Blog – Beit Hatfutsot https://www.bh.org.il Museum of the Jewish People Mon, 22 Jan 2018 13:56:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 https://www.bh.org.il/wp-content/uploads/cropped-favicon-512-32x32.png Blog – Beit Hatfutsot https://www.bh.org.il 32 32 Maimonides and the Jews of Yemen – Hand in Hand for Eight Centuries https://www.bh.org.il/blog-items/maimonides-jews-yemen-hand-hand-eight-centuries/ Sun, 21 Jan 2018 10:42:35 +0000 https://www.bh.org.il/?p=25295/ The middle of the 12th century was quite a dramatic era for the Jews of Yemen. The Fatimid Caliphate who ruled over Yemen for long time were losing territories to a religious charismatic preacher called Ali Ibn Mahdi, whose name means in Islam the Messiah, redeemer, savior. Indeed Ali referred to himself as the savior [...]

The post Maimonides and the Jews of Yemen – Hand in Hand for Eight Centuries appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
The middle of the 12th century was quite a dramatic era for the Jews of Yemen. The Fatimid Caliphate who ruled over Yemen for long time were losing territories to a religious charismatic preacher called Ali Ibn Mahdi, whose name means in Islam the Messiah, redeemer, savior. Indeed Ali referred to himself as the savior of all Muslims. He started gathering more and more followers and supporters, called for radical religious reforms and led to religious extremism. Eventually Mahdi occupied Yemen and after his death was succeeded by his son Abd Nabi Mahdi, who pretty soon became hostile and dangerous towards his Jewish subjects.

The Muslim regime in Yemen began enforcing the Jews to convert to Islam, while also issuing discriminating laws and prohibiting to study and practice Judaism. At that low point, in the year of 1172 a man who presented himself as the Messiah, whose exact name is unknown to us, started to propagate messianic messages widely, and many Jewish communities started to believe the Messiah is actually coming soon and even started to change some of their practices and prayers accordingly. Muslims too, as it it recorded, were following that Jewish Messiah, possibly believing that his arrival foretold the redemption of the Muslims and the arrival of the Mahdi.

 

The Mashraqi family in San'a, Yemen 1930's. (Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, courtesy of Ruma Haiby, Israel

The Mashraqi family in San’a, Yemen 1930’s. (Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, courtesy of Ruma Haiby, Israel

 

This false Messiah affair might have remained an insignificant historical footnote if it was not for Maimonides (the “Rambam”), who reacted in real time. In a famous responsa, called “Epistle to Yemen” he sent in reply to rabbi Yaacov ben rabbi Nathanel from Yemen, who wrote to him with fear about the hard times the community was going through and wondered whether that new person might be  a true Messiah. He wrote to Maimonides, the most powerful Jewish authority of the time, to which the latter replied at length, with empathy and attention.

In his detailed response, Maimonides tried to console rabbi Yaacov for the bad times, asked him to pray diligently and to keep in mind that troubles come and go and will eventually pass. He urged him not to surrender to persecutions and forced conversion decrees, as these already happened in the past, yet the Jews prevailed. Maimonides referred to both Islam and Christianity as false religions no to be trusted upon, and urges the Yemenite Jews not to conduct calculations of the end of times, nor try to predict the exact time of the redemption. As for the “new Messiah”, Maimonides clearly stated that he was a false Messiah, a mad not to be trusted as a true savior. He warned the Jews of Yemen and urged them to halt that man and denounce him, lest the Muslims would rage and take revenge against the Jewish community. Maimonides ordered rabbi Yaacov to copy and spread his response to all communities, as he honestly feared for them and reckoned the Jews of Yemen were in concrete and immediate danger.

 

A page of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, Portugal, 1472. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center

A page of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, Portugal, 1472. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center

 

The Messianic enthusiasm in Yemen died out a few years later. Ali’s dynasty ceased to exist after but one generation. Salah a Din occupied Yemen and founded the Ayyubid dynasty, and everything was back to normal. The Rambam’s Yemen Epistle, however, remained a most significant influencing document for centuries. The Jews of Yemen could never forget what the Rambam has done for them and thought highly of him dedicating such a long wise letter for their sake. More than any other Jewish community, the Yemenites studied all his works and theories and accepted them unquestioningly. In time, two sub groups were formed among them: the Shami, who partly assimilate into the Sephardic culture and liturgy; and the Baladi, who followed Maimonides, especially the rules in his “Mishneh Torah”. It wasn’t a total division, as over the centuries, the Baladi too were “going Sephardic”, and also adopted the mysticism and messianism  identified with the Sephardi tradition.

 

Rabbi Yihie ben Shlomo Kapah. Photo from "HAGALGAL" issue from September 5, 1946

Rabbi Yihie ben Shlomo Kapah. Photo from “HAGALGAL” issue from September 5, 1946

The 19th century saw a dramatic turning point, as contacts between remote communities were formed and ended the Yemenites’ isolation. Jewish scholars such as Yosef Halevi from Turkey and Eduard Glazer met with Yemenite rabbis and leaders and affected them. Rabbi Yihie Kapah, one of the most influential figures of Baladi Jews, conversed with them and was deeply affected by what they taught him about the Rambam’s rationalism and his resentment towards most mystical practices and rulings. In the spirit of the 19th century enlightenment, Halevi and Glazer claimed that mysticism was contradicting rationalism and the idea of an abstract God in Judaism.

Enthusiastic rabbi Kapah was keen to promote the new ideas and founded the “Dor Deah” movement. He preached for deserting all mystics right away, and claimed that the Zohar and other Kabalah books were to be denounced by the Yemenites if they wish to prove their loyalty to Maimonides. His ideas were provocative not only among the Yemenites but all around the Jewish world and rabbis started to react and debate. The Dor Deah dwindled after the Aliah of the Yemenites to Israel, in our days Yemenite Jews remain faithful to the Rambam and his way, just like 800 years ago, when the Messiah was allegedly coming.

 

 

The post Maimonides and the Jews of Yemen – Hand in Hand for Eight Centuries appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
Forgotten Torch: The Untold Story of the Jewish Resistance in Algeria https://www.bh.org.il/blog-items/forgotten-torch-the-untold-story-of-the-jewish-resistance-in-algeria/ Thu, 11 Jan 2018 11:51:38 +0000 https://www.bh.org.il/?p=25084/ 26,000 Jews were living in Algeria in 1830, when France invaded Algeria and made it a French colony for 130 years. The Jews of Algeria enjoyed freedom and equality thanks to Adolphe Crémieux, who was minister of justice in the second French republic and gave the Jews full equal rights in 1870. The Crémieux decree [...]

The post Forgotten Torch: The Untold Story of the Jewish Resistance in Algeria appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
26,000 Jews were living in Algeria in 1830, when France invaded Algeria and made it a French colony for 130 years. The Jews of Algeria enjoyed freedom and equality thanks to Adolphe Crémieux, who was minister of justice in the second French republic and gave the Jews full equal rights in 1870. The Crémieux decree stated that Jews should have all rights as individuals but none as a nation, in an attempt to blur their national identity and make them loyal equal citizens of France.

After the French occupation, the Jewish community in Algeria experienced a radical and rapid cultural revolution – more than other communities in Northern Africa. Many community members left their tradition and their Jewish identity, and became adherent Francophiles. The proportion of Jews among white collars professions in the French era was much higher than their number in the general population; they embraced French culture, consuming and producing art, literature and poetry.

"Temple Israelite”, Oran, Algeria 1920. Postcard. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, courtesy of Geraed Kav-El, Israel

“Temple Israelite”, Oran, Algeria 1920. Postcard. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, courtesy of Geraed Kav-El, Israel

Let us skip to 1940. Following the German occupation during World War II, Algeria became a protectorate of the Vichy government who collaborated with the Nazis. The Vichy regime abolished the Crémieux decree and denationalized the Jews of Algeria, which was the beginning of a harsh anti-Jewish campaign. Soon all the Jewish students were expelled from the universities and from public schools. In 1941, the Jews were about 2% of the population, however over 37% of the medicine students were Jewish, 24% of the Law students, 16% of science, and 10% of arts students were Jewish. At that time masses of Jews were dismissed from their positions as doctors, jurists, teachers and officials. They were condemned and left for the rage of Muslims and French settlers who did not waste any time seeking for revenge, after decades of envy and hostility.

Young Jews led by José Aboulker had enough, and decided to unite and react. Aboulker was from a wealthy educated family. His father, Dr. Henri Aboulker was a successful physician and surgeon and taught in Algeria University; and his mother, Berthe Bénichou-Aboulker, was a celebrated poet and playwright, one of the first women in Algeria to publish her own literal works. The young Aboulker would not accept the racism and discrimination of Vichy France towards the Jews; he gathers family members, some students and friends and established a Jewish resistance acting under cover, hidden as a sport club named Géo Gras, the name of the non-Jewish sport trainer they hired, who knew nothing about the club’s real purposes.

At first the resistance focused on rather local tasks, such as defending Jews from violence, purchasing weapons, distributing anti government flyers, while waiting and preparing for some larger scale activity. They had to wait until 8.11.1942 for their bold, heroic operation.

 José Aboulker, leaser of the Jewish resistance in Algeria (photo: Ghetto Fighters' House Museum)

José Aboulker, leader of the Jewish resistance in Algeria (photo: Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum)

The summer of 1942 was one of the lowest points of the allies’ attempts to defeat the Nazis. In early July Rommel arrived at the El Alamein line, threatening to take Egypt, including the Suez Canal. Later that month, the battle of Stalingrad in the east front began. Hitler’s forces were rushing forward, while Stalin demanded that the allies open a new front in the west, in order to reinforce the Red Army. The strategists’ eyes were all towards the south – to Africa.

“Operation Torch” was the code name for the allies’ landing on the shores of Morocco and Algeria, within the overall battle over North Africa. The brilliant strategist, General Eisenhower, was the American commander of the operation; he knew there were few officers in the Vichy army whose dislike for the Germans overcame their loyalty to the regime. The Americans needed quality assistance from within, and found Aboulker and his men. The resistance fighters were to take over central city facilities, which was allowed according to a standing decree regarding emergency regulations.

 American soldiers land on the shores of Algeria, 1942 (photo: Imperial War Museum in London)

American soldiers land on the shores of Algeria, 1942 (photo: Imperial War Museum in London)

They set off in the night of November 8th 1942. It only took José Aboulker and his friends 15 minutes to take control over the police headquarters and the main radio station in Algiers. They had uniform of the fascist movement and fake warrants. For 18 hours they spread misinformation and faked orders over the radio, misleading the Vichy regime and allowing the allies to land on the shores – the “Operation Torch” was on. During the next crucial 24 hours an American force of some 2,000 soldiers took over Algiers with hardly any significant resistance.

The Americans, who feared that the “Géo Gras” underground would be the weakest link of the operation, were glad to be proved wrong. The successful operation had long term implications, led to the formation of a double front against Rommel, thus paving the allies’ way to complete the occupation of southern Europe and Italy.

aboard the USS Ranger just prior to Operation Torch

Aboard the USS Ranger just prior to Operation Torch

Compared to other cases of Jewish heroism during the Holocaust, the story of Géo Gras is hardly ever mentioned in Israeli history lessons, memorial ceremonies or in studies or researches.  If we take, for example, the heroic Warsaw ghetto uprising fighters, whose actions, though tremendously brave, had no significant impact on WW2 outcome, we cannot but wonder why they are commemorated in so many books, monuments, lectures, songs and statues in the Zionist ethos, whereas the Algerian resistance heroes’ story was forgotten.

The post Forgotten Torch: The Untold Story of the Jewish Resistance in Algeria appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
Nazi Germany and the Farhud in Iraq https://www.bh.org.il/blog-items/nazi-germany-farhud-iraq/ Tue, 09 Jan 2018 11:37:16 +0000 https://www.bh.org.il/?p=25080/ The most traumatic event in the collective memory of Iraqi Jews — the Farhud — took place during Shavuot 1941. During these violent riots in Baghdad thousands were raped and/or wounded, Jewish shops and synagogues were plundered and destroyed, and a staggering 180 people were brutally murdered. This unprecedented attack on the theretofore flourishing, peaceful [...]

The post Nazi Germany and the Farhud in Iraq appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
The most traumatic event in the collective memory of Iraqi Jews — the Farhud — took place during Shavuot 1941. During these violent riots in Baghdad thousands were raped and/or wounded, Jewish shops and synagogues were plundered and destroyed, and a staggering 180 people were brutally murdered. This unprecedented attack on the theretofore flourishing, peaceful Jewish community of Baghdad is generally thought of as triggering Iraqi Jewry’s Aliyah to Israel.

 

Seldom do we ask how such a pogrom could have occurred in a place where Jews had lived quietly for centuries, in a country that had not, up until that moment, been known for anti-Semitism.

 

A closer look at the historical background of the Farhud reveals a complicated web of factors that led to the pogroms — the opposing interests of the Iraqi government and the British Empire; Nazi Germany’s underlying influence; varying Arab movements; and internal struggles between groups of Iraqi intellectuals. The unfortunate Jews were caught in the middle of this growing conflict.

Group of young Jews who fled from Iraq to Eretz Israel following the pogrom in Baghdad in 1941. They reached Eretz Israel after considerable difficulties, were arrested by the British authorities, tried and sentenced to imprisonment, some were deported. Photo: Moshe Baruch, Ramat Hasharon. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, courtesy of Moshe Baruch

Group of young Jews who fled Iraq for Eretz Israel following the 1941 Farhud pogrom in Baghdad. They reached Eretz Israel after considerable difficulties, including arrest, trial and imprisonment by the British authorities as well as deportation. Photo: Moshe Baruch, Ramat Hasharon. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, courtesy of Moshe Baruch.

In his research on Iraqi Jewry, historian Nissim Kazzaz puts the Farhud in historical context. Until the 1920s there were no significant recorded demonstrations of anti-Semitism in Iraq. In fact, in the early 20th century, restrictions from the Ottoman era were abolished, and, following World War I, the establishment of the British mandate improved the situation of Iraqi Jews.

The war, however, had other consequences. The Iraqi elite was introduced to the protocols of the Elders of Zion, texts that had been partially translated from Russian into Arabic. New and conflicting movements were rising in Iraq. Some believed that, as long as the Jews did not hold national aspirations, they were a part of the Iraqi nation. Others, such as the Al Istiklal, felt differently. Perceiving the Iraqi nationality to be Muslim Arab, they refused to accept religious minorities. Formally, after Iraq became independent from Britain in 1932, Jews were citizens of Iraq. There were voices, however, that spoke out against their integration.

At the same time, the world was experiencing profound changes. Fascist leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini were on the rise in Europe and had significant supporters among the Iraqi elite. The British expected certain privileges following Iraqi independence, such as the ability to transport goods through Iraq, which Iraqi nationalists would not concede. The nationalists insisted that Iraq establish close ties with Germany rather than be exploited by Britain.

Platoon of soldiers in compulsory military service that was imposed on high school students by the Iraqi Army, Baghdad 1940. 25 percent of these conscripts were Jewish. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, courtesy of the Sehayek family, Israel

Platoon of soldiers in the compulsory military service that was imposed on high school students by the Iraqi army, Baghdad 1940. 25 percent of these conscripts were Jewish. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, courtesy of the Sehayek family, Israel.

The Germans encouraged Iraq’s support. “Mein Kampf” and Hitler’s speeches were translated into Arabic, and German educators came to Iraq to spread anti-Semitic propaganda. Iraqi newspapers became vocally pro-Germany, especially post-1939. They asserted that Iraqi Jews and Zionists were one and the same, that the world’s Jewry was scheming to ruin the glorious nation of Iraq and that Iraqi Jews must be banished from public life. With help from the Germans, and inspired by the HitlerJugend movement, the extremist Al-Fatwa movement was founded, calling for strict Islamic adherence by all Iraqi citizens. Eventually all students and teachers were forced to join the movement, including Jews. In 1939 the mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, settled in Iraq and began promoting a pro-German agenda while spreading damaging anti-Semitic propaganda.

The tension broke on April 1, 1941. Until that day Iraq had refrained from assisting the British, but also from directly assisting Germany. But Iraq’s Prime Minister, Rashid Ali, had decided it was time to change alliances. He led a coup and overthrew all pro-British officials. He then announced that Iraq would no longer provide Britain with airplane fuel, and even set Iraqi forces loose on British bases in Iraq. By the end of April the British attacked the Iraqi army. By then the Iraqi air force was manned by German Luftwaffe pilots.

Otniel Margalit collection, photo archive, Yad Ben Zvi

Otniel Margalit collection, photo archive, Yad Ben Zvi

In May, with help from the Irgun in Palestine, among others, the British fought the German-Iraqis forces. Finally, with support from India’s army, the British were able to defeat their foes, and on May 30th all pro-German Iraqi officials escaped to Iran. Their successors signed a surrender agreement.

From that moment, the Jews were in imminent danger. The surrender agreement stated that the British would enter Baghdad within two days. The Al Fatwa saw a window of opportunity to incite the masses and take their anger at losing to the British out on the Jews. They marked Jewish houses in red, and on June 1st an angry mob rioted against the Jews for the first time in Iraqi history. From the newly born to the elderly, no Jew was safe. The rioters used all manner of weapons, including running people over with their vehicles. Some Jews were rescued by Muslim neighbors who refused to join the mob. These Muslim resisters hid Jews, at great risk to their own safety. The massacre only ceased when the British entered the city and stopped it. Sadly, the British knew about the pogrom a day prior, but made no attempt to prevent it. Just like the local authorities, they preferred to let the masses take their rage out upon the Jews.

Jews lining up at the synagogue waiting to waive their Iraqi citizenship in order to emigrate to Israel, Baghdad, Iraq, March 1950. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, courtesy of David Petel, Tel Aviv.

Jews lining up at the synagogue waiting to waive their Iraqi citizenship in order to emigrate to Israel, Baghdad, Iraq, March 1950. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, courtesy of David Petel, Tel Aviv.

After the Farhud, the Iraqi authorities held an investigation, blaming nationalistic elements and even executing a few army officers who were involved in the incitement. Haj Amin al-Husseini was named in the investigation, and Germany’s involvement was eventually recognized. Despite the erecting of a monument in Baghdad in honor of the victims, the Farhud triggered mass Jewish emigration from Iraq. Ten years later, as part of Operations Ezra and Nehemiah (1950-1952), some 120,000 Jews — 90% of Iraqi’s Jewry — chose to leave Iraq for the young state of Israel.

 

Further reading:

Nissim Kazzaz, “The Influence of Nazism in Iraq and Anti-Jewish Activity, 1933–1941″ (In Hebrew)

The post Nazi Germany and the Farhud in Iraq appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
The Story of “Zvi Migdal” – the Infamous Jewish Prostitution Cartel https://www.bh.org.il/blog-items/story-zvi-migdal-infamous-jewish-prostitution-cartel/ Thu, 04 Jan 2018 10:55:05 +0000 https://www.bh.org.il/?p=25046/ Towards the end of the 19th century, the very sound of the name America had a magical effect on the millions of Jews in Eastern Europe, and they could not care less whether it was northern or southern America. For them, “America” was not a spot on the map, but a dream, a desirable destination, [...]

The post The Story of “Zvi Migdal” – the Infamous Jewish Prostitution Cartel appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
Towards the end of the 19th century, the very sound of the name America had a magical effect on the millions of Jews in Eastern Europe, and they could not care less whether it was northern or southern America. For them, “America” was not a spot on the map, but a dream, a desirable destination, a place where Jews sleep on a bed made of money, and can even “eat an orange every day!”, as Isaac Bashevis Singer reported in his autobiography.

For a huge of Jewish women, however, the American experience was quite different. Rather than a safe haven or a heaven of oranges, they found horror and humiliation. One of the most shocking disgraceful criminal affairs in modern Jewish history, took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 

Photo taken from the film "The Impure", Cassis films

Photo taken from the film “The Impure”, Cassis films

Like in most affairs, it was all about the financial principal of supply and demand. Back then Argentina was becoming one of the most leading economies in the world and was even called “the world’s granary”, thanks to its successful striving agricultural industries. As a results, by the end of the 19th century, Argentina was full of immigrants, Jews included. In 1895 there were appr. 6,000 Jews living in Argentina, and less than two decades later, in 1914, there were already 117,000. The city of Buenos Aires grew in frantic rates, not only Jews were rushing in, but also many immigrants from all over the world. One interesting characteristic of the Jewish immigration to Bueno Aires, that affected our story a great deal, was the odd ration between the genders: almost ten times more men than women.

A group of corrupted Jews were more than willing demonstrate patriotism, and started to deliver the goods – literally. The growing demand for women led to the establishment of “Zvi Migdal” – a large powerful prostitution cartel established and owned by Jewish immigrants from Poland. Named after one of the founders, it was one of the largest networks in the South America, with branches and connections in Shanghai, Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro and many other places. At the peak of their activity they had tens of thousands of women working for them, some 2,000 brothels and a state of the art organizational mechanism working efficiently according to cruel mafia codes.

 

Jewish immigrants from Poland aboard the ship "Alcantara" sailing to Argentina, 1929. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, courtesy of Isaac Baum, Tel Aviv

Jewish immigrants from Poland aboard the ship “Alcantara” sailing to Argentina, 1929. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, courtesy of Isaac Baum, Tel Aviv

The main wing was established in Buenos Aires, concealed as a charity society. They were called Ruffians (Spanish for pimps), they traded and abused and enslaved unsuspecting Jewish women, just for money. The cartel had an original marketing tactic: every once in a while a polite Jewish gentleman used to come to the Jewish communities in Eastern Europe and spread ads calling “Jewish girls from good homes” offering either jobs at homes of rich Jews in Buenos Aires, or marriage. Feminism was still at its beginning back then, and the career opportunities of young women were scarce, they usually could expect to be no more mothers and housewives – therefore they were easily tempted to respond to the ads.

While still on the ship to Argentina they were locked, beaten, raped and starved, which the Jewish pimps referred to as their “re-education”. The Ruffians called these trips “remonte”, a term from the cattle trade. Landing in Buenos Aires they were herded to a house where they had to undress and be inspected by pimps, who sold them in auctions as sex slaves. The “owners” – as well as customers – included officials, judges, and journalists.

The relations between the local Jewish community and the Ruffians were complicated. The local Jews called them “impure”, would not associate with them nor rent or sell them houses. However, the ruffians wished to participate in prayers and ceremonies, and assumed generous donations would easily pave their way into the community as distinguished members.

 

It worked for them – but only for a while. One night, Nahum Sorkin, a known Zionist, was standing outside the Jewish theater trying to stop from entering. Since then, the entire community started to condemn and denunciate the ruffians. They were no longer allowed in the synagogue nor in the cemetery. In response, the rich ruffians erected a fancy synagogue in the center of the Jewish quarter. The entrance floor was a glorious praying hall, while the upper floor was a brothel.  During the synagogue’s inauguration the ruffians went outside with the Torah in their arms and circled the building, in front of the disgusted appalled neighbors who dared not interfere.

“Zvi Migdal” was active uninterruptedly for over four decades. The bosses were fearless, paying off every man who might jeopardize them: immigration officials, cops and judges that attempted to shut the cartel down; politicians; and city hall seniors who authorized the construction of the synagogue/brothel.

“Zvi Migdal” eventually fell thanks to the efforts of three: one Jewish prostitute, a police officer and a judge. In October 1922, Rachel Lea Liberman boarded the ship “Polania”, docking in Hamburg, with her two little boys. They were traveling to Buenos Aires, to join her husband Jacob Farber, a Jewish tailor who sailed to Argentina the previous year to look for a job. Their correspondence shows that Lea had high expectations from the new world across the sea. Nothing could prepare her for her bleak unfortunate fate. About a year after her arrival to Buenos Aires, her husband died of tuberculosis. Now she was a widow in a foreign country, mother of two, without a language and with no means of livelihood. Soon she had to sell her body.

 

Rachel Lea Liberman

Rachel Lea Liberman

Working for “Zvi Migdal” for several years, Lea managed to buy a house and to establish a small business. When she wished to resign and receive her share, the Zvi Migdal bosses tricked her into marring a charismatic stranger, who was in fact a mean violent sadist pimp, who forced her to work as a prostitute again.

Desperately – but also courageously – she turned to Julio Alsogaray, a police superintendent, known for his integrity and spotless measures. She presented him with evidences against the cartel’s bosses, which were carefully examined by the judge Dr. Rodriguez Ocampo, who did not succumb to the money and presents offered to him by the “Migdal” men.

The trial ended in September 1930, with 108 convictions, and long periods of imprisonment for all heads of the organization.  After intensive public pressure, hundreds of Jewish pimps were imprisoned and deported to Uruguay. Towards the end of the 1930’s “Zvi Migdal” eventually ceased to exist altogether. The scars in the masses of hearts and bodies of young women were however irrecoverable forever.

The post The Story of “Zvi Migdal” – the Infamous Jewish Prostitution Cartel appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
The Story of Bertha Pappenheim – Anna O https://www.bh.org.il/blog-items/story-bertha-pappenheim-anna-o/ Mon, 01 Jan 2018 08:43:56 +0000 https://www.bh.org.il/?p=25002/ It is well known that Sigmund Freud was Jewish, as were many of his successors. But the first psychoanalysis patient ever was also Jewish – she was a Viennese young woman called Bertha Pappenheim, referred to as Anna O in the book about her case. Who was Anna/Bertha, and what was so special about her life [...]

The post The Story of Bertha Pappenheim – Anna O appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
It is well known that Sigmund Freud was Jewish, as were many of his successors. But the first psychoanalysis patient ever was also Jewish – she was a Viennese young woman called Bertha Pappenheim, referred to as Anna O in the book about her case. Who was Anna/Bertha, and what was so special about her life that made her such a famous case study?

Bertha Pappenheim as a young woman. Archive of Sanatorium Bellevue, Kreuzlingen, Germany

Bertha Pappenheim as a young woman. Archive of Sanatorium Bellevue, Kreuzlingen, Germany

Bertha was born in 19th century Vienna to a wealthy Jewish family. She received fine education and was cultured and talented since a young age, mastering several languages, including Hebrew. As she was reaching the age of 20 she began to experience physical and mental crises. She had convulsions, shivers, occasional forgetfulness, phobias, right side limbs and neck paralysis and even temporary blindness and deafness. When she was 22 years old her beloved ill father, whom she carefully attended, passed away which made her condition deteriorate. It was time for the historical therapy to start.

Though identified so closely with Freud, the two never even met. Bertha was never a patient of his, but rather of his instructor, Josef Breuer. Breuer was a Jewish Austrian physician who tried to treat Bertha with Hypnosis, a technique widely practiced during the 19th century. It was usually used in order to correct the patient, however Breuer was trying a new kind of hypnosis which was not an attempt to correct Bertha’s ways, but rather to help her to unfold her suppressed memories and thoughts. He reckoned that the cause for her various symptoms was mental stress due to suppressed events, and that if she would become aware of them, her seizures would cease.

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

Breuer was actually not far from the truth. He managed to treat some of Pappenheim’s  severe symptoms, however some remained unhealed. Two years after they started their sessions, Pappenheim all of a sudden claimed that Breuer got her pregnant and she was about to have his child. Thought it was a typical symptom related to her mental illness, Breuer got scared and stopped treating her. He told Freud all about his techniques but preferred not to publish the case, until Freud’s pressured him to do so. Eventually they published together the story of the patient which they called Anna O., introducing for the first time the revolutionary treatment, in their book Studies on Hysteria, in which Anna O’s case is widely discussed, as well as other patients. The book has become one of the fundamental publications in psychology in general, and of the psychoanalysis method.

Pappenheim was not only a famous psychological study case; she had a fascinating life, and became a most influential feminist leader. Breuer waited a few years before publishing his findings, using a false name (Anna O) and this allowed Bertha to go on with her life. She made a special effort to hide her intricate psychiatrist past and managed to recover, going through a long healing process. After the therapy with Breuer she experienced more episodes but they gradually subsided and in 1890 she fully recovered and was able to lead an independent life.

Joseph Breuer. Creative Commons, Wikimedia

Joseph Breuer. Creative Commons, Wikimedia

Pappenheim managed to fulfill herself in political and social activism regarding women’s rights. A passionate activist, she took care of orphan Jewish girls and opened a special home and educational institute for them. A wealthy woman, she had the resources for this kind of projects. In the beginning of the 20th century she launched on a new initiative: fighting prostitution, and helping Jewish prostitutes.

Following the advancements in transportation and communication, networks of organized prostitution and women’s trade emerged. Pappenhaim did her best to fight them, and especially one group that was engaged in bringing women from Poland to Argentina. She established the Jewish Women League, and traveled worldwide to raise funds, from both Jews and non-Jews. She published articles in Jewish press and world press and in the 1920’s was already a prominent feminist leader.

Taking on another important cultural and historical enterprise of researching her family roots, she found out she was a descendant of Glückel of Hameln, who lived in the 17th century and published her unique autobiography. Pappenheim translated Glückel’s book from Yiddish to German and produced a theater play in which she herself played the role of Glückel.

Pappenheim’s contribution to humanity was enormous in two aspects: as a patient (though not cured) she helped to establish a new psychological treatment method, which led Freud to develop psychoanalysis. And as an activist she fought for women and especially for the suppressed minority of Jewish women.

 

Further reading: Studies on Hysteria, by Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud

The post The Story of Bertha Pappenheim – Anna O appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
Women of Choices: The Sad Story of Greatest Jewish-Arab Female Singers https://www.bh.org.il/blog-items/women-of-choices-the-sad-story-of-greatest-jewish-arab-female-singers/ Thu, 28 Dec 2017 10:07:30 +0000 https://www.bh.org.il/?p=24953/ One interesting phenomena of Jewish life in the modern Arab world was the stardom achieved by many Jewish female singers. There was reason for this: with Muslim society constraints on issues of modesty – often forbidden to appear in front of men – it was easier for Jewish women to make significant breakthroughs in local [...]

The post Women of Choices: The Sad Story of Greatest Jewish-Arab Female Singers appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
One interesting phenomena of Jewish life in the modern Arab world was the stardom achieved by many Jewish female singers. There was reason for this: with Muslim society constraints on issues of modesty – often forbidden to appear in front of men – it was easier for Jewish women to make significant breakthroughs in local music business. These included Alice Fitoussi, Line Monty and Reinette L’Oranaise in Algeria, Zohara Alfasiya in Morocco, Sultana Yusef and Nadhima Ibrahim in Iraq – to name a few.

But stardom in Arab society soon presented life choices. Emigration into anonymity in Israel or remaining in countries now in conflict with Jews. Losing your social standing or your very career. And in some cases love and relationships came into consideration.

Here is the story of possibly the two greatest Jewish Arab singers. Layla Mourad of Egypt and Salima Mourad Pasha of Iraq. Both remained loyal to their country, converted to Islam and were eliminated from Jewish collective memory.

לילה מוראד

Layla Mourad of Egypt 

Layla Mourad was born in Alexandria in 1918, to mixed Jewish origins. Her father Ibrahim Zaki was a singer as well as a cantor in the Jewish community – one of the oldest in the world. Her mother Gamilah Salmon was actually of Ashkenazi origin – from a Polish-Jewish family that settled in Egypt.

Alongside her brother Mounir she was trained by her father and the famous Jewish composer Dawood Hosni – who had composed the first Arabic language operetta. Her stage debut would be at the tender age of 9 – at Saalat Badi’a, one of Cairo’s most successful music halls. Club owner, Badi’a Masabni, a dancer in singer would take Layla under her patronage. By the age of 15 she made her cinema debut.

Hosni would write and compose two songs for his prodigy. With daring themes that may have not suited her Muslim contemporaries “Hairana Leh Bein El-Eloub” (Why can’t you choose from among lovers), and “Howa el dala’a ya’ani khessam” (Does dalliance mean avoiding me?).

Soon she became the favorite of Egyptian composer Mohammed Abdel Wahab, who gave her a role in his film Yahia el Hob (Viva Love!) in 1938. In the coming decade she would make several blockbuster movies – many of them with the Jewish director Togo Mizrahi. So big was her fame that after the Egyptian revolution of 1952 she was chosen over Umm Kulthum, as the “official singer of the revolution”.

By this time, she had converted to Islam following her marriage to actor Anwar Wagdi. Her family cut almost all ties with her. Her name seldom mentioned in Jewish community.

But her Jewish origins would haunt her. A rumor was spread that she visited her family in Israel and donated money to the IDF. Some media outlets boycotted her and President Nasser, a big fan of Mourad, was forced to approve an official investigation. “I am an Egyptian Muslim”, she declared under oath. Her accusers found no proof of the allegations and her name was cleared. Some historians believe that Nasser even pressured Syria to end a ban on her films and music on Syrian radio.

There are many parallels between the story of Layla Mourad and Iraqi-Jewish music legend Salima Pasha. But Pasha was probably from a less respectable background. So shameful was it for women to sing and dance in public in 1920s Iraq, that female performers were sometimes recruited from brothels.

In fact, some sources state that Salima too had worked in a brothel. Her sister Regina was the owner of several upper class brothels.

סלימה מוראד פאשה, זמרת יהודיה-עיראקית

Salima Mourad Pasha of Iraq

But music changed everything. With a liberal movement in society, she became a popular singer at private functions for the elite – for which she would earn handsome fees. A popular character she was known to help the poor among Jews and Muslims alike.

By the 1940’s she was one of the greatest stars in the middle east – but the world around presented choices. Nationalistic tensions animosity and physical violence toward Jews was growing. Within a few years after Israel’s independence the Babylonian community ended after 2,500 years of existence.

Salima had converted to Islam, married Iraq’s greatest singer, Nazem al-Ghazali, stay in Iraq where she would live out her days. Many Iraqi Jews who had emigrated to Israel were her admirers, but in the Jewish state her Arabic singing was hardly ever broadcasted on the radio.

It is noteworthy to mention that while Layla Mourad and Salima Pasha passed on the opportunity to emigrate – some famous female Jewish Arabic singers did emigrate, and usually suffered a sad end to their careers. Snubbed by a nation dominated by Western style.

The post Women of Choices: The Sad Story of Greatest Jewish-Arab Female Singers appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
Once a Prodigy, always an Outsider: The Amazing Story of Salomon Maimon https://www.bh.org.il/blog-items/prodigy-always-outsider-amazing-story-salomon-maimon/ Sun, 24 Dec 2017 10:25:40 +0000 https://www.bh.org.il/?p=24905/ In a new Israeli Reality Show “Married at First Sight”, couples meet for the first time at their wedding. 250 years ago, this format was an acceptable practice, having quite the same motives – mostly financial ones. Our tragic hero had such an experience. Salomon Ben Yehoshua was born in 1753 in the town of [...]

The post Once a Prodigy, always an Outsider: The Amazing Story of Salomon Maimon appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
In a new Israeli Reality Show “Married at First Sight”, couples meet for the first time at their wedding. 250 years ago, this format was an acceptable practice, having quite the same motives – mostly financial ones.

Our tragic hero had such an experience. Salomon Ben Yehoshua was born in 1753 in the town of Nieswiez, Lithuania. He was an exceptional famous “Iluy” (Torah and Talmudic prodigy), which automatically made him a most desirable match. Unfortunately, his father had financial problems which he wished to solve by marrying his son at the very young age of 11. One (allegedly wealthy) widow from a neighboring offered him a large dowry to have him marry his son to her daughter. The young boy found himself in somewhat a scary fairy tale, unwillingly married unto a girl his age, and living with her evil abusive charlatan mother, who did not even pay the sums she had promised to pay.

The synagogue in Nesvizh, Belorussia, 1920's. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, courtesy of Jack Kagan, London

The synagogue in Nesvizh, Belorussia, 1920’s. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, courtesy of Jack Kagan, London

The miserable boy found refuge in his studies, to which he was devoted entirely. He came across “The Guide for the Perplexed” by Maimonides (Maimon) in his father’s library and was inflamed with wisdom and passion for learning. He also adopted – being both a genius and a narcissist – the name Maimon, and from then onward was called Salomon Maimon.

After Maimonides he went on to read Spinoza, learned German on his own and delved into the great philosophers of his time, such as  Kant, Leibniz, and Hamann, while supporting his wife and mother in law as a melamed for children of rich people. Three years after his marriage, when he was only 14, his first son, David, was born. “Knowing nothing about the duties of a married man, naturally it was quite a while before I could perform them”, he wrote in his autobiography, in which he described his unusual life course. He also claimed to have learnt the secrets of sex from an unfamiliar witch who came to town.

His passion for philosophy and studying overcame any sense of family obligations, and eventually he decided to walk out of his young wife and son, and go “seeking for the truth”.

Traditional likeness of Maimonides, Rabbi Moses Ben Maimom - "Rambam" (1135-1204) The greatest figure in Judaism in the Post-Talmudic Era. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center

Traditional likeness of Maimonides, Rabbi Moses Ben Maimom – “Rambam” (1135-1204) The greatest figure in Judaism in the Post-Talmudic Era. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center

His first Alma Mater was the court of the Maggid of Mezritch, one of the earliest leaders of Chasidism, and direct follower of the founder of Chasidism, the Baal Shem Tov. However to his great disappointment he found out that most of the rabbis were arrogant, spending most of their time quarreling and intriguing, he hated them and strived very hard to detect the genuine righteous ones. He was also very upset to come across ignorance, superstitious and exaggerated personality cult rather than wisdom, rationalism and profound study. Maimon’s stay at the Maggid’s court was not a complete waste of time though, as he most skillfully and brightly recorded the characteristics of the Maggid and his followers, and his account of the first Chasidic court in history served generations of researchers and scholars.

Turning his back on Chasidism, he kept traveling and searching for truth and wisdom. He arrived at Kenigsberg in Prussia and then, at 25, he reached Berlin – the world class intellectual center. He dazzled the intellectual elite headed by Moses Mendelssohn, the founding father of the enlightenment movement, who realized immediately he was facing a genius and made him his protégé. Mendelssohn introduced Maimon to all the great minds of the time, including Goethe, Schiller, Lessing, who were deeply impressed by the young bright man. However soon they came to resent him, for his polemic temper, his tendency to quarrel and slander, his drinking, and his promiscuous life style. He found himself once more lonely and secluded.

Statue of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn in the Jewish Community Center, Berlin, Germany 1960’s. Photo: Herbert Sonnenfeld. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, Sonnenfeld collection)

Statue of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn in the Jewish Community Center, Berlin, Germany 1960’s. Photo: Herbert Sonnenfeld. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, Sonnenfeld collection)

Maimon kept on wandering around Europe. He was an outstanding autodidact, author of comprehensive books on mathematics, geometry and astronomy though he had no formal education. He published a poignant criticism on Kant (“Essay on Transcendental Philosophy”) and was praised by Kant himself, who said “of all my opponents, no one understands me better than Maimon”), however once again, the more they all appreciated him, the more he was destructed by his narcissistic nature, his love affairs, his obsessive auto documentation and his everlasting contempt and disrespect towards his benefactors.

Though highly reputable, he was wretchedly poor. In spite of his brilliancy he could not establish any professional status or even hold on to a job. He was almost overtaken by despair and in while in Amsterdam he even tried to take his own life. But in 1790 his fortune took a turn for the better, when he was taken into the mansion of the German Graf von Kalckreuth in Siegersdorf, Silesia. He lived there for ten years, writing and studying, it was his most prolific decade.

Cover of the first Hebrew translation from German of Maimon's autobiography, by Israel Haim Tawiow, Warsaw 1898

Cover of the first Hebrew translation from German of Maimon’s autobiography, by Israel Haim Tawiow, Warsaw 1898

It is widely agreed that Maimon’s Opus Vitae, regardless of his philosophical and theoretical works, is his autobiography, written in 1793, which was widely printed and published, and also translated to numerous languages. It is considered to be the earliest modern autobiography of the Haskala era. Maimon most virtuously unfolds the Jewish life in Eastern Europe. He portraits, with extraordinary literary skill, the Polish noblemen, blood libels, poverty, the houses, daily life of the Melamed, weddings and match makings, his life with his wife as little married children, the prayers and the mortification of Chasidim – a rare firsthand living image of the Jewish eastern European society, just before emancipation and secularization made their appearance.

Salomon Maimon died at 46 and was buried in Glogow, Germany. During his funeral, members of the local Jewish community stoned his coffin. Declared a heretic, he was buried outside the community burial plot – an outsider in both is life and death.

The post Once a Prodigy, always an Outsider: The Amazing Story of Salomon Maimon appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
Just Like the Ones I Used to Know? Christmas Music and its Jewish Songwriters https://www.bh.org.il/blog-items/just-like-ones-used-know-christmas-music-jewish-songwriters/ Sun, 24 Dec 2017 09:10:13 +0000 https://www.bh.org.il/?p=24886/ Christmas is, ostensibly, one of the least Jewish days in the calendar. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a less Jewish day than one that celebrates the birth of a religious figure who was firmly and decisively rejected by Jews, and is traditionally celebrated with a special church mass and/or a Christmas ham. Historically, Christmas [...]

The post Just Like the Ones I Used to Know? Christmas Music and its Jewish Songwriters appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
Christmas is, ostensibly, one of the least Jewish days in the calendar. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a less Jewish day than one that celebrates the birth of a religious figure who was firmly and decisively rejected by Jews, and is traditionally celebrated with a special church mass and/or a Christmas ham. Historically, Christmas could also be a dangerous time for Jews, such as when a pogrom broke out in Warsaw in 1881 on Christmas Day.

(Photo: Herbert Sonnenfeld, The Ostler Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot)

Irving Berlin Performing for Soldiers in Camp Litchfield, England, 1944
(Photo: Herbert Sonnenfeld, The Ostler Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot)

And yet, Jews have had a major impact on Christmas and the way it is celebrated in one fundamental way: through its soundtrack.

A surprisingly high number of the most classic Christmas songs—the ones that radio stations begin playing at the end of October, and which have become an inescapable and inseparable part of the emotional experience of Christmas—were, in fact, written by Jews. Fancy roasting some chestnuts on an open fire to celebrate the holiday season? Bob Wells (born Robert Levinson) and Mel Tormé can relate. Feeling cozy in your home and, not caring about the weather outside, feel the need to declare, “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow?” Sammy Cahn (born Samuel Cohen) and Jule Styne (born Julius Kerwin Stein) understand. You’ve left your home and are now enjoying “Walking in a Winter Wonderland?” Felix Bernard wrote just the song for you. Bing Crosby’s classic rendition of “Silver Bells,” describing the quiet joy permeating the city at Christmastime, is brought to you by the songwriting duo Jay Livingston (born Jacob Harold Levinson) and Ray Evans. If you’d like something a little more romantic, Joan Ellen Javits (the niece of New York Senator Jacob K. Javits) and Philip Springer can get you in the mood with their “Santa Baby,” famously performed by Eartha Kitt.

This pattern holds true even for the most quintessential Christmas song, “White Christmas.” “White Christmas” is not only the most recorded Christmas song, the classic version sung by Bing Crosby is the world’s bestselling single. This song, which begins with the lyrics “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas/Just like the ones I used to know” and conjures up nostalgic childhood images of glistening treetops and sleigh bells in the snow, was written by Irving Berlin, previously known as Israel Beilin, a man born in a shtetl in the Russian Empire.

“Christmas Morning” - An anti-Semitic cartoon in the magazine “Judge” featuring Christmas carolers surprising the pawnbroker Moses Cohen with a spirited rendition of “Christians, Awake (From the John and Selma Appel Collection, Michigan State University Museum, The Ostler Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot)

“Christmas Morning” –
An anti-Semitic cartoon in the magazine “Judge” featuring Christmas carolers surprising the pawnbroker Moses Cohen.
(From the John and Selma Appel Collection, Michigan State University Museum, The Ostler Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot)

“White Christmas” is perhaps the most obvious example of the incongruity between the experience conjured up by the song, and the actual lived experience of the song’s writer, but to one extent or another this phenomenon of Jewish songwriters and Christmas songs points to the complicated relationship that Jews often have with the holiday. For Jews living in majority-Christian countries, Christmas is a major cultural event, even more than a religious one. It often serves as a strong recurring reminder that, in spite of how far they have come, Jews will always be outsiders.

Some of these Christmas songs can, in fact, be understood as expressing an attraction to, and alienation from, Christmas. Walter Kent’s (born Walter Maurice Kaufman) “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” while ostensibly the longing for home of an American serviceman during the holidays, can also be read as a song about the Jewish experience during the Christmas season. “I’ll be Home for Christmas” expresses a plaintive yearning for home, and references the classic components of Christmas: snow, mistletoe, a Christmas tree, and presents. But it quickly becomes clear that the singer, rather than expressing his anticipation of Christmas at home, will not actually be experiencing any of the things he is singing about; instead, he will be home for Christmas “only in my dreams.” Similarly, a Jewish person may experience the Christmas season unfolding, with the trees, colorful decorations, and the general atmosphere of celebration. But while they can enjoy the aesthetics of the holiday from afar, ultimately Christmas, and all it represents, can be home for a Jewish person “only in my dreams.”

Jews have often been drawn to Christmas. In this caricature, “Jewish Resourcefulness,” published in the Yiddish satirical newspaper “Der Groyser Kundes,” a Jewish man lights Chanukkah candles on a Christmas tree. USA, December 30, 1910
(Courtesy of Eliyahu Binyamini. The Ostler Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot)

And then there is the holiday classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which can be understood as the most Jewish of all Christmas songs. The song, which was written by Johnny Marks (who also wrote such Christmas classics as “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “A Holly Jolly Christmas”) was based on a tale written by his brother-in-law, Robert L. May. It is the story of a reindeer who is noticeably different from the rest of the reindeer (distinguished by his nose, no less!) and who is ostracized and made fun of because of that difference. Until, that is, the ruling authority, Santa Claus, recognizes the usefulness of Rudolph’s glowing red nose in navigating the sleigh through a particularly foggy night. Rudolph guides the sleigh, thereby saving the day for Santa, the reindeer, and children the world over. As a result, Rudolph goes from being a pariah figure, belittled and disrespected, to being beloved by the other reindeer.

It is easy to read into Rudolph the story of the Jewish people, particularly in America. It is the perfect fairy tale for a people who experienced similar ostracism and discrimination because of how they were different, but who nonetheless longed for acceptance, both from indifferent or cruel governments, and their fellow citizens. And what better holiday to prove one’s worth as an American, and making the case for acceptance, than by saving Christmas?

By Rankin Bass - Screenshot of the 1964 TV special

By Rankin Bass – Screenshot of the 1964 TV special (Public Domain, commons.wikimedia.org)

Although Christmas may not be a Jewish holiday, the music that gives Christmas its tone and atmosphere was often written by Jewish people and may even, at times, be said to have a particular Jewish character. This drive on the part of those who experienced Christmas as outsiders to nonetheless contribute to, and be part of, Christmas, reveals a certain longing to no longer be outsiders among their peers, their country, and the Christmas holiday.

 

Rachel Druck is the editor of the Communities Database at Beit Hatfutsot-The Museum of the Jewish People. Are you marking Christmas by eating Chinese food and watching a movie? Or in some other way entirely? Let her know! You can contact her at racheld@bh.org.il

The post Just Like the Ones I Used to Know? Christmas Music and its Jewish Songwriters appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
A Miserable Hanukkah in Paducah – Ulysses S. Grant’s General Order no. 11 https://www.bh.org.il/blog-items/a-miserable-hanukkah-in-paducah-ulysses-s-grants-general-order-no-11/ Mon, 18 Dec 2017 10:22:03 +0000 https://www.bh.org.il/?p=24835/ Hanukah eve, 25 Kislev 5623 – 1862. A heavy snow blister was raging outside, while the town’s Jews gathered in their homes, around the Hanukia. Scents of fried latkes filled the warm living rooms, dreidels were spinning, blessings were sung. Suddenly, strong bangs on the door and loud calls were yelled: “Jews Out!”. Copies of [...]

The post A Miserable Hanukkah in Paducah – Ulysses S. Grant’s General Order no. 11 appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
Hanukah eve, 25 Kislev 5623 – 1862. A heavy snow blister was raging outside, while the town’s Jews gathered in their homes, around the Hanukia. Scents of fried latkes filled the warm living rooms, dreidels were spinning, blessings were sung. Suddenly, strong bangs on the door and loud calls were yelled: “Jews Out!”. Copies of an expulsion order were being nailed to the wooden doors. The General Order no. 11 was now officially on.

Girl admiring Hanukah candles, USA, 1970’s. Photo: Leni Sonnenfeld. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, the Sonnenfeld collection

Girl admiring Hanukah candles, USA, 1970’s. Photo: Leni Sonnenfeld. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, the Sonnenfeld collection

Sounds exactly like a classic pogrom scene in Europe, or in Northern Africa, right? Well, not quite so. The above did not take place in Galicia, Baghdad, Aden, Prussia, Alexandria or the Atlas Mountains, but rather in the small town of Paducah, Kentucky, U.S.A. The “General Order no. 11” was not carried out by Polish noblemen, Slavic tenants, Spanish inquisitors of Aryan S.S. officers – it was carried out by Yankee soldiers.

As it turns out, even in tolerant America, with its stable constitution and strong values of equality and liberty – General Ulysses S. Grant, the legendary war hero who saved the Union, and later served as president of the United States – went through a short anti-Semitic phase.

General Ulysses S. Grant

General Ulysses S. Grant

So what made this admired northern General sign the no. 11 order for the expulsion of all the Jews from Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi in the midst of the American civil war?

Perhaps Karl Marx can explain, following some simple economic principles. At about the same time Marx was laboring on his masterpiece, across the ocean. As we know, the official reason for the outbreak of the civil war was the abolition of slavery. Before the war, that it until 1861, there were some 32 million people living in the United States. 12 million of them lived in the south, out of which 4 million were slaves, in other words a free natural rights-prevented resource that the white cotton tycoons were not going to give up without a fight.

Historians disagree as to what were the exact causes for the disputes that led to the actual war. Was it the bleeding heart of the north awakening after the publication of the sentimental novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin? Or the news about the cruelty of the slaves’ hunters chasing blacks up the Mississippi river? Or the rage after the execution of the white abolitionist John Brown? Or the secession of the south from the Union? Either way, according to Marx, the economic factor was the crucial one. During the war, (1861-1865) cotton’s prices were rising frantically. Anti-Semitic rumors were starting to spread, marking the Jews as cotton profiteers. It started from a few Jews in a town near the northern border, and then escalated to a claim that all Jews sell cotton in the black market.

Cincinnati, Ohio, USA 1890’s. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center

A Jewish street in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA 1890’s. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center

Soon enough it became a known “fact” that all the Jews are profiteering the sacred cotton, which of course had very little to do with reality: the fact was that out of 200 sellers who traders with the south, only four were Jewish. The concept of fake news apparently was certainly not made up in 2016.

It was a snowball effect. American Jews were marked as blood sucking traitors selling their homeland for some extra bucks. One of America’s most popular newspapers, the “Harper’s Weekly”, published an aggressive editorial pointing a finger at all Jews.

It was also published that 3 Jews were caught smuggling medicines to the besieged New Orleans in the south and might be executed for the crime. A few local newspapers were preaching for the annihilation of the entire Jewish community.

“General Grant's Vision of Jerusalem”. Published: Budget of Fun, USA October 1868. (Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, from the John and Selma Appel Collection, Michigan State University Museum)

“General Grant’s Vision of Jerusalem”, Published, USA October 1868. (Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, from the John and Selma Appel Collection, Michigan State University Museum)

Was General Grant acting on personal motives? Was he really an anti-Semite? As it turns out, not just greedy Jews were trying to make profit from the war, there were also a few white protestants who wished to do the same. One of them was Jessy Grant, an unsuccessful businessman – father of Ulysses S. Grant. He had some business with three Jewish textile traders from Cincinnati, the Mack brothers. When his son heard about the deal he was furious – he was convinced that the three brothers were ripping his father off. Soon after, the General Order no. 11 was issued and reported all over the world Jewish media. The “Magid” in Europe reported that a group of Jews from Paducah, Kentucky, led by Cesar Kaskel, sent Lincoln a telegram condemning the order as an “enormous outrage on all laws and humanity… the grossest violation of the Constitution and our rights as good citizens under it.” Shortly thereafter Kaskel arrived at the White House. He showed Lincoln Order No. 11. And said “and that is why we have come to Father Abraham for protection.” Abraham Lincoln replied: “And this protection they shall have.”

Little girl lighting Hanukah candles. Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.A. 1954. Photo: Rita Kurz Lewis. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, courtesy of Rita Kurz Lewis, U.S.A.

Little girl lighting Hanukkah candles. Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.A. 1954. Photo: Rita Kurz Lewis. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center, courtesy of Rita Kurz Lewis, U.S.A.

Three days later Lincoln was supposed to sign the Emancipation proclamation, and how can that be settled with such a racist act of deporting the Jews of Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi? Lincoln ordered to telegraph Grant and cancel Order no. 11. The latter obeyed right away, and the Jews of Paducah returned to their homes.

Four years later, in 1869, General Grant was appointed the 18th president of the United States, and turned from an anti-Semite to one of the most pro Jewish presidents ever. He was the first president to inaugurate a new synagogue, he appointed the largest number of Jews in governmental positions, fought against the deportations of Jews in Russia by the Czar – only seven years after issuing the General Order no. 11.

The post A Miserable Hanukkah in Paducah – Ulysses S. Grant’s General Order no. 11 appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
Eight days – Eight facts you may not have known about Hanukkah https://www.bh.org.il/blog-items/eight-days-eight-facts-you-may-not-have-known-about-hanukkah/ Thu, 14 Dec 2017 09:52:20 +0000 https://www.bh.org.il/?p=24771/ Before There Were Potatoes There Was … Cheese!  Potatoes only reached Europe in the 16th century – following the “discovery” of the Americas. Hey, so what about Latkes? Before there were potato Latkes the tradition was to eat cheese pancake – commemorating brave Judith who fed the Greek general before she decapitated him in his [...]

The post Eight days – Eight facts you may not have known about Hanukkah appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>
Before There Were Potatoes There Was … Cheese! 

Potatoes only reached Europe in the 16th century – following the “discovery” of the Americas. Hey, so what about Latkes? Before there were potato Latkes the tradition was to eat cheese pancake – commemorating brave Judith who fed the Greek general before she decapitated him in his sleep, saving her village.

The Gomfrish family cheese production dairy, Entre Rios, Argentina, 1934 (Beth Hatefutsoth, Photo Archive, courtesy of Zusy Kimelshtil, Israel)

The Gomfrish family cheese production dairy, Entre Rios, Argentina, 1934 (Beth Hatefutsoth, Photo Archive, courtesy of Zusy Kimelshtil, Israel)

Hanukkah 24/6

The high Jewish holidays can only begin on four out of seven days of the week. Hanukkah can begin on any day of the week besides Tuesday

Pages of a Jewish calendar for the year 1791/2, listing Jewish festival days as well as market days and their location. (Beth Hatefutsoth Photo Archive)

Pages of a Jewish calendar for the year 1791/2, listing Jewish festival days as well as market days and their location. (Beth Hatefutsoth Photo Archive)

Hanukkah at the White House 

In 1951, Prime Minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion, on his only visit of the US as Prime Minister, gave President Harry Truman a menorah as a gift – but it was years before Hanukkah became a regular feature at the White House. In 1979 President Jimmy Carter became the first American president to publicly attend a candle lighting – which was held by Chabad. President Ronald Reagan often spoke at Hanukkah events, but George H.W. Bush was the first to attend candle lighting of his staff in the White House building itself. Bill Clinton followed in 1993. The first official White House Hanukkah party was held on by

President George W. Bush in 2001. He borrowed a 100-year- old Hanukkiyah from the Jewish Museum in New York for the event. Presidents Obama and Trump have since followed the tradition.

photo: President Truman receiving a Hanukkah menorah from Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion (center) and Abba Eban, Ambassador of Israel to the United States, in 1951. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

photo: President Truman receiving a Hanukkah menorah from Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion (center) and Abba Eban, Ambassador of Israel to the United States, in 1951. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

44 candles 

There are at least 44 candles in each box of Hanukkah candles. That is what you need to light the Hanukkiyah every night. But there is another way to fulfill the Mitzvah – by lighting a Hanukkiyah with oil.

Young women packing Hanukkah candles in a workshop, Eretz Israel, 1940s. Photo: Leni Sonnenfeld Beth Hatefutsoth Photo Archive, Sonnenfeld collection)

Young women packing Hanukkah candles in a workshop, Eretz Israel, 1940s. Photo: Leni Sonnenfeld Beth Hatefutsoth Photo Archive, Sonnenfeld collection)

Holiday calories 

Hold on strong: Israelis consume 24 million Sufganiyot during the eight-day holiday. With the average Sufganiyah containing 400-600 calories, that is about 10.8 billion calories. Potato Latkes are a bit less taxing on your calorie count – only 150 calories. So join your local gym after Hanukkah.

Hanukkah celebration in the synagogue, Geestemunda, Germany,1929 On the table the Shabbat candle sticks, and Hanukkah Lamp (Beth Hatefutsoth Photo archive, courtesy of Ilse Haas, Switzerland)

Hanukkah celebration in the synagogue, Geestemunda, Germany,1929 On the table the Shabbat candle sticks, and Hanukkah Lamp (Beth Hatefutsoth Photo archive, courtesy of Ilse Haas, Switzerland)

Dreidel as cover for criminal activity

So where did the Dreidel come into play? Apparently it was used a disguise. When Greek soldiers would make a surprise raid on students studying the Torah, which was forbidden by the pain of death, Dreidels would come out with the students pretending they are gambling.

Children Playing with Dreidel on Hanukkah at DP Camp, Germany 1945/46. Photo: Zvi Kadushin (Beth Hatefutsoth Photo Archive, Zvi Kadushin collection)

Children Playing with Dreidel on Hanukkah at DP Camp, Germany 1945/46. Photo: Zvi Kadushin (Beth Hatefutsoth Photo Archive, Zvi Kadushin collection)

The Price of a Menorah

In normal times the Menorah in the Holy Temple was solid gold. After freeing the temple, the Maccabees lit one that was made out of wood. No need to splash out cash here – as your menorah can be made out of any material. Want to see one of solid gold? Visit the solid gold replica of the golden menorah outside the Aish ha Torah building in Jerusalem. Circa 3-million dollars – depending on the price of gold.

Hanukkah Menorah made of tree root. The Synagogue in Afula uses it today. Photo: Herbert Sonnenfeld (Beth Hatefutsoth Photo Archive, Sonnenfeld collection)

Hanukkah Menorah made of tree root. The Synagogue in Afula uses it today. Photo: Herbert Sonnenfeld (Beth Hatefutsoth Photo Archive, Sonnenfeld collection)

Hanukkah in Space 

Astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman spent Hanukkah of 1993 in space. For safety reasons he could not light the candles, but he brought along a Dreidel and Menorah and wished Jews on planet Earth a happy Hanukkah via live video transmission.

Astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman (photo: NASA)

The post Eight days – Eight facts you may not have known about Hanukkah appeared first on Beit Hatfutsot.

]]>