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Erich Fromm

Humanistic philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm was born on this date in 1900 in Frankfurt, Germany. He was a student of the Talmud and used Jewish texts and imagery as touchstones for his political and psychological insights long after he left the world of Orthodox observance at the age of 26. Fromm’s attachment to Judaism […]

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Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

Half a million people participated in the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on this date in 1987. The following year, Dr. Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary founded National Coming Out Day, which is observed annually on October 11th. Eichberg was a Brooklyn-born psychologist who lived in Los Angeles and New […]

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July 1: Sigmund Rolat

Sigmund Rolat, a Holocaust child survivor (in the Częstochowa Ghetto and labor camps in Poland) who in 2013 founded POLIN, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews on the site of the Warsaw Ghetto, was born on this date in 1930.

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MGM

The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer company, or MGM, was founded on this date in 1924 when Marcus Loew, owner of the Loew’s theater chain, took control of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures, and Louis B. Mayer Pictures. MGM was the dominant Hollywood film studio through World War II, producing such classics as The Wizard of Oz, the originalBen Hur and the Charlton […]

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Rosalind Franklin and the Double Helix

Rosalind Franklin, who made key contributions to Crick and Watson’s formulation of the double-helix structure of DNA but received little credit for her work, died on this date in 1958 at age 37. Franklin was born in Notting Hill, London to a family involved in banking, government, trade union organizing and women’s suffrage. The family […]

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“Where you go, I go”

Among those who perished when the ocean liner Titanic sank on this date in 1912 were Ida and Isidor Straus, co-owners with Nathan Straus of Macy’s and Abraham & Straus department stores. Ida (born 1849) was offered a place on a lifeboat but refused it, saying to her husband, “We have lived together for many years. Where […]

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Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and… Marvin Miller

Marvin Miller, who directed the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) from 1966 to 1983, was born on this date in 1917 in the Bronx. He was the leading economist and negotiator for the United Steelworkers when he was elected head of the MLBPA in 1966, and within two years had negotiated its first collective […]

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Democracy Now!

Radical journalist Amy Goodman, the co-creator and host of Democracy Now!, was born on this date in 1957. Democracy Now! has been broadcasting on Pacifica radio and other networks since 1996, giving in-depth coverage to peace and human rights struggles, corporate malfeasance, and numerous other pressing international issues of our time. Goodman was the first journalist to win […]

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Abbie Hoffman

The clown prince of the New Left, Abbie Hoffman died by his own hand on this date in 1989 at the age of 52. Using ridicule and audacity against the political, military, and judicial systems that were helping to prosecute the Vietnam War, Hoffman worked to transform the anti-authoritarian sentiments of many young people of […]

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Buchenwald Liberated

Today is the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp by U.S. troops in 1945. When the Americans arrived, the camp had just been seized by prisoners, some of whom had been forcibly marched there from Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen (a sub-camp of Sachsenhausen) in January as Soviet forces were sweeping through Poland. […]

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Cornell Capa (Kornél Friedmann), founder of the International Center of Photography in New York, was born on this date in Budapest in 1918. He was a Life magazine and Magnum photographer who covered the Soviet Union, Israel’s Six-Day War, and the first hundred days of the Kennedy presidency, among other subjects. In the 1970s, Capra produced a […]

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Andrea Dworkin

Andrea Dworkin, one of the most radical and polarizing figures of the feminist movement, died on this date in 2005 at age 58. Dworkin was the author of Woman Hating: A Radical Look at Sexuality (1974), Pornography—Men Possessing Women (1981) and Intercourse (1987), among other books. She became a leader of the “Take Back the Night” movement, which sought safety for […]

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Yip Harburg

Yip Harburg (Isidore Hochberg), the lyricist who wrote the anthem of the Great Depression, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” and all the songs of The Wizard of Oz,  including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (voted the #1 song of the 20th century in two different professional polls), was born on this date in 1896. He collaborated with […]

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Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg, who blew the whistle on the Vietnam War by releasing the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and other newspapers in 1971, was born on this day in 1931. Ellsberg was a former Marine and military analyst with the Rand Corporation who was deeply affected by a War Resistance League conference speech by Randy […]

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Kishinev Pogrom

The Kishinev pogrom was launched on this day in 1903 (Easter Sunday) when rumors spread that a Christian child, found dead, had been murdered by Jews to use his blood in the preparation of matse. Kishinev was the capital of Bessarabia (today’s Moldova), a city that then had 125,000 residents, half of them Jewish. Over the […]

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Dr. King

The 20th-century prophet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on this date in 1968 at age 39. Among white Americans participating in the movement that Dr. King led, Jews played a brave and disproportionate role. More than a third of the young white Northerners who participated in the Freedom Summer of 1964 were Jewish, […]

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Y.L. Peretz

The classic Yiddish writer Yitzkhok Leibush Peretz died on this date in 1915 at the age of 62. A son of the Jewish enlightenment (Haskole), he nevertheless remained romantically attached to the Judaism of his youth (he was raised in an Orthodox family) and incorporated religious folklore into his deeply humanistic writings. With Sholem Aleichem […]

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Nathan Birnbaum

Nathan Birnbaum, who coined the term “Zionism” and was the chief organizer of the historic 1908 Czernowitz Conference for the Yiddish Language, died on this date in 1937. A decade before Theodor Herzl launched the Zionist movement, Birnbaum founded Kadimah (“Forward”), the first Jewish nationalist student association in Vienna, and established Selbstemanzipation! (“Self-Emancipation!”), a journal that advocated the development of a […]

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The Big Bang

The Big Bang theory about the origin of matter in our expanding universe was proposed on this date in 1948 inThe Physical Review by Ralph Asher Alpher and George Gamow. (Gamow, an eminent Soviet physicist who had ‘defected’ to the U.S. in 1934, added the name of Hans Bethe as an author so that the byline […]

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Passing Over and Out of India

An India Travelogue, Part 13 by Lawrence Bush Click for Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12.   WE ARE CUTTING SHORT our trip to India, with one week left (which would have involved a trip to Varanasi, the “holy city” on the Ganges River, and to Khajuraho, a city famous for its erotic temple sculptures). Our son has been hospitalized […]

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Exile from Spain

On this date in 1492, Isabella and Ferdinand, the monarchs who had joined their kingdoms of Castile and Aragon through marriage in 1469, issued the Alhambra Decree, ordering Jews of the Spanish peninsula to convert to Catholicism or leave the country by July 31st. Jews had generally thrived there under Muslim rule for six centuries, […]

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Going to Temple

An India Travelogue, Part 12 by Lawrence Bush Click for Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.   INDIA’S MANY BEAUTIFUL PALACES, forts, and temples start to merge into one another after a few weeks of travel here, but this morning, in Udaipur, the “City of Lakes” (seven of them, man-made over the past four centuries), we had an exceptional […]

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Jewish Doctors

Today is National Doctors Day, an observance established in 1933, affirmed by resolution in the House of Representatives in 1958, and established by federal legislation in 1990. The day is observed by mailing greeting cards to doctors and decorating with red carnations the graves of physicians who have died. Jews, who are currently about 2.5 […]

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Richard Lewontin: Race as a Biological Illusion

Evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin, an opponent of sociobiology and biological determinism and a strong advocate of defining race strictly as a socially but not biologically meaningful category, was born in New York on this date in 1929. In 1972, Lewontin identified that most of the genetic variation within human populations is found within local geographic groups, and that differences among so-called […]

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Marc Chagall

Pioneering modern artist Marc Chagall died on this date in 1985 (born in 1887). His origins in the heavily Jewish town of Vitebsk (Belarus) were most in evidence in his dreamy, poetic paintings; from the very beginning of Chagall’s career, writes Susan Tumarkin Goodman, he chose to “cherish and publicly express” his Jewish roots as […]

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The Karma of Trust

An India Travelogue, Part 11 by Lawrence Bush Click for Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.   OUT OF THE CITY of Delhi, at last! We came yesterday by car to Jaipur, in the state of Rajasthan, (we hired the same driver with the deep voice and the one family cow who had taken us to Agra and the Taj […]

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The Boycott

On this date in 1933, anti-Nazi rallies were held in 76 American cities and towns. In New York City, a crowd of 55,000 filled Madison Square Garden and the streets surrounding it, and the event was broadcast on the radio worldwide. These protests were organized chiefly by the American Jewish Congress and the Jewish War […]

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Begin and Sadat

On this date in 1979, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty at the White House, after many months of diplomacy by Jimmy Carter. The treaty ended the state of war that had existed between Israel and Egypt since 1948, brought mutual recognition of each (Egypt was the first Arab country to recognize […]

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The “Howl” Trial

Photo: Michiel Hendryckx Some 520 copies of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, printed in England, were impounded by U.S. Customs on this date in 1957. Publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti was charged with promoting obscenity, and after a long trial (covered in a Life magazine picture story), the book was ruled not obscene in a decision that paved the way for the American […]

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Harry Houdini

Magician, escape artist and skeptic Harry Houdini (Ehrich Weisz) was born in Budapest on this day in 1874. A trapeze artist, card trickster and circus “wildman,” he began concentrating on escape acts in the 1890s, married a fellow performer, Bess Rahner, who became his lifelong stage assistant, and made his reputation in a tour of […]

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Hanging with the Idolaters

An India Travelogue, Part 10 by Lawrence Bush Click for Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.   IT’S INTERESTING being an American Jew in India, where most of the folks I speak with associate Jews exclusively with Israel, period — meaning that they associate us with conservatism, occupation of the Palestinian people, and cooperation with the U.S. military machine. The […]

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While My Sitar Gently Screeches

An India Travelogue, Part 9 by Lawrence Bush Click for Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8.   I BROUGHT a guitar on this trip to India, a $250 instrument with a resonator plate, which plays loud, has good action, and sounds excellent for the blues — but it’s a cheap instrument, so if anything happens to it, I will not be grief-stricken. Still, I’m […]

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A Long Overdue Correction

In February, 1964, Jewish Currents mistakenly identified fencer Henry Kolowrat as a Jewish athlete. That error was included in Mr. Kolowrat’s Wikipedia entry. He recently wrote to us that the “attribution probably resulted from a plan by one of my Jewish friends in the fencing world. Having a sense of humor, and even back then being […]

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Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf

Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, a staunch anti-war and pro-civil rights activist, was born on this date in Chicago in 1924. From 1957 until 1972 he held the pulpit at a synagogue he founded, Congregation Solel in Highland Park, where Martin Luther King, Jr. and defendants in the Chicago Seven conspiracy trial were invited to speak. […]

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Ben Cohen

Ben Cohen, the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, was born on this date in 1951. He and his lifelong friend Jerry Greenfield invested $6,000 to renovate a gas station in Burlington, Vermont and open their first ice cream shop in 1977. From the inception of their multi-million-dollar business, Ben & Jerry’s sought to […]

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Jewel in the Crown?

An India Travelogue, Part 7 by Lawrence Bush Click for Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.   SUSAN HAD AN ERUPTION of “Delhi belly” a couple of nights ago, which laid her low for a few hours and has put us both on an even stricter regimen about what we will and won’t eat (no more ice cubes in India, […]

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#Me Too in India

An India Travelogue, Part 6 by Lawrence Bush Click for Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.   WE HAD A DAY of recovery and catch-up yesterday, after Susan had taught a four-hour workshop the day before at a monumentally huge school called Step by Step. Her cohort consisted of some thirty teachers, all women, drawn from thirty different schools, including numerous […]

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The Vienna Edict

On this date in 1421, 212 surviving Viennese Jews were burned to death after a year of persecution, forced conversion, expulsion, imprisonment in their synagogue, and mass suicide. Contemporary reports described the Jews as singing songs and dancing before the pyres. Archduke Albrecht V’s Wiener Geserah(Vienna Edict), which prompted these horrors, occurred amid the fervor of […]

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Their Idolatry and Mine

An India Travelogue, Part 5 by Lawrence Bush Click for Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4. ONE REASON I was ill-prepared for this trip to India is that my work life with Jewish Currents never leaves me much time for extra-curricular anything. I knew months ago that I would be coming here, as my wife was scheduled to teach for a […]

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The Roxy Theater

Movie house impresario Samuel Lionel “Roxy” Rothafel opened the 5,920-seat Roxy Theater in New York on this date in 1927, showing the silent film The Love of Sunya, produced by and starring Gloria Swanson. The Roxy became known as the “Cathedral of the Motion Picture.” During the 1920s, Rothafel was the manager and publicist for numerous […]

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Jews in the Mughal Empire (Just Kidding)

An India Travelogue, Part 4 by Lawrence Bush Click for Parts 1, 2 and 3.   I REMEMBER the first time I saw Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, after years of seeing it in photographs. You couldn’t drive very close to the mountain, so it seemed like a post card, even in “real life,” and I experienced disappointment. Rather […]

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Sol Hurok

Impresario Sol Hurok (Solomon Izrailevich Gurkov) died on this day in 1974 in New York City. His management company, “Sol Hurok Presents,” included among its artists Marian Anderson (for whom he arranged the famous Lincoln Memorial concert of 1939), Van Cliburn, Arthur Rubinstein, Isaac Stern, Isadora Duncan, Anna Pavlova, Andres Segovia, Katherine Dunham, Mary Wigman, […]

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Jews in Congress

On this day in 1791, Israel Jacobs of Pennsylvania became the first Jew to be seated in the U.S. House of Representatives. One hundred and twenty years later, on this day in 1911, Victor L. Berger of Milwaukee became the first socialist to be seated in the House. Berger lost his seat in 1912 but […]

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Purim at the Imperial: India, Part 2

A Travelogue by Lawrence Bush For Part 1, click here. HE WAS A VERY handsome Sikh man, dark-eyed, smiling, turbaned, of course, about 40 years old, and he was pleading with us — gently, obsequiously, with “sir” and “lady” tagged to every sentence — to engage him as a driver any time we needed one in Delhi […]

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Inching My Way into India

by Lawrence Bush   I GO CRAZY for the first 24 hours trying to hook into technology so that I can pretend I’m not that far away from home and calmly keep plugging away at my work for Jewish Currents. I’m searching for wifi signals and passwords, SIM cards, charging cables and outlet adapters that we brought from home, and so on. Plus […]

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Michel de Montaigne

Writer and philosopher Michel de Montaigne, born Michel Eyquem on this date in 1533, was a major figure in the French Renaissance. His mother was Jewish, but converted to Protestantism, while his maternal grandfather was a crypto-Jew whose family converted to Catholicism. It is thought that there were conversos on his father’s side as well. Montaigne heard and […]

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The Father of Israeli Folk Dance

Fred Berk (Fritz Berger), “Mr. Israeli Folk Dance,” died on this date in 1980. He was a modern dancer in Vienna who emigrated from Austria in 1938 as the Nazis moved in. Berk was the founder and long-time director of the Jewish Dance Division at the 92nd Street Y in New York. Arthritis stuck him […]

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African Studies

Anthropologist Melville Jean Herskovits died on this day in 1963, after a career in which he established African and African-American studies as an academic discipline. One of Franz Boas’ cohort of influential students at Columbia University (Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, Edward Sapir, Zora Neale Hurston and numerous others), Herskovits founded Northwestern University’s department of anthropology […]

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Isaac Rice’s Gambits

Isaac Rice, a music teacher, innovator in the game of chess, and businessman who developed the U.S. Navy’s first modern submarines and helped found the company today known as General Dynamics, was born in Bavaria on this date in 1850. He emigrated to the U.S. at age 6, studied music in Paris, returned to America as […]

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Barnard’s Founder

Annie Nathan Meyer, the key founder of Barnard College, was born on this day in 1867 into an illustrious colonial Sephardic New York family (Emma Lazarus was among her cousins). Although Meyer was an active opponent of women’s suffrage — which brought her into direct conflict with her activist sister, Maud Nathan — she personally […]

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Mother of Exiles

On this day in 1879, U.S. design patent #11023 was granted to Frederic Auguste Bartholdi of Paris, France for “a female figure standing erect upon a pedestal or block . . . The body is clothed in the classical drapery or stola . . . The right arm is thrown up and stretched out with […]

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“Weathering Winter”

by Shirley Adelman   WEATHERING WINTER KASHA The comfort of kasha, on a cold winter day, warming me up, like Yiddish words, flying across the table many years ago.   BORSCHT Taking time from what should be done, to what must be done: cooking a winter borscht, to nourish my soul, hungry for the flavors, of […]

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Leo Szilard

Hungarian physicist Leó Szilárd was born on this date in 1898. After fleeing from Berlin to London as the Nazis came to power in 1933, Szilárd conceived and patented the idea of a nuclear chain reaction (he also patented, with Enrico Fermi, the first nuclear reactor). At Columbia University five years later, he and Fermi […]

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Eddy Duchin’s Sweet Music

Pianist and bandleader Eddy Duchin, famous for his work with the Leo Reisman orchestra at the Central Park Casino, died of leukemia at 40 on this date in 1951. Duchin, who had no formal training, called his sound “sweet music” instead of jazz and presaged the floral, expressive style of Liberace. He was fond of using soft-voiced […]

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Chaver Paver

Yiddish writer Gershon Einbinder, who used the pen name Chaver Paver, was born in what is now Ukraine on this date in 1901. He fled pogroms by emigrating to Romania in 1921 and to New York in 1923, where he published his first two volumes of children’s stories, Mayselekh fun Khaver Paver. Chaver Paver worked as a teacher and curriculum-writer in the leftwing Yiddish […]

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Arrested in Defense of Treaty Rights

A CONVERSATION WITH MARILYN KIMMERLING OF TACOMA DIRECT ACTION By Stephen Quirke   IN THE EARLY MORNING of May 17, 2017, six people entered a construction site at the Port of Tacoma, Washington, and locked themselves to an auger. Four hours passed before Tacoma police could remove them. One officer told 79- year-old Cynthia Linet that his […]

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Jason Silva’s Shots of Awe

Futurist and filmmaker Jason Silva, whom the Atlantic has described as “a Timothy Leary of the Viral Video Age,” was born in Caracas, Venezuela, on this date in 1982. His mother was Ashkenazi, his father a convert to Judaism. Silva says that his family was secular and that his home was “akin to a Woody Allen film.” A passionate […]

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Modern Times

Charlie Chaplin was not Jewish — he was baptized and raised in the Anglican church — but Nazi propaganda in the 1930s said otherwise, identifying him as “Karl Tonstein,” a Jew and a communist. The rumors stuck, especially after Chaplin’s release ofThe Great Dictator in 1940, and he consistently refused to deny being Jewish, since to do so, […]

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Feb 5 Hal Blaine

Drummer Hal Blaine (Belsky), who has worked as a studio musician on more than forty Number One single and played on more hit records than any other rock drummer, was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts on this date in 1929. including Nancy Sinatra, Jan and Dean, Elvis Presley, John Denver, the Ronettes, Simon & Garfunkel, the Carpenters, the […]

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Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan was born Bettye Naomi Goldstein on this day in 1921 and died on this day in 2006. Her 1963 best-selling book The Feminine Mystique catalyzed feminist consciousness across the U.S. and beyond. At the time she was a suburban housewife and mother with a psychology degree from Smith College and a background of involvement with […]

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Ezekiel Hart

Ezekiel Hart, the first Jew elected to public office in the British Empire, swore his oath on a Hebrew Bible with his head covered before taking his seat in the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada on this day in 1807. The next day, Attorney General Jonathan Sewell objected to his being seated, since Hart’s oath […]

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“The People’s Lawyer”

Louis D. Brandeis was nominated to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court on this day in 1916. As an attorney and presidential advisor, Brandeis (born in 1856) was a strong advocate of labor rights, women’s rights, and anti-trust legislation. His notable early cases (many of which he pursued without compensation) fought railroad monopolies and helped […]

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O My America: What the Redwood Said

For Tu B’Shvat 2018, The New Year of the Trees by Lawrence Bush When God created Adam, God led him around the Garden of Eden and said to him: “Behold my works. See how wonderful and beautiful they are. All that I have created, for your sake did I create it. Now see to it […]

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Parole for the Peace Now Bomber

Yona Avrushmi, who threw a grenade into a 1983 Peace Now rally, killing Emil Grunzweig, a founder of Peace Now, and wounding nine others, was granted parole and released from Rimonim Prison on this date in 2011. Avrushmi was convicted of murder and received a life sentence, but in 1995, President Ezer Weizman inexplicably commuted his sentence to twenty-seven years. In […]

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The Butcher of Lyon

Klaus Barbie, a Nazi functionary who became known as the “Butcher of Lyon” for personally torturing members of the French Resistance in the Lyons region, was arrested in Bolivia on this date in 1983. He would be convicted of war crimes in France and die in prison in 1991. Barbie was recruited by American intelligence after the war and aided […]

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“The Millionaire Who Never Laughs”

Marcel Dassault (Bloch), a French aircraft engineer who became a major force in the country’s airplane and defense industries until he was imprisoned by the Vichy government for refusing to build aircraft for the Nazis, was born in Paris on this date in 1892. In 1944 he was confined in Buchenwald, where he was targeted […]

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The Third Crusade

On this day in 1189, King Philip of France, Emperor Frederick I of the Holy Roman Empire, and King Henry II of England — soon to be succeeded by his son, Richard the Lionheart — began assembling armies for the Third Crusade. Their goal, backed by Pope Gregory VIII, was to reconquer Palestine from Saladin, the Muslim […]

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Yehudi Menuhin

Violinist Yehudi Menuhin played a public performance for the first time in his hometown of New York at the age of 9 on this date in 1926, at the Manhattan Opera House. This came two years after his debut concert in San Francisco, where he played Bériot’s ”Scene de Ballet” with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and […]

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The Mobster

Mobster Meyer Lansky (Meier Suchowlański), a co-founder of Murder, Inc., died on this day in 1983, age 80, without ever being convicted for a crime worse than illegal gambling. He was a lifelong friend with Bugsy Siegel (they ran a violent Prohibition-era gang and launched Murder, Inc. together) until he agreed to Siegel’s execution in 1947 […]

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The First Human Be-In

The first Human Be-In brought more than 20,000 people to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on this date in 1967, as a prelude to the Summer of Love. Among the key organizers of this “Gathering of the Tribes” was Allen Cohen, a founder of the San Francisco Oracle, who had teamed up with the psychedelic […]

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O My America: Baby Bonds

WHY CAN’T WE CELEBRATE THE END OF WORK? by Lawrence Bush   THERE’S A NEW proposal by two economists that’s being discussed in the media these days, for Baby Bonds — that every child born as a citizen of the U.S. would receive a bond ranging from $500 for very rich babies to $50,000 for very poor […]

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Soupy Sales

Soupy Sales (Milton Supman) was born on this date in 1926 in Franklinton, North Carolina. His parents were dry goods merchants (the local Ku Klux Klan, Soupy joked, bought their sheets from his folks) who nicknamed their sons ‘Hambone,’ ‘Chicken Bone’ and ‘Soup Bone.’ Milton shortened his nickname to Soupy and turned his family’s bent […]

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About This Calendar

“MUSIC, uniquely among the arts, is both completely abstract and profoundly emotional,” wrote the late Jewish brain scientist Oliver Sacks in his Musicophilia: Music and the Brain. “It has no power to represent anything particular or external, but it has a unique power to express inner states or feelings. Music can pierce the heart directly; […]

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Winter 2017-18: Art Calendar

About This Calendar: Our Music Theme January: Artwork by Michael Shapiro, writings by Peter Neil Carroll, Sherman Pearl, Robin Richstone, Barry Seiler February: Artwork by Iviva Olenick, writings by Mikhail Horowitz, Marc Jampole

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Argentina’s “Tragic Week”

The first pogrom in the Americas took place during the Semana Trágica (“Tragic Week”) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which began on this date in 1919 when the army violently attacked metalworkers who had been on strike for decent working conditions. A general strike began two days later. Rightwing paramilitary groups began to hunt down union leaders, anarchists, […]

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Argosy Books

Louis Cohen, a bibliophile and rare book collector who founded Argosy Books in Manhattan, died at 87 on this date in 1991. Cohen stocked the White House libraries of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, established libraries for the University of Texas and the University of Kansas, and donated thousands of Hebrew books to Bar-Ilan University […]

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Testimonies, a Story

by Lawrence Bush   UNITED STATES FEDERAL District Court, District of Columbia, Docket #A3125. Reilly, Dean & Taszak v. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum et al. Judge Thomas Black presiding. I. Mr. Gold: You are a docent at the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Ms. Klempner: Yes. Mr. Gold: Your job is to orient visitors in a reception area […]

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Petlyura and the Ukrainian Pogroms

On this date in 1919, Simon Petlyura, Ukrainian writer, Cossack commander, and head of the breakaway Ukrainian state during the civil war that followed the Bolshevik Revolution, began attacking Jews in a sustained wave of violence that took the lives of tens of thousands. Hundreds of cities and towns were attacked; thousands of Jewish women […]

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Inclusion and the Soul of a Synagogue

by Rabbi Jeremy Kridel From the Autumn 2017 issue of Jewish Currents “WE DON’T REALLY think we can do that.” So ends my wife’s phone conversation with staff at a Jewish camp and after-school program. What they could not do was include our son, then 8, in their activities. They were unprepared to provide services for […]

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Isaac Asimov

The great science fiction writer, biochemist, and humanist Isaac Asimov was born on this day in 1920. His family emigrated from the USSR to Brooklyn when he was three, and he grew up literate in both Yiddish and English. Asimov wrote or edited some 500 books — in nine out of ten of the major […]

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Ellis Island

On this date in 1892, a federal immigration depot opened at Ellis Island in New York harbor, replacing the Castle Garden immigration center, which had processed eight million immigrants during the previous thirty-five years. In Ellis Island’s busiest year, 1907, more than a million immigrants were processed. It became known as the “Island of Tears,” but only […]

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Wyatt Earp’s Main Squeeze

Wyatt Earp’s wife, Josephine Sarah Marcus, died at 84 on this date in 1944 (although some sources cite her yortsayt as December 19th). She claimed to have run away from home at 18 to join a theater troupe, but it is extremely difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to her life; she spun […]

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The “Pope of the Jews”

Angelo Donati, a Jewish businessman and diplomat from the tiny Republic of San Marino who saved several thousand Jews in the Italian occupation zone in France and became known as the “Pope of the Jews,” died at 75 on this date in 1960. Donati, who hailed from Modena, was general consul of San Marino from 19235 to […]

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The Original Teddy Bear

On this date in 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote a letter to cartoonist Clifford Berryman praising his Washington Post portrayal of Roosevelt refusing to shoot a small bear. The cartoon was based on an actual incident in which Roosevelt, a prodigious hunter, had refrained from killing a cornered young bear in Mississippi. Berryman’s drawing inspired Brooklyn candystore […]

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The First Woman on the Stock Exchange

On this date in 1967, Muriel Siebert, age 35, became the first woman member of the New York Stock Exchange (alongside 1,365 men), after campaigning for months to overcome sexist obstructions. In 1975, Siebert & Company became the nation’s first discount brokerage house, democratizing Wall Street investing by greatly lowering the fees involved. Today, more […]

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Itche Goldberg and Yiddishkayt

Yiddish scholar, literary critic and educator Itche Goldberg died at 102 on this date in 2006. Goldberg founded and kept alive the  Yiddish literary journal, Yidishe Kultur, from 1964 to 2004, and was an eloquent and important theorist and cultivator of secular Jewish culture. From 1937 to 1951, he was the educational and cultural director of the Jewish People’s […]

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The Rent Striker

On this day in 1907, 16-year-old Pauline Newman launched a rent strike involving 10,000 families in lower Manhattan, after months of organizing among housewives and teenage sweatshop workers. The strike lasted two weeks and won rent reductions for about 2,000 households. Leaders of the settlement house movement then urged capping rents throughout the city at […]

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Helena Rubinstein

Helena Rubinstein, creator of a cosmetics empire was born in Krakow, Poland on this date in 1872. She emigrated to Australia in 1902 and began to develop “beauty creams” made with a lanolin base, which was hugely abundant in the sheep-rich country. Within a few years she had fashionable salons in Sydney and in London. […]

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O My America: The Good Neighbor

by Lawrence Bush   I WAS EXCHANGING holiday gifts and family reports with a neighbor tonight and, for the first time in years, I waded into political waters with him. I talked about the poverty rate, especially among children, in our country — about 21 percent — and about the merciless quality of political culture in our […]

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The Death of Harold Pinter

Playwright Harold Pinter, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005, died in London at 78 on this date in 2008. Pinter was evacuated from that city during World War II and experienced numerous instances of British antisemitism in the course of his childhood, but he was always reluctant to identify passionately as a Jew […]

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Support for the Two-State Solution in Israel

According to a poll released on this date in 2012 by Blue White Future (Atid Kachol Lavan), a movement co-founded by Ami Ayalon, the former director of Israel’s Shin Bet, nearly half of Israeli Jews support a unilateral withdrawal from large sections of the Palestinian territories based on the pre-1967 borders. Blue White Future believes it to be “imperative that […]

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International Migrants Day

Image credit Gémes Sándor In 2000, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared December 18th to be International Migrants Day, to encourage member nations to ratify the UN Convention on Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers (adopted December 18, 1990). The UN estimates that close to 200 million migrants currently live outside the borders […]

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Expelling Jews from Tel Aviv

Turkish police (some sources say Bedouin police) went from house to house in Tel Aviv on this date in 1914 and hurriedly forced many hundreds of Jews to board a ship, the Florio, in the port of Jaffa to sail into exile in Egypt. Many Palestinian Jews were from Russia, an enemy of Turkey during World War I, and were […]

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The Dodgers’ Jewish Battery

Larry Sherry, relief pitcher with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Detroit Tigers, died at 71 on this date in 2006. Sherry and his brother, catcher Norm Sherry, were the first Jewish battery (pitcher-catcher team) in major league baseball history, and the two of them helped lead the Dodgers to a World Series victory in six games over the […]

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O My America: Can the Left Repair Itself?

by Lawrence Bush Discussed in this essay: The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics, by Mark Lilla, HarperCollins, 2017, 143 pages.  Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together, by Van Jones, Ballantine Books, 2017, 233 pages.   IS THE UNEXPECTED VICTORY of Doug Jones over Roy Moore in Alabama’s Senate race in […]

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Topps Baseball Cards

Sy Berger, who revitalized baseball cards after World War II by introducing Topps cards in 1951, died at 91 on this date in 2014. The first cards were packaged with taffy inside instead of bubble gum, a nearly disastrous marketing error because the taffy ended up tasting like the varnish on the cards. But the […]

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O My America: Go Ahead and Boycott

by Lawrence Bush   YOU WANT to boycott Israel? You now have my blessing, thanks to Donald Trump. For the many years I’ve been associated with Jewish Currents, and for years before that association began (I was assistant editor 1978-83 and have been editor since 2002), the magazine has defined itself as “non-Zionist, pro-Israel.” This meant that we were […]

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Eichmann Trial

On this day in 1961, Adolf Eichmann, the chief administrator of the Holocaust, was found guilty of war crimes by a panel of three judges in Jerusalem. He would be executed the following year, the only person subjected to capital punishment by the legal system in modern Israel. “I will leap into my grave laughing […]

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All About Khanike-Hanukkah-Chanukah

A RESOURCE FROM JEWISH CURRENTS’ SCHAPPES CENTER FOR CULTURAL JEWISH LIFE (Sponsored, in part, by the Kurz Family Foundation. Illustration [above] from Richard Codor and Lawrence Bush’s Babushkin’s Catalogue of Jewish Inventions.)   KHANIKE (that’s the YIVO-style transliteration of the Yiddish pronunciation for Hanukkah, which we use to honor Yiddish culture) is one of the […]

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Nelly Sachs

Nelly Sachs, poet and dramatist, was born in Berlin on this day in 1891. Her poems, wrote one German critic, are each “a flower planted on the grave of another victim” of the Holocaust. (“O you chimneys/O you fingers/And Israel’s body as smoke through the air!”) On December 10, 1966, her 75th birthday, she received the […]

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The Messiah’s Prophet

Nathan Ghazzati, known as Nathan of Gaza (1643-1680), the leading prophet of Shabbatai Zvi, the self-proclaimed (and widely embraced) messiah of 17th-century Judaism, was excommunicated by the Rabbinical Council of Constantinople on this date in 1666, three months after his master converted to Islam rather than be executed by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV. Nathan of […]

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The Street Photographer

Arthur Leipzig, one of the last of a generation of socially conscious photographers best known for photographing everyday life on the streets of New York, died at 96 on this date in 2014. Trained at the leftwing Photo League in New York, Leipzig said that “his goal was to capture people — their personalities, problems […]

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Hannah Arendt

Political theorist Hannah Arendt died on this day in 1975 at age 69. In 1959 she became the first woman appointed to a full professorship at Princeton. Arendt was born in Germany on October 14, 1906, and was arrested by the Gestapo in 1933 for her analyses of Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda. She managed to escape […]

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Heart to Heart

Louis Washkansky, a Lithuanian Jew who emigrated to South Africa as a child in 1922, received the first human heart transplant in the world on this date in 1967. Washkansky, 53, a grocer and sportsman, had suffered three heart attacks and had no alternative treatment. The surgical team, in Cape Town, was led by Dr. […]

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O My America: Charlie Chaplin Speaks

by Lawrence Bush I GOT IN THE MOOD for Charlie Chaplin tonight, and I watched The Great Dictator for the first time in many years. This prescient 1940 film combines satire, both brilliant and low-brow, with balletic slapstick, sentimental shtik, wonderfully simple stage-settings, and chillingly relevant political insight. The speech that Chaplin delivers at the film’s end […]

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The Man with the Popping Eyes

Comedian Marty Feldman, a Brit who became known to American audiences playing Igor, Gene Wilder‘s laboratory sidekick in Mel Brooks‘ Young Frankenstein, died at 48 on this date in 1982. His parents were emigrants from Kiev. Feldman suffered from thyroid disease and Graves’ ophthalmopathy, which caused his eyes to protrude and misalign — a very weird physical attribute […]

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What Is the Sin that Will Land Me in Hell?

by Lawrence Bush Discussed in this essay: Lincoln in the Bardo, a Novel, by George Saunders. Random House, 2017, 343 pages.   WHAT IS THE SIN that will land me in hell when I die? What is the shortcoming, illusion, mental script, that keeps me living in two dimensions instead of three, four, or five? I asked my […]

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Bragging Rights

Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the Nobel Prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology/medicine, literature, and peace on this date in 1895 by signing his last will and testament. Nobel thereby gave rise to obnoxious Jewish bragging throughout the 20th century. Here’s the tally: With an international Jewish population that amounts to only one quarter […]

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The Mumbai Attacks

Ten coordinated armed attacks by Pakistani terrorists began in Mumbai, India on this date in 2008. The attacks lasted for three days and killed at least 166 people while wounding more than 300. Among the targeted sites was Nariman House, a Jewish center run by Chabad, where Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his pregnant wife Rivka […]

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The Slansky Trial

The Slansky Trial, in which 14 Czechoslovak communist leaders, eleven of them Jews, were accused of being Trotskyists, “Titoists,” and Zionists, began on this date in 1952. The show trial, preceded by torture, was part of Stalin’s purge of Jews and less-than-slavishly loyal communist leaders from leadership posts in the Soviet bloc. Eleven of the […]

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O My America: What To Do About Al Franken?

by Lawrence Bush   EVER SINCE the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, and wave upon wave of sexual abuse stories have polluted the shores, I’ve been waiting for this righteous uprising of women to be derailed by rightwing drivers of opinion — Oh, come on, can’t you tell the difference between sexual assault and some harmless flirting!. . . […]

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Emma Lazarus

Emma Lazarus, the author of the magnificent sonnet, “The New Colossus,” engraved in the base of the Statue of Liberty, died at 38 on this date in 1887.  Lazarus was born to a Portuguese Sephardic Jewish family in New York, and her writing, pursued from an early age, attracted the attention of Ralph Waldo Emerson and […]

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Dame Harriet Cohen

Harriet Cohen, a British pianist who played a 1934 concert with Albert Einstein to raise funds for the rescue of Jewish scientists from Nazi Germany, died on this date in 1967. Cohen was one of the best-known and most-photographed classical musicians of her day and had active friendships with Eleanor Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw, D.H. […]

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Sy Hersh and My Lai

Investigative journalist Seymour M. Hersh broke the story of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam on this date in 1969. In that massacre, in March, 1968, between two and five hundred South Vietnamese civilians were murdered by U.S. combat forces during a sweep of a cluster of villages. Hersh published two books on the subject […]

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The Committee for the Proper Use of Senseless Violence

by Lawrence Bush   LAST NIGHT I WATCHED Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation (2016), which tells the story of Nat Turner’s 1831 slavery rebellion in Virginia. The film is soaked through with the intense physical, sexual, and spiritual violence of American slavery — the nearly four-hundred-year-old tradition of American slavery — and it inflamed me. […]

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The Downtown Gallery

Edith Gregor Halpert (Edith Fivisovitch) opened her Downtown Gallery in Greenwich Village on this date in 1926, at age 26. Born in Odessa, Russia, Halpert was an artist and a highly successful American businesswoman and investment banker who had spent the previous year in Paris and was determined to give modern American artists an opportunity […]

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The Streamlined Designer

Raymond Loewy, often called the “father of industrial design” and the inventor of “streamlined” design, was born in France on this date in 1893 to a Viennese Jewish father and a French non-Jewish mother. Loewy spent most of his career in the U.S., and several notable Jewish designers, artists and architects who were forced to […]

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Scandal in Postville

Sholom Rubashkin, who built Agriprocessors of Postville, Iowa into the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the U.S. (and the only one permitted to export meat to Israel), was arrested by federal authorities on this date in 2008. He was charged with harboring illegal immigrants and assisting with identity theft; in November he would be arrested again […]

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The Crash

The stock market crashed on this date in 1929 and launched the Great Depression, a twelve-year economic slump that affected all of Western Europe and was only ended by the advent of World War II. The era, writes Beth S. Wenger (New York Jews and the Great Depression), would become “seared in Jewish memory as […]

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David Bohm

David Bohm, a radical physicist and a political radical, died on this date in London in 1992. Bohm was invited by J. Robert Oppenheimer to work on the Manhattan Project but could not obtain security clearance because of his leftwing involvements. He was suspended from his teaching position at Princeton, despite Albert Einstein’s protestations, when […]

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The Socialist Wizard of Schenectady

Charles Proteus Steinmetz, a prolific inventor and lifelong socialist, died on this date in 1923. Faced with arrest for his political activities in Germany, Steinmetz emigrated in 1893 to the U.S., where his patents helped build the newly organized General Electric Company into an industrial giant. He fostered the development of alternating current, created artificial […]

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I Am Woman

Helen Reddy, who brought feminism to the top of the charts with her 1972 hit song, “I Am Woman” (“I am strong, I am invincible”) was born in Australia on this date in 1941. Reddy, who co-authored the song, was inspired to write it by Lillian Roxon (Ropschitz), an Australian feminist and rock critic who […]

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Conservative Movement Ordains Women

The faculty senate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of Conservative Judaism agreed to ordain women by a vote of 34-8 on this date in 1983, after years of debate and delay. In the spring of 1985, Amy Eilberg would become the first woman rabbi within the movement. Reform Judaism had ordained women since 1972, and the Reconstructionist […]

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Dr. Slepian’s Assassination

Dr. Barnett Slepian was murdered in his home by an anti-abortion militant, James Charles Kopp, on this date in 1998. Slepian, 52, was the primary obstetrics/gynecology doctor at a clinic that served mostly poor women in Buffalo, New York. The clinic had been targeted for protest and harassment by Operation Rescue and other anti-abortion groups, […]

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Bopping through the Biennale, part 2

by Lawrence Bush To read part 1, click here. I’VE NEVER THOUGHT I could be exhausted by art to the point of barely having the strength to write about it, but my experience yesterday in Venice’s Giardini, the public park where nations of the world have permanent pavilions that house art during the Biennale, has done just […]

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Nyuk nyuk nyuk

Curly Howard (Jerome Lester Horwitz), who absorbed more eye-pokes and head-slaps than any other comic in history as one of the Three Stooges, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1903. Curly, a high school dropout, was an inventive, improvisational slapstick comedian who in 1934 joined his older brother Moe as a replacement for […]

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Jews Against the War

The first American casualty of the Vietnam War was killed during a training mission on this date in 1957. Of the 58,193 Americans in the military who died in that war, only 269 were Jewish. Jews were protesting instead of fighting: In 1964, they were twice as likely as Protestants and Catholics to favor a […]

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Bopping through the Biennale

by Lawrence Bush   I’VE NOW BEEN demoted from the consort of a cherished dance educator in Slovenia to a tourist in Venice. (To read about my explorations in charming Slovenia, search “Bopping” in the search engine at right.) But everyone is a tourist in Venice, which is the most visually fantastic city this side of Mars, […]

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The Hollywood Ten

The House Committee on UnAmerican Activities (HUAC) began its investigation into Communist influence in Hollywood on this date in 1947. Among the “Hollywood Ten,” blacklisted and jailed for refusing to testify, were Alvah Bessie, a screenwriter who had been a member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain; Herbert Biberman, who went on to direct […]

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Moses Asch and Folkways Records

Moses (“Moe”) Asch, the founder of Folkways Records, died on this date in 1986. He was the son of the famed Yiddish writer Sholem Asch. Musicians recorded by Moe Asch included Woody Guthrie, Ella Jenkins, Pete Seeger, Josh White, and Leadbelly. Following Asch’s death, the Folkways recordings, numbering some 2,200, were acquired by the Smithsonian Institution. […]

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The Inquisition Murders a Playwright

António José da Silva, a leading playwright in early 18th century Portugal, was garroted and burned by the Inquisition in Lisbon on this date in 1739 at age 34, two years after being arrested for “Judaizing.” Da Silva had been born in Brazil in 1705 to a successful converso family, but when his mother was deported to Portugal in […]

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Bopping in the Balkans, Part 5

by Lawrence Bush For the first four installments of this travelogue, search “Bopping” to the right. ONCE UPON A TIME, I was a puppeteer in a two-person hand-puppet troupe called Poor People’s Puppets, with our own storefront theater on St. Marks Place in New York’s East Village. Although the art of puppetry did not take hold of me as a […]

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Cyrus the Great

Cyrus (Kurash) the Great marched into Babylon on this date in 539 BCE. His name is invoked twenty-three times in the Bible, as he decreed, during his first year on the throne, the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been destroyed by the Babylonian conqueror, Nebuchadnezzar II, in 586 BCE. Cyrus’s decree ended […]

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A Zionist Before Zionism

Rabbi Zevi Hirsch Kallischer, an Orthodox leader who published a widely circulated book in 1862 that endorsed Jewish resettlement in the land of ancient Israel, and traveled to several German cities to help spark the formation of colonization societies, died at 79 in Thorn, Prussia on this date in 1874. A vehement opponent of Reform […]

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Leyb Kvitko and the Night of the Murdered Poets

Prominent Soviet Yiddish poet Leyb Kvitko, an editor of the literary magazine Heymland (Homeland) who became the head of the Yiddish Writers Section at the Soviet Writers Union, was born near Odessa on this date in 1890 (some sources say 1893). Kvitko “was welcomed by the [Jewish] urban literary community as a folk talent when he arrived in Kiev wearing […]

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June Levine and Irish Feminism

June Levine, an Irish journalist and writer who helped to found the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement in 1970-71, died at 76 on this date in 2008. Levine wrote two bestselling books, Sisters, a memoir about the feminist movement, and Lyn: A Story of Prostitution, which she co-authored with its subject. Levine had a Catholic mother and Jewish father […]

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Herblock

Herbert Lawrence Block, who drew political cartoons for the Washington Post for 55 years as “Herblock,” was born on this date in Chicago in 1909. He died in 2001. Block was an important supporter of the New Deal and sounded early alarms about the rise of Nazi Germany. He coined the term “McCarthyism” in a cartoon in […]

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Bopping in the Balkans, part 4

LOOKING AT AMERICA FROM SIX HOURS LATER by Lawrence Bush To read earlier installments search “Bopping” in the search engine at right. THE PATHETIC FALLACY is a term usually applied to literature that means the attribution of human feelings or intentions to inanimate things like the weather. It might be better known as “The Snoopy Fallacy,” after Charlie […]

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Joe Simon and Captain America

Comic book writer and artist Joe (Hymie) Simon, who co-created Captain America with Jack Kirby and served as the first editor of Timely Comics, which would later transform into Marvel, was born in Rochester, New York on this date in 1913. Simon worked with Kirby for more than two decades before turning to advertising and […]

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Autumn 2017

The Editors on “The International Jew vs. White Nationalists” Dovid Katz on “The Double-Genocide Theory of the Holocaust” as a rising form of antisemitism Allan Lichtenstein, “Democrats Must Stop Ignoring Labor” Michael Zweig in defense of Marxism Helen Engelhardt on Noa Baum and the Israeli-Palestinian Divide Raina Lipsitz, “Radical or Liberal I 2017?” Sarah Aroeste […]

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The Leader of the Pack

The Shangri-Las — four girls from Andrew Jackson High School in Queens — released their second hit song, “Leader of the Pack” (written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich), on this date in 1964. Mary Weiss sang lead, backed up by her sister Betty and identical twins Marge and Mary Ann Ganser. They were the first […]

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Bopping in the Balkans, part 3

by Lawrence Bush To read earlier installments, search “Bopping” at right. WE TOOK a free three-hour walking tour of Ljubljana today, with a cool and chatty young guide who knew his stuff and began by noting that “Slovenia is the only country to have ‘love’ in its name.” And he meant it.

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Anna Freud

Anna Freud, who extended her father Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theories into the world of children, died in London on this date in 1982. She was psychoanalyzed by her father from 1918 to 1922 and began her own practice in 1923. Her best-known book, The Ego and the Mechanisms of the Defense, was published in 1936. Interrogated by […]

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Magnus Hirschfeld

Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld’s Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, dedicated to decriminalizing homosexuality in Germany, opened its 1904 conference on this date. It was here that Anna Rüling (a non-Jew) came out as the first known lesbian activist in Germany. The Committee would gather over 5,000 signatories to a petition urging decriminalization, including Albert Einstein, Herman Hesse, Thomas Mann, […]

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Bopping in the Balkans, part 2

by Lawrence Bush To read part 1, click here. WE’RE NOW IN VELENJE, an old Slovenian mining town rebuilt as “a socialist miracle, a town in a park” by Marshal Tito’s government between 1959 and 1964. I listened here yesterday morning to my wife’s keynote talk at the International Dance Pedagogy Conference. Susan spoke slowly and passionately to these English-as-second-language Slovenians about […]

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Uprising in Auschwitz

Members of the Sonderkommando (corpse handlers) who were facing their own annihilation in Auschwitz rose up against their captors on this date in 1944. They succeeded in killing the SS company commander and three guards and burning the crematoria. Six hundred internees escaped during the uprising, but all of them were hunted down and killed. […]

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Fantasyland vs. The Counterculture

by Lawrence Bush Discussed in this essay: Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, by Kurt Andersen. Random House, 2017, 462 pages.   WHEN MY SON Jonah was about 8, he articulated his first generalization about human beings, based on his perceptions of our none-too-diverse community in the Mid-Hudson Valley of New York. “Dad,” he said, “I think there […]

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The Last Casualty

The last fallen member of the International Brigades in Spain, Haskel Honigstern, was given a state funeral in Barcelona on this date in 1938. The first casualty among these international volunteers who defended the government of Spain against Franco’s fascist uprising was also Jewish, Leon Baum, from Paris, killed in 1936. Jews comprised a quarter […]

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Bopping in the Balkans

WELL, IN SLOVENIA, ANYWAY by Lawrence Bush THERE’S SOME KIND of car-horn concert going on in the streets of central Ljubljana this morning, so I just climbed back down and up 10 flights of stairs to our apartment to find out out what it is. Firemen on strike, blasting air-horns — a very musical-sounding strike. The young man […]

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The Nuclear Whistle-Blower

Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons was reported for the first time by the British Sunday Times on this date in 1986, based on information and photographs leaked by Mordechai Vanunu, a former nuclear technician at the Dimona nuclear facility. Vanunu would be kidnapped in Italy by the Mossad and jailed in Israel for eighteen years, eleven of them […]

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The Maxim Bombing

Twenty-one Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, were killed in a suicide bombing at a restaurant, Maxim, in Haifa on this date in 2003. This beachfront restaurant, co-owned by Jews and Christian Arabs, was known as a symbol of coexistence in this most integrated of Israeli cities. The bomber was a woman, Hanadi Jaradat, a 29-year-old […]

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Steve Reich

The pioneering minimalist composer Steve Reich was born in New York on this date in 1936. His best-known works include the 90-minute Drumming (1971) and Music for Eighteen Musicians (1974), which involves four pianos, a cello, a violin, two clarinets, three marimbas, two xylophones, a metallophone (chime), and four women’s voices, all of which hypnotically […]

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Groucho

Groucho (Jules Henry) Marx, the comedian who bred anarchy and tweaked the pretensions of upper-class society with his brothers, Chico and Harpo, was born in New York on this date in 1890. He made twenty-six movies, including thirteen with his brothers, and hosted the comic quiz show, “You Bet Your Life,” on radio and television. […]

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The Danish Rescue

A Nazi roundup of Denmark’s Jewish population was launched on this date in 1943, at the start of Rosh Hashone. Four days earlier, however, Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, a German naval diplomat, had warned of the roundup, and Jews had been urged to go into hiding. A nationwide rescue effort was then set in motion: Over […]

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Joachim Prinz

Rabbi Joachim Prinz, an anti-Nazi activist in Germany and a civil rights activist in the United States, died on this date in 1988. Prinz spoke at the 1963 March on Washington immediately before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and declared that “the most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem […]

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Channel Esther: Kol Nidre 5778

by Esther Cohen Kol Nidre is Aramaic for All Vows.  Sung, it is wildly deeply beautiful.  We all need forgiveness.   Forgive me   forgive me for arrogance for acting as though I know more than you as though I know better wanting you to do things different from your instincts you never have to go […]

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Babi Yar

The two-day massacre of more than 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar, a large ravine outside of Kiev, Ukraine, began on this date in 1941, less than two weeks after the Nazis captured the city. “Because of ‘our special talent of organization’,” the commander of the Einsatzkommando reported, “the Jews still believed to the very last moment before […]

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The Compassionate Commodore Levy

On this date in 1850, Congress amended a naval appropriations bill to outlaw the flogging of sailors. This began a decade’s worth of legislative maneuvering that would yield a complete ban in 1862. The effort was led by Uriah Phillips Levy, the first Jewish commodore (highest-ranking officer) in the U.S. Navy, who in 1838 had […]

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Walter Benjamin’s Suicide

Radical literary, cultural and political critic Walter Benjamin died by his own hand on this date in 1940 in Portbou, Spain, after being refused passage across the border from Nazi-occupied France. A native of Berlin born in 1892, Benjamin combined Jewish mysticism and Marxist analysis in his work (he was friends with both Gershom Scholem and […]

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Bob Dylan’s First Gig

Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) began his first major gig, a two-week stint at Gerde’s Folk City in New York, on this date in 1961, as the opening act for the Greenbriar Boys. New York Times critic Robert Shelton described him in a review as “one of the most distinctive stylists . . . bursting at the seams […]

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Human Ecology

Uri Bronfenbrenner, who helped inspire and shape the Head Start early education program, died on this date in 2005 in Ithaca, New York, at the age of 88. He was a developmental psychologist at Cornell who founded the field of “human ecology,” combining the disciplines of psychology, sociology, and anthropology to investigate what is involved […]

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The Last Game at Ebbets Field

The Brooklyn Dodgers played their last game at Ebbets Field on this date in 1957, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0. The Dodgers had been a rare cohesive force in working-class Brooklyn, “very close,” writes Andrew Paul Mele, “to the spiritual core of… an otherwise racially, religiously, and ethnically divided city.” By signing Jackie Robinson in […]

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Freud in Exile

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis who launched a revolution in how human beings view their personalities, thoughts and emotions, died on this date in 1939, in exile in London from Nazi-ruled Austria. Freud spent nearly all of his life in Vienna, developing his theories during a time of acute anti-Jewish discrimination, which made it […]

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“The Trial of the Century”

Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were spared their lives by the judge in their murder trial on this date in 1924. The teenage sons of wealthy Jewish families in Chicago, they had deliberately killed a 14-year-old boy, Bobby Franks, in order to prove themselves to be Nietzchean “supermen.” Once arrested, Leopold and Loeb spoke brazenly […]

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Camp David Accords

The Camp David Accords, establishing peace between Israel and Egypt, were signed by Anwar El Sadat and Menachem Begin on this date in 1978 with U.S. President Jimmy Carter serving as witness and facilitator. The Accords resulted in Israel’s withdrawal from the Sinai, which was restored to Egypt; recognition of Israel by Egypt, which became […]

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Benjamin the Bookseller

Benjamin Gomez, the first Jewish bookseller in America, was born on this date in 1769. He was a fourth-generation American whose family home in Marlboro, New York, the Gomez Mill House, is the oldest existing Jewish dwelling in North America, on the National Register of Historic Places. Gomez opened his shop at 32 Maiden Lane […]

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Joseph Chaikin

Joseph Chaikin, one of America’s most influential figures in theater, was born on this date in 1935. Chaikin was founder of the Open Theater in 1963, for which he directed fourteen original plays over the course of a decade, including The Serpent, a critically-acclaimed production based on Biblical texts and current events. Among his numerous awards […]

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The Nuremberg Laws

The “Reich Citizenship Law,” also known as the Nuremberg Laws, was passed by the Nazi Congress on this date in 1935. It stripped Jews of German citizenship, outlawed marriages and sexual relationships between Jews and non-Jews, forbade Jews from hiring non-Jewish women under 45 as domestics, established the swastika as Germany’s national symbol and forbade […]

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Margaret Sanger’s Jewish Allies

Margaret Sanger (not Jewish), whose activism and sacrifice led to the legalization and normalization of birth control in American life and the establishment of Planned Parenthood, was born in Corning, New York on this date in 1879. Finding her calling while working among working-class women on New York’s Lower East Side, Sanger was active in the […]

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Charlotte Wolff

Charlotte Wolff, a Jewish lesbian refugee from Nazism who specialized in the study of the human hand, died in London on this date in 1986 at the age of 88. Wolff was a medical doctor with a strong interest in sexology, psychotherapy and chirology (hand-reading). Active in the Association of Socialist Physicians in Germany, she […]

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Another Jewish Pirate

Moses Cohen Henriques, a Sephardic Portuguese pirate, helped the Dutch West India Company capture a Spanish treasure fleet in the Battle of Matanzas on this date in 1628. The capture took place in Cuba’s Bay of Matanzas, with sixteen Spanish ships intercepted, four fleeing galleons trapped in the bay, and numerous other ships forced to surrender. The Dutch took an […]

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Jews of New Amsterdam

Captain Jacques de la Motthe of the St. Catrine, who had brought twenty-three Jews to North America after rescuing them from a pirate attack, petitioned for payment of their fare on this date in 1654. His passengers had been part of a convoy of sixteen ships carrying Dutch colonists from Recife, Brazil back to Holland following Portugal’s […]

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The Author of Bambi

The author of Bambi: A Life in the Woods, Felix Salten, was born in Budapest on this date in 1869. When he was a small child, his parents brought him to Vienna, as Jews had been granted full citizenship there. He became a prolific writer of books, plays, short stories, operetta librettos, and essays, as well as […]

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Women in the Israeli Military

Orna Barbivay, who in 2011 became the first woman in Israel’s history to become a major general, the second highest rank in the Israeli armed services, was born to Jewish immigrants from Iraq and Romania on this date in 1962. According to Jodi Rudoren in the New York Times, Barbivay spent “34 years of often being […]

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MICKEY HART AND THE GRATEFUL DEAD

Percussionist Mickey Hart (Michael Steven Hartman) joined the Grateful Dead as one of the band’s two drummers (the other was Bill Kreutzmann) on this date in 1967. He left the Dead in 1971 and then returned in 1974, remaining with the band until they dissolved in 1995, following guitarist Jerry Garcia’s early death. Hart is […]

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The Tajik Dancer

Malika Kalantarova, a dancer specializing in the dance forms of Tajikistan, was born there on this date in 1950. She began her dance career in 1965 with Lola Dance Ensemble and then with the Song and Dance Ensemble of the Tajik Philharmonic. Kalantarova achieved international fame as a folk and traditional-form dancer throughout the USSR and in Japan, […]

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Gene Colan and the Silver Age of Comics

Comic book illustrator Gene Colan, who spent nearly seventy years drawing the Batman, the Hulk, Captain America, Daredevil, Wonder Woman, Howard the Duck, the Submariner, and numerous other characters, was born in the Bronx on this date in 1926. He was “expert at conveying shadows and atmosphere,” writes Paul Gravett in the Guardian, and created drawings “lauded […]

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Ilya Ehrenburg and the Black Book

Soviet journalist, novelist, and poet Ilya Ehrenburg (some sources spell it “Ehrenberg”), who with Vasily Grossman created The Black Book, the first book documenting the Holocaust (before the killing had ended), died on this date in 1967. Ehrenburg was a popular communist writer and war correspondent, and an active member of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAC), organized […]

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OPENING PLENARY, A Story

by Lawrence Bush   HELLO, EVERYONE — is this mike working? . . . Okay? . . . Good morning, everyone, I’m Joseph Cropsey, Jr., president of the New York Chapter of the Society of Sadistic Contractors. (Applause) I’m glad to see that two many of you could make it here today — and I’m confident that each […]

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Lewis Black

The ranting and raging comedian Lewis Black was born in Washington, DC on this date in 1948. He earned an MFA from the Yale School of Drama in 1977 and began his career as a playwright-in-residence and associate artistic director at a theater in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, where he collaborated with composer and lyricist Rusty Magee and artistic […]

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Live Nude Girls Unite!

The Lusty Lady strip club in San Francisco unionized on this date in 1996, with the peep-show dancers voting 57-15 to join SEIU Local 90, following a strike and a lock-out. One of the strippers, Julia Query, a Jewish woman, made a documentary film (with Vicky Funari) in 2000, Live Nude Girls Unite!, which told the story […]

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Blacks and Jews Together

The massive March on Washington at which Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his most famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” took place on this date in 1963. Immediately before Dr. King took the podium, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress, spoke to the 200,000 demonstrators as follows: “I speak to you as an […]

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Radiant Science, Dark Politics

Martin Kamen, a physicist who in 1940 co-discovered, with Sam Ruben, the isotope carbon-14, a crucial dating tool for biochemistry, was born in Toronto on this date in 1913. Three years after their discovery, Kamen was assigned to work on the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In 1945 he was accused of leaking nuclear weapons secrets […]

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Protocols of the Elders of Zion

Znamya (“Banner”), a Russian publication launched by Pavel Krushevan, a far-right, antisemitic journalist, began publishing the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion in serial form on this date in 1903, according to Mitchell A. Levin’s website, This Day in Jewish History. A fabrication about an international Jewish plan to weaken the will of gentiles through […]

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Jews in the Soviet-Polish War

The decisive Battle of Warsaw ended in an enormous defeat for the Soviet Red Army by the Polish armed forces on this date in 1920. Russian Jews had already been caught for a year in the middle of a war among warring Red and White Russian armies as well as Ukrainian and Polish forces, with some 100,000 Jews killed. The anti-Bolshevik White […]

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Dissing the Stock Exchange

Abbie Hoffman led a band of some dozen activists in raining down dollar bills onto the New York Stock Exchange trading floor from the viewing gallery above on this date in 1967. The prank briefly disrupted activity on the floor as brokers and other exchange workers scrambled for the free money, and the prearranged presence […]

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One Young Goat

Israeli satirist Ephraim Kishon (Ferenc Hoffmann), who maintained a column, “Had Gadyo” (“One Young Goat”) in Maariv for thirty years, for twenty of them on nearly a daily basis, was born in Hungary on this date in 1924. He narrowly survived in several Nazi concentration camps before escaping en route to Sobibor, after which he passed himself […]

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Writing Bogie’s Best Lines

The twin screenwriters Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein, who with Howard Koch co-authored the screenplay for the 1942 classic film Casablanca,for which they won an Academy Award, were born in New York on this date in 1909. After attending Penn State together, Philip became an actor and Julius a boxer (they both boxed at Penn State) […]

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Caring for Torture Victims

Helen Bamber, founder of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture in 1985, died at 89 on this date in 2014. Born in London in 1925, she worked briefly as a secretary for the National Association of Mental Health, which treated military veterans of World War II, then joined a Jewish effort to help survivors of the […]

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Why I’m Not (Still) a Marxist

BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE, NO MATTER THEIR CLASS by Lawrence Bush   I AM A SOCIALIST. I want to see the social and cooperative capacities of human beings cultivated at least as much as our individualistic and competitive tendencies, and I want to see an economic system developed that reckons justly with the reality that […]

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Shaul Tchernikhovsky

Hebrew poet Shaul Tchernikhovsky, twice awarded Israel’s Bialik Prize for Literature, was born in Russian Empire on this date in 1875. He became a doctor in 1906 and served as a medical officer in World War I. In 1931 he settled in Palestine, where he would work as doctor for the Tel Aviv schools while writing poetry […]

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Conductor of the Year

Gerard Schwarz, conductor of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra from 1985 to 2011 (he built the subscription base from 5,000 to 35,000) and of Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart festival between 1982 and 2001, was born in Weehawken, New Jersey on this date in 1947. Schwarz graduated from New York’s High School of Performing Arts and Juilliard School of Music […]

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Celia Dropkin’s Scintillating Poems

Yiddish poet Celia Dropkin died at 68 on this date in 1956. Born and educated in the Russian Empire, she was active in Yiddish circles in New York as a poet and fiction writer while raising five children. Her “explicitly sexual imagery and themes,” writes Kathryn Hellerstein at the Jewish Women’s Archive, ” . . . redefined the ways modern Yiddish poetry could […]

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A Singer in Every Category

Georgia Gibbs (Frieda Lipschitz), a tremendously versatile singer who found steady work on radio and vaudeville stages in the 1940s and in the recording studio and television studios in the 1950s and ’60s, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on this date in 1919. She landed her first singing gig at age 13, and was a […]

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Toronto’s Christie Pits Riot

A championship softball series between a predominantly Jewish (and Italian) baseball team, the Harbord Playground, and St. Peter’s, a team sponsored by a Catholic Church, led to a five-hour riot on this date in 1933 after supporters of St. Peter’s’ victory displayed a large swastika for the second time in two nights. The Toronto Daily Star […]

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The 7th-Century Battle of Yarmouk

The six-day Battle of Yarmouk, between the Byzantine Army and the Muslim Arab forces of the Rashidun Caliphate, got underway along the borders of contemporary Syria-Jordan and Syria-Israel on this date in 636 CE. It was a triumphant battle for the Muslims, the crest of the first wave of Muslim conquests that swept the Middle […]

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Carlos the Jackal

Ilyich Ramírez Sánchez, known as Carlos the Jackal, one of the most fearsome terrorists of the pre-Al Qaeda era, was flown from Sudan to France on this date in 1994 to stand trial for the murder of two police officers and their informant. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. While in prison, […]

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Micro-Organisms and the Nobel Prize

Salvador Lurie, a Nobel Prize-winning Italian microbiologist who was shunned by Mussolini and forced to flee to the U.S. by Hitler, was born in Turin on this date in 1912. Lurie and his co-winners of the 1969 Nobel, Max Delbrück and Alfred Hershey, studied the genetic structures of viruses and bacteria. The 1943 Luria-Delbrück experiment showed that genetic mutations occur […]

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Opposing Segregation in Little Rock, Arkansas

Little Rock, Arkansas began to integrate its public schools on this date in 1959 while segregationists rallied at the State Capitol and then marched to Central High School, where police arrested twenty-one of them. This followed the “Lost Year” of 1958, in which Governor Orval Faubus closed the public schools to avoid federally-ordered school integration; to head off a […]

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The Anti-Hitler Youth Movement

Gustav Bermel, a member of an anti-Nazi group centered in Ehrenfeld, Cologne, was born on this date in 1927. Known as the Ehrenfelder Group and, alternately, as the Steinbrück Group, after their 23-year-old leader, Hans Steinbrück, a concentration-camp escapee, the group consisted of scores of anti-Nazi resisters, Jews, escapees, deserters, artists, and refugees who lived in a bombed-out district […]

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Red Holzman and the Knicks

William “Red” Holzman, who coached the New York Knicks from 1967 to 1982 and led them to two National Basketball Association championships (1970 and 1973), was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1920. Following wartime service in the Navy, Holzman played with the National Basketball League’s Rochester Royals, which won the league championship in his first year, for which he […]

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Bringing Film to Israel

Lia van Leer (born Greenberg), founder of the Haifa Cinematheque, the Jerusalem Cinematheque, the Israel Film Archive, and the Jerusalem Film Festival, was born in Moldova on this date in 1924. Both of her parents and her grandmother were murdered by the Nazis before she emigrated to Jerusalem in 1943. In 1952, she married Wim van Leer, a […]

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Diary of a Mad Housewife

Sue Kaufman, author of The Diary of a Mad Housewife (1967) and six other works of fiction before committing suicide after a long depression at age 50, was born on Long Island on this date in 1926. She was a graduate of Vassar, achieved early success as a freelance writer, and published her first novel, The Happy Summer Days, in 1959. Kaufman had […]

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Little Green Men

Daniel S. Goldin, NASA administrator from 1992-2001, declared on this date in 1996 that “NASA has made a startling discovery that points to the possibility that a primitive form of microscopic life may have existed on Mars more than three billion years ago. The research is based on a sophisticated examination of an ancient Martian […]

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Nixon’s Surgeon General

Jesse L. Steinfeld, a professor of medicine who became the country’s eleventh Surgeon General during Richard Nixon’s first term as president and used his office to challenge the tobacco industry, died at 87 on this date in 2014. Dr. Steinfeld was a top official at the National Cancer Institute under President Johnson before becoming Surgeon General in […]

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Bagels and Bongos

Irving Fields (Schwartz), who infused beloved Jewish songs (such as “Raisins and Almonds”) with the Cuban rhythms that he learned as a Caribbean cruise ship pianist, then sold two million copies of his 1959 album, “Bagels and Bongos,” was born in New York on this date in 1915. He began playing piano as a child and quickly […]

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Mel Tolkin and “Your Show of Shows”

Mel Tolkin (Shmuel Tolchinsky), the head writer of Sid Caesar’s pioneering television comedy program, Your Show of Shows (1950-54), and its follow-up, Caesar’s Hour, was born in a shtetl near Odessa on this date in 1913. He came to Canada in 1926, moved to New York twenty years later, and teamed up with Lucille Kallen, who would become his […]

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The Mathematical Girl

Ruth Lawrence, a child prodigy in math who at the age of 10 placed first among 530 candidates in the Oxford University entrance exam in that subject, was born in Brighton, England on this date in 1971. Her parents were both computer consultants, and her father gave up his work when she was 5 to […]

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Adam Duritz and Counting Crows

Adam Duritz, lead singer and primary composer for Counting Crows, was born in Baltimore on this date in 1964. Duritz (who wears dreadlocks and describes himself in one of the band’s songs as “a Russian Jew American, impersonating African”) assembled the seven-member Counting Crows in 1991, and they have released seven studio albums and sold more than […]

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Singing Along with Mitch

Mitch Miller, an oboist, conductor, record industry executive, and television host who powerfully shaped American musical tastes during the early 1960s with his NBC television series, Sing Along with Mitch, died at 99 on this date in 2010. At Columbia Records, Miller helped shape the careers Doris Day, Dinah Shore, Jo Stafford, and Aretha Franklin, while passing on opportunities to sign both […]

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Baghdad in Jewish History

The city of Baghdad was founded by Caliph Al-Mansur on this date in 762 CE. However, a Babylonian city of that name is mentioned in the Talmud, which was compiled nearly three centuries earlier, indicating that Mansur rebuilt an already-existing Persian town. Sitting on the left bank of the Tigris River, Baghdad was very close to two centers of Jewish scholarship, Sura and Pumbedita, and Baghdadi […]

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Son of Sam

David Berkowitz, who terrified New York between the summers of 1976 and 1977 by shooting strangers, usually young women, often sitting in parked cars, in eight separate incidents, and who claimed responsibility as “Son of Sam” in letters to the police, shot his first victims in the Bronx on this date in 1976. (The Christmas […]

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The Emancipation of Hungary’s Jews

The Jews of Hungary were granted complete political and civil rights on this date in 1849 by the First National Assembly, which had been established by a revolution led by Lajos Kossuth (1802-1894). Their civil liberation lasted for just two weeks, however; after the Austrians (with Russian assistance) had suppressed Kossuth’s revolution, the Jews were harshly sanctioned with onerous taxes, imprisonment, and […]

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Florsheim Shoes

Milton Florsheim, a Chicago cobbler who transformed the shoe industry by slapping the family name on his shoe soles and pull-up straps and then launching a chain of brand-name retail stores, was born in Chicago on this date in 1868. His father owned a shoe store. Florsheim Shoes were marketed, says his great-grandson John Florsheim, as […]

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The King’s Torah: Preemptive Murder of Non-Jews

West Bank settlement leader Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira was arrested by Israeli police on this date in 2010 on suspicion of incitement to violence, several months after the publication of his book, The King’s Torah (Torat Ha’Melech), which defended the killing of non-Jews, who are “uncompassionate by nature,” in order to “curb their evil inclination.” “If we kill a gentile […]

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A Pioneer of Artificial Intelligence

Ray Solomonoff, a pioneer of artificial intelligence who developed the concept of algorithmic possibility, was born in Cleveland on this date in 1926. Solomonoff’s work anticipated the “singularity,” the point at which computers achieve greater intelligence than human beings, and developed “theoretical foundations of learning systems, focused on understanding how to generate and assign probabilities to sequences […]

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The British Mandate

The League of Nations confirmed the British Mandate for Palestine on this date in 1922, which had been established by Great Britain after World War I, when longstanding Ottoman Turkish control of Palestine proved to threaten British interests in India and Asia. The Mandate placed land stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River — today’s Israel and […]

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Queen Esther’s Tomb in Iran

Archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld was born in Hanover Province, Germany on this date in 1879. He was deeply involved in archaeological excavations in Iran during the early 20th century and helped prompt the creation of the Persian law of antiquities, which protected some of humankind’s most ancient artifacts. Herzfeld also identified a shrine in Hamadan in the Kurdish region of Iran, […]

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Disney’s Composer

Alan Menken, composer of scores for Walt Disney animations including The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and Pocahontas (1995), as well as for films and Broadway musicals that include  Little Shop of Horrors (1982 on Broadway, ’86 on film), Newsies (1992), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Hercules (1997), and Sister Act (2009), […]

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Barbara Bergmann’s Feminist Economics

Barbara Bergmann, a senior staffer for President Kennedy’s Council of Economic Advisors, a senior economist at the Agency for International Development, and an advisor to the Congressional Budget Office and the Census Bureau, was born in the Bronx to immigrant parents on this date in 1927. Bergmann was educated at Cornell and Harvard, and taught at the University of Maryland […]

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Operation Mincemeat

Ewen Montagu, a captain in British naval intelligence who played a critical role in Operation Mincemeat, a World War II military deception that misdirected Nazi forces away from the Allied invasion of Sicily in the summer of 1943, died at 84 on this date in 1985. It was Montagu who had the idea of having a British soldier’s […]

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Clifford Odets

Radical playwright and screenwriter Clifford Odets, whose Depression-era dramas Waiting for Lefty and Awake and Sing! were cultural sensations that had enduring impact on his generation of writers, was born to Jewish immigrants in Philadelphia on this date in 1906. Raised in the Bronx, he dropped out of high school to pursue acting, and became a founding actor in Harold Clurman’s […]

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Liszt’s Greatest Pupil

Carl Tausig, a virtuoso pianist considered to be Franz Liszt’s most accomplished pupil, died in Leipzig at age 29 on this date in 1871. Born in Warsaw to a pianist-composer father, Tausig was introduced to Liszt at 14 and became his favorite student, accompanying the master on concert tours. He was also close friends with Richard Wagner, many of whose operas he adapted for piano, and  Johannes […]

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The Quantum Field Theoretician

Theoretical physicist Julian Schwinger, who shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics with Richard Feynman and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga for their work reconciling quantum mechanics with Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity, was born to Polish Jewish émigrés in New York on this date in 1918. Schwinger received his Ph.D. (at age 21) at Columbia University, under the tutelage of Isidor […]

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David Miliband and the British Labour Party

David Miliband, a British Labour Party leader and Cabinet member who now serves as CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in New York (after losing a leadership role in Labour to his brother, Edward), was born in London to Polish Jewish immigrants on this date in 1965. After studying at Oxford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, […]

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Wordsworth’s “A Jewish Family”

On this date in 1828, William Wordsworth (1770-1850), his daughter Dora, and their friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge encountered a Jewish family while walking along the Rhine River in the Rhineland (Germany). Wordsworth wrote a poem about the encounter, “A Jewish Family,” which he revised and published in 1835. The poem is “sympathetic and appreciative, yet he idealizes the […]

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The Tomato Queen

Tillie Ehrlich-Weisberg Lewis, who introduced the pomodoro tomato to California’s agricultural fields and built the fifth largest canning business in America, using workers of all races and ethnicities in her enterprise and marrying a labor organizer who sought to organize them into the American Federation of Labor, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1896. […]

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B. Altman and Co.

Benjamin Altman, the founder of the B. Altman and Co. department store, was born in New York on this date in 1840, five years after his parents emigrated from Bavaria and opened a small dry goods store. Altman opened his own store in 1865 and grew it into a department store chain with a flagship store on Fifth […]

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Susan Strasberg as Anne Frank

Susan Strasberg, who created the role of Anne Frank on Broadway and became the youngest actor to be featured on a Broadway theater marquee as a result, was featured on the cover of Life Magazine on this date in 1955. Born in New York in 1938, she was the daughter of famed acting coach Lee Strasberg. She debuted in […]

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Arlo

Arlo Guthrie, son of Woody Guthrie and Marjorie Mazia, a Jewish dancer in Martha Graham’s company, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1947. His maternal grandmother was the well-known Yiddish poet Aliza Greenblatt. Guthrie studied for his bar mitsve with the rightwing rabbi Meir Kahane (“[S]hortly after he started giving me my lessons, he started […]

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The Russell-Einstein Manifesto

Albert Einstein was one of eleven signatories to what became known as the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, released by Bertrand Russell on this date in 1955 and signed by Einstein just days before his death on April 18th. The manifesto, which became the founding document of the Pugwash Conference two years later, was intended to raise international […]

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Gold in Oklahoma!

The soundtrack to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! became the first album certified as gold by the Recording Industry of America (RIAA) on this date in 1958. The musical was the first written together by the Broadway team and earned them a Pulitzer Prize in 1944. The original production opened on March 31, 1943 and ran for 2,212 performances before becoming an Oscar-winning […]

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Ludwig Fulda and the Nazis

German playwright Ludwig Fulda, winner of the Schiller Prize for his 1892 comedy, Der Talisman, first president of PEN in Germany (1925-32), and president of the Prussian Academy of Arts (1928), was born in Frankfurt on this date in 1862. Fulda wrote political plays that were “remarkable for their clever stage effects and insight into social problems,” according […]

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Why Berkman Shot Frick

Nine steelworkers and at least one Pinkerton guard were killed in battles that raged on this date in 1892 at Andrew Carnegie’s Homestead Steel Works in Pittsburgh. The Pinkertons had been brought in to protect scabs imported to replace striking workers; the conflict involved guns and a homemade cannon forged by the strikers. The strike would last for months until the courts crushed the […]

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Jenji Kohan

Jenji Kohan, the creator of TV’s “Weeds” and “Orange Is the New Black,” was born in Los Angeles to a show biz family on this date in 1969. She has also worked as a writer or producer on “The Gilmore Girls,” “Mad About You,” “Tracey Takes On . . .” and several other shows, and has […]

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Alaska as a Jewish Refuge

The new 49-star American flag was first raised (in Fort McHenry in Baltimore) on this date in 1959, following the admission of Alaska as the 49th U.S. state. Twenty-one years earlier, the Alaska Territory had been proposed as “a haven for Jewish refugees from Germany and other areas in Europe where the Jews are subjected to oppressive restrictions” by […]

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Germany Lifts the Statute of Limitations on Murder

The West German government lifted the statute of limitations on murder on this date in 1979, making possible the pursuit of Nazi war criminals still in residence in Germany. In fact, according to Der Spiegel, since World War II, some twenty-five cabinet ministers, one president and one chancellor in post-war governments were former Nazis. “For years, […]

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It Could Be a Wonderful World

Tin Pan Alley songwriter Hy Zaret (Zaritsky), whose output included “Unchained Melody,” “One Meatball,” “The Song of the French Partisan,” and “It Could Be a Wonderful World,” died at 99 on this date in 2007. His collaborators included Sammy Cahn, Lou Singer, Joan Whitney, and Alex North, among others. “Unchained Melody” (with Alex North) was […]

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“Different from the Others”

“Different from the Others” (Anders als die Andern), a silent film offering a sympathetic portrait of homosexuality, was released in Germany on this date in 1919. Written by Magnus Hirschfeld, founder of the Institute for Sexual Science in the Weimar Republic, and Richard Oswald (Ornstein), who also directed the film, “Different from the Others” portrayed the downfall […]

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Page-Turning with Irving Wallace

Novelist Irving Wallace, author of thirty-three books (sixteen fictions, seventeen non-fictions), many of which sold in the millions, died at 74 on this date in 1990. His best-known works included The Chapman Report (1960) about sex researchers; The Prize (1962), about the backstage workings of the Nobel Prize; The Man (1964), about a black man becoming U.S. president; […]

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Collaborating with Bertolt Brecht — and Walt Disney

German composer and conductor Paul Dessau died at 84 on this date in 1979. Dessau was the creator of operas, ballets, symphonies, vocal music, orchestral works, and more. In the 1920s, he composed music for early films by Walt Disney and for silent German films, and established himself as a conductor at prominent German opera […]

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The “Lottery-Crazed Ghetto”

The New York Times reported on this date in 1896 that the New York “district east of the Bowery, which, from the preponderance of the Hebrew population has come to be known as the Ghetto,” is “lottery-crazed.” Tickets for the Louisiana Lottery and both German and Austrian government lotteries were most popular, said the article, […]

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The First Woman Anchor

Dorothy Fuldheim, a journalist who interviewed both Hitler and Mussolini before World War II and was the first woman to anchor a television news broadcast, was born in Passaic, New Jersey on this date in 1893. Fuldheim began her career in radio as the first woman commentator on the WABC network. At age 54 she […]

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Moses Hadas, Democratizing the Classics

Moses Hadas, a linguist and scholar of the classics who democratized the study of ancient books at Columbia University by emphasizing the value of studying them as literature, even in English translation, was born on this date in 1900. Ordained as a rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary, Hadas was fluent in Yiddish, German, ancient Hebrew, […]

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The Buchenwald Song

Lyricist and librettist Fritz Löhner-Beda (Bedřich Löwy), who was one of Vienna’s most sought-after songmakers in the pre-Nazi period, was born in Bohemia on this date in 1883. Löhner-Beda was a lawyer, a satirist, and an anti-militarist who was arrested and taken to Dachau almost immediately after the Nazi takeover of Austria in April 1938. […]

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The Antisemitic Duelist

Amédée de Morès (1858-1896), a notoriously antisemitic French duelist and marquis, killed a Jewish captain, Armand Mayer, during a duel with sabers on this date in 1892. Mayer’s funeral drew out tens of thousands of mourners in protest of rightwing French antisemitism. De Morès began life as a soldier and became a cavalry officer. He had his first duel in Algiers, where […]

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A Holocaust Survivor, Still Loyal to Germany

Jeanette Wolff, a German Jewish social activist who helped rebuild the Jewish presence in Germany after surviving imprisonment in several Nazi concentration camps and enduring the murders of her husband, daughter, and other family members, was born in Westphalia, Germany on this date in 1888. “One of the best-known German Jewish women in post-war Germany, she […]

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Summer 2017

The Editors on “EARTH to Trump: People Are in Motion on the Environment” Raina Lipsitz, “Bye, Bye, Boys’ Club: Women in an Expanding Comedy Scene” Ron Skolnik, “Fifty Years, and Still No End in Sight” Sam Weissman, “Why I’m (Still) a Marxist” vs. Lawrence Bush, “Why I’m Not (Still) a Marxist” Dusty Sklar, “From Job Loss to […]

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The Lyric Soprano

Renowned classical singer Judith Raskin, who brought her fine lyric soprano voice and acting skills to audiences throughout America through innovative uses of television as well as by promoting local opera companies, was born in Yonkers, New York on this date in 1928. Raskin’s singing talent blossomed when she was an undergraduate at Smith College, […]

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Electrifying Germany

Industrialist Emil Rathenau, who met Thomas Alva Edison in Paris at the 1881 international electricity exhibition and purchased the right to use his patents to bring power stations, railways, and electrical machines to Germany, died at 76 on this date in 1915. In 1884, Rathenau contracted with the magistrate of Berlin to string city streets with electricity […]

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O My America: The White House Sideshow

UNDER THE BIG TOP IS WHAT COUNTS by Lawrence Bush   YES, IT’S MORE THAN LIKELY that Russia’s government colluded with some Trump cronies last year to make Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee look like the head and body of a corrupt political machine. But how much should progressives care that Russian hackers let that cat out […]

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Divorce and Children

Judith S. Wallerstein, a psychologist and researcher in California and Israel who wrote five best-selling books on the impact of divorce upon children and adults, died at 90 on this date in 2012. Wallerstein’s work was centered around her “California Children of Divorce Study,” begun in 1971 with Joan B. Kelly, which followed 131 children […]

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Sammy Fain’s Many-Splendored Thing

Songwriter and film composer Sammy Fain (Feinberg) was born in New York on this date in 1902, the son of a cantor. Fain was a self-taught pianist who played by ear. A  frequent collaborator with Irving Kahal, Fain’s best-known songs included “Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella,” “Tender Is the Night,” “You Brought a New […]

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Georges Mandel, Resisting the Nazis in Vichy France

Georges Mandel (Jeroboam Rothschild), a journalist with Emile Zola’s L’Aurore, an advisor to Georges Clemenceau, a government minister, and a sharp and prescient opponent of Nazism, was arrested in Bordeaux on this date in 1940. He was released by Petain a few days later after protests were made on his behalf by the presidents of […]

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Herbert Simon and Artificial Intelligence

Political scientist and artificial intelligence innovator Herbert Alexander Simon, winner of the Turing Award in 1975 and the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1978, was born in Milwaukee on this date in 1915 to a Jewish father and a mother of mixed Jewish and Christian background. Simon spent most of his academic and research career […]

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Saving Babies from Blindness

Dr. Arnall Patz, who proved that oxygen therapy was causing blindness in babies born prematurely and reduced childhood blindness by about sixty percent in the United States, was born in Elberton, Georgia on this date in 1920. Patz noted that premature babies were customarily placed in incubators with increased flow of oxygen, and suspected it […]

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The Sister

Yiddish writer Esther Kreitman, sister to the world-famous I.B. Singer and Yiddish writer I.J. Singer, died in London at age 63 on this date in 1954. Kreitman was a highly intelligent child who, as a girl, was denied education and attention in her Orthodox family. According to Faith Jones at the Jewish Women’s Archive, Kreitman “nevertheless […]

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Stanley Sheinbaum and the Struggle for Human Rights

Peace activist and human rights advocate Stanley Sheinbaum was born in New York on this date in 1920. He began his work life as an economics teacher at Stanford University and Michigan, but quit teaching during the Vietnam War and made earning a living unnecessary by marrying into the Warner Brothers family and making savvy […]

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Life in Extremis

E. Imre Friedmann, a refugee from the Holocaust whose investigations of life in extreme conditions will likely have enduring impact as humankind investigates the solar system, died at 86 on this date in 2007. A biologist, Friedmann was a professor at Florida State University and the NASA Ames Research Center, and directed the Polar Desert Research Center. […]

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A Tinkling Piano in the Next Apartment

Eric Maschwitz, who wrote the lyrics (under the name Holt Marvell) for “These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)” and became one of Great Britain’s leading television producers and executives, was born in Birmingham on this date in 1901. Maschwitz was an actor and radio host before serving as an intelligence and communications officer and postal censor […]

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Charles Dickens and the Jews

Charles Dickens, one of the 19th century’s greatest novelists, died at the age of 58 on this date in 1870. Dickens had a complicated relationship with Jews in Great Britain. On the one hand, he created one of the most hateful Jewish characters in literary history, Oliver Twist‘s Fagin (“a very old shrivelled Jew whose […]

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The Good Wife

Actress Julianna Margulies, best known for her roles as emergency room nurse Carol Hathaway on NBC’s hospital drama, ER (which launched George Clooney), and as attorney Alicia Florrick on CBS’s legal drama, The Good Wife, was born in Spring Valley, New York on this date in 1966. Margulies has won eight Screen Actor Guild Awards, […]

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“Not, In Any Sense, Founded on the Christian Religion”

The Treaty of Tripoli was ratified by the U.S. Senate on this date in 1797. It temporarily halted the enslavement of American sailors by Barbary pirates (from Tripoli, Algiers, Morocco and Tunis), but from 1801-05 and again from 1815-16, the U.S. would have to go to war over the issue. The Treaty of Tripoli included an Article 11 that stated: […]

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Aramaic

Judah Jeiteles, the first language scholar to create a Hebrew grammar of Biblical Aramaic, died at 65 in Vienna on this date in 1838. Jeiteles belonged to a notable family of writers, including his brother Baruch, who espoused an Enlightenment Judaism for which he paid hell among the Orthodox establishment in Prague. Aramaic rose to prominence […]

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The Jews’ Hospital

New York’s 45-bed Jews’ Hospital opened for patients on this date in 1855. It would change its name to the Mount Sinai Hospital after the Civil War. Founded by Sampson Simson, a philanthropist, on land that he owned on 28th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues in Manhattan, the hospital found its resources  especially taxed by […]

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Steve Ben Israel’s Living Theater

Steve Ben Israel, who worked with Julian Beck and Judith Malina’s Living Theater for fifteen years in their hey-day and went on to be a performance artist in clubs, New York subways, parks and streets for three decades, died at 74 on this date in 2012. Israel played numerous leading roles for the Living Theater […]

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Phishing

Mike Gordon, bassist, banjoist, and a founding member of the great jam band Phish, was born in Sudbury, Massachusetts on this date in 1965. Phish came together as a band of four in 1983 at the University of Vermont, and Gordon served not only as bass player and vocalist but as the band manager, booking […]

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Flora Lewis

Journalist, political essayist, and international correspondent Flora Lewis died at 79 on this date in 2002. Lewis wrote for the New York Times, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune and other newspapers, and blazed a trail for women as international reporters. Among the historical events she covered were the 1948 and 1967 Israeli-Arab wars, the 1956 Soviet crackdown […]

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EARTH to Trump

WHEN IT COMES TO THE ENVIRONMENT, CITIES, STATES, AND PEOPLE ARE IN MOTION An Editorial from our Summer 2017 issue THE UNITED STATES  is the oldest constitutional republic in the world  (except for the tiny Italian microstate of San Marino). Given that durability, it’s not wishful to believe that the country’s basic political system is strong […]

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June 1: Romania’s Top Fascist

Ion Antonescu, the fascist prime minister of Romania who allied the country with Nazi Germany and eagerly prosecuted genocidal attacks against his country’s Jews and Gypsies, was executed for war crimes on this date in 1946. Antonescu was a lifelong antisemite whose father had divorced his mother to marry a convert to Judaism. He was also a lifelong […]

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The Russian Oligarchs

Mikhail Khodorkovsky was found guilty of fraud related to his control of Siberian oil fields through his Yukos corporation and was sentenced to nine years in prison on this date in 2005. Khodorkovsky, who was behind bars until Vladimir Putin pardoned him in 2013, is half-Jewish (on his father’s side). Many of the Russian oligarchs, most of […]

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The Lod Airport Terrorist Attack

Lod Airport, today’s Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, was attacked on this date in 1972 by three members of the Japanese Red Faction who had been recruited and trained by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Dressed conservatively and carrying violin cases, they took out their sawed-off assault rifles from the cases and began […]

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The Unexploded Population Bomb

Biologist Paul R. Ehrlich, who shared with his fellow entymologist, E.O. Wilson, Sweden’s 1990 Crafoord Prize (awarded to support areas of science not awarded Nobel Prizes), was born in Philadelphia on this date in 1932. A world expert on butterflies, Ehrlich is president of the Center for Conservation Biology and Bing Professor of Population Studies […]

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Destroying Hebrew Books

On this date in 1731, searches in all Jewish homes throughout the Papal States (a major swath of Italy) resulted in the confiscation of all Hebrew books. Similar searches were conducted in 1738, 1748, and 1753, the last by order of Pope Benedict XIV, “who had learned that books were being smuggled into the ghettos […]

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One Fine Day at a Stoned Soul Picnic

Two songs made into hits by black vocalists and written by white Jewish songwriters were released on this date in 1963 and 1968, respectively: “One Fine Day,” recorded by the Chiffons and written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin; and “Stoned Soul Picnic,” recorded by The Fifth Dimension and written by Laura Nyro. “One Fine Day” hit the top five on the Billboard […]

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The House Un-American Activities Committee

The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was established on this date in 1938, chaired by Rep. Martin Dies, Jr. (D-TX, pictured above). Its early investigations of “subversive” and communist influence within government circles included Hallie Flanagan of the Federal Theatre Project, the American Youth Congress (a Communist affiliate), and Japanese Americans (the committee recommended their internment). In 1946, HUAC considered investigating the Ku Klux […]

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A Refugee Nobelist

Jack Steinberger, whose investigations of subatomic particles led to a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1988 (shared with co-researchers Leon M. Lederman and Melvin Schwartz), was born in Bad Kissingen, Germany on this date in 1921. His father was a cattle-dealer and cantor, his mother a hop-dealer and language teacher. Steinberger was sent out of Nazi […]

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The Folk Music Manager

Harold Leventhal, music manager for The Weavers, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Theodore Bikel, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, Neil Young, Johnny Cash, Peter, Paul & Mary, Tom Paxton, Arlo Guthrie (shown with Leventhal above), and numerous other folk musicians, was born in Ellenville, New York on this date in 1919. Leventhal joined the American Communist movement as […]

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Abie’s Irish Rose

Abie’s Irish Rose, a play about a young Irish woman and a young Jewish man who marry despite the objections of their families, premiered at Broadway’s Fulton Theater on this date in 1922. It would run for  2,327 performances until October 1, 1927, a record that would not be broken until Hello, Dolly! came to the stage in […]

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Saving Jews with Salvadoran Papers

George Mandel-Mantello (1901-1992), a Jewish businessman from Bucharest who was appointed honorary consul for El Salvador in 1939 and used his status to save thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis, sent another diplomat and friend, Dr. Florian Manoliu, from Switzerland to Hungary to deliver papers for safe passage to Mandel-Mantello’s family on this date in 1944. Their effort came too […]

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Partisans in the Brody Ghetto

Liquidation of the ghetto of Brody, Poland (now Ukraine) was completed on this date in 1943. Some 3,000 Jews of a pre-war population of 9,000 (nearly 70 percent of the town’s total population) were deported to their deaths in Madjanek. In the preceding months, a resistance group of young people led by Samuel Weiler had […]

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Executed, Then Exonerated

Meir Tobianski, an officer in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) who was executed as a traitor for allegedly passing targeting information to Jordanian artillery forces during Israel’s War of Independence but was fully exonerated one year later, was born in Kovno, Lithuania on this date in 1904. Tobianski had served as a major in the […]

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Rabbi Sandy Sasso

Sandy Eisenberg Sasso became the first woman ordained as rabbi by the Reconstructionist movement on this date in 1974. She was also the first woman to serve as rabbi in a Conservative congregation (Indianapolis’ Beth-El Zedeck), and she and her husband Rabbi Dennis Sasso were likely the first rabbinical couple in Jewish history and certainly […]

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David Lilienthal and the Tennessee Valley Authority

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed New Deal legislation creating the Tennessee Valley Authority on this date in 1933. Its mission was to provide flood control, generate electricity, and develop the economy of the Tennessee Valley, a region comprising Tennessee and portions of Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. Thirty percent of the population […]

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The First Country to Recognize Israel

The Soviet Union, despite its official view of Zionism as, in Lenin’s words, “bourgeois nationalism,” became the first country in the world to give legal recognition to Israel on this date in 1948, just three days after the state declared its independence. A year earlier, on May 14, 1947, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko had […]

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The Mystical Ethicist

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, whose writings on Jewish ethics became a centerpiece of the Musar movement in the 19th century, died of a plague at age 39 in Acco, Palestine on this date in 1746. Luzzatto was a prominent Italian Torah scholar and kabbalist whose mystical teachings, coming less than a century after the worldwide […]

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Newark’s No. 1 Philanthropist

Louis Bamberger, founder of one of the country’s first and largest department stories and co-founder with his sister Carrie of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Studies, was born in Baltimore on this date in 1855. Bamberger founded his store in Newark in 1892, and by 1912 he had turned it into a glamorous, block-square, 14-story enterprise […]

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The Lorelei Fountain

Ernst Herter, a prominent German sculptor (not Jewish) whose monument to the lyric poet Heinrich Heine landed in the Bronx after Heine’s hometown, Düsseldorf, rejected it in an atmosphere of antisemitism, was born in Berlin on this date in 1846. Herter was best known as a sculptor of mythological figures, including “The Dying Achilles (1884), […]

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Harvey Keitel

Actor Harvey Keitel was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1938 to immigrant parents who ran a luncheonette. After a stint in the Marines, Keitel studied acting with both Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler; today he is a co-president of the Actors Studio. He has appeared in films ranging from Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, […]

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The Jewish Hat

The Synod of Vienna ordered all Jewish men to don the Pileum cornutum, a horned skullcap known as the “Jewish hat,” usually white or yellow, as a distinguishing piece of clothing, on this date in 1267. Half a century earlier, the Fourth Lateran Council convened by Pope Innocent III had established the Jewish hat as […]

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Exploring Volcanoes

Haroun Tazieff, a volcanologist who became one of France’s most popular scientists through his films and television documentaries, was born in Warsaw to a Jewish mother and Tatar father on this date in 1914. Tazieff was transplanted to Belgium during his early childhood, and during World War II he served in the Belgian army and […]

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J. Edgar Hoover and the Jews

J. Edgar Hoover was appointed director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on this date in 1924, a post that he would hold for more than half a century, accumulating enormous power and prestige. The appointment came five years after Hoover had led the Palmer Raids, an unconstitutional roundup of over six thousand leftwing immigrant […]

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Defending History

Yiddish scholar and teacher Dovid Katz, who built the Oxford University Yiddish program from 1978 to 1996 before relocating to Vilnius University, where he developed the Yiddish program (and trained numerous American Yiddishists) until 2010, was born in Brooklyn to the Yiddish poet Menke Katz and artist Rivke Katz on this date in 1956. A […]

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A Union Activist in the House of Lords

British activist Emanuel (Manny) Shinwell, who went from being a union leader, to being a Labor member of Parliament for forty years, to being a government minister, to being a lifetime peer in the House of Lords, died at 101 on this date in 1986. His leadership during dock-worker strikes in 1911 and 1919 landed […]

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The Poetry of Maxine Kumin

Maxine Kumin (1925-2014) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize on this date in 1973 for Up Country: Poems of New England. Kumin, who was appointed the Library of Congress’ Poet Laureate in 1981–82, wrote eighteen books of poetry as well as novels, memoirs, essay collections, and children’s books. While studying at Radcliffe, she helped try to […]

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A Conversation with Bernie’s Pollster, Ben Tulchin

From the Spring 2017 issue of Jewish Currents BEN TULCHIN, 43, became pollster for the Bernie Sanders for President campaign in October 2015, as the Vermont senator’s surprisingly effective run against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination was pulling in millions of dollars in small contributions and drawing tens of thousands of supporters at […]

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Medals of Honor in the Civil War

Two Jewish soldiers in the Union Army received the Congressional Medal of Honor for the heroism they showed on this date in 1864 during the four-day Battle of the Wilderness, the first attempt by Ulysses S. Grant to use consolidated forces of the Union to destroy Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Abraham […]

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Socking It to T.S. Eliot

Poet Emanuel Litvinoff, who criticized T.S. Eliot’s antisemitism in a poem, “To T.S. Eliot,” which he read in 1951 to a crowd that included the 1948 Nobel Laureate, was born in London on this date in 1915. Litvinoff wrote several volumes of poetry as well as novels that dealt with Jewish immigrant life in East […]

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Ari Levine and the Smeezingtons

Songwriter, sound engineer, and producer Ari Levine, part of the trio (with Bruno Mars and Philip Lawrence) of hitmakers known as the Smeezingtons, was born on this date in 1984. The Smeezingtons were active from 2009 to 2014 and produced hits for the Sugarbees, Snoop Dogg, Flo Rida, Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, and Cee-Lo Green, […]

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The Master of Radio Drama

Norman Corwin, one of the most popular radio writers during the Golden Age of radio drama in the 1930s and ’40s, was born in Boston on this date in 1910. Corwin brought culture, historical consciousness, and progressive patriotism to the airwaves, with such radio plays as  Spoon River Anthology (1939), We Hold These Truths (1941), […]

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The Anti-Semitic Congressman

On this date in 1934, Louis T. McFadden, nineteen years in the House of Representatives as a Republican from Pennsylvania, made one of his several speeches on the floor of the House that were filled with anti-Semitism. In these speeches, and in newsletters to his constituents, McFadden cited the fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of […]

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Running for Congress at 24

AND GETTING ATTACKED BY NEO-NAZIS A CONVERSATION WITH ERIN SCHRODE From the Spring 2017 issue of Jewish Currents Erin Schrode, 25, has been an environmental activist her entire life. In 2005, at age 13, in response to skyrocketing cancer rates in Marin County, California, she and her mother Judi Shils co-founded Teens for Safe Cosmetics […]

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The Man Who Invented Advertising

Albert Lasker, who moved the world of American advertising from simple informational announcements to what he called “salesmanship in print,” was born in Freiburg, Germany on this date in 1880. Lasker came to the U.S. as an infant, was raised in Galveston, Texas, and rose to head the Lord & Thomas Agency in Chicago by […]

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Honesty Day

This anniversary of the first inauguration of President George Washington (April 30, 1789) was declared “Honesty Day” by novelist and Maryland gubernatorial press secretary M. Hirsh Goldberg in 1991. Goldberg was researching his book, The Book of Lies: Fibs, Tales, Schemes, Scams, Fakes, and Frauds That Have Changed The Course of History and Affect Our […]

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Liberated by a Segregated Battalion

The U.S. Army’s 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, a segregated unit of Japanese Americans and Japanese Hawaiians, liberated 3,000 prisoners, most of them Jews, in the Kaufering Lager IV, a slave-labor camp that was a satellite of Dachau, on this date in 1945. “While the 522nd FAB covered 1,100 miles in their movement through Germany,” notes […]

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Barring Kurt Waldheim

Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department permanently barred Austria’s President Kurt Waldheim, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, from entering the U.S. on this date in 1987. Waldheim was accused of having been a Nazi intelligence officer during World War II, stationed within spitting distance of the Jasenovac concentration camp, which was known as “the Auschwitz […]

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The Purim of the Bomb

Jews of Fossano, Italy, a town that was being besieged by Napoleon’s army, were saved on this date in 1796 (some sources say April 27th, others April 25th) from being massacred inside their synagogue by their fellow townspeople when a bomb exploded in the synagogue’s vestibule and frightened away the mob. Jewish celebrations of the […]

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Jewish License Plates

On this date in 1901, New York became the first state in the U.S. to require license plates on motor vehicles, simply the owner’s initials on a homemade plate. Two years later, official numbers were assigned, and in 1910, the state began issuing the plates rather than requiring drivers to make them. Vanity plates have […]

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Music For 18 Musicians

Steve Reich‘s entrancing minimalist masterpiece, “Music for 18 Musicians,” had its premiere at New York’s Town Hall on this date in 1976. The piece, which runs approximately one hour, involves six pianos, four xylophones, six marimbas, a vibraphone, violins, cello, clarinets, maracas, and four human voices; it is based on eleven chords and comprises a […]

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Herzl and Chamberlain

British Minister for the Colonies Joseph Chamberlain held a meeting with Theodor Herzl on this date in 1903 to discuss the possible Jewish colonization in the Ugandan British Protectorate (the land discussed is in present-day Kenya). Herzl would bring this plan before the Sixth Zionist Congress four months later, proposing Uganda as a temporary refuge […]

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The Jewish Braille Institute

The Jewish Braille Institute, now known as JBI International, was founded on this date in 1931 with funding from the Reform movement’s National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, with the intention of creating an international Hebrew Braille system. That goal was fulfilled between 1936 and 1944, and one of the early adopters of the new alphabet, […]

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The Dadaist

Marcel Janco, co-inventor with Tristan Tzara of Dadaism in Switzerland, and a leading exponent of Constructivism in Eastern Europe, died in Israel at 89 on this date in 1984. Born in Romania, he lived in Switzerland after World War I, then returned to his native country and became one of its leading intellectuals and artists. […]

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The Talkies

The Vitaphone sound system was unveiled on this date in 1926 by Western Electric, opening the era of “the talkies,” movies with sound. Warner Brothers, a three-year-old movie studio founded by Canadian brothers Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack Warner (all but Jack were born in Poland), invested heavily and exclusively in Vitaphone and used it […]

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The Baltimore Slavery Riot

Pro-slavery forces in Baltimore, a city that had given Abraham Lincoln only 1,100 of more than 30,000 votes cast the previous November, rioted on this date in 1861 as Union soldiers from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts arrived to secure the town, situated dangerously close to Washington, DC. The riot erupted only six days after hostilities had […]

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Ben Hecht

Ben Hecht, a writer of wide-ranging accomplishments and great fame and influence who became especially active in American Zionist efforts to save Jews from the Holocaust, died at 70 on this date in 1964. Hecht’s screenplays included The Front Page (1931), Scarface (1932), Gunga Din (1939), Angels Over Broadway (which he also directed, in 1940), […]

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Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg

Arthur Hertzberg, a champion of Jewish liberalism and independent thought who led the American Jewish Congress, stoked Jewish support for the civil rights movement, called for Palestinian statehood immediately after the 1967 Six-Day War, helped to found Peace Now, and wrote, edited, or collaborated on thirteen books, many of them about American Jewish history and […]

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The Sesame Street Animator

Jane Aaron, who created more than 150 animated shorts for Sesame Street that brought to life numbers, letters of the alphabet, words, and concepts, was born in New York on this date in 1948. Aaron’s animation mixed drawn images with live-action footage that she shot all over the country. She “dreamed up many innovative techniques,” […]

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Was the Last Supper a Seder?

The great Italian Catholic painter and inventor Leonardo Da Vinci was born in Tuscany on this date in 1452. Among his masterworks is “The Last Supper,” a painting nearly thirty feet wide by fifteen feet high, in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. It shows Jesus and his disciples at a meal, […]

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Adrien Brody, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Two prominent Gen-X actors were born on this date in New York: Adrien Brody, whose Oscar-winning performance in Roman Polanski’s The Pianist (2002) brought to life the chaos and cruelty of life in the Warsaw Ghetto, was born in Woodhaven, Queens, in 1973; Sarah Michelle Gellar, best known as television’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), […]

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Choreographing with Gene Kelly

Film director and choreographer Stanley Donen, who with Gene Kelly codirected the movie musicals On the Town (1949) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952), was born in Columbia, South Carolina on this date in 1924. Donen began his career as a Broadway dancer, but by 1943 he was in Hollywood as a film choreographer, and […]

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The Kiss of Life

Peter Safar, whose pioneering “Kiss of Life” procedure of mouth-to-mouth cardio-pulmonary resuscitation has saved countless lives, was born into a medical family in Vienna on this date in 1924. Safar managed to conceal his Jewish identity during the Nazi years, which resulted in his conscription into the Hitler Youth. He evaded service by smearing himself […]

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Jack Weinstein and the Nuclear Arsenal

General Jack Weinstein dismissed nine officers in charge of the nuclear arsenal at the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana on this date in 2014, over a scandal involving cheating on exams that are designed to test people’s capacity to handle “emergency war orders” that involve the targeting and launching of missiles. The dismissals took […]

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Star Man

Astronomer Martin Schwarzschild, a refugee from Nazi Germany who spent most of his professional life as a professor of astronomy at Princeton University, died at 84 on this date in 1997. Schwarzschild was the first scientist to use hot-air balloons to carry telescopes and other instruments into the stratosphere in order to obtain data and […]

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Igal Roodenko and the Freedom Rides

Igal Roodenko (1917-1991), a pacifist and a gay Jewish activist (center in photo above, with suitcase), was among sixteen men, eight black and eight white, who began a “Journey of Reconciliation” on interstate buses through the segregated South on this date in 1947. As members of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), they planned to […]

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It’s a Wonderful Life

Lyricist, screenwriter, and playwright Jo Swerling, who wrote or co-authored dozens of Hollywood screenplays in the 1930s and ’40s, including It’s a Wonderful Life, Lifeboat, Pennies from Heaven, Platinum Blonde, and The Pride of the Yankees, was born in Berdichev, Ukraine on this date in 1897. He grew up on New York’s Lower East Side […]

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Spring 2017

The Editors on Aiming Beyond the Status Quo in the Resistance to Trump The Sanders Campaign: A Conversation with Bernie Sanders’ Pollster, Ben Tulchin Running for Congress at 24: A Conversation with Erin Schrode David A.M. Wilensky and Gabriel T. Erbs, “A Taxonomy of Stupid Shit the Jewish Establishment Says to Millennials” Jonah Sampson Boyarin, […]

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Resistance in Skalat, Ukraine

Following the Nazi murder of some 750 Jews from the town of Skalat in the Tarnapol district of Ukraine on this date in 1943, a resistance group was organized under the leadership of a young man named Michael Glanz. The group collected weapons but was still unprepared for the next Nazi Aktion, on May 9, […]

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Be Here Now

Spiritual explorer and writer Ram Dass, whose 1971 book, Be Here Now, introduced many, many baby boomers to meditation, mindfulness, and Eastern spirituality, was born Richard Alpert in Newton, Massachusetts on this date in 1931. Alpert partnered with Timothy Leary in conducting experiments with LSD at Harvard University, where both were faculty members ; they […]

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Tales in a Jugular Vein

Crime, horror and science fiction writer Robert Bloch, who wrote the novel Psycho, which Alfred Hitchcock adapted into his groundbreaking film, was born in Chicago on this date in 1917. In the course of his prolific career, Bloch won the Hugo Award, the Bram Stoker Award, the Edgar Allen Poe Award, the Fritz Lieber Fantasy […]

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A Simple, Highly Participatory Seder

by Lawrence Bush MY FAMILY and Passover intimates have consistently observed the Festival of Matse by turning the hagode text into a participatory event. We assign the holiday themes to individuals at least a couple of weeks in advance. These might include: Springtime  •  Four Questions • Slavery  •  Afikomen (hidden matse) • Burning Bush  […]

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Citizens of Rome

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caracalla, known simply as Caracalla, emperor of Rome from 211-217, was born on this date in 188. In 212 he declared all free residents of the Roman Empire to be citizens of Rome, including Jews, many of whom remained in the empire after the destruction wreaked by the Jewish-Roman Wars of 66-73 […]

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The Non-Jewish Jew

Isaac Deutscher, biographer of both Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin, was born near Cracow, Poland on this date in 1907. Raised in a khasidic milieu, he was a child prodigy in Torah and Talmud but at the age of 13 he “tested God” by eating treyf food at the grave of a holy man on […]

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Orthodox Point Guard Naama Shafir

Naama Shafir scored a career high forty points on this date in 2011 to lead her basketball team, the University of Toledo Rockets, to a National Invitational Tournament title. A native of Hoshaya, Israel, Shafir was the first female Orthodox Jew to earn an NCAA Division I scholarship. Her school and team accommodated her needs […]

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Aiming Beyond the Status Quo

Breadth of Resistance! Unity of Purpose? An Editorial from the Spring 2017 issue of Jewish Currents FOR THE MAJORITY of Americans who voted against Trump, his lies, his appointments, his executive orders, and his all-around autocratic ugliness have been so appalling that it is easy to infer a broad sense of unity rooted simply in […]

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America’s First Shokhet (Ritual Slaughterer)

Solomon Etting was licensed on this date in 1782 to serve as America’s first kosher slaughterer. In 1797, Etting and Bernard Gratz petitioned the Maryland Assembly to revoke the law that required swearing a Christian oath in order to take office, and they continued petitioning the legislature every year for twenty-nine years. When Maryland’s so-called […]

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The Scandal Concert

Arnold Schoenberg and Alexander von Zemlinsky were two Jews among four Austrian composers of the Second Viennese School whose modernist music caused their audience to riot on this date in 1913. Known as the Skandalkonzert (Scandal Concert), the event ended in a lawsuit after concert organizer Erhard Buschbeck punched someone — which operetta composer Oscar […]

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Jews in the Crimean War

The three-year Crimean War, pitting the Russian Empire against  France, Britain, the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia, ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on this date in 1856. For the Jews of Russia, the world’s largest Jewish population, the war had brought about the quadrupling of the quota for Jewish recruits required by […]

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March 29: Mother of Charities

Frances Wisebart Jacobs, who created Denver, Colorado’s nondenominational Charity Organization Society, the first federation of charities in the U.S., which evolved into the national Community Chest and then the United Way, was born in Harrodsburg, Kentucky on this date in 1843. She was a school teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio before she married Abraham Jacobs, her […]

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March 28: The Stateless Mathematician

Alexander Grothendieck, a creator of modern algebraic geometry and one of the most influential mathematicians of the 20th century, was born to anarchist parents in Berlin on this date in 1928. He was raised and lived primarily in France — during World War II in the rescuer village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, while his father died […]

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March 27: Blowing Up Nazi Records to Save Lives

Frieda Belinfante helped to blow up Amsterdam’s population registry in the city’s City Hall on this date in 1943 in order to prevent Nazi efforts to expose false documents and capture more of Amsterdam’s Jews, many of whom were in hiding. Belinfante, a cellist, was the daughter, on her father’s side, of a musical Sephardic […]

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Harry Kelber, a Forgotten Labor Activist

by Bennett Muraskin HARRY KELBER (1914-2013) was a union organizer, journalist, publisher, educator, and dissident who capped his career by writing an autobiography, My Seventy Years as a Labor Activist. Yes, seventy years! His career included union activism and developing the first labor studies program at Cornell University, a program that eventually evolved into Empire […]

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March 26: Max Ophuls

Filmmaker Max Ophuls (Oppenheimer), who made films in Germany (1931–1933), France (1933–1940 and 1950–1957), and the United States (1947–1950), died at the age of 54 on this date in 1957. An early refugee from Nazism following the 1933 Reichstag fire, Ophuls became a French citizen in 1938, then made his way to the U.S. in […]

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March 25: Last Chief Rabbi of France

Zadoc Kahn was inducted as the last official Chief Rabbi of France on this date in 1890. His tenure, which would last until his death at 66 in 1905, was marked by Dreyfus Affair: Kahn officiated at the 1890 wedding of Captain Alfred and Lucie Dreyfus and supported them throughout Dreyfus’ false imprisonment, but was […]

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March 24: The Antiquer

Albert M. Sack, author of the 1950 book, Fine Points of American Furniture: Good, Better, Best — which became the Bible of the American antiquing business and went through twenty-four printings before being updated in 1993 — was born in Lynn, Massachusetts on this date in 1915. His father was a cabinetmaker from Lithuania, who […]

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March 23: Israel Legalizes Homosexuality

Same-sex lovemaking was legalized by the Israeli Knesset on this date in 1988, overturning a law against “sodomy” that had been unenforced since 1963. While same-sex marriages are still not performed by the rabbinate in Israel, those sanctified elsewhere have legal status in the country, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has been […]

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March 22: World Water Day

March 22nd was declared “World Water Day” by the United Nations on this date in 1993. The 2017 theme is “Why Waste Water?” According to the UN, 663 million people worldwide still lack developed drinking water sources, 1.8 billion people drink -contaminated water, which causes 842,000 deaths (from cholera, dysentery, polio, and typhus) each year, […]

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March 21: Elliot Gant and the Button-Down Shirt

Elliot Gant (Gantmacher), who with his brother Martin and father Bernard perfected the button-down shirt, added a hook to its back for hanging, and turned it into an “Ivy League” fashion staple, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1926. Their father was a tailor who specialized in collars, his mother a seamstress who […]

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March 20: From Winky Dink to Tic Tac Dough

Jack Barry (Barasch), who partnered with Dan Enright (Ehrenreich) to create television shows that ranged from the interactive kiddy show, Winky Dink and You, to game shows like Twenty One, Concentration, and Tic Tac Dough, was born in Lindenhurst, New York on this date in 1918. Barry met Enright while working in radio, and when […]

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March 19: “Bob Dylan,” by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s first album, “Bob Dylan,” was released by Columbia Records on this date in 1962. It had been recorded in three short afternoon sessions the previous November, with John Hammond as producer. Dylan, age 21, had refused to do second takes, saying, “I can’t see myself singing the same song twice in a row. […]

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March 18: King of Jerusalem

Frederick II (1194-1250) declared himself King of Jerusalem on this date in 1229 while leading a nearly bloodless Sixth Crusade. The Holy Roman Emperor had four years earlier married Isabella II (Yolande of Brienne), the Italian-born Queen of Jerusalem (so-called because of Christian conquests made during the Third Crusade), but was so slow to launch […]

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March 17: Herbert Aptheker

Radical historian Herbert Aptheker, author of the seven-volume Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States and literary executor for W.E.B. DuBois, whose correspondence he published between 1973 and ’78, died at 87 on this date in 2003. Aptheker was a pioneering and prolific writer about black American history, including about slave revolts […]

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March 16: Jericho

Israel ceded administrative control of the city of Jericho to the Palestinian Authority on this date in 1994. The city had been occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967, then by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War. Jericho is the city with the oldest known protective wall in the world and among the oldest stone […]

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March 15: My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady debuted on Broadway at the Mark Hellinger Theater on this date in 1956. It was written by Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe and directed by Moss Hart, and it set a record for the longest run of a show on Broadway up until that time (2,717 performances). My Fair Lady probably […]

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March 14: Israel’s Operation Litani

Following an 11-man Palestinian terrorism attack that killed 35 bus passengers near Tel Aviv, Israel launched a six-day retaliatory campaign in southern Lebanon code-named “Operation Litani” (for the Litani River) on this date in 1978. More than 25,000 Israeli soldiers occupied southern Lebanon with the goals of halting Palestinian shelling of northern Israel, pushing the […]

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March 13: The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician

Lee Falk (Leon Harrison Gross), creator of the enduring comic strips “The Phantom” and “Mandrake the Magician,” died at 87 on this date in 1999. The Phantom strip began in February 1936 and achieved a presence in more than 500 newspapers. It featured a costumed crime-fighter operating from a fictional African country called Bangalla who […]

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March 12: Pope Pius XII

Half a million people filled and surrounded St. Peter’s Square to witness the coronation of Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli) on this date in 1939. Within four months, he would sign a concordat with Adolf Hitler to protect the Church from Nazi oversight and to withdraw the Church from German politics. For the next six […]

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March 11: The 1918 Flu Epidemic

The first case in the U.S. of the so-called “Spanish flu,” an influenza strain that killed between 20 and 40 million people worldwide, including nearly 600,000 Americans, was reported at the Army hospital in Fort Riley, Kansas on this date in 1918. Within a week, the hospital was dealing with 500 cases and 48 deaths. […]

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March 10: Lamed Shapiro’s Fiction of Violence

Yiddish writer L. Shapiro (Levi Yehoshua “Lamed” Shapiro), who wrote a series of Yiddish stories about pogrom violence that broke with traditional Yiddish satirical stories by presenting dark themes and psychological nuance, was born in the Ukraine on this date in 1878. He was brought to literary attention with the help of Y. L. Peretz, […]

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March 9: Splash

Three Jewish writers — Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, and Bruce Jay Friedman — wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for Splash, a romantic comedy film that was released on this date in 1984 and introduced Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah (neither of them Jewish) to stardom. The movie, about a powerful romantic bond between a mermaid and […]

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March 8: A Leap Into Darkness

Leo Bretholz, who escaped death at the hands of the Nazis numerous times, including from a train en route to Auschwitz, died at 93 on this date in 2014. A resident of Vienna, Bretholz fled from Austria after the Anschluss and swam across the Sauer River from Germany to Luxembourg. Arrested two days later, he […]

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O My America: My Favorite Shikse

by Lawrence Bush I’VE BEEN in love with Rickie Lee Jones for 38 years, because of her unfailingly creative and original music. There, I just had to say that, after seeing her in concert in New Jersey last night. She started by asking, “Where exactly am I tonight?” (She’s on tour.) I patted my chest. […]

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March 7: Every Boy Wants a Remco Toy

Isaac Heller, co-founder with his cousin Saul Robbins of Remco Industries, which converted military surplus material into action toys (Remco was a redaction of “remote control”), died at 88 on this date in 2015. Remco’s products included the Dick Tracy wrist radio, the Whirlybird helicopter, the Barracuda atomic submarine, the Johnny Reb cannon, Mr. Kelly’s […]

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March 6: Hours of Devotion

Fanny Schmiedl Neuda, who wrote Stunden der Andacht, “Hours of Devotion” — subtitled “A Book of Prayer and Moral Uplift for Jewish Women and Girls,” and the first Jewish prayerbook for women written by a woman — was born into a family of rabbis in Moravia on this date in 1816. Published in 1855 after her […]

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March 5: If the Nightingale Could Sing Like Irving

Songwriting lyricist Irving Kahal, whose sixteen-year collaboration with Sammy Fain (Feinberg) produced several memorable hit songs, including “You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me” (made famous by Maurice Chevalier and Frank Sinatra) and “I’ll Be Seeing You,” a World War II favorite, was born in Houtzdale, Pennsylvania on this date in 1903. Kahal […]

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O My America: Save Us, Ivanka!

by Lawrence Bush I STEPPED OUT onto my porch two evenings ago and heard peepers — tree frogs — who make one of the most beguiling and happy sounds of spring in the countryside. My heart sank. They were out a month early, after a week of 72º temperatures in late February. I knew that […]

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March 3: Surfing for Peace

Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, a Stanford-trained physician who gave up medicine to become a full-time surfer and spent twenty-five years living in camper vans with his wife and as many as nine children, was born in Galveston, Texas on this date in 1921. Paskowitz became a doctor in 1946, served in the Navy, then quit his […]

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March 2: Denise Bloch, in the French Underground

Denise Bloch, 28, a Parisian Jew who had been active in the French Resistance in Lyon as a courier and wireless operator for two years (codenames Ambroise and Crinoline), was flown by the British Special Operations Executive into Central France on this date in 1944 to work undercover with Robert Benoist, her fellow passenger, to […]

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February 28: The Brazilian Book Lover

José Ephim Mindlin, a bibliophile who had the largest private library in Latin America (38,000 titles), died in Sao Paolo, his town of birth, at age 95 on this date in 2010. Mindlin was an attorney and a businessman with major holdings in the automotive parts industry — and was one of only two Brazilian […]

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February 27: The Death of Spock

Leonard Nimoy, who became internationally recognized as Spock, the half-Vulcan ally of humans and other beings on the first incarnation of Star Trek, died at 83 on this date in 2015. Nimoy was so strongly identified with the character in the public mind that his two memoirs were titled  I Am Not Spock (1975) and […]

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February 26: A Spanish Rescuer

Sebastián de Romero Radigales (1884-1970), a Consul General of Spain in Athens, Greece in 1943, was recognized by Israel’s Yad Vashem as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” on this date in 2014 because of his efforts to save the Jews of Salonika from death in Auschwitz. Deportations of these began in March 1943, […]

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February 25: Khrushchev Denounces Stalin

Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev delivered a speech at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on this date in 1956 in which he denounced the “cult of personality” that had elevated the late Joseph Stalin to the status of “a superman possessing supernatural characteristics, akin to those of a god. […]

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February 24: Queer Theory and Anti-Zionism

Judith Butler, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors who is one of American academia’s most ardent critics of Israel and Zionism and a leading queer theorist, was born in Cleveland on this date in 1956. “Gender Trouble, published in 1990, made Butler a star,” writes Molly Fischer in New York magazine. “It introduced ‘performativity,’ the idea […]

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February 23: Barney Dreyfuss and the World Series

Barney Dreyfuss, who owned the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1900 to 1932 (the team won six pennants and two World Series during that period, led by the outstanding shortstop Honus Wagner), was born in Freiburg, Germany on this date in 1865. Dreyfuss came to the U.S. in 1881 and settled in Paducah, Kentucky, where he rose […]

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February 22: The Liberal Stalwart

Abraham Ribicoff, a liberal stalwart of the Democratic Party who served as Congressional representative, senator, Cabinet secretary of health, education, and welfare, and the first and only Jewish governor of Connecticut, died at 87 on this date in 1998. Ribicoff became best known as a confidante and advisor to John F. Kennedy (he turned down […]

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February 21: The Night Driver

Herschel Leibowitz, a neurophysiologist at the University of Wisconsin and at Penn State who did innovative research in the field of perception — in particular, identifying how drivers dangerously misidentify what they’re seeing at night and at twilight — was born in York, Pennsylvania on this date in 1925. Leibowitz fought in the Battle of […]

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February 20: Psychology and the Immune System

Robert Ader, a lifelong professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Rochester and an inventor of the field of psychoneuroimmunology, which examines links between a person’s psychological life and immune system, was born on this date in 1932. Ader launched the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. “His theories that the human mind could […]

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February 19: Logically Speaking

Ruth Bacan Marcus, a groundbreaking logician and professor of philosopher at Yale University, died at 90 on this date in 2012. She came to prominence with a 1946 article in The Journal of Symbolic Logic in which she proposed a formula for positing a connection between possibility and actuality. Her Barcan formula translates into words […]

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“When the Rockets Go Up, Who Cares Where They Come Down?”

by Marty Roth Discussed in this essay: Moonglow, by Michael Chabon. HarperCollins, 2016, 431 pages. MICHAEL CHABON’S latest novel, Moonglow, is a terrific achievement, an assured and dazzling re-encounter with the familiar contours of (Jewish) America in the 20th century. It is also a moving love story, and a valentine to his grandparents. Only the narrator […]

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February 18: Wallace Berman’s Assemblage Art

Wallace Berman, who pioneered “assemblage” art, introduced elements of kabbalistic symbolism to his work, and appeared on the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album, died on his 50th birthday on this date in 1976 in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. Berman lived most of his life in southern California, where he […]

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February 17: The First Jewish Woman in Congress

Florence Prag Kahn, at age 58, became the first Jewish woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives on this date in 1925. She beat two other candidates in her San Francisco district to succeed her husband, Representative Julius Kahn, who had died after being reelected to his 13th term. Florence Kahn would herself be […]

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February 16: Tsu Gesundt!

Pope Gregory is said to have declared on this date in 600 (though some say February 6) that “God bless you” is an appropriate response to a sneeze. According to the History Channel, “Gregory the Great . . . assumed the papacy in 590, at a time when the bubonic plague was raging through Europe. […]

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February 15: A Geneticist and Ethicist

Molecular biologist Maxine Frank Singer, who raised early alarms about the ethical issues involved in recombinant DNA research and organized the 1975 Asilomar Conference, which issued guidelines for dealing with those issues, was born in New York on this date in 1931. Singer was president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington from 1988 until 2002, […]

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February 14: Frederick Loewe on Broadway

Frederick Loewe, the composer who collaborated with Alan Jay Lerner to create Broadway musical classics such as My Fair Lady, Brigadoon, Camelot, and Gigi, died at 86 on this date in 1988. Loewe was seventeen years older than his collaborator and was a transplant from Berlin (his parents were Austrians, his father an operetta star), […]

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February 13: Photographing the Warsaw Ghetto

Joe J. Heydecker, a soldier in the Nazi army who preserved forty-two photographs that he made inside the Warsaw Ghetto in early 1941, was born in Nuremberg on this date in 1916. Heydecker was a journalist and photographer who was ordered into Warsaw to join a propaganda unit. Anti-Nazi in sentiment, he secretly took hundreds […]

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February 12: Ehud Barak

Ehud Barak, Israel’s 10th prime minister (1999-2001) and most highly decorated combat soldier in Israeli history, was born on Kibbutz Mishmar HaSharon on this date in 1942. He was trained in physics, mathematics, and engineering at Hebrew University and Stanford. Barak joined Israel’s armed forces in 1959 and served for thirty-five years, rising to the […]

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February 11: Thomas Alva Edison and the Jews

Thomas Alva Edison, modern history’s most prolific and tranformational inventor, with a record 1,093 patents to his name, was born in Milan, Ohio on this date in 1847. Edison (not Jewish) invented  an early motion picture camera and projector in the late 19th century, which soon brought him into conflict with Carl Laemmle and numerous […]

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February 10: Soviet Deportations Begin in Poland

The Soviet Union began deporting Polish citizens to Siberia on this date in 1940 following the Soviet takeover of eastern Poland. The Nazis had already moved on western Poland; six out of ten of Poland’s 3.3 million Jews were now living and dying under the German occupation, while four out of ten were in the […]

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February 9: Reverse Transcription in Genetics

Howard Martin Temin, who shared the 1975 Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering the reverse transcriptase — the enzyme that makes possible an interchange of information between RNA and DNA — died at 59 on this date in 1994. Temin was born in Philadelphia to progressive Jewish parents; for his bar mitsve, the family donated […]

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February 8: A Billion Slippers

Florence Zacks Melton, who invented Shoulda Shams, removable shoulder pads, in the 1940s, and Dearfoams, foam-soled, washable slippers — introduced in 1958, with more than a billion pairs now sold — died at 95 on this date in 2007. Co-founder of R.G. Barry Corporation, which today controls nearly 40 percent of the U.S. slipper market, […]

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OpEdge: The Torture Man Returns

by Marc Jampole IN ITS CONTINUING attempt to characterize as illegal the Trump Administration’s ban on immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim countries, the New York Times has either allowed itself to be manipulated by a long-time supporter of torture or doesn’t really mean when its editors frequently write that the Times thinks torture is […]

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February 7: The Tap Dancer

Jerry Ames (Abrams), a creative, light-footed tap dancer who founded the Jerry Ames Tap Dance Company, one of the first dance troupes devoted exclusively to tap, died at 80 on this date in 2011. Ames was the only white dancer in legendary Off-Broadway show, The Hoofers (1969), and was known for his performance in many […]

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February 5: Fighting for Low-Wage Workers

Beth Shulman, a vice-president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and chair of the National Employment Law Project, died at 60 on this date in 2010. Shulman was the author of The Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans (2003) and a leading advocate for a new social contract […]

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February 4: Waitstill and Martha

Waitstill Sharp, a Unitarian minister, and his wife Martha, a social worker, left two young children in the care of friends in the U.S. and sailed for Prague on this date in 1939 to help refugees escape Nazi rule in Czechoslovakia. “They stopped several times en route to Prague,” according to the United States Holocaust […]

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February 3: The Tormented Umpire

Dolly (Albert) Stark became the first Jewish umpire in Major League Baseball when he was added to the National League roster on this date in 1928. Stark was born poor and lost his father at a young age; his mother then went blind, and he ended up on an orphans’ home. He became a semi-pro […]

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February 2: Jascha Heifetz, the Virtuoso

Jascha Heifetz, considered by many to be the greatest violinist in modern history, was born in Vilna on this date in 1901. A child prodigy, he made his public debut at age 7, and his performance at age 12 prompted the great Fritz Kreisler to say, “We may as well break our fiddles across our […]

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February 1: The First Black Secretary of State

Francis Lewis Cardozo, the son of a free black woman and a Sephardic Jewish father who became the first African American in history to hold statewide office when he became South Carolina’s secretary of state in 1868, was born in Charleston on this date in 1836. Cardozo’s parents were forbidden by law to marry but […]

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January 31: Sweatshop-Free but Stained

Dov Charney, the founder of American Apparel, a trend-spotting clothing company that pioneered a “Made in the USA,” sweatshop-free model of manufacturing, was born in Montreal on this date in 1969. Charney founded his brand in 1991, paid his factory workers between $13 and $18 per hour, and offered them low-cost, full-family healthcare — benefits […]

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January 30: Two Giants of Broadway

Two giants of Broadway share this date in 1928 as birthdays: producer and director Harold (Hal) Prince, who has won a record 21 Tony Awards (eight for directing) for such shows as The Pajama Game, Cabaret, Pacific Overtures, Company, Damn Yankees, Fiddler on the Roof, Evita, Phantom of the Opera, Sweeney Todd, and numerous others; […]

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Make America Great Again #3: Explain FOIA

by Lawrence Bush THE FREEDOM of Information Act (FOIA) has been a bone of contention between liberal advocates of open government and conservative advocates of “national security” since it was signed into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1968. Anyone who thinks that FOIA is sacrosanct and beyond outright repeal by our Republican-controlled federal […]

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January 29: The Scientist of Poison Gas

Fritz Haber, a German chemist who won the Nobel Prize in his field in 1918 for inventing a method for synthesizing ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen gas, enabling the large-scale creation of fertilizers and explosives, died at 65 in Basel, an exile from Nazism, on this date in 1934. Like many German Jews, Haber converted […]

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January 28: Nahman Avigad in the Old City

Israeli archaeologist Nahman Avigad, who excavated the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and discovered remnants of the Jewish revolt against Rome that was crushed by Titus, as described in the work of Josephus, died at 86 on this date in 1992. Avigad also worked on excavating Masada as well as the caves […]

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Make America Great Again #2: Scientists Strike!

by Lawrence Bush To read #1 in this series, on voting rights, click here. EVERYBODY WHO KNOWS ANYTHING knows that the overwhelming majority of scientists and scientific associations worldwide share a consensus that global climate change is underway and is, in the words of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2006), “caused by […]

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January 27: The Geochemist and the Nazis

Victor Moritz Goldschmidt, a Norwegian scientist considered to be the father of modern geochemistry and inorganic crystal chemistry, was born in Zurich on this date in 1888. Goldschmidt, the son of generations of rabbis, achieved fame as a young man (he had his doctorate by age 23) investigating the chemistry of minerals and the origins […]

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January 26: The Siberian Exile Ethnographer

Vladimir Jochelson, whose participation in the terroristic Narodnaya Volya (“People’s Will”) revolutionary group landed him in exile in Siberia, where he studied the native peoples and became an internationally respected ethnographer, was born in Vilna on this date in 1855. Remanded to Yakutsk in northern Siberia for ten years, Jochelson studied and wrote articles about […]

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The Women’s March

by Jessica G. de Koninck CARVED ABOVE the granite entrance to the Dupont Circle metro station in Washington, D.C. is a quote from Walt Whitman: I thread my way through the hospitals . . . I recognize these words as his even before I see the name — the sad recollections of a Civil War […]

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January 25: 400 Hours with Soviet Negotiators

Max Kampelman, a diplomat who spent World War II as a conscientious objector and then enlisted in the Marine Corps, shifting from a liberal to a neoconservative, died at 92 on this date in 2013. Kampelman co-founded the Committee of the Present Danger, which favored military build-up during the Reagan years, then led the negotiations […]

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“Islamo-Fascism” in Miniature

by Lawrence Bush Discussed in this essay: The Way of the Strangers, Encounters with the Islamic State, by Graeme Wood. Random House, 2017, indexed, 317 pages. IN JANUARY 2003, when I stood wearing a sign that said, “Freezing My Ass Off for Peace” amid hundreds of thousands of protestors against George W. Bush’s imminent invasion […]

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January 24: The “Immigration Pogrom”

More than 130 Jewish labor groups sent representatives to a New York protest meeting against the Johnson-Reed Act, which severely restricted immigration to the U.S. from Southern and Eastern Europe as well as Africa — and banned outright the entry of all Asians and Arabs — on this date in 1924. Fiorello LaGuardia branded the […]

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January 23: “Dreyfus Will Eventually Be Liberated”

New York Times correspondent Harold Frederic wrote from London on this date in 1898 that Alfred Dreyfus “will eventually be liberated, unless, indeed, his jailers take the advice of the Paris mob editors and kill him before slow justice gets to him. In sober truth, I could find nobody of intelligence and education who really […]

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January 22: Europe’s Most Successful Socialist

Bruno Kreisky, chancellor of Austria from 1970 to 1983, was born in Vienna on this date in 1911. Kreisky joined the socialist movement at the age of 15, and when Austria’s Socialist Party was banned by Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss in 1934, Kreisky became active in underground political work. He escaped from Austria after the Nazi […]

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January 21: The Ellis Island of the West

The Angel Island Immigration Station was opened in the San Francisco Bay on this date in 1910, to serve as the portal — and detention center, often for months at a time — for immigrants entering the U.S. The facility was created primarily to enforce the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which allowed entry only […]

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O My America: Make America Great Again #1

by Lawrence Bush AS THE TRUMP presidency begins, there are thirty-one states that enforce voter identification requirements, according to Ballotpedia, the Encyclopedia of American Politics. A total of sixteen states require voters to present photo identification, while fifteen accept other forms of identification. Restrictive registration laws are being fought vehemently in the courts. But to […]

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January 20: The ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was founded on this date in 1920 by a committee that included Felix Frankfurter, who would become a Supreme Court justice nineteen years later, and Morris Ernst, who served as the organization’s general counsel for thirty years (1929-59). Ernst had, three years earlier, co-founded the National Civil Liberties Bureau, […]

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January 19: Spain Recognizes Israel — in 1986

Spain recognized the State of Israel for the first time on this date in 1986. The dictator Franco had withheld recognition from the country’s founding, citing the “contubernio judeo-masónico,” a mythical international conspiracy of Jews and Freemasons against Spain, after Israel voted against lifting sanctions against fascist Spain in 1949. The first post-fascist Spanish government, […]

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January 18: Curt Flood and Marvin Miller

Three-time All-Star baseball player Curt Flood (a .293 lifetime hitter in fifteen seasons), who reached out to Marvin Miller to sue Major League Baseball in 1969 in defiance of the “reserve clause” — a case that reached the Supreme Court and helped transform the status of professional baseball players — was born in Houston, Texas […]

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January 17: Jews in Hawaii

Queen Liliʻuokalani and her government in Hawaii were overthrown on this date in 1893.  A Torah scroll and pointer (yad) possessed by the Queen’s father were left in his safekeeping in 1886 by Elias Abraham Rosenberg, a visitor from San Francisco who “intrigued King David Kalakaua and became a royal soothsayer and confidant, preparing horoscopes […]

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January 16: Ivan the Terrible

Russia’s first Tsar, Ivan the Terrible (translated by some as “the Awesome”), was crowned on this date in 1547. When he captured Polotsk, a Polish-Lithuanian town, during the Livonian War in 1563, he ordered that all  Jewish residents (about 300) who refused to be baptized be drowned in the icy Dvina River. Ivan’s reign brought […]

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January 15: Gaddafi the Jew

Muammar Gaddafi (1942-2011) was proclaimed the leader of Libya on this date in 1970 following a bloodless coup. Gaddafi ruled as a military commander-in-chief, socialist theorist (in 1977 he declared Libya to be Jamahiriya, the “state of the masses”), dictator, pan-Arabist and pan-Africanist who deeply antagonized the United States and Great Britain, as well as […]

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January 14: This Suicide Bomber Was a Mommy

Reem Riyashi, 21, mother of a three-year-old son and eighteen-month-old daughter, became the first woman used by Hamas as a suicide bomber when she blew herself up at Gaza’s Erez crossing, a border checkpoint, on this date in 2004, killing four Israelis and wounding seven others as well as four Palestinians. The IDF reported that […]

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O My America: What We Might Learn from Trump

by Lawrence Bush I ATTENDED a screening this week of Lilly Rivlin’s new documentary film, “Heather Booth: Changing the World.” Jewish Currents co-sponsored the event, and the audience included a lot of veteran New York activist leaders as well as a sprinkling of younger progressive organizers. The spirit of both the film and the remarks […]

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January 12: A Boycott Against Irish Jews

A two-year boycott against the thirty-six Jewish families in Limerick, Ireland — most of them Lithuanian refugees from pogroms in the east — was launched with violence on this date in 1904, thanks to the incitements of a local priest, John Creagh, who preached from his pulpit that “Jews came to Limerick apparently the most […]

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January 11: Gerald Gold and the Pentagon Papers

New York Times editor Gerald Gold, who holed up for ten weeks with the Pentagon Papers in order to extract the most newsworthy information from 7,000 pages of top-secret documents that were spilled to the newspaper’s reporter Neil Sheehan by Daniel Ellsberg, a defense analyst, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1927. Gold, […]

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January 10: Master of the Yiddish Art Song

Lazar Weiner, who created a catalogue of more than two hundred Yiddish art songs that “represents a deeply eloquent achievement, one that simultaneously bridged artistic worlds, created new hybrid musical forms, and preserved a vision of a secular Yiddish culture across decades of its near-extinction,” writes Jeremy Eichler in the Boston Globe, died at 84 […]

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January 9: Heine’s Baptism

“I regret very deeply that I had myself baptized,” wrote German poet, memoirist, and essayist Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) on this date in 1826. “I do not see that I have been the better for it since. On the contrary, I have known nothing but misfortunes and mischances.” Famous as a lyric poet (many of whose […]

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January 8: The Baba Sali (Praying Father)

Moroccan kabbalist Rabbi Israel Abukhatzera, who acquired a reputation as a healing miracle-worker and clairvoyant, died at 94 on this date in 1984. He belonged to a family of Sephardic Torah scholars and wonder-working rabbis who established an estate, a yeshiva and a rabbinical court in Tafilalt, Morocco. Abukhatzera moved to Israel from Morocco in […]

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January 7: Boris Lurie and No!art

Boris Lurie, a Holocaust survivor who in 1959 co-founded, with Sam Goodman and Stanley Fisher, the No!art movement as a protest against the political disengagement represented by Abstract Expressionism (and, in subsequent years, Pop Art), died at 83 on this date in 2008. Lurie was born in Leningrad and suffered through several concentration camps in […]

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January 6: Suicide Bombings in Tel Aviv

Two simultaneous suicide bombings killed twenty-three people and wounded more than a hundred near a bus station in an immigrant neighborhood of Tel Aviv on this date in 2003. Both the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, then denied the claim. The suicide terrorists were determined to be two […]

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January 5: The Attorney of Free Speech

Al Bendich, an attorney who in 1957 defended Lawrence Ferlinghetti against obscenity charges for publishing and distributing Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” and in 1962 defended Lenny Bruce in his first of four obscenity trials, died on this date in 2015 at age 85. Bendich was only two years out of law school when he wrote the […]

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January 4: Gay Men’s Health Crisis

Larry Kramer, Paul Rapoport, and Nathan Fain were among six gay activists who gathered eighty men in Kramer’s apartment and founded Gay Men’s Health Crisis on this date in 1982 — in response to reports that a rare form of cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma was affecting young gay men in New York and San Francisco. […]

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Our Fifth Annual Poetry Competition

To submit by mail: Jewish Currents, PO Box 111, Accord, NY 12404 To submit by email: raynespoetry@outlook.com Submission fee ($18) at jewishcurrents.org/about/donate or by check to “Jewish Currents” at the above address. Name, address, and e-mail on each page; up to three poems per submission; no more than three pages per poem, please. If you […]

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January 3: The Mother of the Israeli Collective

Manya Shochat (1880-1961), who founded the collective settlement movement in Palestine that would evolve into the kibbutz, arrived in the land from the Russian Empire on this date in 1904. She had already been imprisoned by tsarist police for her political activities, and had undergone jailhouse indoctrination by a confederate of the secret police who […]

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January 2: The Wilderness Preservation Movement

Bob Marshall, the founder of the American wilderness preservation movement, was born in New York to the constitutional lawyer and Jewish activist Louis Marshall and his wife Florence on this date in 1901. A product of the Ethical Culture movement, Marshall was a committed nature writer (author of the bestselling 1933 book about Alaska, Arctic […]

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January 1: Modern Meteorology

Physicist and meteorologist Jules Gregory Charney, who taught at MIT from 1956 to 1981 and developed a key understanding of the influence of “long waves” in Earth’s upper atmosphere on the behavior of the entire atmosphere, was born in San Francisco to Yiddish-speaking garment workers, immigrants from Russia, on this date in 1917. From 1948 […]

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December 31: The Basket Tax

The korobka, or “basket tax,” a special tax on Jewish food and clothing in Poland and Lithuania, was levied by the Russian government, for lease to the highest bidder, on this date in 1844. The tax applied to ever cow and fowl killed as kosher meat, to every pound of kosher meat sold in the […]

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December 30: Richard Rodgers

Richard Rodgers, composer of more than 900 songs for some forty-two Broadway shows in a six-decade career, died at 77 on this date in 1979. With Lorenz Hart as lyricist, he wrote thirty Broadway scores, including for Pal Joey (1941); with Oscar Hammerstein II, he wrote thirteen shows, including Oklahoma (1943), Carousel (1945), South Pacific […]

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December 29: Streisand at 13

Barbra Streisand made her first recording at age 13 on this date in 1955, singing “You’ll Never Know” and “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” at Nola Recording Studios on West 57th St. (near Carnegie Hall) in Manhattan. “We had a weeks’ vacation a year in the Catskill Mountains, and that’s where my mother […]

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December 28: Willow Weep for Me

Songwriter Ann Ronell (Rosenblatt), one of the first successful women Tin Pan Alley composers, was born in Omaha, Nebraska on this date in 1906 (some sources say 1908). While a student at Radcliffe, she interviewed George Gershwin, for whom she became a rehearsal pianist, and who suggested that she change her name for a show […]

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December 27: The Righteous Nun

Sister Sara Salkaházi, who saved the lives of some hundred Jews in Hungary during the Holocaust, was murdered by the Arrow Cross, the pro-Nazi party of Hungary, on this date in 1944. Salkahazi, born in 1899, was a teacher, journalist, and worker-activist before she took vows in the Sisters of Social Service in 1930. During […]

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December 26: The Warsaw Pogrom, 1881

Rioting against Jews in Warsaw entered its second of three days on this date in 1881, after a shout of “Fire!” in the Holy Cross Church on Christmas Day led to a stampede in which twenty-eight people died. A false rumor spread that a Jewish pickpocket had been apprehended in the church and had raised […]

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Khanike America

by Lawrence Bush Sung to the tune of “Khanike, O Khanike” KHANIKE AMERICA Come light the menorah We all need a miracle So come, we implore ya   Light a light for every house that’s been lost Banks too big to fail while millions get tossed

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December 25: The Matse Queen

Regina Margareten, whose family built the Horowitz Brothers & Margareten Company, Orthodox matse-bakers on the Lower East Side, which she ran from her father’s death in 1923 until her own death at 96 in 1959, was born in Hungary on this date in 1863 (some sources say 1862). Margareten came to the U.S. as a […]

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December 24: Russia’s Railroad Baron

Samuel Polyakov, who had built 1600 miles of railroad track, about a quarter of Russia’s total by the time of his death in 1888 at age 50, was born in Belarus, part of the Russian empire, to a family of Jewish tax collectors and traders on this date in 1838. Like most railroad barons, Polyakov […]

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December 23: Pardoning the Makhalnik

President George W. Bush granted a posthumous presidential pardon to Charlie Winters, who had been jailed for illegally assisting Israel in its 1948 war of independence, on this date in 2008. “An Irish Protestant from Boston, [Winters] took up the clandestine cause from his perch in Miami and helped ferry military planes to Israeli fighters, […]

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December 22: The Antisemitic Displaced Persons Act, 1948

This date in 1945 was the cut-off for recognition of “Displaced Person” status that would enable people to emigrate to America under the American Displaced Persons Act of 1948. The legislation would ultimately result in 400,000 persons being admitted to the U.S., more than 70 percent of them  from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. […]

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December 21: Dreaming the Impossible Dream

Dale Wasserman, who grew up in a Wisconsin state orphanage from age 9, spent his adolescence as “a self-educated hobo, riding the rails and alternately living on top of buildings … in downtown Los Angeles,” and went on to write Man of La Mancha and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, an adaptation of Ken […]

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The Evening Before My 65th Birthday

by Lawrence Bush Here’s what I thought about, the evening before my 65th birthday: About dancing. She told me about the people she knows who dance at home but not in public. About old people. She held my forearm and showed me how she dances with people in wheelchairs. Everyone should have a dancer at […]

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December 18: Hal Kanter and Diahann Carroll

Hal Kanter, a screenwriter, director, and producer who created “Julia,” the first television sitcom (1968-71) featuring a black professional character (Diahann Carroll), was born in Savannah, Georgia on this date in 1918. Kanter worked on films with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, and Elvis Presley. For many years he was […]

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December 17: General Grant’s General Orders

General Ulysses S. Grant’s General Order No. 11, ordering the expulsion of all Jews in his military district in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky, was issued on this date in 1862 as part of his effort to crack down on black-marketeering during the Civil War. The order would be revoked at President Lincoln’s insistence on January […]

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December 16: Heather Has Two Mommies

Lesléa Newman’s children’s book, Heather Has Two Mommies, was self-published on this date in 1989 in a press run of 4,000 copies. As the first children’s book to deal with a lesbian couple raising children, Heather has been on the American Library Association’s list of most-often banned books every year since it appeared. In 1990, […]

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Channel Esther: “Catch”

by Esther Cohen Yesterday sitting next to Howard Aaron at the American Hotel in Sag Harbor (go there if you haven’t already) he described visiting his mother in Mount Sinai Worst food ever he said But on the counter was a big sign: Catch of the Day. Someone wrote underneath Dr. Levine in Pediatrics.   […]

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December 14: A Rabbi of the Resistance

David Feuerwerker, a rabbi who helped liberate Lyons from fascist rule and then reestablished the Jewish community in that city after World War II, was awarded the Gold Medal of the City of Paris on this date in 1957. Feuerwerker was “an eminent scholar and spiritual leader of French-speaking Jews in North America,” said the […]

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O My America: Be Careful What You Wish For

by Lawrence Bush SO LET’S SAY the CIA presses the issue and Russia’s tampering with the American election proves irrefutably true and Donald Trump is revealed to have strong business connections with Putin’s Russia and so the Republicans impeach him. Would you rather have Mike Pence — a proven rightwing ideologue with nothing but Republican […]

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December 13: Burning the Messiah

Solomon Molcho (Diogo Pires), a self-declared Jewish messiah, was burned at the stake at the age of 32 by the Inquisition on this date in 1532. Born a Christian to Portuguese converso parents, Molcho converted to Judaism and circumcised himself as a young man, then emigrated to Turkey, Syria, and Palestine, becoming an admired kabbalist […]

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December 12: Smuggling Lenin Into Russia

Alexander Israel Helphand, an Odessa-born socialist writer and activist who helped to mastermind the 1917 return of V.I. Lenin through Germany to revolutionary Russia in a sealed train, and convinced the German government to funnel two million marks to the Bolsheviks because of the likelihood that, in victory, they would withdraw Russia from World War […]

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December 11: Allenby Enters Jerusalem

British General Edmund Allenby entered Jerusalem on this date in 1917, following victory over the Ottoman Empire in the Battle of Jerusalem two days earlier. Commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, Allenby made his formal entry into Jerusalem on foot, in an expression of respect for the “holy city.” “[S]ince your city is regarded with affection […]

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December 10: Averroes and the Jews

Medieval Spanish Muslim philosopher Averroes (Abul Walid Muhammed Ibn Ahmad Ibn Rushd), whose writings were generally condemned by the Moors and preserved for the ages only in Hebrew translation (or transliteration) by Jewish scholars, died in Marrakesh on this date in 1198. Averroes was a key figure in the transitional period in which science and […]

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Eight Ideas for Khanike Gelt

by Lawrence Bush KHANIKE GELT (gifts of money) has roots in days of Jewish poverty, when children rarely had a penny of their own. In contemporary times of Jewish prosperity, perhaps it is the whole family’s turn to give gelt. Here are some suggestions for Khanike-season giving. FIRST CANDLE: The “Miracle of Oil” — one […]

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December 9: Mark Gertler and D.H. Lawrence

Painter Mark Gertler, whose life, poverty, and death inspired at least three fictional characters — the main protagonist of Gilbert Cannan’s novel Mendel, Herr Loerke in D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love, and Gombauld in Aldous Huxley’s Crome Yellow — was born in London on this date in 1891. Gertler, according to his biographer Sarah […]

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December 8: Sherwin Nuland Examines Death

Sherwin B. Nuland (Shepsel Ber Nudelman), a surgeon and professor at the Yale School of Medicine who wrote the bestselling 1994 book, How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for its honest portrayal of end-of-life biological breakdown and its critique of the medical system’s futile struggles […]

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December 7: A 5’1″ Champion

Allen Rosenberg, who coached the United States Olympic rowing team that won the gold medal in Tokyo in 1964, as well as teams that won the Lucerne world championship in 1974 and the Pan American Games in 1975, died at 82 on this date in 2013. Rosenberg was an attorney and a pharmacist who used […]

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December 6: Martha Minow of Harvard Law

Martha Minow, dean of the Harvard Law School since 2009, whom President Obama named as “a teacher who changed my life,” was born in Highland Park, Illinois on this date in 1954. Minow has taught at Harvard Law since 1981 and is an expert in human rights, advocacy for oppressed minorities and women, military justice, […]

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December 5: Helmut Newton

Fashion photographer Helmut Newton fled Nazi Germany at age 18 on this date in 1938 following the country-wide pogrom known as Kristallnacht. His parents had already fled to South America after having all of their wealth confiscated. Intending to land in China, he put in first in Singapore and found work as a news and […]

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December 4: Zegota and the Jews of Warsaw

Żegota, the Council to Aid Jews, was established in Warsaw on this date in 1942 to extend the work of the Provisional Committee to Aid Jews, which had been founded on September 27 by Zofia Kossak-Szczucka and Wanda Krahelska-Filipowicz. The former was a conservative Catholic writer, a nationalist, the wife of a former Polish ambassador […]

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December 3: Fake Letters, by Lee Israel

Lee Israel, who wrote magazine celebrity profiles as well as biographies of Tallulah Bankhead, Dorothy Kilgallen, and Estée Lauder before turning to forgery to make a living, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1939. Over the course of some eighteen months in the early 1990s, Israel wrote and sold some 400 letters supposedly […]

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December 2: The Futurist Pianist

Leo Ornstein, whose “futurist” (later called “modernist”) piano compositions both scandalized and delighted critics and audiences in the early 20th century, was born in the Ukraine on this date in 1895 (official documentary sources say December 11, but Ornstein claimed December 2nd as his birthday). The son of a cantor, Ornstein was a piano prodigy […]

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O My America: Standing Rock

by Lawrence Bush YES, I’VE BEEN to North Dakota — as a tourist. I’ve camped in Teddy Roosevelt National Park and seen a bull snake that was five feet long. I’ve been in Fargo and I’ve been through Bismark and I’ve seen Native American poverty from my car window. When I was there, it was […]

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November 30: David Mamet

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (in 1984, for Glengarry Glen Ross) David Mamet was born in Chicago on this date in 1947. Through such plays as Sexual Perversion in Chicago (1974), American Buffalo (1975), Glengarry Glen Ross (1983) and Oleanna (1992), Mamet became associated in public consciousness with a dialogue style filled with interruptions, street smarts, and […]

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November 29: General Yakov Grigorevich Kreizer

The highest-ranking Jew in the Soviet military after Stalin’s bloody purges of the 1930s, Yakov Grigorevich Kreizer died at 64 on this date in 1969. In July 1941, General Kreizer had been the first Red Army senior officer to outfight the German Wehrmacht and deter its assault on Moscow, including during a skillfully managed fighting […]

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November 28: The Dance Crazes of Kal Mann

Song lyricist and record producer Kal Mann (Kalman Cohen), whose hits included “The Bristol Stomp,” Elvis Presley’s “Teddy Bear,” Bobby Rydell’s “Wild One,” and Chubby Checker’s series of “Twist” songs, died at 84 on this date in 2001. Mann began his career writing comedy sketches for Danny Thomas and Red Buttons, among other radio comedians, […]

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November 27: The First Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

Macy’s acquired the Thanksgiving Day Parade launched by Bamberger’s Department Store in Newark in 1921 and transferred it to New York on this date in 1924, calling it the Macy’s Christmas Parade. (Macy’s would buy Louis Bamberger’s whole business five years later, though they preserved the store’s name.) Gimbel’s, a key competitor to Macy’s, had […]

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O My America: Corporate America Deluxe

by Lawrence Bush I’M IN COLUMBIA, South Carolina, visiting my pregnant daughter and looking with wondering eyes at the world that elected Donald Trump. Among those I shared Thanksgiving with was a young father who works in military intelligence and who voiced to me, over the course of two days, his strong objections to Southern […]

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November 26: Roz Chast

Cartoonist Roz Chast was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1954. She has published more than 800 cartoons in the New Yorker since 1978, mostly dealing with the trials of domesticity and modern life, and often spoofing — with a sense of befuddlement and quiet paranoia — the trendy, the hyped, the glamorous, and the […]

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November 25: Nelson Goodman and the Grue Paradox

Philosopher Henry Nelson Goodman, who taught at Harvard from 1968 until 1977, where he founded Project Zero to develop arts learning as a serious cognitive discipline, died at 92 on this date in 1998. Goodman’s chief contributions came in the fields of logic, the philosophy of science, and the philosophy of art. He is perhaps […]

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November 24: The Lens Grinder

Philosopher Baruch Spinoza was born in the Netherlands on this date in 1632. He made his living as a lens grinder and turned down numerous teaching positions while writing and developing the philosophical outlook that would be explicated (in part through mathematical argument) in Ethics, published after his death in 1677, a book described by […]

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November 23: A Jewish Civil Rights Martyr

Andrew Goodman, who was murdered by racists, along with James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, on his first day as a Mississippi Freedom Summer volunteer on June 24, 1964, was born in New York City on this date in 1943. Goodman was one of three sons raised Carolyn and Robert Goodman, progressive Jewish activists, and was […]

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November 22: The Battle of Stalingrad

During the crucial 199-day Battle of Stalingrad, Nazi General Friedrich Paulus sent Adolf Hitler a telegram on this date in 1942 informing him that the German Sixth Army was surrounded and on the verge of defeat. According to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency report of October 1, 1942, “Reports in the Soviet press today laud many […]

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Resurrecting Jacob Dinezon

by Curt Leviant Discussed in this essay: Jacob Dinezon: the Mother Among our Classical Yiddish Writers, by Shmuel Rozhanski, translated by Miri Koral. Storyteller Press, 2016, 142 pages. TEKHIYAS ha-meysim, resurrection of the dead, occasionally happens in literature when attention is once again focused on long-neglected authors. Scott Davis, editor and publisher of Storyteller Press, […]

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November 21: E=mc²

Albert Einstein‘s paper revealing his famous formula for the relationship between energy and mass — energy equals mass times the velocity of light squared — was published on this date in 1905 in the journal Annalen der Physik (Annals of Physics). The paper had no footnotes or references. It was the last of four papers […]

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November 20: Rose Pesotta, Champion Organizer

Rose Pesotta (Rakhel Peisoty), union organizer, anarchist, and the first female vice president of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, was born in the Ukraine on this date in 1896. Pesotta emigrated to the U.S. in 1913 to avoid an arranged marriage and worked in a shirtwaist factory. She joined ILGWU Local 25 and led […]

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November 19: The Anti-Nazi Novelist

Anna Seghers (Netty Reiling), an anti-Nazi novelist who wrote an internationally acclaimed book, The Seventh Cross — one of the very few war-time depictions of Nazi concentration camps — was born in Mainz, Germany on this date in 1900. She joined Germany’s communist party in 1928 and warned about rising Nazism in her 1932 novel, […]

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November 18: Philadelphia’s Conductor

Eugene Ormandy (Jeno Blau), who would take the baton from Arturo Toscanini and Leopold Stokowski to conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra for forty-four years, was born in Budapest on this date in 1899. He was a child prodigy violinist and came to the U.S. in 1921 (later remarking that he “was born in New York City […]

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November 17: The Pittsburgh Platform’s Radical Judaism

The 1885 gathering of leaders of the movement for Reform Judaism in the U.S. entered its second day of proceedings on this date at the Concordia Club in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Platform, signed by eighteen rabbis, became an influential document for the next half century or more, particularly in shaping Reform Judaism’s rejection of Zionism […]

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November 16: Creator of the Factory Outlet Store

Harold Alfond, founder of Dexter Shoes and creator of the first factory outlet store, at which factory-flawed items and unpopular (“stale”) brands are sold at a steep discount, died at 93 on this date in 2007. Alfond worked in Maine’s shoe industry from an early age (he never went to college), and bought an old […]

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November 15: Samuel Klein’s Casas Bahia Empire

Samuel Klein, who survived the Maidenek concentration camp and became the creator of Brazil’s largest retail merchandiser, Casas Bahia, was born in Poland on this date in 1923. Klein, one of nine children, lost his mother and five younger siblings to Treblinka. He escaped from a forced march in 1944, lived for a number of […]

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November 14: Living Together on Television

Sherwood Schwartz, who created Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch television shows (and wrote the theme songs for both), was born in Passaic, New Jersey on this date in 1916. Training as a biologist in the late 1930s, he was brought onto Bob Hope’s joke-writing staff his brother, Al Schwartz, who worked for Hope’s radio […]

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November 13: The Intermarriage

Sammy Davis Jr. married May Britt at a star-studded wedding on this date in 1960 — a “mixed race” marriage that evoked an enormous racist reaction at a time when such marriages were illegal in thirty-one American states. Davis was confronted by Nazi fascists while performing in London; 20th Century Fox declined to renew Britt’s […]

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November 12: Rosemary’s Daddy

Ira Levin, author of plays and novels that became major film, television and theatrical productions, including Rosemary’s Baby, A Kiss Before Dying, No Time for Sergeants (the play, adapted from a novel), The Stepford Wives, and The Boys from Brazil, died at 78 on this date in 2007. His best-known play is Deathtrap, the longest-running […]

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November 11: Rabbi Louis Ginzberg

Lithuanian-born Louis Ginzberg, who trained two generations of Conservative rabbis at the Jewish Theological Seminary and produced the enormously erudite and entertaining seven-volume collection of midrashic and aggadic materials from the Talmud, The Legends of the Jews, died just short of his 80th birthday on this date in 1953. A descendant of the Gaon of […]

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November 10: Poet Laureate Shapiro

Karl Jay Shapiro, the fifth Poet Laureate of the U.S. (1946-47), was born in Baltimore on this date in 1913. His book, V-Letter and Other Poems, written while was serving in the Pacific during World War II, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1945. (V-letters were letters written by American soldiers and microfilmed by […]

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O My America: Suffer the Children

by Lawrence Bush HERE I AM putting finishing touches on this year’s Jewish Currents Arts Calendar, our winter issue, which is built upon the theme, “kinderlekh” (the Yiddish diminutive for children). We selected that theme months ago, to express our hopes for a thriving and inclusive future for our children and our grandchildren — and […]

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November 9: Louis Lewin and Peyote

Louis Lewin, the first pharmacologist to analyze peyote chemically (in 1886), was born in West Prussia on this date in 1850. Lewin also created a classification system for psychoactive drugs that included these categories: inebriantia (inebriants including alcohol and ether); exitantia (stimulants including amphetamines); euphorica (narcotics such as heroin and morphone); hypnotica (tranquilizers of various […]

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November 7: Herman J. Mankiewicz

Screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who wrote or worked on Citizen Kane, The Wizard of Oz, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Dinner at Eight, Pride of the Yankees, and The Pride of St. Louis, among other films, was born in New York on this date in 1897. Mankiewicz was a correspondent in Berlin for the Chicago Tribune (where […]

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November 6: Lovers of Zion, 1884

Delegates from Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion) societies in several countries convened in Katowice, Poland on this date in 1884 for the first time, at the behest of Leon Pinsker, author of Autoemancipation, a pamphlet published in German two years earlier, which urged Jews to create a Jewish homeland in order to overcome antisemitism. The […]

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November 5: Bernard-Henri Levy

French activist philosopher, playboy, and public intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy, who identifies as a leftist while tearing down many of the fundamental premises of leftwing thought, was born in French Algeria on this date in 1948. Levy began his career as a war correspondent covering the Bangladesh war of independence before shifting into philosophy as a […]

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November 4: The Memorial Builder

Brazilian-born David Resnick, who became one of Israel’s most prominent modernist architects after moving there in 1949, died at 88 on this date in 2012. His best-known works include Yad Kennedy, a memorial to John F. Kennedy in the Jerusalem Forest (pictured above), and Jerusalem’s Yad Lebanim, the Soldiers Home complex. Resnick trained for four […]

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November 3: I Write the Songs

The internationally adored and much-mocked Barry Manilow (Barry Pincus) released “I Write the Songs” on this date in 1975. The song (written by Bruce Johnston) reached #1 on the Billboard chart by January and won a Grammy Award for “Song of the Year.” Manilow would have five bestselling albums in 1978 alone; he has by […]

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November 2: Jewish Life, Chiseled in Marble

Mark Antokolsky, a Russian Jewish artist who sculpted on Jewish themes in works titled “Jewish Tailor” (in wood), “Nathan The Wise,” “Inquisition’s Attack against Jews” (unfinished), “Spinoza,” and “The Talmudic Debate,” was born in Vilna on this date in 1840. Antokolsky trained at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg in the 1860s, then […]

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November 1: Artificial Insemination

Gregory Pincus , who would become the co-inventor of the birth control approved for use in the U.S in 1960, displayed a rabbit conceived by artificial impregnation on this date in 1939 at the the New York Academy of Medicine. Pincus (at left above, with research associates Min-Chueh Chang, and John Rock) had removed an […]

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October 31: The Jewish Klansman

Dan Burros (center in the photo, with George Lincoln Rockwell at left), an American Nazi and Ku Klux Klan leader, committed suicide with a gun on this date in 1965 after the fact that he was Jewish was exposed by the New York Times. Burros attended Hebrew school in Richmond Hill, Queens and became a […]

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October 30: 114 Years Old

Goldie Steinberg, a survivor of the notorious 1903 Kishinev pogrom who lived to 114 and reportedly remained mentally sharp until her last moments, was born in Kishinev on this date in 1900. Steinberg came to the U.S. in 1923, married, had two children, and worked as a seamstress until the age of 80. She lived […]

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October 29: Assassinating the Ghetto’s Jewish Police

Jewish resistance leaders in the Warsaw Ghetto assassinated Jacob Lejkin, deputy head of the Ghetto’s Jewish police, on this date in 1942. The assassination was planned by Emilia Landau, 17, who would be killed in the first Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on January 18, 1943; Eliyahu Rozanski, who pulled the trigger and would be killed on […]

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October 27: Walking on the Wild Side

Lou Reed, the great storytelling rocker who led the influential, short-lived Velvet Underground band and had a half-century solo career, died at 71 of liver disease on this date in 2013. Reed was an avant-gardist, an innovative electric guitarist, and a monotone-voiced bard of drug abuse (“Heroin,” “I’m Waiting for My Man”), sex and sexual […]

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October 26: The Broadcast Pioneer

William S. Paley, who built the Columbia Broadcasting Service (CBS) from a struggling radio network into the premier nationwide radio and TV consortium, acquiring tremendous political and cultural clout along the way, died at 89 on this date in 1990. His father was a successful cigar manufacturer, who in 1927 acquired a Philadelphia radio network […]

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October 24: Algerian Jews

Jews of Algeria, numbering more than 33,000, were granted French citizenship on this date in 1870, a little more than three decades after France colonized the North African country. Algerian Jewish communities dated back to Roman times and the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and were reinforced by the influx of Sephardim after […]

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October 23: Pasternak’s Nobel Prize

Russian novelist Boris Pasternak, the son of artists, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature on this date in 1958 “for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition,” said the Nobel Committee. Pasternak had published Dr. Zhivago, his only prose novel, the year before, […]

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October 22: UN Resolution 338

The United Nations Security Council, 14-0 (with China abstaining), adopted Resolution 338 on this date in 1973, calling for a ceasefire in the Yom Kippur War to take place within twelve hours, for the 1967 Resolution 242 (demanding recognition for Israel and withdrawal of Israel from occupied lands) to be obeyed, and for negotiations to […]

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October 20: The Barry Sisters

Claire Barry (Clara Bagelman, left in photo), who with her younger sister Merna crossed over from the Yiddish musical stage to international fame as the Barry Sisters, was born in New York on this date in 1920 (some sources say October 17). “In the 1950s and ’60s,” writes Joseph Berger in the New York Times, […]

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October 19: Fannie Hurst

Bestselling novelist and short story writer Fannie Hurst — known to later generations primarily through film adaptations of her fiction (notably Imitation of Life and Young at Heart), was born in Hamilton, Ohio on this date in 1885. Hurst wrote on social themes of sexism and women’s rights, racism and racial justice, and economic opportunity, […]

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October 18: The Master Race

Director and screenwriter Herbert Biberman released his film, The Master Race, through RKO on this date in 1944. The movie portrayed Nazi leaders on the verge of military defeat who infiltrate a Belgian village to cultivate a future for “Aryans” and then sow seeds of discontent as Allied troops arrive. TimeOut magazine calls the film […]

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October 17: The Tumler with a Typewriter

S. J. (Sidney Joseph) Perelman, essayist, humorist, and screenwriter (co-writer of the Marx Brothers films Monkey Business and Horse Feathers, and of Around the World in Eighty Days, among others), died at 75 on this date in 1979. Perelman, writes Joel Schechter in our magazine, “wrote mostly in English, but he was a polyglot who […]

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October 16: Moshe Dayan

Moshe Dayan, Israel’s military chief during the 1967 Six-Day War, who became the symbol of Israeli courage, nerve, and endurance, died at 66 on this date in 1981. Born on the Degania Kibbutz, Israel’s first, he was a fighter from the age of 15, and in 1941 lost his eye (and gained his signature eye […]

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October 15: The Clayton Anti-Trust Act

Samuel Gompers, the Jewish head of the American Federation of Labor, called it “the Magna Carta of the American worker” and “the greatest measure of humanitarian legislation in the world’s history,” yet the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, signed into law on this date in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson, was actually “watered down” and did not […]

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October 14: Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize

Romanian-born writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on this date in 1986 as “one of the most important spiritual leaders and guides in an age when violence, repression and racism continue to characterize the world,” according to the Nobel Committee. “Wiesel is a messenger to [hu]mankind; his message is […]

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October 13: Alan Slifka and the Abraham Fund

Alan B. Slifka, a philanthropist who co-founded (with Eugene Wiener) the Abraham Fund Initiatives in 1989, the first nonprofit organization outside Israel dedicated to furthering coexistence between Israeli Arabs and Jews, was born along with his twin sister in New York on this date in 1929. Slifka was a product of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School […]

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October 12: Mildred and the Molecule

Mildred Cohen, a biochemist who was awarded the National Medal of Science at the end of a career beset by sexist obstacles, died at 96 on this date in 2009. Cohen was a pioneer in the use of nuclear magnetic resonance for studying enzyme reactions, and revealed a great deal about adenosine triphosphate, a molecule […]

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October 11: Jews of Aleppo

A massive earthquake, one of the most destructive in history, struck Aleppo in northern Syria on this date in 1138, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths in a region already suffering through ongoing wars between Christian Crusader and Muslim forces. Aleppo had one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities; Jewish tradition dates it to […]

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October 10: Eddie Cantor

Eddie Cantor (Iskowitz), one of America’s first radio stars and wildly popular, cross-platform entertainers, died at 72 on this date in 1964. Known as “Banjo Eyes” and “The Apostle of Pep,” Cantor mixed intimate stories about his wife and five daughters with high-energy dancing, vaudeville songs, jokes, and sentimental sincerity to charm his audiences on […]

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Supporting the Black Lives Matter Platform

ITS SLANDER OF ISRAEL NOTWITHSTANDING An editorial from the Autumn 2016 issue of Jewish Currents WHEN THE BLACK Lives Matter movement (#BLM) emerged two years ago in angry protest over police racism in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, Maryland, and other localities across the U.S., a new phase of the American civil rights movement began. It was […]

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October 9: The Jewish Patriot

Benjamin Nones, who emigrated from France to the American colonies in 1772 and fought in the Revolution as aide-de-camp to the Marquis de Lafayette, in Count Casimir Pulaski’s legion during the defense of Charleston, and as aide to George Washington, became a naturalized U.S. citizen on this date in 1784. After the Revolution, he lived […]

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October 8: Modernizing Medicine in Iran

Jakob Eduard Polak, an Austrian physician and writer who modernized Persian medicine by teaching for a decade at Dar ul-Fonun, the first modern university in Tehran, and who served as the Shah of Iran’s personal doctor for five years, died at 72 on this date in 1891. Polak was one of the six Austrian teachers […]

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October 7: The “Howl” Premiere

Twenty-nine-year-old Allen Ginsberg read his poem “Howl” in public for the first time on this date in 1955, at Six Gallery in San Francisco — a former auto-repair shop with a dirt floor measuring 20′ x 25′. The reading, which he shared with Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, and Philip Whalen, was a “coming out” […]

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October 6: Editor of “Jewish Child”

Elma Ehrlich Levinger, the editor of Jewish Child magazine and author of more than thirty books for children about Jewish history and identity, was born in Chicago on this date in 1886. “Levinger used both drama and the short story as a means of educating young people and women about Jewish history and traditions, hoping […]

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October 5: A Walking Film Studio

Hal B. Wallis (Aaron Blum Wolowicz), producer of more than four hundred films that garnered thirty different Academy Awards, died at 88 on this date in 1986. The classic movies that he produced included Little Caesar (1930), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1937), Sergeant York (1941), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942), Come Back, Little […]

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October 4: The Dragon Lady of Architecture

Judith Edelman (Hochberg), a feminist leader and critic within the male-dominated world of architecture, died at 91 on this date in 2014. Edelman completed her architectural studies at Columbia University in 1946 but was widely denied employment simply because she was a woman. In 1960 she and her husband opened their own prize-winning firm, which […]

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October 3: The Volozhin Yeshiva

The Etz Khayim Yeshiva in Volozhin, Lithuania, was called into existence by proclamation by Rabbi Khayim Volozhin, the most prominent student of the Gaon of Vilna, on this date in 1802. Opened four years later, the Volozhin Yeshiva became the model for Lithuanian yeshivas, where study took place “twenty-four hours a day without vacations,” according to […]

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October 2: Shirley Clarke’s Films

Shirley Clarke (Brimberg), who began her creative life as a dancer-choreographer but made her mark as an audacious filmmaker, was born to wealthy immigrant parents in New York City on this date in 1919. Clarke’s best-known works included Robert Frost: A Lover’s Quarrel With the World (1963), which featured the poet and won an Academy Award […]

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September 30: Popularizing Flag Day

Benjamin Altheimer, a St. Louis financier who helped turn a Texas patriotic holiday into a national holiday — Flag Day, on June 14 — was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas on this date in 1877. After witnessing a flag ceremony in San Antonio, Texas, he returned home and offered to provide a “fine flag to […]

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September 29: The O.J. Simpson Trial

The murder trial of football star O.J. Simpson went to the jury on this date in 1995. Jews involved in the case, apart from Ron Goldman, one of the two murder victims, included District Attorney Marcia Clark, who lost the case and then wrote a bestseller about it, and several defense lawyers: Robert Shapiro, who […]

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September 28: Mother’s Little Helper

Leo Henryk Sternbach, a Croatian-born chemist who was the primary inventor of Valium, the most-prescribed drug in America between 1969 and 1982, and the entire class of benzodiazepine-based anti-anxiety drugs (Librium, Klonopin, etc.), died at 97 on this date in 2005. Sternbach escaped the deadly shadow of Nazism in 1941 when his employer, Hoffmann-La Roche, […]

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Autumn 2016

Organize, Don’t Celebrate, an Editorial The Editors on the Black Lives Matter Platform Lawrence Bush, “Going Solo for the Autumn Holidays” Ron Skolnik on “The Dollars and Sense of BDS” An Interview with Dove Kent of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice Emily Sheera on “Going Mad” Jacob L. Perl on Aaron Swartz and Internet […]

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Going Solo for the Autumn Holidays

Text and Illustrations by Lawrence Bush From the Autumn 2016 issue of Jewish Currents This is the first of a series of essays about the Jewish calendar and life-cycle observances, created as part of our new Schappes Center for Cultural Jewish Life, a school-without-walls for families interested in non-theistic participation in Jewish holidays, rituals, and […]

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September 27: William Safire

William Safire (Safir), the favorite conservative of New York liberals because of his humorous, shrewd, and authoritative writing on language usage in the New York TImes, died at 79 on this date in 2009. A college dropout, Safire became a successful public relations professional who arranged the Nixon-Khrushchev “kitchen debate” at an U.S. home products […]

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Our Fifth Raynes Poetry Competition

To submit by mail: Jewish Currents, PO Box 111, Accord, NY 12404 To submit by email: raynespoetry@outlook.com Submission fee ($18) at jewishcurrents.org/about/donate or by check to “Jewish Currents” at the above address. Name, address, and e-mail on each page; no more than three pages per poem, please. If you are friends with Irena Klepfisz, please […]

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September 26: Trying to Convert the Pope

Abraham Abulafia, a Spain-born mystic, kabbalist, and self-declared messiah who went to Rome in 1280 to attempt to convert Pope Nicholas III to Judaism, was released from after a month in prison on this date in that year. Hearing of Abulafia’s intention, the pope had issued orders to have him burned at the stake upon […]

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September 25: Coco the Clown

Nicolai Poliakoff, the star clown of the Bertram Mills Circus from 1947-1967, died at 73 on this date in 1974. Poliakoff was born in Latvia to a theatrical family and began busking at the age of 5. At 8, he ran away and joined the circus, travelling 300 miles by train to Vitebsk, where he […]

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September 1: Hal David

Soulful and romantic lyricist Hal David, who teamed up with Burt Bacharach to create dozens of hit songs, died at 91 on this date in 2012. David met Bacharach at the Brill Building of songwriters in New York in 1957. The pair went on to write “Alfie,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” “I’ll Never […]

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August 30: Paul Lazarsfeld and the Art of Asking Why

Sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld, founder of Columbia University’s Bureau of Applied Social Research and of modern empirical sociology, died at 75 on this date in 1976. Lazarsfeld was a son of Vienna and received his doctorate in mathematics there (his dissertation dealt with the math of Einstein’s gravitational theory). He came to the U.S. in 1933 […]

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August 29: A Science Wunderkind

Stephen Wolfram, a science wunderkind who was writing books on particle physics by the time he was bar-mitsve age and grew into an adult computer scientist, mathematician, and theoretical physicist, was born to refugees from Hitler’s Germany on this date in 1959. Wolfram received his PhD in theoretical physics from Caltech at age 20. His […]

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August 28: Taking Photos and Recruiting Spies

Edith Tudor Hart (Suschitzky), an Austrian-British photographer who helped recruit Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt to spy for the USSR, was born in Vienna on this date in 1908. Raised in a socialist family, she studied photography at Walter Gropius’s Bauhaus (and also trained as a Montessori teacher in Vienna). Tudor Hart fled with her […]

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August 27: The Ritz Brothers

Al Ritz (Joachim), the eldest of the precision-dancing trio, the Ritz Brothers, was born in Newark, New Jersey on this date in 1901. Ritz became a vaudevillian before recruiting his brothers, Jimmy (Samuel) and Harry, after their graduation from high school. Their trio act played with tap dance, lampoons of popular songs and stories, ethnic […]

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August 26: Lina Stern, Outliving Stalin

Lina Stern, an outstanding medical biochemist who emigrated to the USSR for ideological reasons in 1925, served as a director of the Institute of Physiology of the USSR Academy of Sciences for nearly twenty years, and won the Stalin Prize in 1943, was born in today’s Latvia on this date in 1878. Stern did pioneering work […]

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August 25: Howard Jacobson

British novelist Howard Jacobson, whose 2010 novel The Finkler Question (a book about Jews from the perspective of a non-Jew) won the Man Booker Prize, was born in Manchester on this date in 1942. Jacobson has published fourteen novels since 1983 — most recently, Shylock Is My Name — featuring funny and heady explorations of […]

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August 24: Hitler Halts “Euthanasia”

Adolf Hitler ordered cessation of Operation T4, the killing of patients in mental hospitals and other institutions for disabled and dependent human beings, on this date in 1941, in response to public protests in Germany. “Meticulous records discovered after the war,” according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, “documented 70,273 deaths by gassing at the […]

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