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First Cousins — A Visit to Israel in Verse

by Marc Kaminsky From the Autumn, 2014 issue of Jewish Currents YOU’VE COME to the Land of Israel late — you’re nearly seventy — what took you so long? And you think you know something about us? You crossed the great distance between your own life and ours on a direct flight in a pressure-controlled […]

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February 23: Maryland’s First Jewish Blasphemer

Jacob Lumbrozo, a Portuguese converso doctor who became the first documented, professed Jew living in the British colony of Maryland, was tried in court on this date in 1658 for blasphemy under the so-called Toleration Act, which mandated tolerance among Christians but sentenced to death anyone who denied the divinity of Jesus. Lumbrozo had arrived […]

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January 21: Sir Isaac Isaacs

Isaac Alfred Isaacs was sworn in as Governor-General of Australia on this date in 1931. Isaacs (1855-1948) was the first Australian-born Governor-General, and the only person to serve both in that role and as Chief Justice of Australia. He was the son of a London-born mother and a Polish tailor who came to Australia during […]

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September 7: The Jews of New Amsterdam

The captain of the ship that brought the first sizable group of Jews to North America petitioned for payment of their fare on this date in 1654. These “23 souls, big and little” were passengers in a convoy of sixteen ships carrying Dutch colonists from Recife, Brazil back to Holland in the wake of Portugal’s […]

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August 28: Jewish Agriculture in America

A Jewish agricultural colony named Carmel was established on this date in 1891 in New Jersey by Baron Maurice de Hirsch’s Jewish Colonization Association of Paris. By 1900, eighty-nine Jewish families lived there, with nineteen surviving exclusively through farming. The first such Jewish agricultural settlement in America had been established in Wawarsing, New York in […]

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June 10: The Biro

Laszlo Biro, a Hungarian journalist, sculptor and hypnotist, filed a patent in Argentina with his brother Georg for the modern ballpoint pen (called a “Biro” through much of Europe) on this date in 1943. Biro had already patented one version of his pen with fast-drying ink in 1938 in Paris. After escaping the Nazis by […]

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April 20: Citizens in New Amsterdam

Jews were granted burgher rights — citizenship — in New Amsterdam on this date in 1657. The campaign to win these rights was led by Asser Levy, one of three Jews thought to have arrived in New Amsterdam a month before the bedraggled 23 Jews who came from Recife, Brazil, in 1654, in flight from […]

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February 24: Persian Jews

On this day in 1739, Nadir Quoli, a former slave who had become the shah of Iran, consolidated his empire in the Battle of Karnal, defeating the Mughal emperor of India and seizing his Peacock Throne and the Koh-i-noor Diamond, among other treasures. Nadir Shah was a murderer and a despot, but under his brief […]

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January 27: Jewish Convicts in Australia

Esther Abrahams, age 16, was one of a dozen Jews among 800 British convicts who anchored in New South Wales on this date in 1788, as part of the first fleet of British prisoners sent to colonize Australia. Abrahams, convicted of stealing lace, had given birth to a daughter while in Newgate Prison. Headed towards […]

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