December 19: Hetty Goldman and Ancient Greece
Hetty Goldman, an archaeologist who was the first woman appointed as professor at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Studies, was born in New York on this date in 1881. (One grandfather was Marcus Goldman, a founder of Goldman Sachs; another was the rabbi of Temple Emanu-El.) She studied archaeology at Bryn Mawr and Radcliffe before becoming the first woman to be awarded the Charles Eliot Norton Fellowship to attend the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Greece. Goldman helped pioneer the investigation of pre-Greek and early Greek culture and did several excavations at Tarsus, in Turkey, which established links to the ancient Hittite kingdom. She also did a great deal of Jewish relief work, particularly in Thessalonika, which had been devastated by the great fire of 1917. In 1936, after spending some twenty-five years on excavation sites, Goldman joined the Institute for Advanced Studies, and used that as a base for saving many Jewish refugees from Nazism. She died in Princeton at the age of 90. The citation of her 1966 Gold Medal from the Archaeological Institute of America called her “a perceptive and witty student of human relations, a renowned Anatolian specialist and the dean of Classical and Near Eastern archaeology in this country.”
“Nobody can study the prehistory of Greece without becoming aware almost immediately that the fecund breezes which blow out of the east were largely responsible for its early growth and development. So it is perhaps natural that a prehistorian sooner or later turns his eyes to Asia Minor for the solution to the problem of cultural origins in Greece and also for the study of the repercussions of prehistoric Greek culture upon the country from which it derived.”–Hetty Goldman
December 18: Jewish Anti-Zionism, 1902
In a speech on this date in 1902, in Temple Emanu-El, New York’s showcase Reform synagogue on Fifth Avenue, Jacob de Haas of the Federation of American Zionists declared there to be 10,500,000 Jews in the world, of whom only 4,184,930 could be counted as “politically emancipated, leaving 7,057,725 enthralled,” according to the New York Times article, headlined “Lively ZIonist Meeting.” “‘Anti-Zionism is as old as Abraham,’ de Haas continued, ‘but it has developed a new phase . . . there is no river to cross westwards.'” De Haas met with angry opposition within an overflow crowd that included many “prominent Jews of the city,” said the Times. “The first man who rose from his seat was dressed like a laborer, with a blue flannel shirt and unbrushed hair. ‘I would like to ask Mr. de Haas if he is convinced that there is not a Dead Sea in California and that Moses was not an Indian! That’s all!'” Next came “a tall foreigner with a red beard” who accused Zionism of “injur[ing] the Jews everywhere.” He was hissed down. But how, said a third questioner, “can we buy Palestine when Palestine is Turkey and Turkey is owned by the whole world because she owes money to every nation?. . . I’d like to know how Zionism can amount to anything.” For the complete New York Times account of the event, click here.
“We have no idea of trying to send to Palestine those who do not want to go there, but only those who desire to go from the bottom of their hearts.” —Dr. Gustav Gottheil (rabbi emeritus of Emanu-El)
December 17: The Youngest Victim at Sandy Hook
Six-year-old Noah Samuel Pozner, one of twenty young children and six staff members killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary School rampage in Newtown, Connecticut (and the only Jew among the slain), was buried on this date in 2012. Noah was shot multiple times in his first-grade class by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who ultimately killed himself. Noah Pozner’s mother kept an open coffin at the funeral so that the American public would see the reality of the violence done to her boy. He was survived by a twin sister. “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics,” said President Obama after the Sandy Hook attack, but there has been no reform in gun laws in the two years since.
“Noah was an impish, larger than life little boy. Everything he did conveyed action and energy through love. He was the light of our family, a little soul devoid of spite and meanness.” —Newstimes obituary
December 16: His Father’s Yogurt
Daniel Carasso, whose father Isaac created a yogurt in Barcelona, 1919, and named it after his son’s Catalan nickname, Danone, was born in Salonica in the Ottoman Empire on this date in 1905. Carasso’s family had lived in Greece for four centuries following the expulsion from Spain, but returned to Spain when Daniel was 11. In 1923, he enrolled in business school in France and studied bacteriology at the Pasteur Institute. In 1939, he took over the family yogurt business, which he brought to the U.S. when he fled from the Nazis in 1941. In 1947, the company added strawberry jam to its yogurt, and it quickly became America’s most successful yogurt product. Carasso returned to France a decade later, and died there in Paris at the age of 103. Groupe Danone is today one of France’s largest food conglomerates, with sales of $19 billion in 2008. “My dream,” said Carasso on the company’s 90th anniversary, “was to make Danone a worldwide brand.”
“Although a traditional food in Greece, the Middle East, southeastern Europe and large parts of Asia, [yogurt] was known elsewhere only to a small population of health faddists. Early on, Danone was marketed as a health food and sold by prescription through pharmacies. Gradually it found favor as a milk product that did not spoil in the heat.” –William Grimes, New York Times
December 15: Ludwig Zamenoff’s International Language
Dr. Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof, an opthalmologist who created and promoted the world’s most successful language invented by an individual, Esperanto, was born in Bialystok on this date in 1859. Zamenhoff had native fluency in Yiddish and Russian, and his father, a language teacher, gave him knowledge of German and French. Zamenhof also learned Polish, and studied classical Latin, Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. A lifelong peace activist, Zamenhof developed his international language as a tool of world harmony when he was only 19, after several years of experimentation. He published it under the pseudonym “Doktoro Esperanto” (“Doctor One who hopes”), and those who learned the language used that pseudonym as its name. (Zamenhof called it simply “Lingvo internacia,” international language.) Shortly after publishing his first book about Esperanto, he became involved in a proto-Zionist movement, but ultimately argued that Zionism would not solve the problems of the Jews. “I am profoundly convinced,” he later wrote, declining an invitation to join an organization of Jewish Esperanto speakers, “that every nationalism offers humanity only the greatest unhappiness.” Among many works that Zamenhoff translated into Esperanto was the Hebrew Bible. He also wrote the first grammar of the Yiddish language in 1879, and a book of his religious philosophy, which he called both Homaranismo (“humanitism”) and “Hillelism,” as it drew strongly upon the Talmudic teachings of Hillel the Elder (“What you would not want done to you, do to no one; that is the whole Torah.”) The minor planet 1462 Zamenhof is named in his honor, as are streets in numerous countries, including Israel. Esperanto has hundreds of thousands of speakers in the world today, and a website for learning the language with 150,000 registered users. To see a short video about the basic structure of Esperanto, look below.
“With Hillelism we don’t mean a new denomination; we mean a new corporate-religious order inside the old Jewish religion, which has existed for a long time. Everybody who lives ethically could take part in this religion with a clear conscience, no matter what the religious views he had before looked like.” —Ludwig Zamenoff