Reinhardt. To see a brief video about Cafe Society, look below.

71246409_130797054826”One thing that bugged me about the Cotton Club was that blacks were limited to the back one-third of the club, behind columns and partitions. It infuriated me that even in their own ghetto they had to take this.” —Barney Josephson


September 28: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!

slyvars1New York disc jockey Murray the K (Kaufman) obtained a copy of the Beatles’ “She Loves You” on this date in 1963, fully two months before Beatlemania hit the United States, and played it on his show for two straight weeks, alerting the country to things to come. Your Jewdayo editor remembers hearing it at age 12 and sitting bolt upright in the backseat of his family car. Life was never the same. The song was markedly original in several ways: its use of a third-party narrator to tell the story; its sudden start, without an intro; its tight, marvelous harmonies; and its high-spirited cries of “yeah, yeah, yeah!” which embodied all the energy of adolescent love. Murray the K (1922-1982) and Cousin Brucie (Morrow) were the first great rock and roll disc jockeys after Alan Freed fell from the saddle, and Murray was fond of calling himself “the fifth Beatle.” He was also a huge Bob Dylan enthusiast. Murray the K also shared a writing credit with his mother and Bobby Darin for Darin’s break-out song, “Splish-Splash.” Another Beatle-related Jewdayo event on this date in 1946: the birth of Helen Shapiro, a British singing star with whom the Beatles toured Great Britain for the first time, in 1963, as her opening act. To see the Beatles singing their hit-to-be in 1963, look below.

“It was Paul’s idea: instead of singing ‘I love you’ again, we’d have a third party. That kind of little detail is still in his work. He will write a story about someone. I’m more inclined to write about myself.” —John Lennon