September 2: Resistance in Lachwa, Poland
Dr. Dov Lopatin, head of the Jewish Council (Judenrat) in Lachwa, a Polish town that had been annexed to Byelorussia after the Soviet takeover in 1939 and then abandoned to the Nazis in 1941, set fire to his own headquarters on this date in 1941. The arson was a signal for an uprising, marked by fires elsewhere in the ghetto, to deter a Nazi liquidation campaign (assisted by pro-Nazi Byelorussian and Ukrainian para- miltaries) and to enable the escape of some 1,000 Jews. At least 400 of them were mowed down by machine-gun fire, but some 600 managed to reach the Pripyet River and the forests beyond. “In the first few days after the escape, many were hunted down by the Germans and killed or handed over by local farmers,” write Stephen Pallavicini and Avinoam Patt in The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945. “Some did succeed in joining the partisans. In the ghetto, the shooting was over by early afternoon. . . . Another 1,500 Jews were killed during the uprising. At the end of the war, only ninety of the escapees from the Lachwa ghetto were still alive.” Lopatin himself survived until 1944.
“Lopatin was summoned…just prior to the ghetto liquidation… and informed him that the ghetto was to be liquidated.” He was”proposed a deal whereby the doctor, the members of the Jewish council, and 30 artisans (whom Lopatin could choose), would be spared. Lopatin declined the offer and refused to cooperate with the Germans, choosing instead to initiate the uprising…” —Stephen Pallavicini and Avinoam Patt
September 1: Rav Kook
Abraham Isaac Kook arrived in British Mandatory Palestine on this date in 1919 to become Jerusalem’s chief rabbi and, two years later, the chief rabbi of Palestine. Kook (1865-1935) was a Lithuanian child prodigy who became a prominent rabbi, a father of religious Zionism (which he saw as a necessary and vital alternative to Zionism’s secular orientation), and a prolific and mystical theologian whose openness to new ideas was striking for a khasidic leader. “[A] man who lived a life of the strictest Orthodox observance,” writes Yehudah Mirsky in Rav Kook: Mystic in a TIme of Revolution, “he welcomed heresy as a cleansing bonfire whose embers would yield a new revelation.” Kook had been a rabbi in Jaffa but was marooned in London and Switzerland throughout World War I. For him, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 was a divinely-inspired document that gave redemptive meaning to that devastating war and laid the groundwork for a messianic era. “To a disciple who asked for a summation of his philosophy,” writes Mirsky, “he replied that everything — humanity, the world, the divine itself — is rising.” Yet the institutions that Rav Kook founded in Palestine have become, in modern Israel, key centers of reactionary Orthodox politics and sources of the rabbinical stranglehold on Israeli domestic culture.
“The pure righteous do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom.” —Abraham Isaac Kook
August 31: Alan Jay Lerner
Lyricist and librettist Alan Jay Lerner, who with Frederick Lowe created such Broadway and film hits as Brigadoon (1947), Paint Your Wagon (1951), An American in Paris (1951), My Fair Lady (1956), and Camelot (1960), was born in New York on this date in 1918. Lerner also collaborated with Leonard Bernstein, Burton Lane, and Kurt Weill. “His lyrics were marked by warmth and civilized urbanity, coupled with the highest order of craftsmanship,” says the website of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, to which he was inducted in 1971. Among his many other honors, he won three Academy Awards and three Tony Awards. Lerner married eight times (including to Nina Bushkin, a distant cousin of your Jewdayo editor), and died owing the IRS more than a million dollars. To see Julie Andrews singing a medley of Lerner’s songs, look below.
“On a clear day
Rise and look around you
And you’ll see who you are
On a clear day
How it will astound you
That the glow of your being
Outshines every star
You’ll feel a part of every mountain sea and shore
You can hear
From far and near
A word you’ve never, never heard before
And on a clear day
On a clear day
You can see forever
And ever more”–Alan Jay Lerner
August 30: Dorothy Schiff’s New York Post
Dorothy Schiff, granddaughter of the famed financier Jacob Schiff and owner-publisher of the New York Post during its liberal hey-day, for nearly four decades, died at 86 on this date in 1989. Married four times and involved with many other men, she was wealthy throughout her life and, according to Francesca Tillona at the Jewish Women’s Archive, a “paradox….Schiff was attractive, socially prominent, and politically influential — but plagued by depression and anxiety….Received into the Episcopal church before her first marriage, she reverted to Judaism before her second, favored the establishment of Israel but disapproved of her third husband’s support of the Irgun, and visited Israel with her fourth husband — a place that was ‘grimmer’ than she expected but impressive in its dedication to the kibbutz movement.” The New York Post — which she doomed to become a rag by selling it to Rupert Murdoch in 1976 — is America’s oldest continuously published daily and 13th oldest newspaper, founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1801. Under Schiff’s command, it featured such popular columnists as Drew Pearson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Max Lerner, Murray Kempton, Pete Hamill, and Broadway gossip columnist Earl Wilson.
“The men I was in love with were in love with someone else, and the men who were in love with me were a nuisance. And so I have given that side of me to things—my newspaper, really.”–Dorothy Schiff
August 29: Elliott Gould
Elliott Gould, whose acting career began as a child model and extends to present-day film and television performances, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1938. Gould is best known for his roles as Trapper John in Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H (1970) and as one of the two swapping couples in Paul Mazursky’s Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), as well as for his role on Broadway across from Barbra Streisand (whom he married for several years) in I Can Get It For You Wholesale (1962). During his teen years, Gould was a performer on the Borscht Belt, where, according to his father, “When an entertainer needed a stooge, Elliott would be the one they’d choose. He could do a dozen dialects — German, Italian, Jewish, all of them.” In 1957, reports People magazine, “at the age of 18, Gould phoned a Broadway producer and impersonated an agent singing the praises of some kid named Elliott Gould. Miraculously the ploy worked, and soon after Gould received a call from the producer offering him a spot in the chorus of the Broadway musical Rumple.” To see the final scene from Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, look below.
“My problem was I let myself become known before I knew myself.” –Elliott Gould