Jewish History Soundbites
The US & The Holocaust: A Review

The US & The Holocaust: A Review

November 26, 2022

The story of the confrontation of the US and the Holocaust is done well in the recently produced Ken Burns documentary ‘The US & the Holocaust’. It purports to cover the entirety of the Holocaust from an American perspective, and is by no means limited to the story of potential rescue. From the immigration quotas, to American anti-Semitism and the isolationist movement, to the war itself. 

There’s the story of how individual Jews confronted the reality of the developing Holocaust knowing that their relatives were facing impending doom. The questions of what role was played by the American people, the Roosevelt administration, Congress and the State Department - in particular senior officials such as Breckinridge Long - are duly analyzed. The response of the American Jewish community as a collective as well as individuals is explored as well. In addition, noble endeavors of the US government such as the Treasury Department’s role in the forming of the War Refugee Board is recorded as well.

 

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Founder of a Dynasty: The Bais Halevi

Founder of a Dynasty: The Bais Halevi

November 15, 2022

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik - the Bais Halevi (1820-1892) was the founder of the Soloveitchik/Brisk dynasty. Following his studies in Volozhin and a short stint as a rosh yeshiva in Minsk, he was appointed assistant rosh yeshiva in Volozhin alongside the Netziv. In 1864 he departed to assume the rabbinate in Slutzk, where he remained until 1875 when he retired to Warsaw. In 1879 he moved once again this time to Brisk, where he served as rabbi until his passing.

 

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Jews, Sports & Identity

Jews, Sports & Identity

November 8, 2022

Jews and sports is an exploration of Jewish identity and integration in the modern world. This was expressed as Jews became fans of sports teams, with the most famous baseball fan in history being an eccentric Jewish woman named Hilda Chester. Jews were always prominent in the labor movement, and it was a Jewish labor organizer named Marvin Miller who, as president of the Player’s Union, successfully rid Baseball of the reserve clause and emancipated the players from the owner’s grip.

During the 1920’s and 30’s Jews were especially prominent in boxing. Benny Leonard and Barney Ross were famous boxing champions, but there were many others as well. Jewish participation in boxing is perhaps the most typical expression of both the struggles of the immigrant generation, along with the process of Americanization. 

Several victims of the Holocaust were famous Jewish athletes. Eddy Hamel of the Dutch National Football (soccer) team, Victor Perez the boxer, gymnasts, fencers and others as well. Though they may have been celebrities known for their physical prowess, Nazi racial theory considered them Jews and they suffered the same fate as European Jewry.

 

Sponsored by the OU’s Teach Coalition, whose network of thousands of activists just like you, are urging you to go out and vote in the upcoming elections on November 8, 2022. For help contact the voter hotline at 646-459-5162 or https://teachcoalition.org/vote/ 

 

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Organizing Orthodoxy: The Story of the Agudath Harabonim Part I

Organizing Orthodoxy: The Story of the Agudath Harabonim Part I

November 6, 2022

The Agudath Harabonim of the US & Canada was founded in 1902 with the goals of strengthening traditional Jewish observance in the country. Its membership was primarily composed of Eastern European immigrant rabbis, and they focused on the areas of Shabbos observance, kashrus, Jewish education, strengthening the office of the rabbinate and assisting their brethren back in the old country.

The Agudath Harabonim supported RIETS, founded the Central Relief Committee and Ezras Torah during World War I and the Vaad Hatzalah during World War II. Its leadership was composed by some of the greatest rabbinical leaders of the era, including Rabbi Moshe Zevulun Margolis (Ramaz), Rabbi Dov Bernard Levinthal, Rabbi Yisrael Rosenberg, Rabbi Moshe Rosen, Rabbi Yaakov Kontrovitz, Rabbi Eliezer Silver and many others. 

 

Sponsored by the OU’s Teach Coalition, whose network of thousands of activists just like you, are urging you to go out and vote in the upcoming elections on November 8, 2022. For help contact the voter hotline at 646-459-5162 or https://teachcoalition.org/vote/ 

 

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Our Grandfathers Came to this Land

Our Grandfathers Came to this Land

November 2, 2022

The Great Immigration was the population movement of millions of Jews primarily from Eastern Europe to the United States and other countries over the course of a half century between 1875-1924. Although the process, scope, catalysts, challenges of the immigration and immigrants are fascinating aspects of the story, perhaps the most unique angle is the fact that the entire endeavor was a ‘silent revolution’. Throughout the 19th century the Jewish community in Russia and elsewhere debated, discussed and pondered solutions to the many challenges facing the Jewish community and Jewish identity in the modern era. No solutions were incredibly successful. Yet one was. Immigration. It completely transformed the Jewish landscape.

And it was this solution which was really a silent revolution, for it had no leadership, no political platform, no organization. It was a grassroots movement from rank and file anonymous individuals making subjective life choices regarding migration. It was this silent revolution which made a decisive and quite astounding impact on the future of the Jewish People.

 

Sponsored by the OU’s Teach Coalition, whose network of thousands of activists just like you, are urging you to go out and vote in the upcoming elections on November 8, 2022. For help contact the voter hotline at 646-459-5162 or https://teachcoalition.org/vote/ 

 

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Feivels Going West: Jews in the Wild West

Feivels Going West: Jews in the Wild West

October 30, 2022

The German Jewish immigration of the mid 19th century caused a demographic explosion of the American Jewish community from a mere 5,000 in 1830 to approximately 250,000 in 1880. Economic opportunity, the California Gold Rush and a general American migration to the frontiers of the west, led thousands of these immigrants to try their luck as peddlers and merchants in San Francisco and other mining towns in the Wild West. 

When Levi Strauss arrived from Bavaria with his family in 1847 he initially settled in NY. The Gold Rush enticed him to open a branch of the family’s dry goods business in San Francisco in 1854 where he serviced the mining community. Two decades later he began marketing Levi’s pants, which were the world’s first blue jeans with rivets to secure the pockets in the rough environment the miners operated in. Josephine Marcus was the daughter of German Jewish immigrants in NYC who migrated to California and later to Tombstone, Arizona where she married the legendary Wild West figure Wyatt Earp. 

 

Sponsored by the OU’s Teach Coalition, whose network of thousands of activists just like you, are urging you to go out and vote in the upcoming elections on November 8, 2022. For help contact the voter hotline at 646-459-5162 or https://teachcoalition.org/vote/ 

 

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Chasam Sofer Part III: A Pressburg Situation

Chasam Sofer Part III: A Pressburg Situation

October 24, 2022

Rav Moshe Sofer (1762-1839) - the Chasam Sofer - led the Pressburg Jewish community for 33 years. From the time of his initial appointment he faced struggles and challenges from progressive elements within the community. Even as the Chasam Sofer gained renown across the Habsburg Empire, he still was confronted with an unsuccessful attempt by community leaders in Pressburg to forcefully close his large and prestigious yeshiva and remove him from his rabbinical position. His tactful and ultimately successful approach to navigate these local challenges influenced his general outlook and leadership within the context of the broad reaches of Central Europe.

 

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Chasam Sofer Part II: Old Traditions, New Message

Chasam Sofer Part II: Old Traditions, New Message

October 2, 2022

“Chadash Asur Min Hatorah” - Anything new is forbidden, has become a slogan in defense of Jewish tradition confronting the challenges of modernity. Formulated by Rav Moshe Sofer (1762-1839) the Chasam Sofer and longtime rabbi of Pressburg (Bratislava), he has become a symbol of the combatant and fearless leadership in defense of tradition against the onslaught of changes to that hallowed tradition. How did he do it? What were his methods? What was the context of the challenges he was facing? What complexities existed at the time which led the Chasam Sofer to exalt custom, restore the honor of the rabbinate and to be posthumously recognized as the father of Orthodoxy?

Check out Part I about the Chasam Sofer and his family: https://jsoundbites.podbean.com/e/hungarian-royalty-the-chasam-sofer-his-family/ 

 

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United We Split: The Leadership of Rav Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky

United We Split: The Leadership of Rav Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky

September 18, 2022

Rav Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky (1867-1948) was the rabbi of the Eidah Chareidis community in Yerushalayim & headed the branch of Agudas Yisrael in that country for 15 crucial and tumultuous years. Having grown up in Hungary, he had previously served as rabbi of Galanta and Chust (Slovakia) for four decades. In Yerushalayim he oversaw the sweeping changes which were taking place in the Yishuv with immigration, the Great Arab Revolt, the policies of the British Mandatory government, World War II, the Holocaust, the UN Partition Resolution and the founding of the State of Israel. As a responsible and outspoken leader, Rav Dushinsky courageously led his community through this unique era, and aside from his rabbinical duties - along with his position as rosh yeshiva in the yeshiva which he founded - he took an active political role as well.

Ultimately the changing demographics due to the immigration of more moderate Agudists from Poland in Germany led to a split between the Eidah Chareidis and Agudas Yisrael, which was overseen by Rav Dushinsky and remains to this very day. Following his passing in 1948 he was succeeded by his only son Rav Yisroel Moshe Dushinsky (1921-2003), who built the Dushinsky community around the yeshiva and transformed it from an Ashkenaz Oberland community into a full Chassidic court.

 

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The Royals & The Jews

The Royals & The Jews

September 10, 2022

The Jewish People have had a long relationship with British royalty. From the expulsion of the Jews from England by King Edward I in 1290 to the resettlement which continued despite King Charles II returning to the throne in 1660. From Queen Victoria’s knighting Sir Moses Montefiore, to King George VI and his overseeing the end of the British Mandate on Palestine. From Princess Alice risking her life to saving Jews in Greece during the Holocaust to Queen Elizabeth II receiving Holocaust survivors on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Though Queen Elizabeth II never visited the State of Israel, the Jewish community of Britain enjoyed a warm relationship with the royal family in recent history.

Check out these related episodes:

Jews of London Part I: https://jsoundbites.podbean.com/e/british-royals-baalei-tosfos-blood-libels-the-story-of-london-part-i/

Jews of London Part II: https://jsoundbites.podbean.com/e/from-cromwell-to-montefiore-the-jews-of-london-part-ii/

 

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