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Henry Moscowitz and the NAACP

Social activist Henry Moscowitz was one of a small committee who launched the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) with a call to action on this date in 1909, the centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Among the signatories were Jane Addams, WEB Dubois, John Dewey, Rabbi Emil G. Hirsch, Julius Rosenwald, Lincoln […]

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Brian Epstein

The Beatles arrived in America on this date in 1964 and launched a cultural tidal wave. They were accompanied by their 30-year-old manager Brian Epstein, who had paid for the recording of their first demo record, convinced record producer George Martin to sign them, invented their “mop-top” hairstyles, outfitted them in suits, and arranged for […]

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UN Resolution 181

The United Nations General Assembly approved the partition of Palestine into a new Jewish state and a new Arab state on this date in 1947, by a vote of 33-13, with 10 abstentions and one absence (Thailand). The thirteen nations voting no on Resolution 181 were Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi […]

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Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart (Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz), who became a household name through his work on The Daily Show, was born in New York City on this date in 1962. Stewart hosted, wrote for, and executive-produced the comedy show from 1999 until 2015, turning it into a major source of news, information and progressive political perspectives for the cable TV […]

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Angelica Balabanoff

International socialist activist Angelica Balabanoff died in Rome on this date in 1965. She was born in 1878 to a wealthy, privileged Jewish family in Chernigov, near Kiev, in Ukraine, but found the privilege unbearable and rejected it to become a social activist in Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, and Russia. Balabanoff was fluent in several languages and held […]

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Terezin, the “Model” Camp

The Terezin concentration camp (Theresienstadt) was established by the Nazis in Czechoslovakia, near Prague, on this date in 1941. Lodged in a fortress built between 1780 and 1790, it was presented by the Nazis as a “model” Jewish community, with some visits permitted from the Red Cross and other observers. However, most of the 80,000 Czech Jews […]

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Lawrence Cohn “Rescues” Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson, arguably the most influential blues musician of the 20th century, began five days of recording on this date in 1936 in San Antonio, Texas — the first of only two known periods in a recording studio during his short life (1911-1938). Fifty-five years later, record producer Lawrence (Larry) Cohn of Legacy (a division […]

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Clara Lemlich Sparks an Uprising

Clara Lemlich made a spontaneous speech at Cooper Union on this date in 1909 that sparked the “Uprising of the 20,000,” an industry-wide strike of shirtwaist workers mobilized by the new International Ladies Garment Workers Union. “I want to say a few words!” shouted Lemlich, a 23-year-old garment worker, in Yiddish, following AFL leader Samuel Gompers’ […]

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The “Israelite with Egyptian Principles”

Judah P. Benjamin was confirmed as Secretary of War of the Confederacy on this date in 1861. Benjamin was a plantation owner, slaveholder and attorney who had served as U.S. senator from Louisiana (the second Jewish senator in history after David Levy Yulee of Florida) and had twice declined appointment to the Supreme Court. Republican Senator […]

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George Wald, Scientist and Activist

Nobelist George Wald, who discovered that Vitamin A was a component of the retina and crucial to good eyesight, was born in New York to Jewish immigrant parents on this date in 1906. The first member of his family to attend college, Wald was doing a postgrad fellowship in Switzerland and Germany when Hitler came […]

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Abba Eban, “Voice of Israel”

Israel’s peerless diplomat, Abba Eban, the so-called “Voice of Israel,” died on this date in 2002. Born Aubrey Solomon in South Africa (1915) to Lithuanian Jewish immigrant parents, he served simultaneously as ambassador to both the United Nations and United States during Israel’s first decade of independence, and evoked great pride in Jews worldwide due to […]

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The Sound of Music

The Sound of Music, by Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics), premiered on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on this date in 1958. It starred Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel as the parents of the von Trapps, a real-life musical family that left Austria during the rise of Nazism. The Sound of Music ran for […]

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The Romani Holocaust

The Romani (once referred to as “Gypsies”) were declared by Heinrich Himmler on this date in 1943 to be “on the same level as Jews and [to be] placed in concentration camps.” This intensified the incarceration and obliteration of Romani people that Himmler had ordered the previous December. Romani losses in the Porajmos (“Devouring” or “Destruction” […]

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Anna Sokolow

Choreographer Anna Sokolow (1910-2000) debuted on Broadway on this date in 1937 with a program featuring political dance works, including Excerpts from a War Poem, described by a critic as taking “the essence of fascism, embodied in a poem extolling the beauties of war,” only to tear this “ideology mercilessly apart, line by line, exposing a […]

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Jacobo Timerman vs. the Junta

Jacobo Timerman, an Argentine journalist and human rights activist who documented his torture by the military junta in his book, Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number, died on this date in 1999 at age 76. When his 2 1/2-year ordeal began in April 1977, Timerman was the publisher of La Opinión, a left-leaning newspaper that […]

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“Zionism is Racism”

The United Nations General Assembly declared that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination” on this date in 1975 by a vote of 72 to 35, with 32 abstentions. The resolution was passed one year after PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat addressed the General Assembly for the first time, with a holster on his […]

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Carl Sagan

Astronomer and science writer Carl Sagan was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1934. He was best known as the awe-inspired and awe-inspiring host and co-writer of the television series COSMOS: A Personal Voyage, and as the driving force behind NASA’s Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence program (SETI), which monitors radio signals and other possible indications […]

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The CIO

Among the labor leaders who founded the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) on this date in 1935 (the announcement was made November 9th) were Sidney Hillman of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, David Dubinsky of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and Max Zaritsky of the Hatters, Cap and Millinery Workers. The CIO […]

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The Palmer Raids

Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, and Mollie Steimer were among the large number of activist Jews arrested and eventually deported in the wake of the Palmer Raids, launched on this date in 1919 (the second anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution) by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer and his assistant, J. Edgar Hoover. Between November and January, […]

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Joseph Rotblat

Sir Joseph Rotblat, a physicist who received the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on nuclear disarmament, was born in Poland on this date in 1908. Prior to World War II, the mostly self-taught Rotblat conducted experiments in nuclear fission. When World War II broke out, he was working at Liverpool University under James […]

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Operation “Harvest Festival”

The Nazis launched a killing spree, Aktion Erntefest (Operation Harvest Festival), on this date in 1943. In response to Jewish uprisings in Sobibor, Treblinka, and the Bialystok ghetto, Heinrich Himmler ordered the SS to murder the remaining Jews in all the forced labor camps of the Lublin District of Poland. In what was the single most murderous German […]

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Presidential Elections and the Jewish Vote

Jimmy Carter was elected president of the U.S. on this date in 1976, with 71 percent of the Jewish vote. Although President Carter led Israel and Egypt to the Camp David Accords of 1978 and the subsequent peace treaty of 1979, he would be targeted by conservative Jewish leaders for his opposition to Israeli settlement […]

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Bella Abzug and Women Strike for Peace

Bella Abzug, along with co-founder Dagmar Wilson (not Jewish), launched Women Strike for Peace (WSP) on this date in 1961, when some 50,000 women, mostly middle-class mothers of young children in over sixty communities, demonstrated to demand that President John F. Kennedy “End the Arms Race — Not the Human Race.” This was prompted by the […]

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The Balfour Declaration

The Balfour Declaration, a letter from British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Lord Walter Rothschild, a British Zionist leader, was adopted by the British cabinet on this date in 1917, amid World War I. The Declaration, which would be dated November 2, 1917, expressed the support of “His Majesty’s Government” for “the establishment in Palestine of […]

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Nostra Aetate

Nostra Aetate (Latin for “In Our Time“), a declaration on the relation of the Catholic Church to non-Christian religions, was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on this date in 1965. In addition to reaching out to Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and other religious groups, Nostra Aetate emphasized that “what happened in [Christ’s] passion cannot be charged against […]

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David Rakoff’s American Life

David Rakoff, a Canadian-born gay writer who was a regular contributor to National Public Radio’s “This American Life” and published three bestselling volumes of essays, died at 47 on this date in 2012. Rakoff’s grandparents fled Latvia and Lithuania for South Africa at the turn of the 20th century; his parents left South Africa in 1961 and moved […]

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Sydney Pollack

Movie director, producer, and actor Sydney Pollack, whose star-packed films included Tootsie, Out of Africa, The Way We Were, Absence of Malice, Three Days of the Condor, and They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, was born to immigrant parents in Lafayette, Indiana on this date in 1934. Pollack learned the directing trade through television work on “Ben […]

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I’ve Got a Secret

I’ve Got a Secret premiered on CBS television on this date in 1952. Created by Allan Sherman for the production team of Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, the quiz show ran until April 3, 1967 and was hosted for most of those years by Garry Moore (Steve Allen took over in 1964). A panel of […]

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April 28: Hertha Ayrton, Inventor

British scientist and inventor Hertha Ayrton (Phoebe Sarah Marks), the first woman to be proposed for the fellowship of the Royal Society (in 1902), was born in Portsea, Hampshire, England, on this date in 1854. Ayrton was refused admission to the Society because, as a married woman, she had no legal status under British law. Four […]

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March 4: Instagram

Mike Krieger, a software engineer who was one of two co-founders of the social media service Instagram, was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil on this date in 1986. Instagram, which enables mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing, and social networking, was launched in October, 2010, and today has some 400 million users worldwide. It was acquired by Facebook […]

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March 1: The Leica Freedom Train

Ernst Leitz II, a gentile who was the chief officer of the optics company that manufactured the Leica camera, was born on this date in 1871. Leitz, who took over the company in 1920, became a member of the Nazi Party to protect his company (“I was not only a passive member but resisted actively […]

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Footprints: Our Communist Past

JEWISH CURRENTS BEGAN ITS LIFE AS A COMMUNIST-ORIENTED MAGAZINE. WHAT SHOULD I MAKE OF THAT HERITAGE TODAY? by Lawrence Bush This article is one of a series reflecting on the history of Jewish Currents on the occasion of our 65th anniversary (2010). You can find the other entries here. When Jewish Currents and the Workmen’s […]

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December 20: The Spoon-Bender

Uri Geller, a sleight-of-hand and mentalist performer who has passed himself off for decades as possessing paranormal powers, was born in Tel Aviv on this date in 1946. Geller became one of Israel’s first international celebrities in the 1970s by bending spoons, stopping clocks, and performing other tricks that he attributed to actual telekinetic powers […]

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December 15: The Haim Sisters

Alana Mychal Haim (center in the photo), the youngest of three sisters in the band Haim, was born in southern California on this date in 1991 to an Israeli father and an American mother, both musicians. Haim’s 2013 debut album, Days Are Gone, achieved #1 status in the United Kingdom and fetched critical comparisons to […]

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December 1: Mistress of the Circus

Carola Williams, entrepreneur and equestrian performer (from age 3) of a 300-year-old German circus family, the Althoffs (non-Jewish), who harbored Jews in their three traveling circuses during the Nazi era, was born in North Rhine-Westphalia on this date in 1903. According to Dominique Jando at Ciropedia, “Since the Middle Ages, there had been a great […]

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November 8: Mother of American Hospice

Florence “Eppie” Wald (Schorske), who headed the Yale School of Nursing and cofounded the first hospice center in America, died at 91 on this date in 2008. Her mother was Jewish, her father gentile, and both were supporters of Ethical Culture. A 1963 lecture by Cicely Saunders about her efforts to establish a hospice in […]

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October 28: Ben Harper

Musician Ben Harper, the son of an African-American father and Jewish mother, who chiefly raised him, was born in Pomona, California on this date in 1969. His parents were the owners of a music store, the Folk Music Center, in Claremont. Harper is a great songwriter, blues player, and vocalist who also delivers folk music, […]

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October 21: Sharon’s Death Sculpture

Israeli installation artist and sculptor Noam Braslavsky unveiled a life-sized, “breathing” sculpture of Ariel Sharon in a coma at the Kishon Gallery in Tel Aviv on this date in 2010. Sharon had been in a coma since suffering a massive stroke in 2006, and Braslavsky proposed that the sculpture “allows people in Israel to mourn […]

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September 24: Operation Magic Carpet

Israel’s Operation Magic Carpet (the nickname for Operation on Wings of Eagles), which brought some 49,000 Yemenite Jews to the new state of Israel, concluded with its final two flights on this date in 1950. The secret and complex airlift involved 380 flights using British and American planes flying from Aden, the capital of Yemen, […]

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September 23: George Costanza

Actor Jason Alexander (Jay Scott Greenspan), best known for his role as the self-loathing and conniving George Costanza — who appeared in every episode but one of Seinfeld, 1990-1998 — was born in Newark on this date in 1959. Alexander reputedly beat out Danny DeVito, Steve Buscemi and Nathan Lane to play the Constanza character, […]

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September 22: Isaac Stern

Violinist Isaac Stern died at 81 on this date in 2001. Stern made his debut at age 15 with the San Francisco Symphony. He was the first American violinist to tour the USSR (in 1951), but in 1967 announced his refusal to return there until the Soviet government allowed artists to travel freely. He never […]

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September 21: Ministre de la Culture

Françoise Giroud (Lea France Gourdji), a writer, screenwriter, journalist, and political activist who co-founded the French news magazine L’Express in 1953 and edited it until 1971, was born to Sephardic Turkish parents in Lausanne, Switzerland on this date in 1916. Giroud also edited Elle magazine from 1946 to 1953 and wrote some thirty books, fiction […]

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September 20: The Turkish Consul Who Saved Jews

Necdet Kent, who as Turkish vice-consul in France saved dozens of Turkish Jews living in France from being deported to Nazi death camps, died at 91 on this date in 2002. Kent served his government in Marseilles, a point of embarkation for many Jews fleeing Europe, from 1941 to 1944. In 1943, upon learning that […]

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September 19: A Good Day for Rock & Roll

Brian Epstein, the manager of the Beatles who brought them to America and to international fame, was born on this date in 1935; Cass Elliot of the Mamas & the Papas was born on this date in 1945; instrumentalist David Bromberg was born on this date in 1946; Bob Dylan recorded one of his finest […]

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September 18: Discovering Greta Garbo

Swedish actress Greta Garbo (Gustafsson, not Jewish) was born on this date in 1905. She was “discovered” and trained as a film actress by the Finnish-Swedish Jewish film director Mauritz Stiller, who brought her to America when Louis B. Mayer, the chief of MGM, invited him to Hollywood as a director. A pioneer of the […]

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September 17: Death March from the Bor Mines

Nearly 4,000 Hungarian Jews who had been conscripted into forced labor since 1941 were led on a death march towards Hungary from the Bor mines in Yugoslavia, where the labor camps were concentrated, on this date in 1944. About 1,300 of them were shot or killed by exhaustion en route; the others were deported to […]

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September 16: The Neglected Samuel Menashe

Poet Samuel Menashe, who in 2004 became the first poet honored with the Poetry Foundation’s “Neglected Masters Award,” was born in New York on this date in 1925. William Grimes described him (in a 2011 New York Times obituary) as “a Greenwich Village poet whose jewel-like, gnomic short verse won him an ardent following in […]

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September 15: Jakob Ehrlich of Vienna

Jakob Ehrlich, who represented Vienna’s 180,000 Jews in the city’s government during the rise of Nazism and was murdered in Dachau after the Anschluss, was born in Bistritz am Hostein, a small town in northern Moravia, on this date in 1877. Ehrlich became a Zionist organizer as a young man and in 1913 became vice-president […]

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September 14: Christian Jerusalem

Helena of Constantinople, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, who adopted Christianity as the state religion of Rome, identified the cross on which, she said, Jesus was crucified, and the tomb from which he emerged in his conquest of death, on this date in 326 CE. Revered as a saint in both the Eastern Orthodox […]

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September 13: Cyrus Adler

Cyrus Adler, librarian at the Smithsonian Institution (1892-1905), chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), and a founder of the American Jewish Committee, was born to German Jewish immigrants in Van Buren, Arkansas on this date in 1863. A professor of “Semitics” at Johns Hopkins University, he helped to found the Jewish Publication Society in […]

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September 11: Bonanza’s “Pa”

Lorne Greene (Lyon Himan Green), who became one of television’s most familiar faces by playing Ben Cartwright (“Pa”) on the NBC family Western series Bonanza from 1959 to1973, was born in Ottawa on this date in 1915. During World War II, Green served in the Canadian air force and became a newsreader on the CBC […]

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September 10: Jared Diamond

Science writer and scientist Jared Diamond, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997) as well as The World Until Yesterday (2012), Collapse (2005) and The Third Chimpanzee (1992), among other books, was born in Boston on this date in 1937. He earned a degree in history and anthropology from Harvard in 1958 […]

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September 9: Ullman’s Dream Laboratory

Psychoanalyst and parapsychologist Montague Ullman, who  founded the Dream Laboratory at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn and devoted himself to the study of dreams — and mental telepathy — was born on this date in 1916. Ullman was a psychiatrist trained at the New York University School of Medicine and the New York Medical College, […]

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September 8: Irwin Silber and Sing-Out!

Marxist writer, editor, and mostly pro-communist theoretician Irwin Silber, long-time editor and co-founder (with Pete Seeger, shown with Silber at right) of Sing-Out! magazine, died at 84 on this date in 2010. As founder of Paredon Records (with his wife, folksinger Barbara Dane) and (with Moses Asch) of Oak Publications, as well as through Sing-Out!, […]

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September 7: Heinrich Graetz’s History of the Jews

German historian and Biblical scholar Heinrich Graetz, whose eleven-volume History of the Jews, published between 1853 and 1876, is widely seen as the first narrative Jewish history written from a Jewish perspective and capturing the entire sweep of Jewish history, died at 73 on this date in 1891. Graetz, a product of traditional yeshivas during […]

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September 6: From Treblinka to Toys

Fred Kort, a Holocaust survivor who founded the Imperial Toy Corporation, manufacturer of the high-bounce ball among hundreds of other playthings, died at 80 on this date in 2003. Kort and his family were among 22,000 Polish Jews expelled from Germany by the Nazis. Slated for death at Treblinka in August 1943, he managed to […]

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September 5: Victor Gotbaum

Victor Gotbaum, who led New York’s largest municipal union, District Council 37 of AFSCME, from 1965 to 1987, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1927. In 1971, Gotbaum led a strike that snarled New York traffic by leaving all but two of the city’s twenty-nine drawbridges open. By 1975, he had built his […]

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September 4: Inciting the Slaves

According to a New York Times report on this date in 1860, “Friederman and Rotenburg, two German Jew peddlers, have been arrested and examined by the Rusk Vigilance Committee” in Montgomery County, Texas. “The former was released, nothing being proven against him. Rotenburg was accused by several negroes [sic] of inciting them to insurrection. His […]

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September 3: Jews in World War II

Two days after the Nazi blitzkrieg against Poland began, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany on this date in 1939. Massacres of Polish Jews (and Polish POWs) were already underway in towns on Poland’s western frontier. A total of 1.5 million Jewish men and women served in the militaries of nations fighting Germany […]

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September 2: The Voice of the Voiceless

A video showing the beheading by ISIS of Steven Sotloff, a 31-year-old American-Israeli journalist and grandson of two Holocaust survivors, was released on this date in 2014. Sotloff broke the Benghazi story in Libya in 2012, telling CNN that U.S. media reports about the killings being associated with rioters were wrong and identifying the actual […]

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O My America: The Black Lives Matter Platform

YOU DON’T HAVE TO AGREE WITH ALL THE RHETORIC TO GIVE IT SUPPORT by Lawrence Bush THE BLACK LIVES MATTER Platform, issued at the very end of July by a coalition of some thirty organizations based in the African-American community and endorsed by sixty, is a spirited, radical, impressive mix of universalist politics and black-identity […]

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Jewish-Goyish

Lenny Bruce’s Mission to America by Lawrence Bush from the Summer 2016 issue of Jewish Currents LEONARD ALFRED SCHNEIDER, who took the stage as Lenny Bruce, died half a century ago on August 3, 1966, age 40. He was not the nice Jewish boy you’d want your daughter or son to marry. A drug abuser, […]

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Bridging the Jewish Secular-Religious Divide

by Lawrence Bush Discussed in this essay: Putting God Second: How to Save Religion from Itself, by Rabbi Donniel Hartman. Beacon Press, 2016, 180 pages. AS THE EDITOR of Jewish Currents, which tags itself on the cover as a “secular, progressive voice,” I am occasionally invited to synagogues to speak about secular Jewish identity. I […]

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June 22: When Harry Married Bess

Twenty-year-old escape artist and stage magician Harry Houdini married his stage manager Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner, known ever after as Bess Houdini, on this date in 1894. According to her own account, she helped pay for the wedding ring and had to lend Harry $2 for the marriage license. The couple was wed in a civil […]

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June 21: Judy Holliday

Oscar-winning actress Judy Holliday (Tuvim) was born in New York on this date in 1921. In her short career (she died of cancer at 43), Holliday had roles in thirteen films, including Born Yesterday, for which she won her Best Actress award, Adam’s Rib (with Tracy and Hepburn) and Bells Are Ringing (the stage version […]

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June 20: Ben Gurion Almost Provokes a Civil War

On this date in 1948, David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, ordered the new Israel Defense Forces to seize the ship Altalena, which was laden with weapons and about 1,000 Jewish immigrant fighters. The ship was controlled by Menachem Begin’s Irgun. Ben-Gurion first demanded that Begin hand over the weapons and the ship, and […]

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June 19: Bessie Margolin and Labor Law

Bessie Margolin, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor from 1939 to 1972, who argued twenty-four times before the Supreme Court and prevailed in twenty-one cases, died at 89 on this date in 1996. Raised from the age of 4 as an orphan at the Jewish Children’s Home in New Orleans, Margolin attended Tulane […]

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June 17: Aaron Lansky

Aaron Lansky, the founder of the National Yiddish Book Center (NYBC), was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts on this date in 1956. Lansky began collecting discarded Yiddish books in the 1970s while studying the language as a graduate student at McGill University. He soon assembled a crew of zamlers (collectors) and formally established his not-for-profit […]

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June 16: IBM and the Nazis

IBM was founded as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company in Endicott, New York on this date in 1911, as a merger of four business-machine companies. Renamed the International Business Machine Company in 1924, IBM as of 2012 was the second largest corporate workforce (435,000 worldwide) and the ninth most profitable. According to research by Edwin Black, author […]

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June 15: The Great Yiddish Critic

Shmuel Niger (Charney), a leading Yiddish literary critic who helped to launch the careers of Sholem Asch, Peretz Hirshbein, and Der Nister, among other Yiddish writers, was born into a khasidic family in the region of Minsk on this date in 1883. Coming into contact with leftwing Zionist ideas while preparing for rabbinical ordination at […]

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June 14: Guitarist with Country Joe and the Fish

Barry “the Fish” Melton, guitarist and co-founder of Country Joe and the Fish and a lifelong progressive activist, was born to a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father (a merchant seaman who shipped out once with Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston) in Brooklyn on this date in 1947. The band was the most politically radical of […]

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June 12: Freedom of Religion

The Virginia Declaration of Rights, written principally by George Mason, was ratified by the Fifth Virginia Convention at Williamsburg, Virginia on this date in 1776. Its sixteenth article declared that “religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not […]

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June 11: Flight Instructor for the Wright Brothers

Russian-born Arthur L. Welsh (Laibel Welcher), the world’s first Jewish aviator, died in a flight-test crash in Maryland on this date in 1912, at age 30. After serving in the U.S. Navy, Welsh learned to be a pilot from Orville Wright and then established the Wright Brothers’ first flight school at Huffman Prairie in Dayton, […]

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June 10: Gina Gershon

Actress and voluptuary Gina Gershon, who recently put together a spot-on spoof on Melania Trump (see below) as a follow up to her savaging of Sarah Palin in 2008, was born in Los Angeles on this date in 1962. Gershon has had many mid-sized parts in middling films and television movies, and perhaps has her […]

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June 9: Jackie Mason

Comedian Jackie Mason (Yacov Moshe Maza) was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin on this date in 1931. Ordained a rabbi at age 25, he left the bimah three years later to do stand-up (“Somebody in the family had to make a living,” he said). Mason had a somewhat spotty start on the Borscht Belt circuit and […]

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June 8: The World’s Oldest Man

Polish-born Alexander Imich, who was deemed the oldest man in the world by Guinness World Records, died at 111 on this date in 2014. At the time, there were sixty-six women in the world older than him, including a 116-year-old. Imich fought the Bolsheviks in Poland as a youth. He earned a Ph.D. in zoology […]

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June 7: The Composer of Annie and Bye Bye Birdie

Composer Charles Strouse, whose many works include Bye Bye Birdie, Applause, and Annie, as well as several hit film scores, was born in New York on this date in 1928. Strouse has written scores for over thirty musicals, fourteen of them on Broadway, and has won three Tony Awards, two Emmy Awards, and two Grammy […]

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June 6: Shmuck

Congressman Anthony Weiner (D – NY) held a press conference on this date in 2011 at which he admitted to tweeting photographs of his bulging underwear (which accidentally went out to 45,000 of his Twitter followers) and engaging in “inappropriate conversations” with several women while serving in Congress. The confession, which turned to utter farce […]

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June 5: Kenny G.

The much-maligned and fantastically successful “smooth jazz” saxophonist Kenny G (Gorelick) was born in Seattle on this date in 1956. He began his career as a sideman to soul singer Barry White and climbed his way through several collaborations to become one of the best-selling musicians of all time. On his At Last… The Duets […]

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June 4: Alfred Dreyfus Is Shot

Alfred Dreyfus, the French Jewish military officer whose trial and imprisonment for twelve years on false charges of spying drove a wedge through French society, was shot in the arm and wrist by an anti-Semitic military journalist, Louis Grégori, while attending a ceremony honoring Emile Zola, Dreyfus’ great public defender, on this date in 1908. […]

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June 3: Jan Peerce

Legendary tenor Jan Peerce (Joshua Pincus Perelmuth), who launched his career in 1932 with the Radio City Music Hall Company, caught the attention of Arturo Toscanini, and launched a twenty-seven-year career at the Metropolitan Opera in 1941, was born on the Lower East Side of New York on this date in 1904. From 1941 to […]

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June 2: Broadway’s Greatest Collaborator

George S. Kaufman, a playwright, librettist, and humorist who wrote for the Marx Brothers and won Pulitzer Prizes for the Broadway musicals You Can’t Take It with You (1937, with Moss Hart), and Of Thee I Sing (1932, with Morrie Ryskind and Ira Gershwin), died at 71 on this date in 1961. Kaufman was a […]

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June 1: Zvi Dunski and the Resistance in Sosnowiec

As the Nazi liquidation of the Sosnowiec Ghetto in Poland began on this date in 1943, it was met with an earnest but poorly armed resistance that had been organized by Zvi Dunski, a young Hashomer Hatzair (Socialist Zionist) activist. According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Dunski, born in 1922, “played a central role […]

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O My America: Being an Agendanik

by Lawrence Bush I JUST SPENT the weekend in Ann Arbor, Michigan at a reunion of some ninety veterans of New Jewish Agenda (NJA), the national, chapter-based, multi-issue Jewish organization that was launched in 1980, lasted until 1992 — and transformed my life. I attended the inaugural NJA conference in Washington DC. I was 29, […]

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May 31: Pete Yarrow

Folksinger Peter Yarrow, part of the trio of Peter, Paul and Mary, was born in New York on this date in 1938, to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants. He joined the New York City folk revival scene after graduating from Cornell University (as a psych major), and joined up with Mary Travers and Noel Paul Stookey, under […]

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May 30: Queen of the Off-Off Broadway Stage

Actress Helen Hanft, who performed in some seventy-five productions between 1965 and ’75 at La Mama Experimental Theater, the Public Theater, and Greenwich Village’s Cafe Cafe Cino — “widely regarded as the birthplace of Off Off Broadway,” according to Paul Vitello in the New York Times — died at 79 on this date in 2013. […]

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May 29: The Watergate Prosecutor

Attorney Samuel Dash, who became a national figure when he served as a highly effective chief counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee and interrogated members of the Nixon Administration on national television, died at 79 on this date in 2004. A bombardier navigator during World War II, Dash gained his law degree from Harvard in […]

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May 28: A Jewish Ambassador from Bahrain

Houda Nonoo, 46, one of fewer than fifty Jewish citizens in Bahrain, was appointed ambassador to the United States, according to reports on this date in 2008. The first Jew appointed ambassador by an Arab state (and the third woman ambassador from Bahrain), she served until 2013. Prior to her appointment, she led Bahrain Human […]

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May 27: George Washington Slept Here

Isaac Franks, a New Yorker who fought with the Continental Army against the British from 1776 to 1782, was born on this date in 1759. After the Revolution was won, Franks acquired a house in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, where the Battle of Germantown had been fought, and twice lent it to President George […]

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May 26: In Israel, Yiddish Language and Culture Day

The Israeli Knesset observed Yiddish Language and Culture Day on this date in 2009 at the behest of MK Lia Shemtov of Israel Beiteinu, a rightwing nationalist party with strong support among Jews from Russia. A Yiddish-Hebrew parliamentary lexicon was released for the occasion, with such phrases as Ordners, derveytert im fun zal! – “Ushers, […]

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May 25: The Realism of Rosa Bonheur

  Realist painter Rosa Bonheur, one of the best-known women artists of the 19th century, was born in Bordeaux on this date in 1822, to a Jewish family who belonged to the socialist-Christian sect known as Saint-Simonianism. The sect encouraged the education of women, and Rosa took her place alongside her father and brothers as […]

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May 24: Real Jewish Films

Independent filmmaker Joan Micklin Silver, one of the first screenwriters and directors to bring unadulteratedly Jewish themes, settings, and characters to the modern screen with Hester Street (1975) and Crossing Delancey (1988), was born in Omaha, Nebraska on this date in 1935. Silver began making educational films in New York during the late 1960s. She […]

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May 23: Trying to Liberalize the Communist Party

John Gates (Solomon Regenstreif), a Communist journalist and activist who led an unsuccessful attempt to liberalize the American Communist Party (CPUSA) after Nikita Khrushchev took power and denounced Stalinism, died at 78 on this date in 1992. Gates was the son of candy-store owners in the Bronx and was employed by the WPA during the […]

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May 22: A Reform Jewish Giant

Rabbi Emil G. Hirsch, who headed Chicago’s Sinai Congregation for forty-two years and led Reform Judaism into the Progressive movement and down social justice pathways, was born in Luxemburg on this date in 1852. One of several Jews involved in founding the NAACP, Hirsch was married to the daughter of abolitionist rabbi David Einhorn and […]

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May 21: Lady Luisa, Golf Champion

Luisa Abrahams (born Kramerova), a champion golfer in Czechoslovakia who came to a tournament in England as World War II broke out in 1939 and spent the rest of her life there, was born in Prague on this date in 1910. During the war, she achieved the rank of major in the Czech armed-forces-in-exile while […]

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May 20: Jake “Greasy Thumb” Guzik

Jake Guzik, Al Capone’s most trust adviser, treasurer, and bagman for bribing politicians and police, was born near Krakow, Poland on this date in 1886. Guzik was involved in prostitution and “white slavery” and was said to have gained Capone’s trust by tipping him off to a plan to kill him; Guzik was soon working […]

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May 19: Dolph Schayes

Star basketball player and coach Adolph “Dolph” Schayes was born in the Bronx on this date in 1928. Schayes played his entire 16-year career (1948-64) with the Syracuse Nationals and their successor team, the Philadelphia 76ers, and led his team into the league playoffs fifteen times. In 1966, he was NBA Coach of the Year […]

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May 18: The Liberal Republican

Jacob Javits, the last staunchly liberal Republican senator — he became a Republican in reaction to the corrupt Democratic politics of Tammany Hall — was born to pushcart peddlers on the Lower East Side on this date in 1904. Javits earned a degree in Columbia University night school, and a law degree from NYU in […]

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May 17: Carlos Roloff, Cuban Patriot

Carlos Roloff (Akiva Mialofsky or Akiva Rolland, according to different sources), an immigrant soldier-of-fortune from Warsaw who became a Cuban military general and fought against Spanish colonial domination in the Ten Years’ War and the Spanish–American War, died at 65 on this date in 1907. His family moved to the U.S. in 1862 and Roloff […]

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May 16: Gimbel’s

Adam Gimbel, a Bavarian Jewish immigrant who built a trading post on the Indiana frontier and a fortune trading with the Shawnee Indians and selling cloth and hairpins to frontier women, was born on this date in 1816. According to Find A Grave, Gimbel “developed a trustworthy reputation with all customers and his motto was […]

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May 15: The Yiddish Fred Astaire

Actor and dancer Leo Fuchs, lifelong star of the Yiddish theater, creator of the famous song “Trouble,” and a star in the original Broadway production of Cabaret, was born to a theatrical family in Warsaw on this date in 1911. “Fuchs’s specialty,” writes Bernard Mendelovitch in The Independent, “was comedy and when he commenced his […]

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May 14: Genetics in the Atomic Age

Charlotte “Lottie” Auerbach, a geneticist who fled Nazi Germany in 1933 and built a career in Edinburgh, where her work on mutations proved to be classified and could not be published until 1947, was born within a family of scientists in Krefeld, Germany on this date in 1899. Auerbach was a pioneering geneticist, an expert […]

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May 13: A Survey of Anti-Semitism

On this date in 2014, the Anti-Defamation League released the results of a survey about anti-Semitism involving over 50,000 people in 101 countries as well as the occupied Palestinian territories. The survey used belief in the following statements as a measuring rod of anti-Semitism; respondents who said at least 6 out of the 11 statements […]

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May 12: Frania Beatus, Ghetto Courier

Frania Beatus, 17, a Warsaw Ghetto partisan who served as a fighter and a courier between the ghetto and the rest of the city, conveying messages, bribes, and armaments, committed suicide on this date in 1943, three weeks after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising had begun, prompted by the knowledge that much of the Jewish Fighting […]

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May 11: Turning Post-War Germany into a Giant Farm

Henry Morgenthau, Jr., who operated a Christmas tree farm neighboring the New York State estate of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and became U.S. Secretary of the Treasury in 1934, was born in New York City on this date in 1891. Morgenthau was a champion of American farmers, who constituted some 25 percent of the American […]

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May 10: Daniel Bell

Daniel Bell (Bolotsky), one of the most well-known sociologists of post-war America, who once described himself as a “socialist in economics, a liberal in politics, and a conservative in culture,” was born in New York on this date in 1919. Bell was educated at City College and taught at Columbia and Harvard, from which he […]

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May 9: Yossele Rosenblatt

Yossele Rosenblatt, known as “the Jewish Caruso” and the greatest cantor of his generation, was born in the Ukraine on this date in 1882. He was a child prodigy within his religious community but received no formal musical training at any Jewish academy. Rosenblatt lived and performed at various stages of his life in Vienna, […]

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May 7: The Vietnam War

The U.S. defined May 7, 1975 as ending the Vietnam War era in an announcement by President Gerald R. Ford on that date — twenty-one years after the date on which the French had been decisively defeated in the Battle of DIen Bien Phu, 1954. While many, many American Jews were deeply involved in the […]

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May 6: The Chinese Exclusion Act

President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act on this date in 1882. The law shut down for ten years the immigration of Chinese laborers that had begun during the California Gold Rush of 1848 and the building of the transcontinental railroad. The restriction would be extended in ten year chunks until 1902, when […]

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May 5: Planning for the Scopes Trial

A meeting of community leaders in Dayton, Tennessee, was held on this date in 1925 to plan a challenge to the state’s new Butler Act, which made it illegal to teach Darwin’s theory of evolution in a public school. The American Civil Liberties Union had advertised its willingness to give support to any teacher who […]

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May 4: Jews and the Hussite Wars

Jan Hus, a Bohemian priest and religious reformer who inspired fifteen-year war of defense (1419-34) against crusaders sent by the Catholic Church, was declared a heretic on this date in 1415. Hus was a key predecessor to the Protestant Reformation and was burned at the stake for it later that year. The Hussites were viewed […]

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May 3: Georges Moustaki

Singer-songwriter Georges Moustaki, who wrote some 300 songs for France’s most popular singers, including Édith Piaf and Yves Montand, was born in Alexandria, Egypt on this date in 1934. His parents were Greek Jews from Corfu who spoke many languages and owned the Cité du livre, an outstanding bookstore in Alexandria. He became a Paris […]

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May 2: Halsman’s Jumpology

Photographer Philippe Halsman, whose portraits of Albert Einstein, Salvador Dali, Alfred Hitchcock, Marilyn Monroe, Winston Churchill, Pablo Picasso, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and numerous other people of fame became internationally known, was born in Riga, Latvia on this date in 1906. At age 22, he was falsely accused of the murder of his father, who had […]

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May 1: Raya Dunayevskaya and Marxist Humanism

Raya Dunayevskaya, a lifelong Marxist who served Leon Trotsky as secretary during his Mexican exile and broke with him over his defense of the USSR as a “workers’ state” following the Hitler-Stalin Pact (she insisted that the Soviet Union practiced “state capitalism”), was born Raya Shpigel in the Ukraine on this date in 1910. In […]

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April 30: A Pioneer of Women’s History

Gerda Lerner, who in 1963 began teaching a women’s history course (at the New School) that is considered to be the first of its kind in history, was born in Vienna on this date in 1920. Lerner helped develop women’s history curricula and degree programs in the field at Sarah Lawrence, where she taught from […]

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April 29: Directed by Fred Zinnemann

Fred Zinnemann, director of High Noon, From Here to Eternity, Oklahoma!, The Nun’s Story, A Man for All Seasons, The Day of the Jackal, and Julia, among other films, was born in Poland on this date in 1907. “At the core of Mr. Zinnemann’s finest films,” said the New York Times in a 1997 obituary, […]

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April 28: Stopping Short of Revenge

Arkadi Timor (Abraham Katzevman), 24, entered the heart of Berlin as commander of the 14th Soviet Armored Battalion on this date in 1945. “The first thing in the morning that the soldiers at the front were waiting for was… to see the postman,” he later said in an interview made in Israel in the 1990s, […]

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April 27: Fighting the President on Homophobia

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450 on this date in 1953, which listed “sexual perversion,” understood to mean homosexuality, as a condition for firing a federal worker and for denying federal jobs to applicants. Eisenhower also ordered all private contractors doing business with the government to fire their gay employees or risk losing […]

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April 26: Albert Maltz

Novelist and screenwriter Albert Maltz, who won two Oscars as well as the O. Henry Memorial Award before being blacklisted and imprisoned as one of the Hollywood Ten, died on this date in 1985 at the age of 76. Maltz’s 1944 novel, The Cross and the Arrow, chronicled German resistance to Nazism (and was distributed to […]

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April 25: Hank Azaria and The Simpsons

Actor Hank Azaria, who voiced several characters in The Simpsons (including Moe, Apu, Chief Wiggums and at least ten other regulars) and has won five Emmys and a Screen Actors Guild Award, was born to a Sephardic family in Queens on this date in 1964. His parents were from Thessalonika, and Ladino was the household […]

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April 24: Eighteen Ks

Dodger ace Sandy Koufax, 26, struck out eighteen batters for the second time in his career on this date in 1962 as his team beat the Chicago Cubs 10-2 at Wrigley Field. Koufax threw 144 pitches in nine innings, 96 strikes and 48 balls, and gave up one home run and two doubles. Chicago would […]

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April 23: George Burns’ Hit Song

George Burns (Birnbaum), 84, became the oldest person to chart with hit in the Billboard Top Fifty on this date in 1980 when “I Wish I Was 18 Again” peaked at No. 49 — his first hit record since 1933, when he and Gracie Allen had a hit comedy record. The song was written by […]

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April 22: Otto Rank and Human Mythology

Otto Rank (Rosenfeld), one of Sigmund Freud’s closest collaborators, was born in Vienna on this date in 1884. Rank hailed from a poor family and worked in a machine shop while educating himself at night. He became the first paid secretary of the emerging Vienna Psychoanalytic Society in 1905, at the age of 21. He […]

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Jewish Currents in Venice, California

Jewish Currents will be celebrated on Sunday, May 8th, at the Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice with a reading of contemporary Jewish poetry and an exhibit of some artworks by the magazine’s editor, Lawrence Bush. The program will start at 4 p.m. As editor of the 70-year-old progressive quarterly, Bush will discuss its […]

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April 21: Baron de Hirsch

Baron Maurice de Hirsch, the German Jewish philanthropist who, before the Zionist movement was launched, took great interest in turning the Jews into an agricultural people, died at 65 on this date in 1896. Baron de Hirsch was the founder and funder of the Jewish Colonization Association, which brought thousands of mostly impoverished Jews from […]

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April 20: The Yiddish Gazette

Di Yidishe Gazeten (the Yiddish Gazette), the first enduring American Yiddish weekly, began publication on this date in 1874. Published in New York by Kasriel Hersh Sarasohn, a new immigrant from Russia, the paper survived for more than half a century and reached a circulation of 70,000. It was traditionally religious in orientation and earned […]

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April 19: The Tenement

A five-story tenement building at 97 Orchard Street on New York’s Lower East Side was given National Historic Landmark status on this date in 1997. The building now houses the Tenement Museum, which notes at its website that between its construction in 1863 and being boarded up in 1935, some 7,000 tenants from some twenty […]

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April 18: The Concentration Camp Mime

Zvi Kanar, a child survivor of the Holocaust who became a well-known mime, died at 80 on this date in 2009. Born into a khasidic family in Poland, he spent years of his adolescence in concentration camps in Poland and Germany, including Buchenwald, and survived at least one death march. Kanar “used his physical mimic […]

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April 17: Robert of Reading

Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton convened a provincial council that ordered the immediate execution, on this date in 1222, of a Christian deacon who had circumcised himself and married a Jewish woman. This case is commonly conflated with that of Robert of Reading, half a century later. Robert was a Dominican friar and a student […]

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April 16: Herbie Mann

Jazz flautist Herbie Mann (Solomon), an early explorer of world music following State Department tours of Africa in 1959 and Brazil in 1961, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1930. Mann helped generate the bossa nova craze in the U.S. in the 1960s and worked with Brazilian musical themes throughout the decade. As […]

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April 15: Max Wertheimer and Gestalt Psychology

Max Wertheimer, who founded the gestalt school of psychology with his students Kurt Koffka and Wolfgang Köhler, was born in Prague on this date in 1880. After obtaining his doctorate in philosophy and psychology from the University of Wurzburg (where he did research on the lie detector), he began to study how sensory perception influences […]

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April 14: Bye Bye Birdie

The stage musical Bye Bye Birdie, created by the all-Jewish team of Michael Stewart (book), Lee Adams (lyrics), and Charlie Strouse (music), opened on Broadway on this date in 1960. Inspired by the real-life induction of Elvis Presley into the army in 1958, Bye Bye Birdie won a Tony Award and spawned a London production […]

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April 13: The Undeserving Poor

Social theorist Michael Katz, author of The Undeserving Poor: From the War on Poverty to the War on Welfare (1990) and founder of the urban studies program at the University of Pennsylvania, was born in Wilmington, Delaware on this date in 1939. With a Harvard Ph.D. and a thirty-six-year career at Penn, he wrote more […]

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April 12: Alfred Mordecai’s Civil War

The Confederate military fired on Fort Sumter, South Carolina in the port of Charleston on this date in 1861, sparking the Civil War — and a conflict in the heart of Major Alfred Mordecai, a military munitions expert who had been the first Jew educated at West Point. An Orthodox Jew from Warrenton, North Carolina, […]

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April 11: The Master of Ceremonies

Joel Grey (Joel David Katz), who danced and sang to international stardom as the Master of Ceremonies in the 1966 Broadway production of Cabaret, was born to a show-biz family — his father was the “novelty song” musician Mickey Katz — in Cleveland on this date in 1932. Grey has won the Academy Award, the […]

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April 10: David Halberstam

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and popular historian David Halberstam was born in New York on this date in 1934. After graduating from Harvard, where he was managing editor of the Crimson, he began his reporting career in the South, at the Daily Times Leader, the smallest daily newspaper in Mississippi, and at The Tennessean in Nashville, […]

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April 9: Tom Lehrer

Songwriter, social satirist, and mathematician Tom Lehrer was born on this date in 1928. In the 1960s he gained a wide audience as the resident songwriter for the American version of That Was the Week That Was, a short-lived satirical television news show, for which he wrote a famous spoof about rocket scientist Werner Von […]

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April 8: Susanna Hoffs and the Bangles

The Bangles became the third “girl group” in American history (with the Supremes and the Shirelles) to achieve multiple number-one hits when their song, “Eternal Flame,” peaked on this date in 1989. The song was co-written by Bangles guitarist Susanna Hoffs, the Jewish member of the quartet, and was inspired by the eternal flame at […]

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April 7: Ilan Stavans

One of the most prolific, interesting, and wide-ranging contemporary Jewish scholars, Ilan Stavans (Stavchansky), was born in Mexico City on this date in 1961. His Eastern European father was an actor and soap opera star on Mexican television. A professor at Amherst, Stavans has focused a good deal on language and popular culture and has […]

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April 6: Leapin’ Lizards!

Shirley Adrienne Bell provided the voice of Little Orphan Annie on the radio for the first time on this date in 1931. She would soon be the only actor playing the role, which she kept from age 10-20. Cole was the daughter of a single mother in Chicago (her father left the family when she […]

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April 5: The Radical Marries the Millionaire

Labor activist and Yiddish journalist Rose Pastor (Wieslander), who became a founding member of the Communist Party in the U.S. in 1919, and James Graham Stokes, an Episcopalian millionaire involved in the settlement house movement, announced their wedding engagement on this date in 1905, which stoked (no pun intended) a media frenzy in which she […]

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April 4: Nachman of Bratslav

Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov and one of the most quotable of khasidim’s early leaders, was born in Medzhybizh, Ukraine on this date in 1772. During his short life (he died of tuberculosis at 38), he built the large Breslover khasidic sect and spread teachings about asceticism, joy and spontaneity […]

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April 3: The Pogrom Wave, 1881-2

Five revolutionaries who had assassinated Tsar Alexander II, a relatively liberal Russian king, were hanged in Russia on this date in 1881. A sixth, the only Jew, Hessia Helfman (Gesya Gelfman in some sources), had her execution delayed under law because she was pregnant, but she died in prison shortly after giving birth and surrendering […]

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April 2: The Athlete-Survivor

Shaul Paul Ladany, a professor of engineering at Ben Gurion University who is a child survivor of Bergen Belsen and an adult survivor of the 1972 massacre of Israel’s Munich Olympics team, was born in Belgrade on this date in 1936. Ladany is a race-walker who holds the world record in the 50-mile walk (7:23:50) […]

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April 1: General Nudnik’s April Fool’s Prank

Ram Rothberg, a major general (aluf) in the Israeli military who heads the country’s naval forces, mobilized senior commanders for a 10-day exercise in Italy with the U.S. and Italian navies on this date in 2012 — as an April Fool’s prank. Although his orders were supposed to be confined to the top brass, they […]

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March 31: The Queen of Hebrew Music

Husky-voiced singer Shoshana Damari, who earned a reputation as “The Queen of Hebrew Music,” was born in Dhamar, Yemen on this date in 1923. Her family brought her to Palestine (on foot) the following year, and she became a child performer there within the Yemenite Jewish community. She gave her first radio performance at age […]

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March 30: Father of the Jews

Capuchin monk Father Marie-Benoît (Pierre Péteul), who provided transport for more than 4,000 Jews from Nazi-occupied France into Switzerland and Spain, was born in Bourg d’Iré, France on this date in 1895. Wounded in World War I, he took vows after the war and became a leading Christian expert on Judaism. Headquartered in a monastery […]

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March 29: Helping Einstein

Tullio Levi-Civita, an Italian mathematician who helped Albert Einstein master the tensor calculus (also known as absolute differential calculus) that he used to explain the theory of relativity, was born in Padua on this date in 1873. Levi-Civita wrote foundational papers in both pure and applied mathematics, celestial mechanics, analytic mechanics, and hydrodynamics. Between 1915 […]

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March 27: Israel and Syrian Refugees

The northern command of the Israel Defense Force announced on this date in 2014 that Syrians approaching the Golan border fence separating the Golan Heights from Syria would be fired on with live ammunition. Two years earlier, according to Crystal Plotner in Forced Migration Review, “the Israeli government stated it was making preparations to accept […]

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March 25: The Shuberts of Broadway

Lee (Levi) Shubert, the eldest of the three Shubert brothers who established Broadway as the center of theater in the U.S. and built the country’s largest theater chain, was born in Lithuania on this date in 1871. When they set out in theater, a powerful group called the Theatrical Syndicate had a lock on New […]

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March 24: Partisans in Italy — and a Reprisal

After sixteen partisans of the Italian Communist “Patriotic Action Group” killed 42 SS police in a bombing in central Rome the previous day (the 25th anniversary of the founding of Mussolini’s fascist party), the Nazi occupiers of Italy massacred 335 Italian prisoners in the Ardeatine Caves in Rome, including 57 Jews (the majority of Rome’s […]

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A Reunion of New Jewish Agenda

by Lawrence Bush NEW JEWISH AGENDA, the transformative, progressive Jewish membership organization of the 1980s and early 1990s, is going to be briefly revived for a weekend reunion during Memorial Day weekend, 2016 — thirty-six years after NJA’s launch in 1980, at a founding conference that was attended by more than 1,000 people. I’ve been […]

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March 23: The Red Army Photographer

Yevgeny Khaldei, a Jewish Red Army photographer who took the iconic photograph of a Soviet soldier raising a Soviet flag above the German Reichstag at the end of World War II (published in the magazine Ogoniok on May 13, 1945), was born in Donetsk, Ukraine on this date in 1917. Khaldei was in love with […]

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March 22: Abe Pomerantz and the Class-Action Suit

Attorney Abe Pomerantz, a 1924 graduate of Brooklyn Law School who pioneered the use of the class-action suit to tame corporate misconduct and return corporate profits to small shareholders, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1903. In 1933, a woman with twenty shares in the National City Bank of New York, which had […]

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March 21: Empress of Dance

Estelle Sommers, co-owner of Capezio Ballet Makers and a major supporter of contemporary dance, died at 74 on this date in 1994. Sommers took ballet and tap classes in her youth and was ardently devoted to the art. She transformed her first husband’s Cincinnati fabric store into a dancewear specialty shop, then married Ben Sommers, […]

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March 20: “Seduction of the Innocent”

Psychiatrist Fredric Wertham (Wertheimer), whose 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent, sparked a U.S. Congressional inquiry into comic books’ impact on the moral fibre of American youth, was born in Germany on this date in 1895. Wertham, who had corresponded and visited with Sigmund Freud, came to America in 1922 to work at the Phipps […]

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March 19: Eugene Selznick, Volleyball Champ

Eugene Selznick, who was captain of the United States men’s national volleyball team from 1953 to 1967, was born in Los Angeles on this date in 1930. He also coached women’s volleyball teams that won national titles and helped popularize the game of beach volleyball, which “is to Los Angeles what stickball once was to […]

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March 18: On Trial for “Racial Defilement”

German Jewish businessman Leo Katzenberger was arrested in Nuremberg on this date in 1941 for violating the Nazi’s racist Nuremberg Laws by allegedly having sexual relations with a non-Jewish woman, Irene Seiler, a photographer who was the daughter of Katzenberger’s friend. Both Katzenberger, 76, and Seiler, 30, were married. They claimed that their friendship was […]

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March 17: Rabbi Stephen S. Wise

Reform rabbi and Zionist leader Stephen S. Wise was born in Budapest on this date in 1874. He came to New York as an infant when his rabbi father took the pulpit at Congregation Beyt Israel Anshei Emes in Brooklyn and then Rodeph Sholom in Manhattan. Wise earned a Ph.D at Columbia before pursuing rabbinical […]

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March 16: Jerry Lewis

Funny man Jerry Lewis (Levitch) was born in Newark, New Jersey on this date in 1926, to a vaudevillian father and a piano-playing mother. After on-stage training on the Borscht Belt (with his parents from the age of 5), he teamed up with Dean Martin in 1946, and within a year they were playing the […]

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March 15: A Home Run in His First Game

Kevin Youkilis, a three-time All-Star baseball player and two-time World Champion team member with the Boston Red Sox, was born in Cincinnati on this date in 1979. Youkilis broke into professional baseball in 2001, and was called up by the Red Sox in May 2004. In his first game, with his parents in the stands, […]

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March 14: Billy Crystal

Comedic actor Billy Crystal, best known as Harry in When Harry Met Sally (1989) and as a perennial host of the Academy Awards, was born in New York on this date in 1948. His father was a well-known concert promoter, and celebrities were frequent guests in the household (Billie Holiday was sometimes his babysitter). Crystal studied […]

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March 13: Bruno Bettelheim

Bruno Bettelheim, a Viennese Freudian psychologist who survived nearly two years in Buchenwald and Dachau and went on to become a worldwide authority on autism and the emotional lives of children — although his theories were incorrect and venal towards mothers — died a suicide at age 86 on this date in 1990. (His suicide […]

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March 12: Copland’s Fanfare

Aaron Copland‘s “Fanfare for the Common Man” had its first performance on this date in 1942, by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under conductor Eugene Goossens. The piece, inspired in part by a famous speech by Vice President Henry A. Wallace proclaiming the dawning of the “Century of the Common Man,” later became the main theme […]

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March 11: The Blood Libel in 1900

When Ernst Winter, a 19-year-old who liked to party, disappeared on this date in 1900 in Konitz, West Prussia, he was thought to have fallen through the ice while skating on the lake. Two weeks later, his dismembered body was found in the lake and at various sites, leading police to suspect the father of […]

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March 10: Poets on Israel’s Currency

The Bank of Israel announced on this date in 2011 that four poets would be featured on the country’s new currency, replacing political figures: Rachel Sela (Rachel the Poetess) on the 20-shekel note; Shaul Tchernichovsky on the 50-shekel note, Leah Goldberg on the 100-shekel note; Natan Alterman on the 200-shekel note. The bills were released […]

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March 9: The Boycott of Germany

Dr. Julius Lippert, the Nazi state commissar for Berlin, spoke at a meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in that city on this date in 1935 and called upon the U.S. business establishment to put an end to the “Jewish boycott” of Germany, which had resulted, he said, in damage to American farmers and […]

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March 8: The Father of Video Games

Ralph H. Baer, an American refugee from Nazi Germany who became an electronics inventor who conceived of playing games on television screens as early as 1951 and helped to pioneer their creation in the 1960s, was born in southwest Germany on this date in 1922. Baer served in U.S. military intelligence during World War II, […]

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March 7: The Muralist of Los Angeles

Hugo Ballin, a filmmaker of the silent era and a Beaux-Artes-style muralist whose work graces such Los Angeles landmarks as the Griffith Observatory, Wilshire Boulevard Temple, and Burbank City Hall, was born in New York on this date in 1879. He studied at the Art Students League of New York and had his first major […]

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March 5: Ralph Bass and Black Music

Ralph Bass, a record producer and talent scout who brought Etta James, Lena Horne, Sam Cooke, James Brown, Brownie McGhee, John Lee Hooker, and The Platters into the recording studio (among many others), died at 86 on this date in 1997. Bass, who had a Jewish mother and an Italian Catholic father, traveled in the […]

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March 4: The Purim of Cairo

On this date in 1524, twelve prominent members of the Egyptian Jewish community in Cairo who had been seized by the Ottoman viceroy of Cairo, Ahmed Shaitan Pasha, were released after he was assassinated by Mohamed Bey, his own vizier, at the bathhouse. The assassinated viceroy had been in rebellion against the Sultan Suleiman of […]

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March 3: Arnold Newman’s “Environmental” Photography

John F. Kennedy on the White House lawn. Igor Stravinsky leaning on his elbow against a grand piano. Leonard Bernstein before the empty seats of an orchestra. Bob Dylan on a cobblestone street. Photographer Arnold Newman, creator of an “environmental” style of photography that posed celebrities in appropriately evocative settings, was born in New York […]

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March 2: Murray Rothbard and Rightwing Libertarianism

Murray Rothbard, an economist and political theorist who was a founding father of modern rightwing libertarianism, was born in the Bronx on this date in 1926. (Rothbard was a first cousin to JEWDAYO editor Lawrence Bush, though 25 years older.) Rothbard described himself as an anarcho-libertarian and a “paleoconservative” who found “all socialism” to be […]

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March 1: Africa Honors Anti-Apartheid Jews

The postal services of Liberia, Gambia, and Sierra Leone joined together on this date in 2011 to release a set of commemorative stamps honoring a dozen Jews who fought apartheid and racism in Africa. The black-and-white stamps show Helen Suzman, Eli Weinberg, Esther Barsel and Hymie Barsel (Liberia); Yetta Barenblatt, Ray Alexander Simons, Baruch Hirson […]

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February 29: Howard Nemerov

Two-time Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress, from 1963 to 1964 and from 1988 to 1990, Howard Nemerov was born in New York on this date in 1920. He was a formalist, often writing in meter and in classical forms (a prize for sonnets is named for Nemerov; it attracts some 3,000 entries each […]

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February 28: The Bubble Chamber

Donald A. Glaser, who at age 34 won the 1960 Nobel Prize in Physics for his creation in 1952 of the bubble chamber, a vessel filled with a superheated transparent liquid (usually liquid hydrogen) that can be used to detect electrically charged particles moving through it, died at 86 on this date in 2013. Glaser’s […]

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February 27: German Wives Protest

On this date in 1943, the Nazi Gestapo began arresting more than 10,000 Jews in the city of Berlin. Those who were intermarried (primarily men) and some children of those intermarriages were imprisoned at Rosenstrasse, a Jewish community center. The next morning, many of the men’s wives congregated at the building and shouted for the […]

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February 26: Tony Randall

Actor Tony Randall (Arthur Leonard Rosenberg), best known for his role as the fastidious Felix Unger in the TV series based on Neil Simon’ play The Odd Couple, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this date in 1920. Randall studied theater and dance in New York prior to serving with the Signal Corps during World […]

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February 25: From Her Walls to the Met

Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman, a painter who contributed several dozen works of Abstract Expressionist art by the likes of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, and Franz Kline to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and 170 works to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, was born in Chicago on this […]

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February 24: Take My Wife… Please

British-born comedian Henny Youngman, who specialized in delivering rapid-fire jokes with a violin tucked under his arm, died three weeks shy of his 92nd birthday on this date in 1998. He “could tell six, seven, sometimes even eight or more jokes a minute, 50 or more jokes in an eight-minute routine,” said the New York […]

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February 23: Our Day Will Come

“Our Day Will Come,” sung by Ruby and the Romantics, entered the Billboard chart of hit songs on this date in 1963, where it would climb to #1. The song was co-written by Bob Hilliard (Goldsmith) and Mort Garson. Hilliard was a Tin Pan Alley lyricist who also worked with Burt Bacharach, Carl Sigman, Jule […]

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February 22: Stefan Zweig

In despair over Nazism and the destruction it had wrought upon Europe, world-renowned writer Stefan Zweig used barbituates to commit suicide with his wife Charlotte Elisabeth Altmann on this date in 1942 in Petropolis, Brazil, where they had moved nearly two years earlier. “Every day I learned to love this country more,” he wrote in […]

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February 21: Murray the K

Radio disc jockey Murray “the K” Kaufman died at 60 on this date in 1982. Kaufman was the child of a vaudevillian mother and appeared in several Hollywood films in the 1930s. After World War II (in which he served organizing shows for troops), he worked as a song plugger and a Borscht Belt show […]

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February 20: Walter Winchell

Radio and newspaper commentator Walter Winchell died at 74 on this date in 1972. Winchell was the first syndicated gossip columnist with “On-Broadway” in the New York Daily Mirror, which he parleyed into enormous cultural and political influence. He was an early anti-Nazi, a proponent of American intervention in World War II, and a staunch […]

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February 19: The Lehi Leader Who Moved Left

Polish-born Nathan Yellin-Mor (Friedman), a leader of the so-called “Stern Gang” (Lohamel Herut Israel), the rightwing Jewish militia of pre-state Palestine that was responsible for several atrocities, including (with Irgun) the Deir Yassin massacre, died at 67 on this date in 1980. Yellin-Mor was arrested by the British in Syria in 1941 while he was […]

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February 18: Kodachrome

Leopold Godowsky, Jr., a concert violinist who joined with another musician, Leopold Damrosch Mannes, to develop Kodachrome film, died at 82 on this date in 1983. Their experimentation began in 1917, when they saw a movie advertised as a color film and felt dissatisfied with the color. They designed their own movie camera and projector […]

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February 17: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Actor and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is scheduled to play Edward Snowden in a forthcoming Oliver Stone film, and starred as aerial tightrope walker Philippe Petit in Robert Zemeckis’ film The Walk, was born in Los Angeles on this date in 1981. His parents were among the founders of the Progressive Jewish Alliance; his father […]

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February 16: Numbering Our Days

Anthropologist Barbara Myerhoff, whose fieldwork with elderly Jews in Venice, California yielded an Academy Award-winning documentary (1977) and book (1979) about aging and philosophies of life, Number Our Days, was born in Cleveland on this date in 1935. Myerhoff received her Ph.D from the University of California in 1968. Her dissertation and first book focused […]

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February 15: The Manifesto of Sarra Copia Sullam

Sarra Copia Sullam, described by Howard Tzvi Adelman at the Jewish Women’s Archive as “the most accomplished, and thus the least typical, Jewish woman writer of early-modern Italy,” died at 48 on this date in 1641. She was best known as a Venetian poet and a passionate correspondent with a Genoese playwright and monk Ansaldo […]

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February 14: The Billionaire Mayor

Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York from 2002-13 and the eighth wealthiest person in the world (according to Forbes in 2015) thanks to his creation of Bloomberg L.P., a financial data company, was born in Boston on this date in 1942. With an MBA from Harvard Business School, Bloomberg became a partner at Salomon […]

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February 13: A Blood Libel in Germany, 1195

In the wake of the Third Crusade, the Jews of Speyer, Germany were subjected to a blood libel (charges of ritual murder) and pogrom that took nine lives on this date in 1195. The first record of Jews in Speyer (from which the names “Shapiro” and its other variants derived) date to the 1070s, though […]

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February 12: The Great Eagle

The pioneering actor of the Yiddish theater, Jacob Adler, known as “the Great Eagle” (Adler meaning “eagle” in German), was born in Odessa on this date in 1855. He was briefly a boxer, and was a popular dancer, a peddler, a hoodlum — and a student of classical theater. Once he took to the stage, […]

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February 10: Ivri Lider and Israel’s Pop Scene

Israeli singer Ivri Lider, a member of The Young Professionals duo and one of the best-selling musicians in the country, was born on the Givat Haim kibbutz on this date in 1974. The Young Professionals combine electronic sounds, percussion, and guitars to create alternative pop music; you can hear a sample below. In 2002, with […]

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February 9: The Bubblegum-Card Maestro

Woody Gelman, co-creator of Bazooka Joe for Bazooka Bubble Gum, the Mars Attacks card series of 1962, and numerous other cartoons, comics, and other collectibles, died at 62 on this date in 1978. Gelman was a Brooklyn boy who attended City College, Cooper Union, and Pratt Institute, then worked with Max Fleischer’s studio, DC comics, […]

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February 8: Pauline Koner on Stage

Dancer Pauline Koner, who toured as a soloist for fifteen years before joining dance companies, and created extravaganzas for the Roxy Theater and other venues — including the glamorous “Holiday on Ice” revue — died at 89 in New York on this date in 2001. A child of the Workmen’s Circle (her father created the […]

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February 7: Non-Violent Communication

Marshall Rosenberg, a psychologist who was the creator of Non-Violent Communication (NVC), a communication process that helps to resolve conflicts without violence, died at 83 on this date in 2015. After spending his adolescence in a tough Detroit neighborhood (the family moved there one week before the 1943 Detroit race riot, which saw 34 people […]

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February 6: Giant Food’s First Supermarket

Nehemiah Cohen and Samuel Lehrman opened the first Giant supermarket in Washington, DC on this date in 1936. “At a time when most grocery shopping was done at small stores that specialized in meat, vegetables or canned goods,” writes Anthony Ramirez in the New York Times, “Giant Food helped pioneer large stores that offered a […]

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February 5: The Sidewalks of New York — and Betty Boop

The animation studio of Dave and Max Fleischer released on this date in 1929 their second cartoon titled “The Sidewalks of New York” (an earlier version came out in 1925) as part of their new “Screen Songs” series with Paramount Pictures. The cartoon marked the studio’s permanent transition to sound cartoons, with seventeen released in […]

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February 4: Aliens’ Badass Chicana

Remember the character PFC Jenette Vasquez in James Cameron’s 1986 sci-fi classic, Aliens? She toted a 65-pound weapon that had “Adios” scrawled on it, and wore a muscle shirt with “Loco” emblazoned on the back — and she was played by 5’2″ Jenette Elise Goldstein, born on this date in Los Angeles in 1960. Aliens […]

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February 3: None Shall Escape

None Shall Escape, a film that anticipated the post-war Nuremberg War Crimes trials, was released on this date in 1944. The film portrayed a Nazi officer on trial for his misdeeds and confronted by several witnesses, each of whom triggers a flashback scene. One shows the deportation of the Jews and other minority groups who […]

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February 2: Judge David Finkel

David Finkel, a judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court and a city council member in Santa Monica, California, was born in Newark, New Jersey on this date in 1932. Finkel was a lifelong progressive who participated in Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964 and stayed to work as a civil rights attorney throughout the following […]

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February 1: Arthur Miller’s “The Misfits”

Arthur Miller‘s film drama The Misfits premiered on this date in 1961, with Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable in the lead roles, a final film appearance for both of them. Monroe’s marriage to Miller was falling apart during the creation of the film, which he had written specifically for her. She was sinking into substance […]

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January 31: Amsterdam’s City Planner

Samuel Sarphati, a physician who built the Amstel Hotel, the Palace of National Industry, a garbage-collection system, a bread factory, and a trade school in Amsterdam as he sought to improve the hygiene among poor communities, was born in the city on this date in 1813. An Orthodox Sephardic Jew, Sarphati lived in an Amsterdam […]

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January 30: The First American Pop Psychologist

Joseph Jastrow, the first American to receive a doctorate in psychology, in 1883, and the first to bring psychology into popular parlance through articles, books, and lectures, was born in Warsaw on this date in 1863. A member of the psychology department at the University of Wisconsin, he built the first psychology laboratory that investigated […]

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January 29: Paddy Chayefsky

Sidney “Paddy” Chayefsky, the only solo writer to have won three Academy Awards for Best Screenplay — for Marty (1955), The Hospital (1971), and Network (1976) — was born in the Bronx on this date in 1923. Chayefsky was wounded during World War II and became a full-time short story and radio writer at the […]

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January 28: Abba Hillel Silver

Cleveland’s Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, a key player in the mobilization of Zionism in America, was born in present-day Lithuania on this date in 1893. He came to the U.S. at 9 and was educated in New York, which he left after high school to attend the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. Graduating as valedictorian, […]

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January 27: The Kotzker Rebbe

Khasidic rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgensztern, known as the Kotzker Rebbe, died at 71 in Kotzk, Poland on this date in 1859. The spiritual founder of the Ger dynasty, the Kotzker Rebbe sought to move the populist element of khasidism away from rabbi-worship and to restore a central place for Torah within khasidic worship. He never […]

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O My America: Breakfast Out

by Lawrence Bush I SAT at the counter in Deising’s reading the New York Times, drinking coffee, and waiting for them to cook my breakfast, when three nearby jerks started grousing about Caitlyn Jenner and her motivations for transitioning to female. Someone on the overhead TV had just referred to Jenner as “courageous,” and that […]

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January 25: The Neutron Bomb

Physicist Samuel T. Cohen, who sought to make nuclear weapons usable on the battlefield by creating the neutron bomb, which kills human beings with radiation while sparing buildings and other infrastructure, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1921. “I doubt whether the agony an irradiated soldier goes through in the process of dying […]

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January 24: What a Country!

Comedian Yakov Smirnoff (Pokhis), who starred in a TV sitcom, What a Country! in 1986-7, was born in Odessa on this date in 1951. Smirnoff emigrated to the U.S. in 1977 and developed a comic persona as a Soviet naif appalled by communism, astounded by American consumerism, and befuddled by the English language. He became […]

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January 23: Gustave Doré’s “Wandering Jew”

The prolific French artist and printmaker Gustav Doré (not Jewish), whose best-known works include the 1856 series of woodcut illustrations for a poem, “The Legend of the Wandering Jew,” died at 53 on this date in 1883. Doré had already made his name creating illustrations for Lord Byron and for a new English Bible, among […]

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January 22: Tullia Zevi and the Jews of Italy

Tullia Zevi, who was among the few women journalists to report on the Nuremberg war crimes trial in 1946 and served as president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities from 1983 to 1998, died at 91 on this date in 2011. Born Tullia Calabi in Milan, she was in Switzerland with her family in […]

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January 20: The Federation of Jewish Farmers

The Federation of Jewish Farmers was organized in New York City on this date in 1909. It was a federation of thirteen organizations (Connecticut farmers constituted the largest group) that grew to thirty-five within two years. According to the Jewish Women’s Archive, the organization held an agricultural fair in its first years during the week […]

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January 19: Goodbye, My Friends

“Goodbye, My Friends,” the final column by humorist Art Buchwald, was published by the Washington Post on this date in 2007, two days after his death from kidney failure at 81. “I chose to spend my final days in a hospice,” he wrote, “because it sounded like the most painless way to go, and you […]

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January 18: The Murder of Nathan Adler, a Peddler

On this date in 1851, sentencing took place for two of three brothers convicted of the robbery and murder, two years earlier, of Nathan Adler, a Jewish peddler from Syracuse, New York. John Baham was sentenced to death, as his brother Albert had been, while a third brother, Alfred, who had agreed to a guilty […]

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January 17: Sherlock Holmes and Anthony Horowitz

The Estate of Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, announced on this date in 2011 the selection of British novelist Anthony Horowitz, the author of some forty books as well as numerous television scripts (including Foyle’s War), to write a new Sherlock Holmes novel. The book, called The House of Silk, was published in […]

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January 16: The Bezalel Academy

The Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Israel’s national school of art, was established on this date in 1906 by Boris Schatz, a Lithuanian-born artist and sculptor. Its goals were “to train the people of Jerusalem in crafts, develop original Jewish art and support Jewish artists, and to find visual expression for the much yearned-for […]

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January 15: Song Sung Blue

Neil Diamond was paid $1 million to take the stage in the inaugural concert at Stockton, California’s new arena on this date in 2006. The concert — in a city that has a non-Hispanic white population of under 25 percent — lost nearly $400,000 and helped to bankrupt the city by 2012. (The arena lost […]

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January 14: Nina Totenberg and Esther Kartiganer

Two important Jewish women in broadcasting were born on this date: National Public Radio’s Supreme Court correspondent, Nina Totenberg (shown at left), born in New York in 1944, and 60 Minutes producer Esther Kartiganer, born in Berlin in 1938. Totenberg’s scoops have included Anita Hill’s accusations against Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, which led the […]

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The Paper Pushcart

Jewish Currents has acquired a stack of some of the most creative and progressive books for kids in two age groups, 2-5 and 6-10 — and we’d like to send them to your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, one book per one month for the next six months. The cost of enrolling in the Paper […]

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January 13: Owner of a Lonely Heart

Trevor Rabin, guitarist with the progressive rock band Yes and a film composer with more than forty scores to his credit, was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on this date in 1954. Although a musician from a young age and the son of a family of musicians (whom he describes as “extremely anti-apartheid”), he was […]

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January 12: The Rebbetzin Serves as Rabbi

Paula Ackerman, the first woman to serve as spiritual leader of an American synagogue when she was invited to take over the duties of her rabbi husband after his death in 1950, herself died at age 95 on this date in 1989. During the tenure of her husband at Congregation Beth Israel in Meridian, Mississippi […]

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January 11: Death of an Internet Activist

Aaron Swartz, 26, an activist for the free flow of information on the Internet, died a suicide on this date in 2013. At the time he was facing federal charges of computer fraud for hacking into JSTOR, the academic journal subscription service, from which he had downloaded and made available for free at least twenty […]

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January 10: Delmore Schwartz

Poet and short story writer Delmore Schwartz became the youngest-ever recipient of the Yale University’s Bollingen Prize on this date in 1959 for his collection of poetry, Summer Knowledge: New and Selected Poems. Schwartz (1913-66) broke upon the literary scene at 25 with In Dreams Begin Responsibilities, which was enthusiastically praised by T.S. Eliot, William […]

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January 9: Integrating the Metropolitan Opera

Rudolph Bing, who ran the Metropolitan Opera for twenty-two years (1950-72) as general manager and integrated its roster of singers by bringing Leontyne Price onstage in 1953 and Marian Anderson in 1955, was born in Vienna on this date in 1902. Bing moved with his Russian ballerina wife from Germany to Great Britain in 1934 […]

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January 8: Leo Lerman and Maria Callas

Condé Nast writer and editor Leo Lerman attended a performance of “La Traviata” at La Fenice opera house in Venice on this date in 1953 and “discovered” Maria Callas: “a monumental, Titian-haired, marmoreal figure, encased in her flounced but simple white gown, as she sits there casually, almost indolently, tossing white camellias toward the dancing […]

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January 7: Sampson Simson

A philanthropist who founded New York’s “Jews’ Hospital,” later Mount Sinai, Sampson Simson died at age 75 on this date in 1857. He was the son of a merchant family involved with shipping and the fur trade in colonial days. Simson studied under Aaron Burr, attended Columbia University in New York, and graduated (possibly Columbia’s […]

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January 6: Eduard Bernstein and Evolutionary Socialism

Eduard Bernstein, author of Evolutionary Socialism (1899), whose faith in the nonviolent reform of capitalism through labor union activity and parliamentary politics posed a powerful challenge to Karl Marx’s predictions about the coming proletarian revolution, was born in Berlin on this date in 1850. In exile from Germany during the late 1870s, and expelled a […]

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January 5: Chris Stein and Blondie

Lead guitarist, songwriter, and co-founder of the band Blondie, Chris Stein was born in Brooklyn to leftwing Jewish parents on this date in 1950. While studying at the School of Visual Arts, Stein photographed the downtown New York scene of the early 1970s and became lovers with Deborah Harry, the singer with whom he created […]

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January 4: Resistance in the Częstochowa Ghetto

Yitzhak Feiner and Mendel Fiszlewicz, two young members of the Jewish Fighting Organization, formed only weeks earlier in the Częstochowa Ghetto in Poland, used pistols to resist a Nazi round-up on this date in 1943. “Suddenly we heard one or two shots, the screams of Germans,” reports Dorka Sternberg-Bram, an eyewitness who later helped to […]

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January 3: The Great Dane

Danish pianist and comedian Victor Borge (Børge Rosenbaum) was born in Copenhagen on this date in 1909. The son of musicians and a child prodigy, he received a full scholarship at the Royal Danish Academy of Music and played his first major concert in 1926. Within a few years he began interrupting his own performances […]

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January 2: The Empress Eudocia in Jerusalem

Aelia Eudocia, a pagan Greek aristocrat who converted to Christianity in 421 when she married the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II, was declared ‘Augusta’ by her husband on this date in 423, a title that elevated her power in the royal court. In 438, Eudocia Augusta journeyed to Jerusalem, where she would ultimately live the final […]

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January 1: Jews of Haiti

Haiti declared its independence on this date in 1804, after ten years of revolution by former slaves led by Toussaint L’Ouverture (portrayed at right by Jacob Lawrence) had stymied both the French and British military. The uprising brought death or exile to most of Haiti’s small Jewish population, but a few years later, Jewish refugees […]

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December 31: Jule Styne, Time After Time

Jule Styne (Julius Stein), whose songwriting collaborations with Sammy Kahn (as well as Stephen Sondheim, Bob Merrill, and Betty Comden and Adolph Green, among others) yielded the scores for such hit Broadway shows as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Bells Are Ringing, Gypsy, and Funny Girl, was born in London on this date in 1905. Styne was a […]

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O My America: Exodus to 2016

The Refugees By Lawrence Bush THE BOOK OF EXODUS will be floating into the collective Jewish consciousness beginning this Friday, New Year’s Day — the book of “Going Out” (that’s what ‘Exodus’ means in Greek) — which has me trying to find the emotional space to think about what we’re leaving behind in 2015 and […]

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December 30: El Lissitzky

Russian artist, graphic designer, and architect El Lissitzky, an important avant-garde creator who strongly influenced the Bauhaus and constructivist movements, died at 51 on this date in 1941. Born in Lithuania, Lissitzky was barred by the anti-Semitic quota system from attending an art academy in Saint Petersburg, so he took himself to Germany in 1909 […]

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December 29: A Socialist in Congress

Meyer London, one of only two Socialist Party members elected to Congress (the other was Victor Berger), was born in Lithuania on this date in 1871. He came to New York at age 20 and worked as a tutor and printer while acquiring a law degree. London was a fundraising activist for the Jewish Bund […]

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December 28: Mass Sterilization

Nazi doctor Carl Clauberg began to sterilize Jewish and Roma women with formaldehyde injections and X-rays at the Auschwitz concentration camp on this date in 1942. Clauberg had been a respected gynecology researcher and fertility doctor who became a committed Nazi and sought permission from Heinrich Himmler to pursue sterilization experimentation upon captive women “so […]

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December 27: Radio City Music Hall

Radio City Music Hall, nicknamed “The Showplace of the Nation,” opened its doors to the public on Rockefeller Center for the first time on this date in 1932, as the Great Depression deepened. Created by John D. Rockefeller, David Sarnoff of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and Samuel Roxy Rothafel, the entrepreneur who had created […]

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December 26: Czechoslovakian Arms for Israel

Six Spitfire warplanes from Czechoslovakia landed in Israel on this date in 1948 as part of Operation Velvetta, which brought 50 such planes (at $23,000 each) from Czechoslovakia via Yugoslavia to aid Israel in its independence war against invading Arab states. Czechoslovakian weaponry, much of it seized from the defeated Germans in World War II, […]

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December 25: The Unconquered Sun

The Roman Emperor Aurelian established a feast of the birth of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), on this date in 274 CE. The move elevated the Sun God to a higher status among the divinities of Rome (which, of course, elevated the Sun God’s priesthood as well). Sol Invictus would be a popular god, considered […]

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December 24: Alexander Leaf and Cancer Prevention

A physician and researcher best known for advocating heart disease prevention through exercise and diet, Alexander Leaf (Livshiz) died at 92 on this date in 2012. Chief of medical services at Massachusetts General Hospital from 1966 to 1981, head of the department of preventive medicine at Harvard Medical School from 1981 to 1990, and a […]

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December 23: Peggy Guggenheim

Heiress art collector Peggy Guggenheim, whose artistic and sexual tastes helped shape the modern art world as she built a world-famous collection in less than a decade, 1938 to 1946, died at 81 on this date in 1979. In the 1920s, she lived a bohemian life in Paris; in 1938 she opened a gallery in […]

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December 22: Philip Rahv and Partisan Review

Ukrainian-born critic and essayist Philip Rahv (Feivel Greenberg), the co-founder in 1933 of Partisan Review, died at 65 in Cambridge, Massachusetts on this date in 1973. The journal he launched was originally a Communist publication, but broke with the Party line within five years of its founding, in reaction to the 1937 Moscow Trials, and […]

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December 21: Jeffrey Katzenberg and DreamWorks

Film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, who in 1994 cofounded DreamWorks with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen and serves as CEO of the company and overseer of its innovative animated films, was born in New York on this date in 1951. Katzenberg is a product of the Ethical Culture movement and has been married to Marilyn Siegel, […]

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December 20: Captain America

The first issue of Captain America, a comic book written and drawn by Joe (Hymie) Simon, with illustration help from Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg), hit the newsstands on this date in 1940 (the cover date was March, 1941). Published by Timely Comics under the leadership of Martin Goodman, Captain America was about a super-warrior […]

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December 19: Jews of Jamaica

England’s Privy Council granted full equality to Jews in the colony of Jamaica on this date in 1831 — at a time when the island was roiled by the largest slave rebellion in its history, with 200 plantations being seized by 20,000 enslaved people (under the leadership of Sam Sharpe, shown at right on Jamaican currency). […]

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December 18: The Mathematician of Biology

Mathematician Samuel Karlin, whose wide-ranging interests included mathematical applications for DNA analysis, game theory, economics, and population studies, died at 83 on this date in 2008. The author of 10 books and 450 scientific papers, he made significant contributions to the understanding of how random variables are governed by the laws of probability, how mathematical […]

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December 15: The American Jewish Congress

The American Jewish Congress held its first meeting on this date in 1918, which was also the anniversary of the 1791 ratification of the Bill of Rights, a document that AJCongress in its hey-day expended much of its energy and legal expertise defending and expanding. As a membership organization with local chapters, AJCongress aimed to […]

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December 14: Sholem Aleichem on Television

The World of Sholom Aleichem was broadcast on this date in 1959, on David Susskind’s show, The Play of the Week. Written by blacklisted writer Arnold Perl (adapted from his 1953 Off-Broadway play), it was performed on camera by several actors who had themselves been victims of McCarthyism, including Morris Carnovsky, Jack Gilford, Lee Grant, […]

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December 13: Stalin’s Interlocutor

Emil Ludwig (1881-1948), a German-Swiss Jewish journalist best known for his interviews with Benito Mussolini, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and Joseph Stalin, conducted the latter one in Moscow on this date in 1931. “Never under any circumstances,” Stalin told him, without irony, “would our workers now tolerate power in the hands of one person. With us […]

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December 12: Native American Tribes of Israel?

The New York Times reported on this date in 1851 that Pategwe, a Pottawatomie Indian in the Kansas Territory, had lent Dr. Johnston Lykins, a frontier doctor (shown at left), “four small scrolls or strips of parchment, closely packed in the small compartments of a little box or locket of about an inch cubical content. […]

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December 11: Law and Moral Integrity

The influential legal scholar and philosopher Ronald Dworkin was born in Providence, Rhode Island on this date in 1931. An erudite contributor for several decades to the New York Review of Books, and a professor at Yale, Oxford, and NYU, among other institutions, Dworkin believed in the rightness of an interpretive approach to law, including […]

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O My America: The Jewish Taliban

THE MACCABEES of ancient Jewish history were the Jewish Taliban, the Hebrew ISIS. They were fighting, in the name of religious orthodoxy and cultural purity, against a foreign culture (Hellenism) that had seduced their people — and when the army of that foreign culture became overbearing (the Syrian Greeks, or Seleucids), the Maccabees took up […]

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December 10: Fats Domino and Lew Chudd

Creole musician Fats Domino recorded his first songs for Imperial Records on this date in 1949, including the song, “The Fat Man,” which would sell a million copies by 1953 and provide him with his stage name. Imperial Records was owned by Lew Chudd (Louis Chudnofsky), a Canadian-born Jew who grew up in Harlem and […]

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Notes from a Small Planet: War as an Environmental Plague

by Lawrence Bush IF GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE is to be slowed and capped at levels short of sheer disaster, the Paris conference that is now negotiating emission levels and strategies for going green should transmute into an international peace conference. The environmental footprint of war is hugely disproportionate to the amounts of geography usually being […]

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December 8: 25,000 in Two Days

The Rumbula Massacre, second only to Babi Yar as the deadliest two days for Jews during the nightmarish years of the Holocaust, concluded on this date in 1941. Carried out in or near the Rumbula Forest near Riga, Latvia, the mass-shootings were done by the Nazi Einsatzgruppe A with the help of local Latvian militia. […]

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December 7: The Father of Conservative Judaism

Solomon Schechter, the Jewish scholar and educator who served as architect of the Conservative denomination of Judaism, was born to a Lubavitcher family in Romania on this date in 1847. Schechter became internationally known in 1896 for discovering and bringing to London more than 100,000 pages of rare manuscripts from the Cairo genizah. Invited from […]

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O My America: Eight Themes for Khanike Gelt

by Lawrence Bush KHANIKE GELT — SMALL GIFTS OF MONEY — HAS ROOTS IN DAYS OF JEWISH POVERTY when children rarely had a penny of their own. It was also a means of paying kheyder teachers and helping them get around the halakhic injunction against profiting from the teaching of Torah. In contemporary times of […]

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December 6: Pioneering Women Rabbis

Rabbis Sally Priesand, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Amy Eilberg, and Sara Hurwitz — the first ordained women rabbis from the Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, and contemporary or “open” Orthodox movements, respectively — gathered together publicly for the first time at Temple Reyim in Boston on this date in 2010. They lit khanike candles and “also discussed what […]

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December 5: Frits Philips, a Righteous Dutchman

Frits Philips, who headed the Dutch electronics company Philips and saved thousands of Jews during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands by requisitioning their labor, died at 100 on this date in 2005. While most of his family fled the Nazis to the United States, Philips stayed and kept the company alive. He had a […]

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December 4: The Jewish Army, 1941

Samuel Harden Church, president of the Carnegie Institute, presided at a meeting of the Committee for a Jewish Army of Stateless and Palestinian Jews in Washington, DC on this date in 1941. Church proposed an army of 200,000 Jews who would be exempted from the draft, trained in Canada, and armed with Lend-Lease weaponry. “Jews […]

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December 3: Madeline Kahn

Actress Madeline Kahn (Wolfson), best know for her comedic roles in a series of Mel Brooks films, including What’s Up, Doc? (1972), Young Frankenstein (1974), Blazing Saddles (1974), High Anxiety (1977), and History of the World, Part I (1981), died at 57 on this date in 1999. Kahn, who acted in over forty films, was […]

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December 2: “The World’s Greatest Saloon Singer”

Sylvia Syms (Blagman), whom Frank Sinatra called “the world’s greatest saloon singer,” was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1917. She recovered from childhood polio to become a hanger-on at jazz clubs in New York, where she met and received informal training from Billie Holiday. Syms made her own debut in 1941, and signed […]

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O My America: 150 Million Jews!

A FRIEND OF MINE who works in the civil and human rights field in New York recently asked a class he was teaching what percentage of America they thought was Jewish. Their answers ranged from 20 percent to over 50 percent. The students themselves, would-be social workers and organizers, were a mixed lot, about 70 […]

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December 1: Protesting the Armenian Genocide, 1895

The New York Times reported on this date in 1895 that Rabbi Joseph Silverman, the leader of New York’s massive Temple Emanu-El, had the day before “delivered an eloquent sermon” urging Jewish solidarity with Armenians who were being killed by Turkey during the Hamidian Massacres, 1894-1896, which orphaned some 50,000 Armenian children in a prelude […]

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November 30: The Botanist

Nathanael Prigsheim, a botanist who identified the sexual reproduction process in algae and contributed greatly to the human knowledge of other plant life, was born in Germany on this date in 1823. As a young man, he was a politically active liberal during the 1848 uprisings in his region and was arrested at least once. […]

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November 29: Bribery for Survival

Rabbi Michael Ber Weissmandl, who organized, (with Gisl Fleischmann) what he called his “Working Group” of Jewish leaders who tried to use bribery to delay the transport of Slovakian and Hungarian Jews to concentration camps, died in Mt. Kisco, New York on this date in 1957. Weissmandl was a scholar at Oxford University when he […]

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November 28: Randy Newman

Songwriter and film composer Randy Newman, the recipient of twenty Academy Award nominations (and two Awards) for his music, was born in Los Angeles on this date in 1943. (Three of his uncles, including Alfred Newman, were noted composers.) Several of his songs, including “Short People” and “Rednecks,” have sparked controversy for being blunt and […]

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November 27: Barnett Baff and the Poultry Racket

The New York Times reported on this date in 1914 that a murdered New York poultry whole-saler, Barnett Baff, had been buried in the Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn, under the auspices of “the Temple Anshe Bialistok, in Willett Street” on the Lower East Side — and that arrests were imminent in the case. “I know […]

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November 25: Architect of Collins Avenue

Morris Lapidus, an architect who designed more than 1,200 buildings, including 250 hotels worldwide and much of the skyline of Miami Beach, was born in Odessa on this date in 1902. Lapidus studied architecture at Columbia University and was doing mostly interior design for twenty years until Miami beckoned: In 1952, he designed the largest […]

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November 24: You Wouldn’t Be Reading This Without Him

Inventor Stanford Ovshinsky, who died with more than 400 patents to his name, was born to Lithuanian immigrants in Akron, Ohio on this date in 1922. His inventions included the nickel-metal hydride battery used extensively in laptop computers and cell phones (and the Toyota Prius), as well as flat-screen liquid crystal displays and numerous modern […]

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November 23: Life Magazine

The first edition of the weekly Life magazine was published on this date in 1936, with five pages of photographs by Alfred Eisenstadt, a refugee from Nazi Germany. The cover price was 10¢, and the cover photograph of the Fort Peck Dam in Montana, a Works Progress Administration project, was by Margaret Bourke-White (whose father […]

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November 22: Bolshevik Starvation

Lazar Moiseyevich Kaganovich, a revolutionary Bolshevik who was enormously loyal to Stalin and responsible for implementing the agricultural collectivization policies that led to mass starvation in the Ukraine, 1932-33, was born in Ukraine on this date in 1893. Among his roles in the USSR were commissar for Red Army propaganda, 1918; leader of anti-Muslim campaign […]

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November 21: A Mother of German Social Work

Jeannette Schwerin, a founder of the German Society for Ethical Culture and a pioneer of social work in Berlin, was born on this date in 1852. She was active in the Woman Welfare Club, which sought reform of the educational and prison systems, and of the German Central Institute for Social Issues, a project of […]

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November 20: Edward Longshanks

Edward I, known as “Longshanks” for his unusual height, ascended to the English throne on this date in 1272 at the age of 33. He would be remembered most for his cruel wars of conquest and colonization against Wales and Scotland, for establishing Parliament as a permanent legislature, and for evicting Jews from his kingdom […]

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November 19: The Richest Woman in Great Britain

Hannah Primrose, the Countess of Rosebery, who became the wealthiest woman in Great Britain when her father, Baron Mayer de Rothschild, died in 1874, herself died of typhus at only 39 on this date in 1890. Her marriage in 1874 to Philip Archibald Primrose, the Earl of Rosebery, was one of the most talked-about social […]

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November 18: Rabbi Ganef

Yona Metzger, then Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, was arrested on this date in 2013 on numerous counts of bribery, fraud, and money laundering. Metzger held the influential position from 2003 to 2013; the main witness against him was his driver, who was paid 10 percent nearly $2.6 million in illegal proceeds. Metzger had already […]

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November 17: David Amram

Multi-instrumentalist, composer, and lifelong hipster David Amram was born on this date in 1930. Amram was one of the first jazz players to improvise on French horn, and one of the first classical composers to blend jazz themes into his work. His collaborators have included Leonard Bernstein, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Willie Nelson, James Galway, […]

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November 16: Photographing Elvis

Alfred Wertheimer, who took some 2,500 unposed photographs of Elvis Presley over the course of ten days in 1956, shortly after Elvis had released “Heartbreak Hotel,” was born in Coburg, Germany on this date in 1929. His family emigrated to New York in 1936 to escape the Nazis. Wertheimer was only 26 when he was […]

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November 15: From the ANC to the Cabinet

Ronald Kasrils, a South African communist and African National Congress activist who became Minister for Intelligence Services in the post-apartheid government, was born in Johannesburg on this date in 1938. Kasrils was a director of TV advertisements when he was radicalized by the 1960 Sharpeville massacre and joined the ANC and the South African Communist […]

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November 14: UN Hypocrisy

The United Nations General Assembly passed nine resolutions condemning Israel on this date in 2013, leading an interpreter to say to her colleagues (but on a live microphone that transmitted her words into the ears of every delegate): “C’est un peu trop, non? [It’s a bit much, no?] I mean I know… There’s other really […]

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November 13: 1,000 Talmuds Put to the Match

Some 1,000 copies of the Talmud were dragged through the streets and burned on this date in 1757 in Kamenets-Podolsk, Poland, following a disputation between Jacob Frank and local Jewish leaders. Frank was the leader of an heretical, anti-rabbinic movement, descended from the messianic movement of Shabtai Zvi. The Frankists had been excommunicated by the […]

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November 12: Against the Death Penalty

Norman Redlich, dean of the New York University Law School, a member of the Warren Commission (which investigated the assassination of John F. Kennedy), and a strong opponent of the death penalty, was born in the Bronx on this date in 1925. Early in his career, Redlich was active in the National Emergency Civil Liberties […]

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November 11: Brother Theodore

Comedian, monologuist, and chess sharp Theodore Gottlieb, who made his mark as “Brother Theodore” in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, was born in Dusseldorf, Germany on this date in 1906. The Nazis imprisoned him in Dachau until he signed over his family’s wealth (his father was a fashion-magazine mogul), and Albert Einstein, a family friend […]

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Remembering the Jews Who Fought Back

by Lawrence Bush The introductory essay from the Autumn 2015 special issue of Jewish Currents on the theme, “Honoring the Jewish Resistance.” IT SEEMS INCOMPREHENSIBLE, however often you contemplate it, and no matter how jaundiced your view of the human mob: That an advanced country could be so consumed by racism as to target every […]

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November 10: The First Hebrew Novel

Joseph Perl, whose 1819 epistolary novel ridiculing khasidism, Revealer of Secrets (Megaleh Temirim), is considered by some to be the first modern novel in Hebrew (Perl translated it into Yiddish to make it accessible to Jews), was born on this date in 1773 in Galicia. He was a follower of khasidism as a boy, but wrote […]

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November 9: Kristallnacht

The Nazis inaugurated the two-day rampage against Jews, Jewish businesses and homes, and synagogues known as Kristallnacht (The Night of the Broken Glass) in Germany, Austria, and the occupied part of Czechoslovakia on this date in 1938. The trigger was the November 7th assassination of Ernst von Rath, a German embassy official stationed in Paris, […]

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November 8: William Davidon and the FBI Break-In

William Davidon, the Haverford professor who led the March 8, 1971 break-in at the Media, Pennsylvania FBI office, which resulted in public disclosure of COINTELPRO, the agency’s program of targeting the Black Panthers and other radical and anti-war groups for disruption, disinformation, and murder, died at 86 on this date in 2013. According to The […]

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November 7: The Mother of Improvisational Theater

Theater coach and innovator Viola Spolin, who created theater games to focus actors on the here-and-now and empower them to improvise, was born on this date in 1906. Spolin studied group games and their use to address social problems at the Neva Boyd Group Work School in Chicago in the 1920s. Training as a settlement […]

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November 6: Sweden’s Queen Christina

Christina became the queen of Sweden at age 6 on this date in 1632. She would begin to rule at 18 and would grow into a highly unconventional woman for her day: She dressed like a man, refused to marry, was highly educated (commanding nine languages), had passionate relationships with women and men, was a […]

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November 5: Abraham Liessin and The Future

Socialist poet and editor Abraham Liessin (Walt) died at 68 on this date in 1938. He was a well-known socialist writer in Minsk, Belorussia, and came in 1896 to New York, where he worked as writer and editor for the newly-founded Jewish Daily Forward. Liessin was active in the Social Labor Party as a fierce […]

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November 4: Raphael Soyer’s Canvases

The leftwing painter Raphael Soyer, the best-known of three artist brothers (including his twin Moses and Isaac), died at 87 on this date in 1987. Soyer was admired for his realistic street scenes and his intimate paintings of people in face-to-face circumstances or states of introspection during the Great Depression. He was also known  for […]

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November 3: Celebrating the Tsar’s Death

Some 2,000 Jews in Boston attended a mock funeral for Tsar Alexander III at Memorial Hall on this date in 1894, in celebration of his death two days earlier. According to a wire service article at the time, “socialists and labor leaders were the orators,” and “parodists were numerous, and the music was enlivening.” Alexander […]

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November 2: Revolt in the Marcinkonys Ghetto

A squad of fifteen German soldiers was assigned to liquidate the Marcinkonys Ghetto in Lithuania on this date in 1942. They ordered the nearly 400 inhabitants to appear for “labor duty” at 8 a.m. at the entrance to the 3.7-acre ghetto. An official complaint later written by forester Hans Lehmann, a Nazi party member, stated […]

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November 1: Arab Cartoonists and the 2012 Election

The Anti-Defamation League reported on this date in 2012 that the U.S. electoral contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney was being portrayed in many Arab newspapers as a contest between candidates “indis­tin­guish­able in their sub­servience to Jews and Israel…. On a daily basis, the edi­to­r­ial car­toons which ADL com­piles from media out­lets across the region […]

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October 31: Andrew Fastow and Enron

A federal grand jury in Houston indicted Andrew Fastow, former chief financial officer of Enron, on 78 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice related to the company’s collapse on this date in 2002. Fastow would plead guilty and be sentenced to four years in prison and two years of supervised […]

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October 30: Escaping to the Partisans

Dr. Zelik Levinbok escaped with his wife and 8-year-old son from the Koldichevo concentration camp in Belorussia on this date in 1943. The camp was used for imprisoning Polish and Belorussian members of anti-Nazi resistance, and Jews from several towns and precincts. Between 1942 and ’44, 22,000 people, mostly Jews, were murdered there. Levinbok had been […]

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October 29: Baby Snooks

Fanny Brice (Borach), star of stage, screen, recordings and radio airwaves, was born in New York on this date in 1891. She headlined the Ziegfield Follies from 1910-1911 and again in the ’20s and ’30s, and had hit songs there with “Second Hand Rose” and “My Man.” “Her lampoon of sultry Theda Bara,” wrote the […]

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October 28: Mendel Beilis’ Nightmare Ends

After two years of brutal imprisonment, Mendel Beilis was acquitted on this date in 1913 of charges of murder in a Kiev “blood libel” trial that drew the world’s attention. Beilis was an army veteran and the father of five children who worked as a superintendent at a brick factory. When a 13-year-old boy was […]

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October 27: The Church of Beethoven

Felix Wurman, a cellist who founded the Church of Beethoven in an abandoned gas station on Route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was born on this date in 1958. The son of an Austrian Jewish composer who fled the Nazi Anschluss, Wurman performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 12, declined an invitation to […]

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October 26: Launch of The Village Voice

Norman Mailer, a best-selling author with his novel, The Naked and the Dead, joined four other literati in launching The Village Voice on this date in 1955. It was the first of numerous “alternative weeklies” in America, and among its best-known Jewish regulars were cartoonists Jules Feiffer and Stan Mack, First Amendment watchdog (and jazz […]

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October 25: Sir Martin Gilbert and the Holocaust

Martin Gilbert, the official biographer of Winston Churchill (about whom he wrote 30 books!) and an important historian of the Holocaust and Jewish resistance to Nazism, was born in London on this date in 1936 and evacuated to Canada as World War II began. At Oxford in 1962, he was approached by Randolph Churchill to […]

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O My America: Carson and Netanyahu

Comments about Their Comments by Lawrence Bush I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed. I’m telling you there is a reason these dictatorial people take guns first.” —Ben Carson on CNN   WHEN THE BIALYSTOK Ghetto uprising began on […]

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October 23: Leonard Freed, in Black and White

Magnum photographer Leonard Freed, who documented the realities of racial segregation and ghettoization — and the struggle against them — was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1929. Freed moved to Amsterdam in 1958 and began to document the life of the city’s Jewish community. In the 1960s he captured the energies of the […]

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October 22: Weidner’s “Swiss Way”

Founder of an underground network that enabled 1,080 people, including 800 Dutch Jews and more than 112 Allied pilots who had been shot down, to escape Nazi-occupied France during World War II, Johan Hendrik Weidner was born to Dutch parents in Belgium on this date in 1912. Raised as a Seventh Day Adventist, Weidner had a […]

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October 21: Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow (1915-2005) won the Nobel Prize for Literature on this date in 1976, for writing that mixed, said the Nobel Committee, the “rich picaresque novel and subtle analysis of our culture…  entertaining adventure, drastic and tragic episodes in quick succession interspersed with philosophic conversation… all developed by a commentator with a witty tongue and […]

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October 20: Solomon Bush and the American Revolution

Twenty-four-year-old Solomon Bush, a member of the revolutionary Pennsylvania militia who had been dangerously wounded and taken prisoner (and then paroled) by the British in the September, 1777 Battle of Brandywine, received special notice from the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania on this date in 1779 in a resolution that honored his service to the […]

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October 19: The American Negro Blues Festival

The American Negro Blues Festival, in its second year, came to Great Britain for the first time on this date in 1963. The festival electrified young British rock and rollers Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant with performances by Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Sonny Boy Williamson, among others, some of […]

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October 18: Gay Adoption in Israel

Uzi Even, an Israeli chemistry professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University and a former politician who was the first openly gay serving member of the Knesset (as a member of Meretz), was born in Haifa on this date in 1940. In 2004, Uzi married his partner Amit Kama in Canada — the only country that […]

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October 16: Protesting the Tuskegee Study

Dr. Irwin Schatz, the only medical professional to write a letter of protest about the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment — a letter ignored when written but uncovered years later by an investigator, Peter Buxton, who blew the whistle on the experiment — was born to kosher restaurateurs in St. Boniface, Canada on this date in 1931. […]

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October 15: Charlap’s Songbook

Jazz pianist Bill Charlap was born in New York on this date in 1966. His father, Moose Charlap (Morris Isaac Charlip), was a musical theater composer best known for writing the Peter Pan musical (yes, the one with Mary Martin); his mother, Sandy Stewart, was a jazz singer. “I never wasn’t going to be a […]

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October 14: The First National LGBTQ March

Some 100,000 people participated in the first National March on Washington For Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights on this date in 1979, galvanized by the assassination of Harvey Milk, who had helped to plan and organize the event. The National Steering Committee for the march, with mandated gender parity and 25 percent representation of people of […]

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October 13: Sacha Baron Cohen

British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who plays goofy, unselfconscious characters who draw unsuspecting people into highly uncomfortable situations, was born in West London on this date in 1971. His show biz break came with Da Ali G Show (HBO), in which his title character is an ignorant hip-hop “gangsta” who conducts interviews with real-life experts […]

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October 12: The Strongest Man in the World

Zishe Breitbart, a circus performer billed as “The Strongest Man in the World,” died at 32 from blood poisoning due to an infection incurred during his act on this date in 1925. Breitbart grew up in a blacksmith family in Poland and developed performances linked to the trade: bending iron bars, biting through iron chains, […]

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October 11: Einstein’s Letter to FDR

On this date in 1939, Alexander Sachs, an economic adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt, delivered and summarized a letter written to the president on August 2nd by Albert Einstein, in consultation with Leó Szilárd, describing the possibility of building an atomic bomb and noting that “Germany has actually stopped the sale of uranium from the […]

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October 10: Daniel Pearl

Journalist Daniel Pearl, whose videotaped beheading by Al Qaeda militants on February 1, 2002 brought a heightened grimness and sense of terror about Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, was born in Princeton, New Jersey on this date in 1963. Pearl was working as the South Asia Bureau Chief of The Wall Street Journal when he was kidnapped […]

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October 9: “Daniel Deronda”

The New York Times reviewed George Eliot’s proto-Zionist novel, Daniel Deronda, on this date in 1876, describing it as inferior to Eliot’s previous works, especially Middlemarch, but with a “Hebrew character” to whom “the author does full justice… a fact which we are pleased to notice in contrast to what, in the mildest language, we […]

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The Talmud’s Atheist

by Lawrence Bush ONE SABBATH AFTERNOON, some two thousand years ago, Rabbi Elisha ben Avuyah was studying Torah when he looked up and saw a man climbing a palm tree. The fellow had apparently spotted some birds’ nests and was breaking the sabbath law to raid them. He seized both a fledgling and its mother […]

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October 8: Levi Yitzkhak of Berditchev

Known as the “defense attorney for the Jewish people” because of his legendary public arguments with God over issues of justice, fairness, and worldly evil, Rabbi Levi Yitzkhak of Berditchev, Ukraine died there on this date in 1809 (his tomb is shown at left). A child prodigy, he was a disciple of the Maggid of […]

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October 7: Irving Penn

Fashion photographer and portraitist Irving Penn died at 92 on this date in 2009. His work was strongly tied to Vogue magazine, where he had his first cover in October 1943, but his career came in several stages, including, according to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, “street scenes from the late 1930s, photographs of the […]

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October 6: Sadat’s Assassination

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was assassinated on this date in 1981, the eighth anniversary of the 1973 war that was known in Israel as the Yom Kippur War. His assassins were members of Islamic Jihad, and their motivation was Sadat’s signing of a peace agreement with Israel in 1978, for which both he and Israeli […]

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October 5: A Spy Among the Turks

Palestine-born Sarah Aaronsohn, who became a spy serving the British against the Ottoman Empire after she witnessed a massacre of Armenians by the Turks while she was en route to Haifa, shot herself on this date in 1917 to avoid further torture after having been captured. She died four days later. Aaronsohn and her siblings […]

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October 4: Walking on the Moon with Liev Schreiber

Actor Liev Schreiber, who has moved in recent years from independent film work to mainstream Hollywood movies, was born in San Francisco on this date in 1967. His Jewish mother, in his words, a “far-out Socialist Labor Party hippie bohemian freak who hung out with William Burroughs,” raised him in flight from his father and […]

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October 3: Guitarist with the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Guitarist and vocalist Josh Adam Klinghoffer, who in 2012 became the youngest person ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was born in Los Angeles on this date in 1979. Klinghoffer is a multi-instrumentalist who also leads the alternative rock band Dot Hacker, […]

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October 2: Mathematics in Braille

Abraham Nemeth, the founder of a system of Braille for mathematics that enabled people without sight to study and work in the field, died just short of his 95th birthday on this date in 2013. Born blind into a Yiddish-speaking family of Hungarian Jews, he developed the Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Science Notation […]

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October 1: The Communist Who Couldn’t Quit

British Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, author of an acclaimed trilogy about the rise of industrial capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism, died in London at 95 on this date in 2012. Born in Egypt, Hobsbawm was orphaned at 14 and went to live with relatives in Berlin. The rise of Nazism drove the family to London, and […]

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September 30: The Righteous Egyptian

Dr. Mohamed Helmy became the first Egyptian recognized by Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among the Nations” on this date in 2013. Helmy went to Germany from Khartoum in 1922 and became a researcher at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin. Defined as a “descendant of Ham” by Nazi racial policy, he was dismissed in 1937 […]

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September 29: Stanley Kramer and Socially Conscious Film

Hollywood director and producer Stanley E. Kramer, who shepherded into existence numerous successful films with progressive social messages, particularly about racism — including Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Defiant Ones, Inherit the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg, The Caine Mutiny, and High Noon — was born in New York on this date in 1913. His […]

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O My America: Bernie and the Christian Right

by Lawrence Bush NOW COMPLETING my semi-annual journey into the South to visit my daughter in South Carolina, I yesterday came upon this article in the Columbia Free Times, under the headline, “Should Christians Support Bernie Sanders?” Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders ventured into territory less likely to welcome his liberal message on September 14: […]

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September 28: Madeleine Kunin

Madeleine Kunin, the first Jewish woman elected as a governor of a state (Vermont, from 1985 to 1991), was born in Zurich, Switzerland on this date in 1933. She moved to the U.S. with her mother in 1940 (her father died, a suicide, when she was 3), and worked as a journalist for the Burlington […]

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September 27: Seligman, Missouri

The town of Herdsman, Missouri (also known as Roller’s Ridge), on the Ozark Plateau, was renamed Seligman on this date in 1880, to honor Joseph Seligman (1819-1880), a financier of railroads. The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad had transformed the town from a small settlement of railroad workers, with only a liquor store, a drug store, […]

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September 26: Gräfenberg and the G-Spot

Dr. Ernst Gräfenberg, inventor of the intrauterine birth control device (IUD), who was rescued by Margaret Sanger from a Nazi prison in 1940, was born near Göttingen, Germany on this date in 1881. Gráfenberg moved from opthalmology to obstetrics and gynecology in the years before World War I and developed the “Gräfenberg ring,” the first […]

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Notes from a Small Planet: Pity for Living Creatures

by Lawrence Bush Discussed in this essay: Beyond Words, What Animals Think and Feel, by Carl Safina. Henry Holt and Company, 2015, 461 pages. MORE THAN A CENTURY AGO, the great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem wrote a short story, “Pity for Living Creatures,” narrated by a sensitive, pre-adolescent boy who is always getting thrashed by […]

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September 25: Robert Briscoe

Robert Briscoe, a son of Lithuanian Jews who was active in the Irish Republican Army and Sinn Féin during the Irish War of Independence (1919-21), was born in Ranelagh on this date in 1894. His father built up a very successful furniture manufacturing business in Ireland, while Briscoe himself — sent to America by his […]

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September 24: The National Farm School

The Board of Commissioners of Public Charities in Pennsylvania visited the National Farm School in Doylestown, Pennsylvania on this date in 1899. The school, on 122 acres, had been chartered three years earlier under the leadership of Rabbi Joseph Krauskopf (1958-1923), the spiritual leader of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, the oldest reform synagogue in Philadelphia, “to […]

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September 23: Dr. Serotonin

Dr. Maurice M. Rapport, who helped to isolate, name, and determine the structure of the neurotransmitter serotonin (from “serum” and “tonic”), which led to the development of serotonin-uptake inhibitors and other drugs for mental health, was born in Atlantic City on this date in 1919. Rapport published his findings about the structure of serotonin in […]

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September 22: Mad Magazine’s Will Elder

Cartoonist Will Elder (Wolf William Eisenberg), whose uncanny ability to capture and satirize the drawing styles of many other artists resulted in some of Mad magazine’s most memorable satires, was born in the Bronx on this date in 1921. Elder’s best-known cartoons included “Mickey Rodent!” (a takeoff on Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck), “Starchie!” […]

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September 21: Jailed for His Silent Movie

Robert Goldstein, a costume supplier for the nascent Hollywood film industry who was jailed for making a silent movie, The Spirit of ’76, that portrayed Great Britain in a critical light just as the U.S. was entering World War I as Britain’s ally, was born on this date in 1883. Goldstein had been an investor […]

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September 20: Yom Kippur Anarchists’ Ball, 1893

The anarchist Yiddish newspaper Fraye Arbiter Shtime (Free Voice of Labor) sponsored its annual Yom Kippur concert and ball, “with a pleasant… and tasteful buffet,” at Clarendon Hall, 114 East 13th Street, in New York City on this date in 1893. This mass anti-religious event was met by “an estimated mob of five to six […]

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September 19: Elizabeth Stern versus Cervical Cancer

Groundbreaking Canadian pathologist Elizabeth Stern, whose investigations into the progression of cells from normal to cancerous turned cervical cancer into a detectable and treatable disease, was born on this date in 1915. Stern became a U.S. citizen in 1943 and was one of the first biologists to specialize in cytopathology, the study of diseased cells. […]

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Mameloshn: On the Road Stands a Tree

by Lawrence Bush In the video below, a Hungarian Jew is singing Itsik Manger’s “Oyfn Veyg Shteyt a Boym” (On the Road Stands a Tree). Watch it for three verses or so and you’ll understand the meaning of being Jewish in the world today… The singer is Hans Breuer, part of a convoy of people […]

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September 18: Larry Bloch and the Wetlands Preserve

Larry Bloch, founder of Wetlands Preserve, a music club dedicated to environmental activism, was born in Philadelphia on this date in 1953. His parents were the owners of Perfect Fit, a bedding products company. Wetlands was launched in 1989 in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood. Among the bands that were nurtured there were Phish, Dave Matthews, Joan […]

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September 17: Fighting the Cheyenne

The three-day Battle of Beecher Island, coming after Civil War veteran Colonel George Forsyth and fifty hand-picked frontiersmen, veterans, and hunters sought to kill Plains Indians of various tribes who had murdered some 79 settlers in a series of raids in modern-day Arkansas and Colorado, got underway on this date in 1868. The Indians had […]

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September 16: Red Threads and Big Bucks

Rabbi Philip Berg (Shraiga Feivel Gruberger), founder of the Kabbalah Centre, which combined Jewish mysticism with New Age concepts and captured the imaginations of Madonna, Britney Spears, Demi Moore, Elizabeth Taylor, and several other big-time celebrities, died at 86 on this date in 2013. A former insurance salesman, he established the first Kabbalah Centre in […]

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September 15: The Only Woman Escapee

Mala Zimetbaum, the only woman to escape from Auschwitz-Birkenau, was shipped there from Belgium on this date in 1942. She was an inmate in the camp for two years, working as an interpreter (she spoke Flemish, French, German, English, and Polish) and using her position to help other slave laborers. In June 1944, Zimetbaum’s lover […]

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September 14: Vasily Grossman

Novelist and journalist Vasily Grossman, author of Life and Fate and Forever Flowing and of dispatches from the war front that brought to life the story of the suffering and sacrifice of the Soviet Red Army in the anti-Nazi struggle, died at 59 on this date in 1964. Grossman endured censorship of his writing throughout […]

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September 13: Schoenberg’s Twelve Tones

Composer Arnold Schoenberg, whose use of atonality and the 12-tone manipulation of the chromatic scale became major influences in modern music, was born in Vienna on this date in 1874. He was largely self-taught. Schoenberg converted to Lutheran Christianity in 1898 (his mentor Gustav Mahler had become a Catholic the year before), but returned to […]

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September 11: Studying Talmud All Around the World

Rabbi Meir Shapira of Lublin (1887-1933), at a European Orthodox Congress in August, 1923, proposed that Jewish men all over the world simultaneously study the same page of the Babylonian Talmud and pursue their study for a seven-and-a-half-year cycle of daily reading that would lead to the completion of the Talmud’s 2,711 pages. Agudas Israel […]

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September 10: Simon Dubnow

Simon Dubnow, one of the founders of modern Jewish historical scholarship and a prolific memoirist and essayist about secular Jewish life and politics in Eastern Europe, was murdered at age 81 by the Nazis during the liquidation of the Riga Ghetto on this date in 1941. Dubnow was an advocate the Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment, […]

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September 9: Sol LeWitt

Sol LeWitt, a founder of both the conceptual and minimalist art movements, was born to immigrant parents in Hartford, CT on this date in 1928. Prolific in many media, including print-making, sculpture, and graphic design, LeWitt gained international prominence in the 1960s for his patterned wall drawings, which follow mathematical instructions, are executed directly on […]

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September 8: Simon Sez

Lou Goldstein, who served as tumler (social director) at the Grossinger’s Catskill Mountain resort from 1948 to 1986 and achieved a national reputation for his “Simon Sez” games with both adults and children, was born near Warsaw on this date in 1921. (In the photo at right, Goldstein is standing, center, with Jackie Robinson and […]

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September 7: A Jew in the Cloisters

James Joseph Rorimer, curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the founder of the Cloisters in New York, was born in Cleveland on this date in 1905. Rorimer graduated from Harvard in 1927 with a degree in fine arts and was immediately hired by the Met, where he worked for his entire life. As […]

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September 6: The Sonderkommando’s Diary

Auschwitz Sonderkommando (corpse-handler) Salmen Gradowski buried a diary and a letter in Yiddish, dated September 6th, in an aluminum can beneath the ashes of corpses on this date in 1944. The can and its contents were dug up, mostly intact, after the liberation of the camp. Gradowski’s 81-page diary told the story of his deportation […]

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September 5: The Man Who Couldn’t Catch AIDS

Stephen Crohn, an artist and editor whose genetic resistance to AIDS (the “delta 32 mutation”), once discovered, led to significant advances in fighting HIV infection — including a 2006 cure of an AIDS patient treated with bone marrow transplants from a donor who had the mutation — was born in Manhattan on this date in […]

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September 4: Ken Holtzman on the Mound

Pitcher Ken Holtzman, a lefthander who won more games in his career than any other Jewish pitcher and notched 1,601 strikeouts, second only to Sandy Koufax’s 2,396 among Jews, made his Major League Baseball debut with the Chicago Cubs on this date in 1965. Over the course of a 15-year career, he had a record […]

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September 3: Kitty Carlisle

Actress, musician, and arts advocate Kitty Carlisle was born in New Orleans (where her grandfather had been mayor of Shreveport) on this date in 1910. Best known to America as a  panelist on the game show To Tell the Truth from 1956 to 1978, she also appeared on Broadway and in films, including with the […]

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September 2: A Bear Named “Refugee”

Sophie Turner-Zaretsky (Selma Schwarzwald), a Holocaust survivor whose toy stuffed bear named “Refugee” became famous in 2006 when a Space Shuttle Discovery astronaut took a replica of it into space, was born in Lvov on this date in 1937. Turner-Zaretsky and her mother passed as Christians in a resort town near Crakow after other family […]

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September 1: The Most Important Jewish Woman in Ireland

Ellen Odette Bischoffsheim, a prominent German banker’s daughter who became president of the Gaelic League to urge the revival of the Irish language, was born in London on this date in 1857. Her father, Henri Bischoffsheim, founded three of the world’s largest banks — Deutsche Bank, Paribas Bank, and Société Générale. Through her 1881 marriage […]

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August 31: The Socialist Duelist

Ferdinand Lassalle, a German socialist who was familiar with Karl Marx and Heinrich Heine and was also a proponent of Reform Judaism, died at 39 of wounds incurred in a duel on this date in 1864. “Because the family of his bride-to-be, Helene von Doenniges, [had] rejected him on account of his Jewish origin and […]

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August 29: The Federal Art Project

The Federal Art Project, an arm of the Works Progress Administration established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in relief of the Great Depression, was launched on this date in 1935. During eight years of operation, it would include within its ranks such iconic artists as Adolph Gottlieb, William Gropper, Philip Guston (Goldstein), Morris Kantor, Lee […]

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August 28: Reb Zalman

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of the Jewish Renewal movement, was born in Poland on this date (some sources say August 17th) in 1924. Interned under the Vichy government in France, he came to the U.S. in 1941 and was ordained by the Lubavitcher khasidic movement six years later. He served the Lubavitchers as a college […]

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August 27: Attorney for the Counterculture

Attorney Leonard Weinglass was born in Belleville, New Jersey on this date in 1933. Weinglass was a leading progressive lawyer and constitutional expert, whose defense cases included the Chicago 8 trial (1968); the Pentagon Papers trial of Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo (acquitted in 1973); Angela Davis’ prosecution for abetting murder in George Jackson’s courtroom […]

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August 26: Brandy, You’re a Fine Girl

Looking Glass, a one-hit wonder band, achieved #1 status with “Brandy (You’re a FIne Girl)” on this date in 1972. The vaguely literary song was written by the band’s lead guitarist and vocalist, Elliot Lurie, who went on to become head of the music department at 20th Century Fox, supervising the scoring of several hit […]

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August 25: America’s Nazi

George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party and one of the country’s best-known anti-Semites, was assassinated at age 50 by one of his former followers on this date in 1968. Rockwell was the son of vaudeville performers who actually knew quite a few Jews, including Groucho Marx, Jack Benny, Walter Winchell, Benny Goodman, […]

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August 24: The Jews of Majorca

The Jews of Majorca, a Mediterranean island under Spanish control that had hosted a Jewish community possibly as early as the 2nd century, were massacred on this date in 1391 (some sources say August 2nd), with some 300 killed and many others forced to undergo baptism. Jewish habitation on Majorca ebbed and flowed with the […]

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August 23: Zionism’s Uganda Plan

The Sixth Zionist Congress convened in Basel, Switzerland on this date in 1903. It was at this Congress that Theodor Herzl would propose British-controlled East Africa (primarily Kenya, though described in most accounts as Uganda) as a temporary alternative to Palestine for the endangered Jews of Tsarist Russia. A vote of 295-178 would empower an […]

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August 22: The Artist of Manifest Destiny

Solomon Nunes Carvalho (1815-1897), a Sephardic Jew born in Charleston, South Carolina, signed up on this date in 1853 to serve as artist and daguerrotypist for John C. Fremont, aka the “Pathfinder,” in his fifth and final expedition through the Rocky Mountains in search of a westward railroad route to California. Carvalho, who had daguerrotype […]

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August 21: Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo

World-renowned leftwing Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo were married for the first time on this date in 1929 (they separated in 1934, divorced in 1938, and remarried in 1940). Rivera’s mother was a converso. Although he was not raised as a Jew, he knew that he was Jewish and was proud of it. […]

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August 20: Jean-Paul Aron and the Humanizing of AIDS

On this date in 1988, French philosopher, writer, and self-described “dandy” Jean-Paul Aron became one of the first well-known people in France to die of AIDS, with public acknowledgment. Aron was the author of Les Modernes, a 1984 memoir in which he described fifty-four episodes in his life as exemplars of French cultural history between […]

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August 19: Alan Arkin

Actor Alan Arkin, best known for his roles in Wait Until Dark; The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming; The Heart is a Lonely Hunter; Catch-22; Edward Scissorhands; Glengarry Glen Ross; and Little Miss Sunshine (for which he won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award), was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1934. […]

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August 18: The Avenger

Sholom Schwartzbard, a Jewish anarchist who gunned down the Ukrainian nationalist leader Symon Petlyura on a street in Paris in 1926 and was acquitted for the crime, was born in Izmail, Bessarabia on this date in 1886. Schwartzbard killed Petlyura, 47, the head of a Ukrainian “government in exile” following the defeat of his forces […]

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August 17: A Letter to the President, 1790

Moses Seixas, the “warden” of the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, wrote a letter to President George Washington on this date in 1790. “Permit the children of the stock of Abraham to approach you with the most cordial affection and esteem for your person and merits — and to join with our fellow citizens […]

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August 16: The Pogromist’s Death

Bogdan Khmelnitzky, leader (or Hetman) of the Zaporozhian Cossacks who organized a six-year war against the Ukraine’s Polish rulers that entailed the slaughter of some 100,000 Jews (the number is in dispute), died at 63 on this date in 1657. Widely seen as a national hero in the Ukraine, Khmelnitzky nevertheless sought union between Ukraine […]

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August 14: A Victorian Murder Trial

In one of the most sensational murder trials of the Victorian era, the lawyer for Israel Lipski, convicted of the murder of Miriam Angel three months earlier, sent a telegram to the Queen on this date in 1887 asking her to stay Lipski’s execution to allow for the introduction of new information that would, said […]

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August 13: Israel’s Supreme Court

Aharon Barak became president of the Israeli Supreme Court on this date in 1995. He would serve until 2006, and was the principal creator of the “Constitution Revolution” (his phrase), by which Israeli courts were empowered to treat Israel’s Basic Laws as the country’s constitution and strike down laws that the courts judge to be […]

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August 12: The Sultan of Swing

Mark Knopfler, the leader of Dire Straits and one of the most interesting and sophisticated guitarists and songwriters in contemporary rock and roll, was born to a British mother and a Hungarian Jewish father in Glasgow, Scotland on this date in 1949. The father was an architect and anti-fascist Marxist who had to flee from […]

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August 11: Pinski the Playwright

Yiddish writer David Pinski, whose plays brought the lives of urban Jewish workers to the Yiddish stage, died at 87 on this date in 1959. Pinski was a Talmudic wonder-child but became a secular Jew and socialist Zionist in his early adulthood. He was encouraged as a writer by the great I.L. Peretz, with whom […]

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O My America: Schumer’s Soul

by Lawrence Bush MY WIFE was on the phone with Senator Chuck Schumer’s office on Friday when I came in through the door. She was urging the Senator to support the agreement with Iran, so I got on the phone to add my two cents — backed by my editorship of a Jewish magazine with […]

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August 9: Their Favorite Patient

The New York Times announced the unveiling on this date in 1925 of a memorial plaque, paid for by 600 patients at Montefiore Hospital for Chronic Diseases in the Bronx in honor of a fellow patient, Max Messinger, who had lived there for twelve years as a paralytic, able only to move his fingers and […]

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August 8: Dustin Hoffman

Distinguished actor Dustin Hoffman, the winner of two Academy Awards (and seven nominations) as “best actor,” was born in Los Angeles on this date in 1937. He knocked around for a decade on stage and at odd jobs until Mike Nichols cast him in a starring role in The Graduate (1967), which established Hoffman as […]

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August 7: Stanley Bosworth and St. Ann’s School

Stanley Bosworth (Boscovitz), the founding headmaster of St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn, which in a 2004 Wall Street Journal survey led the nation in placements of graduating students in the nation’s top ten colleges and universities, died at 83 on this date in 2011. Bosworth took the job in 1965, turned St. Ann’s, founded by […]

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August 6: Miss India, 1947

Esther Victoria Abraham, a Calcutta-born Jew of Iraqi background who won the first Miss India beauty pageant in 1947, died at 90 on this date in 2006. Known by her stage name Pramila, she was a movie stunt woman and actress, and the first major woman film producer, creating sixteen movies under her Silver Productions […]

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August 4: Hitler’s Medal

Corporal Adolf Hitler received an Iron Cross First Class on this date in 1918 upon the recommendation of Hugo Gutmann, a decorated Jewish lieutenant who was Hitler’s superior officer in the German army for seven months that year. Hitler wore the medal throughout the remainder of his life. Gutmann, demobilized the following year, owned an […]

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August 3: Leon Uris

Leon Uris, the bestselling author of Exodus (1958, about the founding of Israel) and Mila 18 (1961, about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising), was born in Baltimore on this date in 1924. A high-school dropout who failed English three times, Uris enlisted in the Marine Corps after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; his first novel, […]

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August 2: Charles Lindbergh’s Jewish Engineer

Joseph Worth, an inventor and engineer who over the course of a decade helped design and build the radial, air-cooled “J-type” engine that powered Charles Lindbergh‘s Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, died in Florida at 98 on this date in 1991. Worth was born in Kamanetz-Podolsk in the Ukraine and […]

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August 1: The Nazi Olympics

Adolf Hitler opened the XIth Olympiad in Berlin on this date in 1936, arriving amid musical fanfares directed by the famous composer Richard Strauss. By then, nazification of German sport had excluded Jews from sports facilities and associations. In the U.S., Jewish athletes and organizations were divided about whether to boycott the 1936 Olympics, but […]

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July 30: Two Points!

Ossie Schectman, who scored the very first basket in the Basketball Association of America’s very first game on November 1, 1946, died at 94 on this date in 2013. The Basketball Association would become the NBA three years later. Schectman, only six feet tall, was team captain and point guard with the New York Knicks […]

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July 29: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

On this date in 1972 (some sources say July 25th, others July 28th), the infamous, 40-year-old Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, which left African-American men untreated for syphilis infection in order to trace the course of the disease, became national news when it was disclosed to the media by a social worker, Peter Buxton, whose Jewish father […]

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July 28: Fighting the Good Fight in California

Attorney William K. Coblentz, who defended the California Board of Regents from Governor Ronald Reagan’s red-baiting, represented Patty Hearst after her kidnapping-recruitment by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), and served as legal representative for the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane, was born in Santa Maria, California on this date in 1922. Coblentz was a […]

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July 27: Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics and book by Howard Ashman, premiered at the Orpheum Theater, where it ran for five years, on this date in 1982. Based on a 1960 comedy film by Roger Corman, the rock-musical tells the story of a florist who raises a flesh-eating, fast-growing plant […]

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July 26: Josef Ganz and the Volkswagen

Joseph Ganz, the Jewish car designer who created a prototype vehicle that helped inspire the Hitler-endorsed “Volkswagen” — a small, affordable “people’s car” — died at 69 on this date in 1967. Ganz, who had a Hungarian Jewish mother and a German Jewish father, became a fervent car designer in his early twenties and created […]

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O My America: Six Miles Per Hour

by Lawrence Bush SOUTHERN HOLLAND, at least what we’ve seen of it, is like a Richard Scarry book about transportation. If you’ve ever sat a young child on your lap and looked through one of Scarry’s categories-based, vocabulary-building illustrated books, you’ve visited Holland. The landscape is flat for as far as you can see (17 […]

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July 24: High Noon

High Noon, Hollywood’s greatest Western, directed by Fred Zinnemann, written by Carl Foreman, and produced by Stanley Kramer was released on this date in 1952, one day after Foreman’s 38th birthday. The film, ranked number 27 on the American Film Institute’s 2007 list of great films, tells the story of a newly married U.S. marshal […]

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July 23: The Treblinka Death Camp

The Treblinka death camp was opened by the Nazis in occupied Poland northeast of Warsaw on this date in 1942, in an expansion of a slave labor camp. In the course of sixteen months of operation, some 900,000 Jews, as well as a few thousand Romanis, were gassed at the death camp, making it second […]

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July 22: The Shoemaker-Levy Comet

The last fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy collided spectacularly with the planet Jupiter on this date in 1994, giving astronomers the first-ever view of an extraterrestrial collision within our own solar system (photographed from 150 million miles away by the spacecraft Galileo). The Shoemaker-Levy comet was the first observed to be orbiting a planet rather than […]

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July 21: The Woman in Hitler’s Bathtub

Poughkeepsie-born model and photographer Lee Miller (not Jewish), who teamed up with her Jewish lover, photographer David E. Scherman, to produce some of the most memorable photographs from the end of World War II in Europe in Life magazine, died at 70 on this date in 1977. After taking photographs of the recently liberated Dachau […]

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July 19: The Sandinistas, the Contras, and the ADL

The Sandinistas overthrew the dictatorship of the Somoza family in Nicaragua on this date in 1979 and established a socialist regime. Within two years, the Reagan Administration in Washington would be seeking to undermine that regime through many dirty tricks, including the funding and training of the contras, paramilitary fighters who terrorized pro-Sandinista communities and […]

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July 18: Victor Gruen’s Shopping Mall

Architect Victor Gruen (Gruénbaum), who designed America’s first indoor shopping mall (the Southdale Mall in Edina, Minnesota, 1956) and outdoor pedestrian mall (in Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1958), was born in Vienna on this date in 1903. A lifelong socialist, he fled from the Nazis in Austria in 1938 and landed in Los Angeles in 1941, where […]

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July 17: Album Cover Art

Alex Steinweiss, an artist and designer who was the first to suggest and execute original artwork for a record album cover (for a 1939 collection of Rodgers and Hart songs, shown at left), died at 94 on this date in 2011. “’The way records were sold was ridiculous,’ Mr. Steinweiss said in a 1990 interview,” […]

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O My America: Inward Bound

Sailing Down the Canals of the Netherlands by Lawrence Bush THE NOTEBOOK in which I’ve been writing during this vacation (my laptop is almost constantly out of juice) was a recent find as I was cleaning out some of my son’s remaining stuff, some ten years after his departure for college. The notebook has only […]

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July 16: Miss America, 1945

Bess Myerson, who in 1945 became the first and only Jewish Miss America (which prompted three of the five corporate sponsors of the pageant to withdraw from using her as their representative), was born in the Sholem Aleichem Cooperative Homes in the Bronx on this date in 1924. Myerson, 5’10” tall, was a musical talent […]

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July 15: Innocent Declares Jews Guilty

Pope Innocent III, who in the year 1200 declared “the Jews, by their own guilt,” to be “consigned to perpetual servitude because they crucified the Lord” and doomed to be “wanderers… upon the earth until their faces are filled with shame and they seek the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” died on this date […]

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July 14: Escape through the Sewers of Warsaw

The sole woman within the high command of the Jewish Fighting Organization in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Zivia Lubetkin died in Israel at age 61 on this date in 1976. Born and raised in Poland, Lubetkin was a leader in the leftwing Zionist youth movement and was one of the brave young Jews who left […]

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July 13: Simone Veil

Simone Veil (Simone Annie Liline Jacob — not to be confused with the Christian mystic philosopher of the same name), a survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen who went on to become the twelfth president of the European Parliament (1979-1982) and an important feminist political figure in France, was born in Nice on this date in […]

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July 12: The Feminist Art Activist

Arlene Raven (Rubin), co-founder of the Feminist Studio Workshop (1973) and the Center for Feminist Art Historical Studies, both in Los Angeles, was born in Baltimore on this date in 1944. Raven also co-founded and edited Chrysalis, a feminist cultural magazine, and was a founding member of The Lesbian Art Project and the Women’s Caucus […]

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July 11: The Department-Store Rescuer

Wilfrid Berthold Jacob Israel, an Anglo-German businessman who owned one of the largest department stores in Berlin before World War II and used his fortune and his contacts to enable German Jews to leave Germany, was born on this date in 1899. As soon as the Nazis rose to power in 1933, Israel worked to […]

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Suffer the Children

by Lawrence Bush Discussed in this essay: The Devil in Jerusalem, a novel by Naomi Ragen. October 13, 2015, St. Martin’s Press, 310 pages. BACK IN THE MID-1970S, when religious cults were sprouting like mushrooms in the soil of the American counterculture, I spent a couple of inebriated moments daydreaming about becoming a cult leader. […]

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July 10: A Jewish Member of the PLO

Ilan Halevi (Georges Alain Albert), a French-born Jewish writer who came to Israel in 1965 to understand and support the Palestinian resistance movement and became a high-ranking member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, died in France at 69 on this date in 2013. Halevi was active in the jazz and avant-garde scene in Paris before […]

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July 9: Bryan’s Cross of Gold

Populist politician and frequent presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan made one of the most electrifying political speeches in history on this date in 1896. Speaking at the Democratic National Convention, Bryan railed against maintaining the gold standard for U.S. currency by declaring, “You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of […]

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O My America: I Could Live Here

by Lawrence Bush IT’S NOT ALWAYS summer here, and there’s not always an international jazz festival going on, but I could definitely see living in Denmark. We’re at the Louisiana modern art museum, about half an hour outside Copenhagen along the North Sea (I think). The collection is rich with American and German artists: Rothko, […]

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O My America: I’d Never Survive

by Lawrence Bush I’M A TERRIBLE, anxious traveller. So many decisions to be made, preparations to be endured, questions and directions to be asked; so much faith in the fundamental benevolence of civilization to be tapped, for this fundamentally faithless person. I’m not a stimulation-seeker, but a safety-seeker. What I’ve done so far in Copenhagen, […]

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July 8: The Anti-Fascist Committee at the Polo Grounds

More than 47,000 New Yorkers rallied at the Polo Grounds on this date in 1943 in support of the Soviet war effort against Nazi Germany. Soviet actor and director Solomon Mikhoels and poet Itsik Feffer — leaders of the Soviet Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAC) — as well as New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, Yiddish novelist […]

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July 7: Beatrice Fox’s Department Store

Beatrice Fox Auerbach, who brought progressive employment policies to the department store she owned, G. Fox and Company in Hartford, Connecticut, was born in that city on this date in 1887. She ran the store from 1927 to 1965 and expanded the business ten-fold, making it the largest privately-owned retail outlet in the country, while […]

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July 6: The German Judge Who Challenged Hitler

German jurist Lothar Kreyssig, the only German judge (not Jewish) who challenged the Nazis’ “euthanasia” program of killing people who were developmentally disabled, died at 87 on this date in 1986. Kreyssig was working as a guardianship judge in a Brandenburg court when he protested the semi-secret euthanasia program to Nazi Minister of Justice Franz […]

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O My America: Nice White People

Tivoli Gardens and Middle-Class Pleasures by Lawrence Bush My wife’s about to take a ride on the “Himmelskibet,” the Heaven Ship, swings on cables that fly around a 250-foot tower at various levels of altitude and centrifugal force. She loves this ride, but has never been on one even half this one’s height. She’s a […]

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July 5: Sir Isaac Newton and the Jews

Isaac Newton published his historic three-volume Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) on this date in 1687, announcing his laws of motion, universal gravity, and other fundamentals of physics and introducing many principles of calculus into mathematics. Newton’s scientific genius was accompanied by a religiosity and mysticism that involved him with […]

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O My America: Escape to Copenhagen

by Lawrence Bush It was hard to be an American headed to Denmark on July 4th — don’t worry, Danes, I’m unarmed — when I was feeling so very patriotic about the achievement of marriage equality (but Denmark has it, too), and about the lowering of the Confederate flag, and about Obama’s “Amazing Grace” speech, […]

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July 4: Aftershock of the Holocaust

The Kielce Pogrom, in which a mob of Polish police officers and civilians murdered at least 42 Jews, took place on this date in 1946. Kielce, in southeastern Poland, had been occupied by 24,000 Jews, one third of the town’s population, prior to the Holocaust. Two hundred Jewish survivors had returned to or settled in […]

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July 3: Citroën’s Factory

Engineer André Citroën, who introduced mass manufacturing to French industry through the car that bears his name, died at 57 in Paris on this date in 1935. Citroën developed the double helical (or herringbone) gear, which drove the RMS Titanic. In 1913, he took over the Mors automobile company and turned it into a dynamo […]

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July 2: Larry David

Comedy writer, actor, and producer Larry David, the co-creator and head writer of Seinfeld, television’s highest-ranked comedy in history, was born in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn on this date in 1947. David did stand-up comedy while working a dozen jobs and living in artists’ housing in New York. He landed an uneventful two-year stint writing for […]

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July 1: Iosef Shklovsky and Cosmic Rays

Soviet astrophysicist Iosef Shklovsky, who studied radio astronomy, the Sun’s corona, supernovae, and cosmic rays, was born in the Ukraine on this date in 1916. He became best known when his 1962 book, Universe, Life, Intelligence, was expanded upon and reissued in 1966 in collaboration with Carl Sagan as Intelligent Life in the Universe, the […]

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June 30: Matisyahu

Matisyahu (Matthew Paul Miller), who emerged as a hasidic hip-hop and reggae sensation in 2004-2005, then shaved his beard, took off his yarmulke, and began performing on Friday nights, was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania on this date in 1979. He became a bar mitsve in the Reconstructionist-affiliated Congregation Bet Am Shalom in White Plains, […]

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June 29: Israel’s Cottage Cheese Boycott

The Tnuva cooperative dairy company, one of Israel’s largest food companies — it controls 70 percent of the dairy market and is considered a legal monopoly by the Israel Antitrust Authority — responded to a nationwide cottage-cheese boycott by lowering the price of the food, a staple in Israel, on this date in 2011. The […]

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June 28: Mr. Table Tennis

Sol Schiff, whose forehand slam made him one of the world’s best ping-pong players in his teen years, was born in New York in 1917. At 15, he won the New York junior title and the public high school table tennis championships; at 16, after dropping out of high school to play in tournaments, he […]

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June 27: “Imitation of Life”

The filming of Imitation of Life, a ground-breaking American feature film on the theme of race, began on this date in 1934. John M. Stahl (Jacob Morris Strelitsky, 1886-1950) was the director, and the film was based on a novel by Fannie Hurst, about the tribulations of two entrepreneurial women, one white (Claudette Colbert), one […]

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June 26: Credit Unions

President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Federal Credit Union Act on this date in 1934, establishing a system of government-backed, nonprofit, cooperative financial institutions to serve as alternatives to banks, which often denied services and loans to working-class people. Credit unions had been pioneered by Edward Filene, the founder of Filene’s department store chain, who was […]

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June 25: Sidney Lumet

The director of over fifty feature films, including 12 Angry Men (1957), The Pawnbroker (1964), Fail-Safe (1964), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Serpico (1973), Network (1976), The Verdict (1982), Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007), and other socially conscious works about conscience and grit, often set in New York City, Sidney Lumet was born to […]

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June 24: Martin Perl and Subatomic Particles

Physicist Martin Perl, who shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physics with Frederick Reines for their discovery of subatomic particles, the tau lepton (Perl) and the neutrino (Reines), was born to Polish Jewish immigrants in New York on this date in 1927. Perl earned his Ph.D. at Columbia in 1955 and studied particle physics for […]

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June 23: Jonas Salk

The great medical researcher Jonas Salk, whose development of the first effective vaccine against polio brought about the end of one of the most terrifying diseases in the U.S., died at the age of 80 in La Jolla, California on this date in 1995. Salk grew up in the Jewish immigrant milieu of New York, […]

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June 22: A Synagogue, a Cyclone

Chicago’s Congregation Beth El, founded immediately after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, was destroyed by a cyclone on this date in 1873. That evening a meeting of the congregation raised sufficient funding to start the building of a new synagogue on the same site. The congregation still thrives today as a Reform temple. A […]

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June 21: The Communalist

Writer, educator, and activist philanthropist Minnie Dessau Louis, founder of the Hebrew Technical School for Girls, a vocational school housed ultimately at Second Avenue and 15th Street in New York, was born in Philadelphia on this date in 1841. Dessau Louis was an instrumental founder of the National Council of Jewish Women in 1894, a […]

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O My America: Let Me Tell You About Charleston

Here’s what I learned last year at the Old Slave Market Museum in Charleston, South Carolina: Of the 500,000 Africans kidnapped to the U.S. before the slave trade was abolished, 40 percent came through the port of Charleston. Of the fifteen Americans who owned more than 500 slaves before the Civil War, eight lived in […]

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June 18: The War of 1812

In the nearly three-year war between the U.S. and Great Britain that broke out on this date in 1812, several contributions by American Jews (of whom there were some 10,000 in the country) stand out. John Ordronaux, commander of two private warships, is said to have captured or destroyed thirty British merchant ships, outrun seventeen […]

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June 17: The Zeyde of Psychedelics

Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, who introduced MDMA (Ecstasy) to many psychologists in the 1970s, improved its synthesis, and inadvertently helped to launch one of the most popular recreational drugs in the world, was born in Berkeley on this date in 1925. Shulgin and his wife Anna discovered and compounded, and experimented and documented their experiences with […]

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June 16: Saving Orphans in Rwanda

Anne Elaine Heyman, an attorney, philanthropist, and mother who in 2008 built Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda, a home for more than 500 teenagers orphaned by the 1994 Rwandan genocide, was born in Pretoria, South Africa on this date in 1961. “Agahozo” is Rwandan word meaning “a place where tears are dried,” while “shalom” is […]

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June 14: Partisans of Thessaly

Eighteen-year old Greek partisan fighter Leon Sakkis died under Nazi fire on this date in 1944 while assisting a wounded comrade at the Battle of Karalar in Larissa. “In Thessaly, more than any other region” of Greece, according to the digital gallery of the Jewish Museum of Greece, “the fate of the Jews was intertwined […]

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June 13: What’s Wrong with Wall Street

Louis Lowenstein, a corporate executive and founder of a major business law firm who in 1980 began publishing scathing critiques of how Wall Street operates, was born in New York on this date in 1925. Lowenstein headed Supermarkets General, which later became Pathmark, and was founder of Kramer, Lowenstein, Nessen & Kamin. In 1980 he […]

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O My America: My Brilliant Wife

by Lawrence Bush So I was at the Jersey Shore on a rare holiday for my 36th wedding anniversary, and after a quiet walk by myself on the boardwalk, I said to Susan, “You know, I’m such a conservative! I walk around thinking how everybody just leaving everybody else alone really works. Despite everything we’re […]

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June 12: Executed at Sing-Sing

Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss and Martin “Buggsy” Goldstein, hit-men with Murder, Inc., were executed by electric chair at Sing Sing prison in Ossining, New York on this date in 1941. Strauss was a head assassin for the Brooklyn-based crime group, which ran its own rackets and also served as killing squad for gangsters Lepke Buchalter […]

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June 11: Prelude to the Bialystok Pogrom

The police chief of Białystok, Poland was murdered on this date in 1906 — which removed a protector from the city’s 50,000 Jews, three-quarters of its population. On an earlier occasion, Police Chief Derkacz (sometimes spelled “Derkatcheff”) had used his police to deter a pogrom in the Bialystok marketplace by Russian soldiers, and warned that […]

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June 10: The Jewish Archbishop

Archbishop Theodor Kohn of Olomouc (Olmütz), a province of Czechoslovakia, was forced by Pope Pius X to resign on this date in 1904 because of his Jewish background. Some sources say that Kohn’s grandfather had converted to Catholicism; others say that Kohn himself was born Jewish. He was ordained a priest in 1871, at 26, […]

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June 9: The Founder of Wolf Trap

Philanthropist Catherine Filene Shouse was born in Boston on this date in 1896. She grew up as the heiress of Filene’s Department Store and Federated Department Stores; her father was also the founder of the Boston Symphony while her mother founded the Boston Music School for Underprivileged Children. Filene Shouse herself founded the Wolf Trap […]

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June 8: The Secular Israeli

Yoram Kaniuk, author of more than seventeen novels and a hero of secular Jews for his 2011 court victory allowing him to be identified in the Israeli population registry as a Jew of no religion, died at 83 on this date in 2013. Kaniuk was a sabra, born in Tel Aviv. At 17, he was […]

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June 7: Mad Libs

Leonard B. Stern, the co-inventor of the low-brow party word game, Mad Libs, died at 87 in Beverly Hills on this date in 2011. Stern was a television writer for Get Smart, The Honeymooners, The Phil Silvers Show, and The Steve Allen Show, and also wrote a couple of Abbott and Costello movies. More than […]

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June 6: Up on Cripple Creek

The governor of Colorado (Davis H. Waite) dispatched the state militia on this date in 1894 to protect striking workers at the Cripple Creek gold mine — the only instance in American history in which soldiers were mobilized not as strikebreakers but to protect strikers against a private corporate militia. Cripple Creek was a thriving […]

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June 5: Egyptian Jews and the Six-Day War

The advent of the Six-Day War on this date in 1967 prompted Egypt to round up some six hundred Jewish men, from nearly all the remaining Jewish households in the country, including Grand Rabbi Jacques Nefoussi of Cairo and Grand Rabbi Chaim Douek of Alexandria. Even Jews who had converted to Christianity or Islam were […]

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June 3: The Dutch East India Company

Founded in 1602 and granted a 21-year monopoly of Dutch trade with Asia, the Dutch East India Company had its markets extended on this date in 1621 when it was granted a charter for New Netherlands, which would eventually become New Amsterdam, where Jews would settle for the first time in North America in 1654. […]

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June 2: The Tribe of Judah

According to the Biblical calendar, as calculated by the Lubavitcher hasidim and other believers in Biblical infallibility, Judah, the fourth son of Jacob and Leah, was born on this date in 1565 BCE and died on the same date 119 years later. Judah is best known for several scenes in the book of Genesis: He […]

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June 1: Word of the Gassings

On this date in 1942, The Liberty Brigade, a Polish socialist underground newspaper, published an article by Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum, the archivist of the Warsaw Ghetto and a critical chronicler of the Nazi assault upon and torture of the Jews, which disclosed for the first time the program of gassings at the concentration camp at […]

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May 31: Victor Hugo and the Jews

French novelist Victor Hugo led a protest meeting in Paris on this date in 1882 to denounce the pogroms in Russia that were devastating Jewish communities and producing a mass exodus to Western Europe and the United States. Later in 1882, Hugo would publish his historical play Torquemada, written in 1869, with the head of […]

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May 30: Itsik Manger

Yiddish poet, playwright, novelist, and essayist Itsik Manger, for whom Israel’s Manger Prize for Yiddish literature was established in 1968, was born in Czernowitz, Romania on this date in 1901. Manger came to Warsaw in 1927, published his first book of poems in 1929 (Stars on the Roof), and became the toast of Yiddish Warsaw’s […]

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May 29: Radziwillow

Fifteen hundred Jews were rounded up and slaughtered by the Nazis and Ukrainian paramilitaries in Radziwillow, Ukraine on this date in 1942. A group of five hundred young men led by Asher Czerkaski then broke out of the ghetto and reached the surrounding woods, but the great majority were soon hunted down and murdered. Fifty […]

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May 28: The Tropic of Free Speech

Lenny Bruce, Allen Ginsberg, Al Goldstein, and Elsa Dorfman were among the controversial artists and writers featured in Obscene, a 2007 documentary about publisher and free speech warrior Barney Rosset, who was born to a Jewish father and Catholic mother in Chicago on this date in 1922. The owner of the Grove Press (from 1951) […]

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May 27: The First Mayor of Tel Aviv

Meir Dizengoff (1861-1936), the first mayor of Tel Aviv, was honored with an equestrian statue in front of his home at 16 Rothschild Boulevard on this date in 2009, as part of the city’s centennial celebration. As a young man in Odessa, Dizengoff was involved in the Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will) revolutionary underground, and was […]

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May 26: Ziggy Elman’s Trumpet

Ziggy Elman (Harry Aaron Finkelman), a trumpeter with the Benny Goodman Orchestra who also played klezmer with Mickey Katz, was born in Philadelphia on this date in 1914. Elman first played violin before mastering nearly every brass instrument. Goodman hired him in 1936 as one of the “biting brass trio” (with Harry James and Chris […]

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May 25: Jamaica Kincaid

Antiguan-American novelist Jamaica Kincaid (Elaine Potter Richardson), a convert to Judaism in 1993 and a professor of African and African-American Studies at Harvard since 1992, was born in St. John’s, Antigua, a land colonized by Great Britain, on this date in 1949. Kincaid was sent to the U.S. by her mother as an au pair […]

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May 24: Reforming Judaism

Abraham Geiger, a key founder of Reform Judaism in 19th-century Germany, was born on this date in 1810 in Frankfurt am Main. He was a remarkable intellectual and linguist from childhood. His doubts about Biblical infallibility, Jewish “chosenness,” and other dogmas arose in his teenage years and were firmed up at the Universities of Heidelberg […]

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May 23: Maxime Rodinson, Anti-Zionist, Anti-Islamicist

French Marxist scholar Maxime Rodinson, whose Polish parents died in Auschwitz while he was serving in the French Institute in Damascus, was born in Marseille (some sources say Paris) on this date in 1915. A true iconoclast, he resigned from the French Communist Party in 1958 in the name of anti-authoritarianism; he opposed Zionism as […]

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May 22: Langston Hughes

Poet, writer, and social activist Langston Hughes — whose paternal great-grandfather was a Jewish slave-trader in Kentucky named Silas Cushenberry, and whose second collection of poems was titled Fine Clothes to the Jew (Knopf, 1927) — was born in Joplin, Missouri on this date in 1902. Hughes was a leader of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, […]

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May 21: Armand Hammer

Armand Hammer, a multi-millionaire whose name was derived from the “arm and hammer” symbol of the Socialist Labor Party of America (in which his father was a leader), was born in New York on this date in 1898. Hammer earned a medical degree from Columbia in 1921, then made his first fortune selling pharmaceuticals to […]

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O My America: Have Mercy! It’s Memorial Day

by Lawrence Bush “War never ends war.” –Rabbi Stephen S. Wise IN POLICE departments across the country, military veterans are given preferential hiring treatment. In some departments, military service even takes the place of certification, i.e., training. While psychological evaluation is part of the hiring process, hardly any  departments test separately for post-traumatic stress disorder […]

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May 20: Erving Goffman on the Presentation of Self

Canadian-born and educated sociologist Erving Goffman (1922-1982) published his influential book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, on this date in 1959. The book proposes that people are always on stage, playing roles, giving performances, reading from scripts, wearing masks, and presenting themselves to audiences while also managing their identities on private, backstage sets — […]

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May 19: Alma Cogan and John Lennon

British pop singer Alma Cogan (Cohen), the highest-paid female vocalist in Great Britain during the 1950s and early 1960s (although she remained living with her mother) was born in London on this date in 1932. She broke into recording in her teen years, and in 1953, after laughing during the recording of one of her […]

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May 18: Astroland

Jerome Lewis Albert, who with his father created Astroland, a 3.1-acre amusement park with a Space Age theme that became the salvation of the Coney Island boardwalk during the 1960s, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1937. The park, which opened in 1962, included the John Glenn Sky Ride, Astroland Rocket (which used […]

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May 17: The Jew and the Hamster

Israeli parasitologist Saul Adler, who made important contributions to research about several diseases, including malaria, was born in Russia on this date in 1895. Among his most enduring contributions was an unintended one: the spread of Syrian golden hamsters worldwide as pets. Unable to obtain Chinese hamsters for his research into leishmaniasis, an awful parasitic […]

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May 15: The Winnipeg General Strike, 1919

Sam Blumenberg, Michael Charitinoff, and Moses Almazov were among five immigrants arrested for instigating the Winnipeg General Strike, which began on this date in 1919. The strike originated on May Day in the building and metal trades, which had organized into industry-wide unions with which management refused to negotiate. By the 15th, the city was […]

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May 14: Magnus Hirschfeld vs. the Nazis

Pioneering sex researcher and gay liberation advocate Magnus Hirschfeld was born in Kolberg, Prussia on this date in 1868. He earned a medical degree in 1892 and five years later cofounded the Wissenschaftlich-humanitäre Komittee (Scientific-Humanitarian Committee) in Berlin, which sought to repeal the criminalization of homosexuality in paragraph 175 of the Imperial Penal Code of […]

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May 13: Myron Brinig’s 21 Novels

The first American Jewish novelist to write about gay life with any depth (and one of the first of his generation to write in English instead of Yiddish), Myron Brinig died at 95 on this date in 1991. Brinig grew up with shopkeeper parents in Butte, Montana, where his early books are set. As a […]

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May 12: Dylan and Ed Sullivan

Bob Dylan, with only one album under his belt, canceled his appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, scheduled for this date in 1963, when CBS network censors forbade him from performing “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” a song that he had rehearsed in front of Ed Sullivan himself without any issues coming up. “While many […]

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May 11: Mort Sahl

Mort Sahl, the first modern stand-up comedian to crack wise about current events and politics, was born in Montreal on this date in 1927. Sahl took the stage casually dressed in a v-neck sweater, and with a newspaper under his arm, and created rapid-fire verbal routines based on the headlines. In 1960, Time magazine dubbed […]

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May 10: The Socialism of Fools

More than twenty thousand books deemed “Un-German” were burned by the National Socialist German Students’ League on this date in 1933 at the Opernplatz — now the Bebelplatz — near the University of Berlin. The purge began four days earlier when books from Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institut für Sexualwissenschaft were taken from the institute’s library and piled in […]

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May 9: Nudie Cohn

Clothing designer Nudie Cohn (Nuta Kotlyarenko), who designed rhinestone-studded suits for singers, actors, dancers, and other celebrities, including Elvis Presley’s famous $10,000 gold lamé suit, died at 81 on this date in 1984. Born in Kiev, he came to the U.S. with an older brother at age 11 and became an itinerant odd-jobber for a […]

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May 8: Opera and Cigars

Oscar Hammerstein, an inventor, musician, and theater impresario who built several important opera houses and rekindled that classical singing art in American culture, was born in Prussia on this date in 1846. He was an eager young musician who ran away to New York to evade his punitive father (Hammerstein sold his violin to pay […]

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May 7: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Man Booker Prize-winning novelist and the winner of two Academy Awards for screenwriting (and the only person to win both honors), was born to Jewish parents in Germany on this date in 1927. Best known for her work as a screenwriter with Merchant Ivory Productions (Howard’s End, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, The […]

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May 6: Martha Nussbaum and Moral Psychology

Philosopher Martha Nussbaum, a pioneering woman in academia and a convert to Judaism in the early 1970s, was born into what she describes as an “East Coast WASP elite” family in New York on this date in 1947. A professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago and a widely published writer on […]

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3,000 and Counting

by Lawrence Bush THE NEXT ARTICLE we post to the Jewish Currents website will be our 3,000th. Of those, some 2,000 are Jewdayo entries. Those numbers make me feel elated and exhausted, all at once. Elated because Jewdayo has been a great adventure of research and writing. Over this feature’s 5 1/2 years, I’ve learned […]

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May 5: Chaim Gross

Sculptor Chaim Gross, best known for his hand-carved wood sculptures, died at 87 on this date in 1991. Born in Galicia, he had a childhood of war, poverty, and self-reliance before coming to the U.S. at 17. Gross studied art at the Educational Alliance in New York and found his way to sculpture, which he […]

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May 4: Roberta Peters

Metropolitan Opera star Roberta Peters (Peterman), who had the longest tenure of any soprano at the Met and also made a record sixty-five appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, was born in New York on this date in 1930. At 13, she was urged by Jan Peerce to train as a singer; by 19, she […]

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May 3: Earthquake

The largest of a series of three earthquakes hit the island of Rhodes on this date in 1481. Thirty thousand people died, and the Jewish quarter of the city of Rhodes was destroyed. The Jewish community there dated back to the Hellenistic period, perhaps earlier. Herod had been shipwrecked at Rhodes on his way to […]

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May 2: Lord Chief Justice

Harry Woolf, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales from 2000 until 2005, was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England on this date in 1933. As Lord Justice of Appeal (appointed 1986) he was responsible for major prison reforms after sending letters to every prisoner and prison official in the country and receiving more than 1,700 replies […]

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May 1: Joseph Heller

Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22, was born to poor immigrant parents in Coney Island on this date in 1923. He fought in World War II as a B-25 bombardier on more than sixty combat missions. Studying English at the University of Southern California and NYU on the G.I. Bill, he earned an M.A. from Columbia […]

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O My America: An Apple for Teachers

by Lawrence Bush MY WIFE SUSAN makes her living as an “educational consultant.” These days, that phrase might make you think she’s part of the charter-school or testing-regimen movements, but she’s not. Susan is a teaching artist and a teacher trainer who uniquely uses creative movement to teach elementary school curriculum. She trains teachers in […]

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April 30: Jerusalem in St. Louis

The World’s Fair in St. Louis, known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, opened on this date in 1904, the centennial of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase. The Fair would host nearly twenty million visitors, and included a Jerusalem Exhibit with a replica of the Old City that stretched over 10 acres and included three […]

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April 29: Daniel Day-Lewis

Acclaimed actor Daniel Day-Lewis was born in London to a Jewish mother (actress Jill Balcon, whose father headed the  British filmmaking company Ealing Studios and produced Alfred Hitchcock’s first movies) and an Irish Protestant father (Cecil Day-Lewis, who became Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom) on this date in 1957. He was an unruly adolescent, […]

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April 28: Muhammad Ali’s Grandson

Jacob Wertheimer, grandson of American boxing champion Muhammad Ali, became a bar mitsve on this date in 2012 at Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia. The young man is the son of Khaliah Ali, the champ’s daughter, and her husband Spencer Wertheimer. “I was born and raised as a Muslim,” the mother said. “But I’m not into […]

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April 27: Poet of the Vilna Underground

A leftwing Yiddish poet who served as leader of Young Vilna, a literary circle that include Avrom Sutzkever and Chaim Grade, Shmerke Kaczerginski died in a plane crash on this date in 1954, age 45. Confined by the Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators to the Vilna Ghetto in 1942, Kaczerginski immediately joined the Jewish resistance, […]

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April 26: The Boxer in Auschwitz

Salamo Arouch, a champion Greek boxer who survived for two years in Auschwitz by boxing and defeating more than two hundred other prisoners for the entertainment and betting pleasure of their Nazi captors, died in Israel at 86 on this date in 2009. Arouch had been the middleweight champion of Greece (1938) and the Balkans […]

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April 25: Ella Fitzgerald and Norman Granz

Ella Fitzgerald, one of America’s greatest jazz singers, was born in Newport News, Virginia on this date in 1917. She was already a star of the jazz scene in Harlem, with a Decca Records contract, a hit song (“A-Tisket, A-Tasket”), and a Jewish manager, Milt Gabler, when she was introduced to the jazz impresario Norman […]

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April 24: Estée Lauder

Cosmetics capitalist Estée Lauder (Josephine Esther Mentzer) died at 95 on this date in 2004. She was born to Hungarian immigrants who ran a hardware store, and she became interested in cosmetics through the work of her uncle, a chemist who developed beauty products and fragrances. In 1953, she introduced her first fragrance, “Youth Dew,” […]

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April 23: George Steiner

Novelist, critic, and Renaissance man Francis George Steiner, author of the controversial novella The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. (1981), was born in Paris on this date in 1929. His parents were Viennese Jews who moved to France as soon as Nazism showed its face as a rising movement in Germany and Austria, then […]

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April 21: Among the World’s Children

Danny Kaye became UNICEF’s first celebrity Ambassador-at-Large on this date in 1954, and proceeded to become an international voice for poverty relief and worldwide aid. Kaye met UNICEF’s executive director, Maurice Pate, in 1949 on a plane from London to New York that was re-routed to Ireland after it caught fire. They bonded during the fearful […]

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April 20: The Best Little Boy in the World

Andrew Tobias, treasurer of the Democratic National Committee since 1999 and author of the pseudonymous 1973 book about coming out as a gay person, The Best Little Boy in the World, was born in New York on this date in 1947. A graduate of Harvard Business School, he began writing best-selling books about finance and […]

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April 19: How Genes Turn On and Off

François Jacob, a French Jewish scientist who was awarded the 1965 Nobel Prize in medicine for his research into how cells turn genes on and off, died at 92 on this date in 2013. Jacob was the grandson of France’s first Jewish military general, and quit medical school after the Nazi invasion of France to […]

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I Have No Faith. But I Have a Ticket.

by Lawrence Bush “Our rabbis taught: When Adam, on the day of his creation, saw the setting of the sun he said! ‘Alas, it is because I have sinned that the world around me is becoming dark; the universe will now become again void and without form — this then is the death to which […]

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April 17: A Few Words in the Mother Tongue

Poet, writer, and activist scholar Irena Klepfisz, a child survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, was born there on this date in 1941. Her father Michal, a leader of the Jewish Bund, was killed on the second day of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, when Irena was 2; she and her mother escaped to the countryside and […]

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April 16: The Goldman Environmental Prize

Richard Goldman, who with his wife Rhoda founded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 1989, was born on this date in 1920. The two were San Franciscoans who grew up down the street from one another. In 1949, Richard founded Goldman Insurance Services, which became a major insurance brokerage firm. Rhoda was a descendant of Levi […]

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April 15: Seth Rogen

Comic actor, writer, and film producer Seth Rogen, the son of radical secular Jews (his father was an assistant director of the Workmen’s Circle in Canada), was born in Vancouver, British Columbia on this date in 1982. Rogen worked on the television shows Freaks and Geeks and Sacha Baron Cohen’s Da Ali G Show before […]

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O My America: California Millennials

by Lawrence Bush AT THE TWO seders I attended this year, and throughout the eight days of Passover, the “Four Children” was the theme on which I obsessed. On the first night, I was guest at a seder attended by more millennials than baby-boomers — a first in my experience — and I was completely charmed by […]

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April 14: The Pony Express

The first Pony Express rider to reach San Francisco arrived around midnight on this date in 1860. Of the 120 riders who worked for the short-lived (eighteen months) service, Jewdayo has identified one Jew, Solomon Barth, who rode between Albuquerque, New Mexico and Prescott, Arizona. Barth came to America in 1856 and made his way West […]

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April 13: A Candle-Making Monopoly, 1763

Four Jews — Aaron Lopez, Naphthali Hart, Jacob Rodriguez Rivera, and Moses Lopez — were among the ten signatories to the Spermaceti Candle-Making Agreement signed in Newport, Rhode Island on this date in 1763 (a revision of an agreement signed nearly two years earlier). The agreement bound candle manufacturers to pay a maximum price per ton of […]

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April 12: Democratizing Torah Study

Nechama Leibowitz, an Orthodox Litvak woman who democratized Torah study in Israel in the 1940s by mailing out stencils of questions on the weekly Torah portion to anyone who requested them, collecting people’s responses, and returning them with her comments and insights, died at 91 on this date in 1997. Leibowitz, sister to Israeli philosopher […]

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April 11: Treating Parkinson’s

Dr. Irving Cooper accidentally found a surgical treatment for Parkinson’s Disease on this date in 1952 when he inadvertently interrupted a Parkinson’s patient’s anterior choroidal artery (AChA) during brain surgery and was forced to close off the artery. When the patient awoke from anesthesia, his tremor and rigidity had vanished while his motor and sensory […]

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April 10: Raymond Aubrac and the French Resistance

Raymond Aubrac (Samuel), who with his non-Jewish wife Lucie became a leader and a hero in the French Resistance during World War II, died at 97 on this date in 2012. They married in 1939 and joined the Resistance the following year, settling in Lyon and serving as founding publishers of the underground newspaper Libération. […]

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April 9: Abdul Mati Klarwein — and Miles Davis

Surrealist artist Abdul Mati Klarwein was born in Hamburg on this date in 1932, to a Jewish architect father of Polish origin and a German opera singer mother. The three of them fled to Palestine when he was two years old. Klarwein was best known as a record album artist: His works included covers for Miles Davis; Earth, […]

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April 8: Mussolini’s Jewish Lover

Margherita Sarfatti, an Italian journalist and socialite who served as a propaganda adviser to the National Fascist Party and was Benito Mussolini’s mistress as well as biographer, was born in Venice on this date in 1880. She was raised in great wealth but became a socialist in her teen years and ran away from her […]

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April 7: Anonymous Cyber-Attacks Israel

The international hacker group Anonymous focused its fire on Israel on this date in 2014, for the second time since Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) 2013 — and with a third attack expected today, April 7, 2015. The targets of #OpIsrael have included websites of Israel’s prime minister, the Bank of Israel, the country’s American embassy, […]

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April 6: The Word Is Out about Rob Epstein

Gay filmmaker Rob Epstein, who has won two Academy Awards for Best Documentary for The Life and Times of Harvey Milk and Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, was born in New Jersey on this date in 1955. His other films include Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives, The Celluloid Closet, Paragraph […]

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What to Do about Terrorism

U.S. Out of the Middle East! by Lawrence Bush From the Spring 2015 issue of Jewish Currents IT TAKES A LEAP of the humanistic imagination to feel even a shred of understanding for radical Islamists who are terrorizing the Middle East. The alternative to making that leap, however, is simply to rage, “Let’s kill them, […]

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April 5: Resistance at Ponary

According to The Holocaust Chronicle, “Three hundred Jews from Soly and Smorgen, Belorussia” were transported by rail to be ghettoized in Vilna on this date in 1943. “En route, the captives shatter[ed] the railcars’ wire-reinforced glass and attempt[ed] to flee, but [were] shot to death by guards.” Survivors were later shot “at Ponary, southwest of […]

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April 4: Elmer Bernstein’s Film Scores

Composer Elmer Bernstein, who created the music for The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Ten Commandments, The Man with the Golden Arm, To Kill a MockingbirdGhostbusters, Airplane!, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Blues Brothers, A River Runs Through It, and some 200 other movies and television shows, was born in New York on this date […]

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April 3: Jack the Ripper

The first of eleven unsolved murders of women by “Jack the Ripper” occurred in the impoverished Whitechapel District of the East End of London on this date in 1888. Two Jews have been leading suspects in the “Ripper” murders: Aaron Kosminski, a Polish Jew who worked as a hairdresser in Whitechapel and died in an […]

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O My America: That Indiana Law

by Lawrence Bush NU, if rightwing Christian ministers in Indiana are not allowed to abstain from officiating at same-sex marriages, and if Indiana churches are not allowed to refuse to host a same-sex marriage, what happens the next time a rabbi refuses to officiate at an interfaith marriage and a synagogue refuses to host it? […]

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The Hungry Hagode

The Whole Megile, in Verse by Lawrence Bush A FAMILY DINNER? What’s the big deal? Let’s skip all the talking and get to the meal! It’s Passover — why not pass over the chatter? And pass out the matzo balls! Hey! What’s the matter? Sorry! Okay, I’ll be quiet, I promise. I’m listening. Yes, I […]

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April 2: Buddy Rich

The self-taught jazz drummer Buddy Rich died at 69 on this date in 1987. Rich was the son of vaudevillians and began drumming on stage before he was 2. By age 11 he was a bandleader, and by 20 he was drumming with a major jazz group. He joined Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra in 1938 and […]

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April 1: An Algerian Jewish Nobelist

Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, who in 1997 became the first physics Nobel laureate from an Arab country, was born in Constantine, Algeria on this date in 1933. (“My family,” he notes, “originally from Tangier, settled in Tunisia and then in Algeria in the 16th century after having fled Spain during the Inquisition. In fact, our name, Cohen-Tannoudji, […]

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March 31: “We Are Young”

Jack Antonoff, lead guitarist for the indie band fun., whose 2012 hit single, “We Are Young,” hijacked the radio as a smash hit for weeks after it was covered on the television show Glee, was born in Bergenfield, New Jersey on this date in 1984. Antonoff spent his elementary school days at a Solomon Schechter […]

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Judaism as a Counterculture

Testifying Against Idolatry by Lawrence Bush   The Almighty Dollar. Rugged Individualism. Shock and Awe. Illegal Aliens. Supermodels. Boob Jobs. Face Lifts. American Idol. The Pepsi Generation. Drill Baby Drill. Kill It and Grill It. Lock Them Up and Throw Away the Key. I’d Rather Be a Conservative Nut Job than a Liberal with No […]

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March 30: Avrom Reyzn

Yiddish story writer, poet, novelist, and essayist Avrom Reyzn died at 76 (some say 77) on this date in 1953. After moving to the U.S. in 1911, he contributed a stream of very popular stories to several American Yiddish newspapers. Reyzn was encouraged and promoted by both Sholem Aleichem and Y.L. Peretz, and in turn […]

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March 29: Rosina Lhévinne at Juilliard

Rosina Lhévinne, a piano teacher at Juilliard whose students include Van Cliburn, James Levine, John Williams, Misha Dichter, and numerous other internationally known musicians, was born in Kiev on this date in 1880. She came from a Dutch family that had emigrated to the Russian Empire, and she began studying piano at age 6. Within […]

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March 28: The Quark

Physicist Jerome Isaac Friedman, who shared a 1990 Nobel prize for experimental confirmation of the structure of fundamental particles known as quarks, was born in Chicago to Russian Jewish immigrants on this date in 1930. Friedman was oriented towards the arts until he read a book by Albert Einstein. He then turned down a scholarship […]

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March 27: Anthony Lewis

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and columnist Anthony Lewis was born in New York on this date in 1927. He was especially known as an expert on the law, and covered both the U.S. Justice Department and the Supreme Court for the New York Times. Lewis’ articles, writes Adam Liptak in Lewis’ 2013 New York Times obituary, […]

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March 26: General Jacob and the Liberation of Bangladesh

Bangladesh declared its independence from Pakistan on this date in 1971, leading to an atrocious nine-month war pitting East Pakistan against West Pakistan and involving massive displacement, starvation, rape, and death. After some 10 million refugees had poured into India, that country’s military intervened, under the command of Major General Jacob-Farj-Rafael “JFR” Jacob — a Jew, […]

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March 25: “You Are There”

Humorist, critic, radio host, and television writer Goodman Ace (Aiskowitz), best known as the creator of You Are There, died at 83 on this date in 1982. In his own hey-day, Ace was a well-known kibitzer and culture critic. He played opposite his malaprop-dropping wife, Jane Ace (Epstein) in the comedic radio show Easy Aces […]

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March 24: Moissaye Olgin and the Frayhayt

Image: Photo restored and retouched by Yiddishkayt in Los Angeles. Moissaye Olgin, editor of the communist Yiddish daily Morgn Frayhayt (“Morning Freedom”) from its founding in 1922 until his death in 1939, was born in a Ukrainian shtetl on this date in 1878. An admired revolutionary agitator and writer in the Russian underground, he wrote […]

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March 23: Moacyr Jaime Scliar

Brazilian physician and writer Moacyr jaime Scliar, who wrote often about Jewish identity issues, was born in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul on this date in 1937. He published over a hundred books in Portuguese, including novels, short-story collections, non-fiction, and children’s literature, and his fiction, filled with magical realism and humor, has been […]

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March 22: The YMHA

The first meeting of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association in New York took place at the home of Dr. Simeon Newton Leo on this date in 1874. The organization would incorporate on September 10th, with the mission “to promote a better feeling and a higher culture among young men and to unite them into a […]

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March 21: The Man Who Froze Bagels

Murray Isaac Lender, who with his brothers Sam and Marvin turned their immigrant father Harry’s Connecticut bagel business into a nationwide wholesaler by freezing pre-sliced bagels and selling them in supermarkets (beginning in 1960), died at 81 on this date in 2012. Lender’s Bagels introduced many Americans to the bagel and was the primary force […]

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March 20: Boris Reinstein and the Passaic Weavers

Newspapers reported on this date in 1912 that Boris Reinstein, an Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) organizer in Detroit, had taken command of the Passaic, New Jersey strike involving some 10,000 mill workers. Reinstein had fled Russia’s tsarist police in 1901 and settled with his obstetrician wife Anna in Buffalo, where he worked as […]

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March 19: The Grey Lady’s First Lady

Jill Ellen Abramson, who in 2011 became the first women executive editor of the New York Times in its 162-year existence, was born in New York on this date in 1954. Abramson joined the paper as Washington bureau chief in 1997, after working for the Wall Street Journal as an investigative reporter. She was terminated […]

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March 18: Adam Levine and Maroon 5

Musician, actor, and sex symbol Adam Noah Levine, lead singer for Maroon 5, was born in Los Angeles on this date in 1979. The band’s first album, Songs about Jane, went platinum in 2002, and four more albums have been released since. In 2010, the band’s digital single, “Moves Like Jagger,” became the eighth best-selling […]

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March 17: “A Philosopher Among Architects”

American architect and professor of architecture Louis I. Kahn (Itze-Leib Schmuilowsky) died in New York at 73 on this date in 1974. Based in Philadelphia, he serve as professor of architecture at Yale from 1947 to 1957 and at the University of Pennsylvania from 1957 until his demise. Kahn was perhaps better known for his […]

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March 16: Allard Lowenstein

Allard Lowenstein, a highly influential liberal activist, was murdered at age 51 by a mentally ill gunman on this date in 1980. Lowenstein held a law degree from Yale, which at its website lauds his “passionate leadership” and his “crucial role in the civil rights, anti-apartheid, anti-war, and human rights movements of the 1960s and […]

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March 15: The Ides of March

Julius Caesar was assassinated in Rome on this date in 44 BCE. The Jews of Palestine had backed Caesar in his successful civil war with Pompey, who had massacred some 12,000 of them while conquering Jerusalem, violated the Holy of Holies in the Temple, and sold thousands of Jews into slavery. (Pompey’s ally Crassus additionally […]

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March 14: The Mishkan

Construction of the Mishkan, a portable tabernacle or tent to house “God’s presence,” was completed in the Sinai wilderness on this date in 1312 BCE, according to Biblical reckoning (as figured by the Lubavitcher khasidim). The design, according to the Torah, had been issued in lengthy detail to Moses on Mount Sinai, and the construction […]

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March 13: Joe Schwartz, Folk Photographer

Joe Schwartz, a largely undiscovered “folk” photographer and lithographer who captured moments in the lives of poor and working people, and especially moments of interracial neighborliness (at left, kids watching a marionette show in Brooklyn), died at 99 in Atascadero, California on this date in 2013. Schwartz was active in New York’s radical Photo League […]

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March 12: Premier of New Zealand

Julius Vogel, the eighth premier of New Zealand, died at 64 on this date in 1899. Vogel served in the office from 1873 to 1875 and again in 1876. Vogel’s political career was highlighted by land acquisition from the indigenous Māori people (whom he sought to see assimilated into white culture), by efforts to gain […]

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March 11: Pornography’s Unofficial Spokeswoman

Porn actress and entrepreneur Nina Hartley (Marie Louise Hartman) was born to communist parents in California on this date in 1959. Her mother was Jewish, from Alabama, her father Lutheran — and both became Buddhists. Hartley was studying to be a registered nurse when she entered into adult films in 1984; she achieved her nurs