July 25: Elias Canetti

icanett001p1Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1981, Elias Canetti was born to a Sephardic Jewish family in Ruse, Bulgaria on this date in 1905. He lived in Vienna from age 7 and became fluent in German, the language in which he chose to write. He also spoke English and French, in addition to Bulgarian and his native Ladino. A leftist, Canetti participated in the July Revolt of 1927, an uprising and general strike in Vienna, and fled to London after the Nazis entered Austria in 1938. His best-known books were autobiographical memoirs of pre-Anschluss Vienna, a modernist novel Auto-da-Fé, and a study of crowd behavior ranging from worship to mob violence, Crowds and Power. He was also a playwright and travel writer.  Canetti died at 89 in Zurich in 1994.

“The process of writing has something infinite about it. Even though it is interrupted each night, it is one single notation.” –Elias Canetti
Alex Katz: Dark Brown Hat, 2002

July 24: Alex Katz

Alex Katz: Dark Brown Hat, 2002Alex Katz, who destroyed some thousand of his own works of art before finding his style in the 1950s — a figurative, cartoonish style that has been called a precursor to Pop Art — was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1927. His flat, mostly large-scale paintings are predominantly portraits and landscapes; his 1968 series, One Flight Up, consisted of more than thirty portraits New York artists and intellectuals, on both sides of aluminum slivers shaped into silhouettes; his 1977 Times Square commission consisted of twenty-three portrait heads of women, each twenty feet high. He is also a prolific printmaker using a variety of techniques. Since 1951, Katz has had more than two hundred solo exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad. To visit his studio, look below.

“Taking cues from Cinemascope movies and billboards, his . . . deadpan evocation of flat, bright figures had an everyday quality that linked them to commercial art and popular culture.” —Cathleen McGuigan, Smithsonian Magazine


July 23: The Manhattan Transfer

urlJanis Siegel of the four-member vocal group The Manhattan Transfer was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1952. The quartet, which covers many styles of song from jazz to pop, is directed by Yaron Gershovsky, and the other three ongoing vocalists are Alan Paul (with whom Siegel has recorded Jewish music), Cheryl Bentyne, and founder Tim Hauser. (Some websites identify them all as Jewish, but Jewdayo has been unable to verify this.) Siegel has been with the group since she was 20 and has earned nine Grammy Awards for her music, both with the Manhattan Transfer and with other projects that have taken her all over the world. To see her singing lead on “The Boy from New York City,” look below.

“Four-part harmony singing used to be part of popular music and we felt that it should stay there. I feel we’ve done a great service in keeping it alive and keeping the art of vocalese alive in particular. We definitely recognize that there are many young groups now all over the world that are picking up the torch and we’re very proud. We’re like proud parents.”—Janis Siegel


July 22: Augusta Fox Bronner and Juvenile Deliquency

BronnerprofilePsychologist Augusta Fox Bronner, who redirected the study of juvenile delinquency to social and environmental rather than biological causes, and to character rather than intelligence, was born in Louisville, Kentucky on this date in 1881. After training at Columbia University’s Teachers College and spending several rewarding years as a classroom teacher, Bronner attended a Harvard summer seminar at which she met and joined forces with William Healy, whom she married after co-founding the Judge Baker Foundation, a model center for guiding adolescents through the trials of youth. Bronner kept the Foundation (later called the Guidance Center) running throughout her life, and became a model for hundreds of child guidance clinics in the U.S. and other lands. Her 1917 book, The Psychology of Special Abilities and Disabilities, and her 1927 book with Healy, A Manual of Mental Tests and Testing, were significant in both clinical psychology and criminology.

“Particularly significant was their development of the widely adopted ‘team’ concept in psychiatric practice — which brought the psychologist, the social worker, and others into a case conference with the physician.” —Notable American Women, the Modern Period, Volume 4

Jerzy Bielecki

July 21: Jerzy Bielecki’s Christian Foundation of Auschwitz Families

Jerzy BieleckiJerzy Bielecki, a Polish social worker who survived for four years in Auschwitz, escaped with the Jewish inmate he loved, Tzila Cybulska, on this date in 1944. Bielecki had been captured by the Gestapo while crossing the Hungarian border in 1940, and was on the first transport of 728 Polish political prisoners to the newly built camp at Auschwitz. His fluency in German allowed him to be assigned work at an Auschwitz subcamp, where he made contact with the Polish anti-Nazi resistance and also met Cybulska, who was suffering through hard labor. Bielecki and Cybulska managed to walk out of Auschwitz with a fake order forged by Bielecki, who was wearing a stolen SS uniform. They trekked for ten days — sometimes he carried her — until finding shelter with his family and friends. Bielecki became active in the resistance, and the lovers were separated by the end of the war, each believing that the other had died. In May 1983, the two of them met for the first time since in thirty-nine years. Bielecki co-founded and chaired the Christian Association of the Auschwitz Families, and was inscribed by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations in 1985. He died at age 90 in 2011.

“Sometimes I cried after the war, that she was not with me. Fate decided for us, but I would do the same again.” —Jerzy Bielecki