web analytics
October 24, 2016 / 22 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘czar’

July 4th Special: 11 Jews Who Changed America

Monday, July 4th, 2016

Inevitably, when one composes a list of people whose contributions have changed America, or any other country for that matter, the first reaction from the astute readers of the list is an objection to half the choices, and suggestions for far better choices. So we encourage the astute reader to add his or her own suggestions in the comments section, as well as their enraged reactions to our audacity in including some of our choices below.

In making our selection we looked for true pioneers, people who arrived when a certain situation was at point A, and due to their investment over a lifetime, things moved on to B or even higher in the alphabet.

For the record, we wanted to keep our list at 10, but the powers that be who pay our wages intervened and inserted one additional Jewish person. We invite you to guess whom this person is, and we are certain you won’t be able to.

Our list is purely in alphabetical order, because we have no way of telling which of these ten distinguished individuals was more crucial in shaping the way America is today, and we thought going in chronological order was boring.

We’re grateful to the many online sources from which we lifted so much of the copy in this article; they are so numerous, we fear that if we mention some we’d only hurt the feelings of all the others.

And, yes, we’re aware that we’ve actually listed 15 Jews, because one of them is a pair of sisters and the other are three brothers (and then some).

Louis Brandeis Louis Brandeis

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1916 – 1939, Brandeis radically changed the way American Law regards personal freedoms in a modern society.

In 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson nominated Brandeis to the Supreme Court, his nomination was contested by many, because, as Justice William O. Douglas wrote, “Brandeis was a militant crusader for social justice whoever his opponent might be. He was dangerous not only because of his brilliance, his arithmetic, his courage. He was dangerous because he was incorruptible.” And, in that context, “the fears of the Establishment were greater because Brandeis was the first Jew to be named to the Court.” Justice Brandeis’s opinions constituted some of the “greatest defenses” of freedom of speech and the right to privacy ever written by a member of the Supreme Court.

In Gilbert v. Minnesota (1920) which dealt with a state law prohibiting interference with the military’s enlistment efforts, Brandeis wrote a dissenting opinion that the statute affected the “rights, privileges, and immunities of one who is a citizen of the United States; and it deprives him of an important part of his liberty. … The statute invades the privacy and freedom of the home. Father and mother may not follow the promptings of religious belief, of conscience or of conviction, and teach son or daughter the doctrine of pacifism. If they do, any police officer may summarily arrest them.”

In Whitney v. California (1927), dealing with the prosecution of a woman for aiding the Communist Labor Party, which was promoting the violent overthrow of the government, both Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes expanded the definition of “clear and present danger” to include the condition that the “evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion.” According to legal historian Anthony Lewis, scholars have lauded Brandeis’s opinion “as perhaps the greatest defense of freedom of speech ever written by a member of the high court.” In their concurring opinion, Brandeis and Holmes wrote:

“Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burnt women. It is the function of free speech to free men from bondage of irrational fears … Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty …”

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

This singer-songwriter, artist and writer has changed and influenced popular music and culture for more than five decades.

After initially modeling his style on the songs of Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, and Hank Williams in the early 1960s, journalist Mike Marqusee wrote that “between late 1964 and the middle of 1966, Dylan created a body of work that remains unique. Drawing on folk, blues, country, R&B, rock’n’roll, gospel, British beat, symbolist, modernist and Beat poetry, surrealism and Dada, advertising jargon and social commentary, Fellini and Mad magazine, he forged a coherent and original artistic voice and vision. The beauty of these albums retains the power to shock and console.”

Australian critic Jack Marx wrote that Dylan “invented the arrogant, faux-cerebral posturing that has been the dominant style in rock since, with everyone from Mick Jagger to Eminem educating themselves from the Dylan handbook.”

J. Hoberman wrote in 2007: “Elvis might never have been born, but someone else would surely have brought the world rock ‘n’ roll. No such logic accounts for Bob Dylan. No iron law of history demanded that a would-be Elvis from Hibbing, Minnesota, would swerve through the Greenwich Village folk revival to become the world’s first and greatest rock ‘n’ roll beatnik bard and then—having achieved fame and adoration beyond reckoning—vanish into a folk tradition of his own making.”

And in June 2014, before the sale of the original lyrics of “Like a Rolling Stone,” written on four sheets of hotel stationery by Dylan in 1965, Richard Austin of Sotheby’s said: “Before the release of Like a Rolling Stone, music charts were overrun with short and sweet love songs, many clocking in at three minutes or less. By defying convention with six and a half minutes of dark, brooding poetry, Dylan rewrote the rules for pop music.”

Betty Friedan Betty Friedan

No one contributed more to changing the way American women view themselves and their male-dominated society than this American writer, activist, and feminist. Her 1963 book The Feminine Mystique sparked the modern wave of American feminism in the 20th century. In 1966, Friedan co-founded and was elected the first president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), which aimed to bring women “into the mainstream of American society now [in] fully equal partnership with men.”

Published in 1963, The Feminine Mystique depicted the roles of women in industrial societies, especially the full-time homemaker role which Friedan deemed stifling. Friedan described a depressed suburban housewife who dropped out of college at the age of 19 to get married and raise four children. She spoke of her own terror at being alone, wrote that she had never once in her life seen a positive female role-model who worked outside the home and also kept a family, and cited numerous cases of housewives who felt similarly trapped.

The “Problem That Has No Name” was described by Friedan in the beginning of the book: “The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the 20th century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries … she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — ‘Is this all?'”

In 1970 NOW, with Friedan at the helm, was instrumental in the Senate’s rejection of President Nixon’s Supreme Court nominee G. Harrold Carswell, who had opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act granting women workplace equality with men. On August 26, 1970, the 50th anniversary of the Women’s Suffrage Amendment to the Constitution, Friedan organized the national Women’s Strike for Equality, and led a march of 20,000 women in New York City, promoting equal opportunities for women in jobs and education, and demanding abortion rights and the establishment of child-care centers.

Friedan spoke at the Strike for Equality about “the question of a woman’s right to control her [sic] own reproductive processes, that is, laws prohibiting abortion in the state or putting them into criminal statutes; I think that would be a statute that we would [be] addressing ourselves to.”

Friedan founded the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, renamed National Abortion Rights Action League after the Supreme Court had legalized abortion in 1973.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Polish-born American rabbi and one of the leading Jewish theologians and Jewish philosophers of the 20th century, Heschel, who was a professor of Jewish mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, believed the teachings of the Hebrew prophets were a call for social action in the United States and worked for African Americans’ civil rights and against the Vietnam War.

Edward Rothstein wrote in the NY Times in 2007 that “no modern Jewish thinker has had as profound an effect on other faiths as Heschel has; the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said he was ‘an authoritative voice not only in the Jewish community but in the religious life of America.’ Nor has any Jewish theologian since Heschel succeeded in speaking to such a wide range of readers while rigorously attending to the nuances of Judaism.”

His daughter, Susannah Heschel, recalled that in his 1965 inaugural address at Union Theological Seminary, “my father reminded his audience that the Nazis attacked Christianity as well as Judaism, and he called for both communities to unite against the threat: ‘Nazism has suffered a defeat, but the process of eliminating the Bible from the consciousness of the western world goes on. It is on the issue of saving the radiance of the Hebrew Bible in the minds of man that Jews and Christians are called upon to work together. None of us can do it alone. Both of us must realize that in our age anti-Semitism is anti-Christianity and that anti-Christianity is anti-Semitism.”

In 1963, Heschel was invited to a meeting of religious leaders with President John F. Kennedy. The day before the event, Heschel sent the president a telegram about civil rights, asking him to declare the nation’s racial inequality a “state of moral emergency” and to act with “high moral grandeur and spiritual audacity.”

King and Heschel stayed in close touch, and after the first Selma march, “Bloody Sunday,” Heschel led a delegation of 800 people to FBI headquarters in New York City to protest the Bureau’s failure to protect the demonstrators. Heschel flew to Selma from New York on Saturday night, March 20, and was one of the leaders in the front row of marchers at the next Selma march, with King, Ralph Bunche, and Rev. Ralph Abernathy. The photograph of Heschel walking arm in arm with King has become the symbol of the coalition of Jews and blacks in American politics.

Heschel later wrote: “For many of us the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.”

Abigail van Buren and Ann Landers

Ann Landers and Dear Abby

Esther Pauline Friedman Lederer and Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips were born seventeen minutes apart on July 4, 1918. They later became advice columnists Ann Landers and Abigail van Buren (Dear Abby). The sisters were in their late thirties when Esther, and shortly thereafter Pauline, entered the advice column business. Esther, known as Eppie Lederer, won a contest to replace the original author of the “Ask Ann Landers” column for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1955. By 1993, the Ann Landers column appeared in 1200 daily newspapers with 90 million readers, making her the world’s most widely syndicated columnist. The column has also been translated into more than twenty languages. A few months after Eppie Lederer took over as Ann Landers, her twin sister Pauline Esther “PoPo” Phillips introduced a similar, competing column, Dear Abby, using the pseudonym Abigail Van Buren, which resulted a lengthy estrangement between the two sisters. Phillips wrote her column until retiring in 2002, at which time her daughter, Jeanne Phillips, took over.

Both columns used a straightforward tone, gave practical advice, and a firm but modern moral sensibility. Both sisters used humor, including sarcasm and one-liners, in their advice. “Dear Abby” once published a letter from a reader inquiring whether a woman could get pregnant underwater, responding: “not without a man.” Both columnists won millions of loyal followers. As one reviewer put it, each was “just the person you’d want to go to with a problem—the aunt with the wise mouth and the heart of gold.” Psychology Today credited Ann Landers with having a greater effect on the way people deal with their problems than any other living individual. Both women were politically liberal, and used their columns to condemn racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism and to advocate for women’s rights.

Here are one each of their famous responses:

Dear Abby: Our son married a girl when he was in the service. They were married in February and she had an 8 1/2-pound baby girl in August. She said the baby was premature. Can an 8 1/2-pound baby be this premature? —Wanting to Know

Dear Wanting: The baby was on time. The wedding was late. Forget it.

Dear. Mrs. Landers: I’ve always regarded most marital mix-ups as very humorous — until now, that is, when the noose is tightening around my own neck. We have been married 10 years and have two sons. I like auto racing, but my wife has no interest in it, so I’ve always gone without her.

I’ve fallen for a woman with three children who is also very fond of auto racing. Her husband is ignorant and impossible. This may sound corny, but I think she would be a wonderful companion for me. I suppose you think I’m a louse — but I am stumped. I would like to have your advice on this problem — MR. K

Dear Mr. K: Time wounds all heels — and you’ll get yours. Do you realize that there are five children involved in your little racetrack romance? Don’t be surprised if you wake up one of these days and wish you had your wife and sons back. You are flirting with a muddy track on Black Friday, and the way you’re headed, you will get exactly what you deserve.

Estee Lauder.

Estée Lauder

A trailblazing American businesswoman, Josephine Esther Mentzer was the co-founder, along with her husband, Joseph Lauter (later Lauder), of Estée Lauder Companies, her cosmetics company. Lauder was the only woman on Time magazine’s 1998 list of the 20 most influential business geniuses of the 20th century. She was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was inducted to the Junior Achievement US Business Hall of Fame in 1988.

Her uncle John Shotz was a chemist who created face creams in a makeshift laboratory, set up behind her family’s house. He discouraged Estée from using detergent soaps on her face and showed her how to make the cream that, years later, she would improve and market under her own name. She launched her cosmetics business during the Depression in New York and later in Miami Beach.

Estée Lauder was an exceptionally talented and ambitious promoter, pioneering the giveaway promotions, and always including a lipstick in the gift package. Women tried her products, liked them, and told other women about them. Much of her initial success came from gift-driven word-of-mouth advertising. She called her strategy “Tell-a-Woman” marketing. She moved on to invest in larger marketing concepts, using beautiful models to sell her products. Estée Lauder chose her models carefully, selecting the “Estée Lauder kind of woman,” rather than the movie star type.

In 1953, she launched Youth Dew, a bath oil with a scent that could be used as perfume. Later she brought out many other popular scents such as Azurée, Aliage, Private Collection, White Linen, Cinnabar, and Beautiful. Lauder trusted only family members with formulas for the various fragrances.

She ventured into the male cosmetic market in 1964, using her son and other men in her company to test her products. In 1965, she came out with Aramis and an entire line for men’s skin, which she re-launched in 1967. Another of her ideas was the fragrance-free Clinique line, which was launched after extensive medical testing.

When it went public in 1995, her Estée Lauder Companies was estimated to be worth about $5 billion and she was given the title of founding chairwoman. In 2003, it had 21,500 employees and an estimated worth of about $10 billion. Its products are sold in more than 130 countries across five continents.

The Marx Brothers

The Marx Brothers

The brothers Julius Henry, Leonard, and Adolph Marx, a.k.a. Groucho, Chico, and Harpo, are on the American Film Institute (AFI) list of the 25 greatest male stars of Classic Hollywood cinema, the only performers to be inducted collectively. There were also Gummo, and Zeppo Marx (Milton and Herbert respectively), but the three zaniest Jews of all times have created, working together from 1905 to 1949, an ingenious merging of Vaudeville and Hollywood that taught an admiring world just what insane things can be done with film comedy.

Five of the Marx Brothers’ thirteen feature films were selected by AFI as among the top 100 comedy films, with Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera in the top twelve.

Pleased with the success of their first two films, The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930), Paramount Pictures extended the Marx Brothers’ contract, which they fulfilled with three of their greatest comedies: Monkey Business (1931), Horse Feathers (1932), and Duck Soup (1933). Among their wildest, most anarchic efforts, the three films mercilessly lampoon moneyed society, higher education, and warring governments. They were filled with Groucho’s verbal effrontery (in lines such as “Remember, men, we’re fighting for this woman’s honor, which is probably more than she ever did!”) and surreal sight gags such as a live, barking dog that emerges from a doghouse tattooed on Harpo’s chest. Monkey Business and Horse Feathers were enormously popular with Depression-era audiences, but the political satire Duck Soup was a box-office disappointment. Today, however, it is regarded as one of the great film comedies of the 1930s.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer then signed the brothers to a two-picture deal, resulting in A Night at the Opera (1935) and A Day at the Races (1937), their most successful financially and among their best efforts. The Marx Brothers’ characters were tamed, though, their surreal elements were minimized, and they were turned into likeable, even heroic characters.

There’s no doubt that the inventiveness and raw chutzpah of the Marx Brothers gave life to countless successors in post-WW2 American film, including Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Peter Bogdanovich, and several generations of TV comedy writers.

Jonas Salk

Jonas Salk

Poliomyelitis, also called polio or infantile paralysis, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. In about 0.5% of cases there is muscle weakness resulting in an inability to move. This can occur over a few hours to a few days. The weakness most often involves the legs but may also involve the muscles of the head, neck and diaphragm. In patients with muscle weakness about 2% to 5% of children and 15% to 30% of adults die. Another 25% of people have minor symptoms such as fever and a sore throat and up to 5% have headache, neck stiffness and pains in the arms and legs. Years after recovery post-polio syndrome may occur, with a slow development of muscle weakness similar to that which the person had during the initial infection.

Small localized paralytic polio epidemics began to appear in Europe and the United States around 1900. Outbreaks reached pandemic proportions in Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand during the first half of the 20th century.

In the United States, the 1952 polio epidemic became the worst outbreak in the nation’s history. Of nearly 58,000 cases reported that year 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis.

Three years later, Dr. Jonas Salk became a national hero when he developed the first safe and effective polio vaccine in 1955 with the support of the March of Dimes. In the two years before the vaccine was widely available, the average number of polio cases in the US was more than 45,000. By 1962, that number had dropped to 910.

Contrary to the era’s prevailing scientific opinion, Jonas Edward Salk believed his vaccine, composed of “killed” polio virus, could immunize without risk of infecting the patient. Salk administered the vaccine to volunteers who had not had polio, including himself, his lab scientist, his wife and their children. All developed anti-polio antibodies and experienced no negative reactions to the vaccine.

In 1954, national testing began on one million children, ages six to nine, who became known as the Polio Pioneers. On April 12, 1955, the results were announced: the vaccine was safe and effective. As one of the largest disabled groups in the world, polio survivors also helped to advance the modern disability rights movement through campaigns for the social and civil rights of the disabled. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 10 to 20 million polio survivors worldwide.

A few years ago, the Wall Street Journal repeated the popular Jonas Salk statement (in an Edward R. Murrow interview) about his Polio vaccine: “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” Many use this statement as the moral impetus for refusing patents on medically important innovations (most notably Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story”). However, according to WSJ, Salk could not patent the vaccine if he wanted to. The fact is that whether or not Salk believed what he said to Murrow, the idea of patenting the vaccine had been considered by a team of patent law lawyers, who recommended not to apply for a patent because the law at the time would not have awarded it.

Which makes Salk an innovator also in his role of a scientist who chose not to litigate what he knew he couldn’t get.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, (1902-1994), the seventh and last leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty, changed the way many American Jews, and then the rest of the Jews of the world viewed their connection to the Jewish nation. Rather than impose his views and philosophy on the million of unaffiliated and non-Orthodox Jews in America and then in the rest of the world, the Rebbe created a network of Chabad Houses into which they were all invited.

The forty-four years of the Rebbe’s leadership saw Lubavitch grow from a small movement that had barely survived the Soviet Union and the Nazi Holocaust, to a worldwide community of 200,000 members, the finest among whom the Rebbe employed to establish the Chabad education and outreach centers, offering social-service programs and humanitarian aid to all people, regardless of religious affiliation or background. His corps of Lubavitch emissaries (shluchim) went out to build Chabad Houses that reached out to local Jews and to passers by with concrete offerings: a place to stay, a place to eat, a place to pray, a place to study. Today there are more than 1,400 Chabad-Lubavitch institutions in thirty-five countries on six continents.

Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz wrote in the Forward a few years ago that “Lubavitchers are sent into the street as 13- or 14-year-olds to ask passersby, ‘Are you Jewish?’ For those who say yes, they offer to help put on tefillin, the little wearable black boxes containing prayers, or, depending on the season, give them matzos or Hanukkah menorahs. They, too, may not convince others to become observant, but they are always solidifying their own observance.

“But as we know, Chabad is, in fact, quite good at persuading some Jews to become more observant. And the 4,000 or so shluchim, emissaries, who along with their wives and children have dispersed across the globe to do missionary work among lapsed Jews, or those in areas with little organized Jewish life, have also become necessary to hundreds of thousands of Jews’ religious lives. Their schools, summer camps, adult education classes, and weekly Shabbat dinners have fortified Jewish life, often in towns or countries where Jewish life had been left for toyt (dead). And the emissaries do it because the Rebbe told them to.”

The Rebbe’s model of Jewish outreach has been imitated by all Jewish movements including the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Haredi. Peggy Noonan has written that moral issues would be better addressed by leaders such as Schneerson than by politicians, and since his death, Schneerson has been referred to as the Rebbe for all people. His teachings have been published in more than two hundred volumes. He also written tens of thousands of letters in reply to requests for blessings and advice. These detailed and personal letters offer advice and explanation on a wide variety of subjects, including spiritual matters as well as all aspects of life.

Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart

From 1999 to 2015, Jon Stewart hosted the half-hour “The Daily Show,” a satirical news program on Comedy Central that changed the way younger Americans received and engaged the news. While not inventing anything new, Stewart was able to dominate the airwaves and on occasion the news cycles by lashing out at phenomena and individuals in American politics and society and, even more importantly, by putting the news in a historic and social perspective. He taught a generation of American viewers about context, nuance and morality that no one has been able to do with the same authority since, including his closest protégé John Oliver (alas, not Jewish).

Stewart also attacked with satire but also with straight-forward criticism, media personalities, shows and networks with a devastating effect. His appearance on CNN’s Crossfire on October 15, 2004 eventually killed the show. Speaking to then-host Tucker Carlson, Stewart criticized the state of television journalism and pleaded with Carlson and his co-host Paul Begala to “stop hurting America,” referring to both Carlson and Begala as “partisan hacks.” He insisted that Crossfire had failed in its responsibility to inform and educate viewers about politics as a serious topic, engaging in partisan hackery instead of honest debate. He said that the hosts’ claim that Crossfire is a debate show is like “saying pro wrestling is a show about athletic competition.”

In response to Carlson telling him, “Come on, be funny,” Stewart said, “No, I’m not going to be your monkey.” Later in the show when Carlson said, “I do think you’re more fun on your show,” Stewart retorted, “You’re as big a [expletive] on your show as you are on any show.” Carlson said, “You need to get a job at a journalism school,” to which Stewart responded, “You need to go to one!”

In January 2005, CNN announced that it was canceling Crossfire. When asked about the cancellation, CNN’s incoming president, Jonathan Klein, referenced Stewart’s appearance on the show: “I think he made a good point about the noise level of these types of shows, which does nothing to illuminate the issues of the day.”

In March 2009, exchanges between MSNBC’s financial guru Jim Cramer and Stewart led to a highly anticipated face-to-face confrontation on The Daily Show. The episode had 2.3 million total viewers, and the next day, the show’s website saw its highest day of traffic in 2009. Although Cramer acknowledged on the show that some of Stewart’s criticisms of CNBC were valid and that the network could “do better,” he later said on The Today Show that Stewart’s criticism of the media was “naïve and misleading.” But watch for yourselves, it’s obvious Stewart murdered him.

Stewart frequently accused Fox News of distorting the news to fit a conservative agenda, at one point ridiculing the network as “the meanest sorority in the world.” Stewart criticized Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson – a former Miss America and Stanford graduate – for claiming that she googled words such as “ignoramus” and “czar.” Stewart said that Carlson was dumbing herself down for “an audience who sees intellect as an elitist flaw.”

During an interview with Chris Wallace on June 19, 2011, Stewart called Wallace “insane” for saying that Stewart’s comparison of a Sarah Palin campaign video and an anti-herpes medicine ad was a political comment. Stewart also said Fox viewers are the “most consistently misinformed” viewers of political media. This comment was ranked by fact-checking site PolitiFact as false, with conditions, and Stewart acknowledged his error.

Stewart also used The Daily Show to advocate for causes such as the treatment of veterans and 9/11 first responders. He is credited with breaking a Senate deadlock over a bill to provide health care and benefits for 9/11 emergency workers; the bill passed three days after he featured a group of 9/11 responders on the show. In March 2009, Stewart criticized a White House proposal to remove veterans from Veterans Administration rolls if they had private health insurance; the White House dropped the plan the next day.

Levi Strauss

Levi Strauss

Anyone can make a pair of blue jeans, but Levi Strauss & Co. made the first blue jean –– in 1873. Levi Strauss, the inventor of the quintessential American garment, was born in Buttenheim, Bavaria on February 26, 1829 to Hirsch Strauss and his second wife, Rebecca Haas Strauss. Two years after his father succumbed to tuberculosis in 1846, Levi and his sisters emigrated to New York, where they were met by his two older brothers who owned a NYC-based wholesale dry goods business called “J. Strauss Brother & Co.” Levi soon began to learn the trade himself.

When news of the California Gold Rush made its way east, Levi journeyed to San Francisco in 1853 to make his fortune. He established a wholesale dry goods business under his own name and served as the West Coast representative of the family’s New York firm. Levi eventually renamed his company “Levi Strauss & Co.”

Around 1872, Levi received a letter from one of his customers, Jacob Davis, a Reno, Nevada tailor. In his letter, Davis disclosed the unique way he made pants for his customers, through the use of rivets at points of strain to make them last longer. Davis wanted to patent this new idea, but needed a business partner to get the idea off the ground. The patent was granted to Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss & Company on May 20, 1873; and blue jeans were born.

Prior to the Levi Strauss patented trousers, the term “blue jeans” had been long in use for various garments (including trousers, overalls, and coats), constructed from blue colored denim. Originally designed for cowboys and miners, jeans became popular in the 1950s among teenagers, especially members of the greaser subculture. Jeans were a common fashion item in the 1960s Hippie subculture and they continued to be popular in the 1970s and 1980s youth subcultures of punk rock and heavy metal. Historic brands include Levi’s, Lee, and Wrangler. In the 2010s, jeans remain a popular fashion item, and they come in various fits, including skinny, tapered, slim, straight, boot cut, cigarette bottom, narrow bottom, bell bottom, low waist, anti-fit, and flare. “Distressed” (visibly aged and worn, but still intact and functional) jeans trousers have become increasingly fashionable, making pre-sale “factory distressing” a common feature in commercially sold jeans.

In the 2010s, jeans are a very popular article of casual dress around the world. They come in many styles and colors. However, blue jeans are particularly identified with American culture, especially the Old West. As well, although jeans are mostly known as a popular fashion garment for several decades, they are still worn as protective garments by some individuals, such as cattle ranch workers and motorcycle riders, due to their high durability as compared to other common fabrics.


Pushkin Museum Exhibition Celebrating Leon Bakst’s 150th Birthday

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

The Pushkin State Museum of Arts in Moscow is featuring an exhibition dedicated to the 150th birthday of Léon Bakst (1866–1924). Bakst was a Russian theatrical designer, painter, portraitist, book illustrator, interior designer and fashion designer in the 1910s and 20s. He published numerous articles on contemporary design and dance, was also interested in photography and the cinema, and wrote an autobiographical novel. Being fond of the art of Ancient Greece and the Orient, Bakst’s art merged classical motifs with the eccentricity of Art Nouveau.

Bakst was born in Grodno (today Belarus), to a middle-class Jewish family. His grandfather was an exceptional tailor, good enough to receive a special post from the Czar, and owned a large mansion in Saint Petersburg. After his parents had moved to Moscow, Léon would visit his grandfather’s house every Saturday, later reporting how impressed by it he had been as a youngster and how much pleasure he experienced there. At the age of twelve, Léon won a drawing contest and decided to become a painter, but his parents did not support his decision. He nevertheless studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts as a noncredit student, because he had failed the entry exams, working part-time as a book illustrator. He was eventually admitted in 1883, at the tender age of 17.

Bakst's Self-portrait, 1893

Bakst’s Self-portrait, 1893

At the time of his first exhibition (1889) Léon took the surname Bakst, derived from his mother’s maiden name, seeing as his father’s surname, Rosenberg, wasn’t helping his career in Russia’s art world. In 1893 he moved to Paris, studying at the Académie Julian, but still visiting his grandfather in Saint Petersburg often. In 1899, he co-founded with Sergei Diaghilev the influential periodical Mir Iskusstva, or World of Art. His graphics for this publication brought him great fame.

Bakst preferred to live in western Europe because, as a Jew, he did not have the right to live permanently outside the Pale of Settlement. During his visits to Saint Petersburg he taught in Zvantseva’s school, where one of his students was Marc Chagall.

Beginning in 1909, Bakst worked mostly as stage-designer, designing sets for Greek tragedies, and, in 1908, he made a name for himself as a scene-painter for Diaghilev with the Ballets Russes. In 1914, Bakst was elected a member of the Imperial Academy of Arts. In 1922, Bakst broke off his relationship with Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes.

Girl in kokoshnik - Léon Bakst

Girl in kokoshnik – Léon Bakst

Bakst visited Baltimore in 1922, staying with his friend and patron, art philanthropist Alice Warder Garrett. Having met in Paris in 1914, when Mrs. Garrett was accompanying her diplomat husband in Europe, Bakst soon depended on his new American friend as both a confidante and an agent. Alice Garrett became Bakst’s representative in the United States, organizing two exhibitions of the artist’s work at New York’s Knoedler Gallery, as well as subsequent traveling shows. When in Baltimore, Bakst re-designed Garrett’s dining room in a shocking acidic yellow and ‘Chinese’ red confection. The artist subsequently went on to transform a small gymnasium on the grounds into a colorfully Modernist private theater.

This first retrospective exhibition of the artist to be shown in Russia includes more than 200 paintings, drawings, theatrical costumes and archive photos of Léon Bakst from Russian and Western state and private collections, gathered together by an international group of curators..

In late 2010, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London presented an exhibit of Bakst’s costumes and prints.


The Secret of Orthodoxy’s Success

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

There is a little known fact (outside of Lubavitch) about the founder of Chabad Chasidus, Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi (the author of the Shulchan Aruch HaRav – also known as the Baal HaTanya). He supporeted the Czar of Russia in opposition to Napolean. R’ Shneur Zalman reasoned that the freedom that would result via Napolean’s emancipation from the Czar would cause Jews to go Off the Derech (OTD). He wasn’t entirely wrong.

Not that an anti-Semitic dictatorship like the Czarist Russia or the Soviet Union didn’t do the same thing or worse. Most Jews in the anti Semitic/anti religious Soviet Union were unable to remain observant. But it cannot be argued that too much freedom will result in the masses opting out of observant Judaism – or even Judaism altogether.  At least that is what the recent Pew study revealed. A shocking 70% of non Orthodox Jews marry out and only 20% of their children are raised with any semblance of Jewish identity.

Why is that? There are many reasons mostly having to do with a lack of any significant Jewish education. But that is only part of the story. An Interesting observation was made by Bethamie Horowitz in a Forward article that had a positive spin on that survey. Sort of positive – that is.

She noted that marrying out is not so much a function of going OTD as it is the result of an overwhelming sense of acceptance of Jews into American society of Jews and Judaism. That should be obvious to anyone who is paying attention. Here are some examples of that:

Yiddish words are increasingly seeping into the English language.

The Holocaust is perhaps the most revered subject in the public square today. Hollywood – which is probably the most influential component of American culture – will not let us forget it. Every year there is another Holocaust movie or documentary. Which is often nominated for an Academy Award.

The number of Jews winning the Nobel Prize was immense this year it seems. I believe that 22% of all Nobel Prize winners are Jews (Whereas only .2% of the world population are Jews.)

In fact there are so many indicators of our acceptance that it would take up too much space to include them all. I recall reading about a poll recently that said that Judaism is the most respected religion in America.

Not only are Jews no longer hiding their Judaism by changing their names; not wearing a Kipa in public (if they are male); and keeping  their religious practices completely private – if at all, they are now proudly proclaiming their Jewish identity.

It is now ‘cool’ to be Jewish in this country. But it is not cool to be observant. That is a burden that a proud assimilated and not religiously educated Jew can do without. Without a religious education the freedom to assimilate can and probably will lead you astray. Why be observant, an assimilated Jew might ask? Just be a proud Jew. The next generation will ask why even bother even being Jewish at all? ‘I don’t even like bagels’ they might say. ‘I prefer lobster!’  Intermarriage? What’s the big deal? It is completely accepted now.

The ultimate demonstration of that was one of the most famous intermarriages of the modern era. Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of a President married a Jew. Her wedding highlighted many aspects of a Jewish wedding, including a Chupah and a Kesubah. Her husband even wore a Kipa under the Chupah. And the media was all over this fawning over it like it was a royal marriage. As Ms. Horowitz points out:

A cartoon from the October 1, 2012, issue of The New Yorker depicted a couple and a wedding planner with the following caption: “No, we’re not Jewish. But we think it would be fun for our reception’s theme to be ‘A Jewish wedding.’”

So is R’ Shneur Zalman right? Should we be praying for a government that will oppress us? Is oppression the only thing that will keep us Jewish? Apparently that is what the Baal HaTanya believed. The Judaism of his generation was apparently very shallow. A Jew would not remain a Jew if given the chance – and the anti Semitic Czar would never give a Jew that chance.

He preferred persecuting us. And Jews remained Jewish and for the most part observant. Why observant? The communities were tight knit and going OTD meant being ostracized. Which of course meant that an OTD Jew would have no place to go since he was still a Jew and not accepted by Russian gentiles. He was worthy only of persecution.

What a sad commentary on Judaism if the best way to keep Jews observant is by keeping them oppressed. This is what R’ Shneur Zalmen wanted and it is why (I am told) he supported the Czar.

But I have to disagree with him and the entire premise of blaming freedom for the masses going OTD. It isn’t the fault freedom. It’s the fault of lack of a proper religious Jewish education. The vast majority o those of us who were properly educated are today observant… in an era of complete freedom and total acceptance by general society.

As Noah Feldman’s article in Bloomberg  pointed out, one need only look at Lakewood to see just how well religiously educated Jews are doing. Their growth has been exponential over the last couple of generations. That Noah Feldman  – a once Orthodox but now assimilated Jew who married out pointed this out – does not detract from the reality of what he said. (Ironically he was given a religious Jewish education. But he is the exception that proves the rule. Unfortunately there are a lot of exceptions. The reason for that is beyond the scope of this post.)

So there you have it. The real fault of why the vast majority of Jews in this country are not observant lies mostly with the lack of any significant religious education for the masses of Jews who immigrated here in the early 20th century. Jewish education was practically non-existent then. Coupled with the melting pot climate of assimilation and the requirement to work on Shabbos in order to keep your job…  the children of these immigrants ran away from observance in droves. They wanted to be Americans. Not Jews. Those 90 percent of Jews who are today are not observant are their offspring. Through no fault of their own – being completely bereft of any Jewish education – they do not know the definition of Judaism and see no value in it. As can be seen from the Pew study.

The good news is that many of these Jews do not have the biases of their parents or grandparents. Their parents and grandparents hated the burdens of being observant and ran away from observance. Their children don’t know enough about it to hate it. Of course this is not true in all cases. Many of these young people do not want to give up the freedom that non observance affords them. But a surprising number of them do.  That’s where organizations like NCSY comes in.

So, all is not lost. The lesson we should take from all of this is that we should appreciate and even cherish the freedom this great country of ours affords us. And  that oppression is not the way to keep Jews in the fold.  Being Jewish because circumstances force you to be is not a prescription for Jewish continuity. Education is. And that is the secret of Orthodox success in this – the free’est country in the world.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Harry Maryles

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/the-secret-of-orthodoxys-success/2013/10/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: