Archive | Historical Perspective by Jerry Kasten

US Military’s secret language warriors

Posted on 14 September 2017 by admin

Finally!
A recently published book, Sons and Soldiers, tells the little-known story of an unusual World War II American army intelligence unit which successfully convinced many German soldiers to surrender and to reveal significant intelligence as well.
There have been a few earlier books on the subject of the “Ritchie Boys” but none as complete as this.
They came to be called The Ritchie Boys because their specialized training took place at Camp Ritchie, Maryland.
What set them apart from the usual army warrior was that instead of firearms, they would be using their knowledge and language skills as weapons.
They all spoke German and most were young German Jewish men who had escaped from the growing Nazi terror in the 1930s as well as the Holocaust which eventually, for many, consumed the family they had left behind.
Sadly, such was the case of my friend and fellow Jewish War Veteran, Rudy Baum (of blessed memory), who eventually settled in Dallas after the war.
Rudy’s older sister fled to Palestine before Rudy left for America. Both would be reunited at war’s end when Rudy visited Palestine, previous to returning to the states.
Brother and sister strongly believed in the importance of their children and everyone in general learning what the Nazis did, the horror of the Holocaust, so in 1996, they self-published the story of their family in both German and English in a paperback titled Children of a Respectable Family.
As a benefactor at the Dallas Holocaust Center (now the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance), Rudy donated his book sales to the center. Additionally, after retirement, as a volunteer, he shared his personal story with visitors.
The Rudy Baum I knew was a quiet, contemplative, highly intelligent, quick-witted, caring person. He never spoke much about his military experiences.
His book, Children of a Respectable Family, includes information I never heard him discuss. I learned that he received the Bronze Star for meritorious service, operating a sound system from the back of a Jeep while under fire, successfully enticing German soldiers to surrender.
Each surrender saved at least one or more American soldier’s life and the information (intelligence) gathered from that prisoner probably helped save other lives as well.
In addition, Rudy helped produce propaganda leaflets, interrogated Nazi prisoners, and upon promotion to First Lieutenant, supervised and managed groups of intelligence teams.
Upon reaching Buchenwald and viewing the deplorable conditions, General George Patton ordered the military police to take trucks into the nearest town, Weimar, to round up all the adults to return to Buchenwald.
Rudy and the other interpreters formed the civilians into lines to view the dead and dying. They were required to view — and the more able ones — to help clean up and bury the dead. The civilians’ denial of awareness of what was going on in the camp infuriated Rudy. “These denials fueled the hatred I had felt for all Germans.”
Rudy’s comment at war’s end was, “War was hell, but the Holocaust was horror!” With the war over and Rudy having accumulated enough points, he was ready to return home, but the military had other plans.
After first being promoted to captain, Rudy was appointed Media Control Officer of Marburg, a university town outside of Frankfurt. His assignment was to help restart the cultural life of the city by hiring a staff and producing a city newspaper.
By screening so many applicants with follow-up interviews, Rudy’s attitude toward German civilians began to change. He found many individuals who were decent people, who were active in the anti-Nazi movement.
Thinking of what happened to his parents and other members of his family, and the poor souls of Buchenwald, Rudy finally came to the conclusion that “not every German can be held responsible for the heinous crimes of the Nazis.”
Like other Ritchie Boy members, Rudy Baum was one of a kind, a member of the only group of its kind in the United States military.
From the viewpoint of fellow Ritchie Boy Gunther Stern, “We were fighting an American war, and we were also fighting an intensely personal war. We were in it with every fiber of our being. We worked harder than anyone could have driven us. We were crusaders. This was our war!”

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Fighting anti-Semitism in post-Civil War US

Posted on 31 August 2017 by admin

The recent anti-Semitic rants of torch-bearing Nazis and KKKs, marching in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the tragic events which followed, were vivid reminders that racial and religious hatred is still a challenge to the American ideals of liberty and equality.
In the same week, somewhat hidden in the “back pages” of the news, was the announcement that the first comprehensive digital archive of Jews who fought in the Civil War, known as The Shapell Roster, is expected to be completed and made public by 2018.
This story has its beginnings in the increased anti-Semitism of the 1880s due to the large numbers of eastern Europeans escaping from the devastating pogroms of Russia, many finding refuge in the United States. Resentment of newcomers is an old story.
In December 1891, an anti-Semitic article appeared in The North American Review, a new literary publication, which stated that Jews generally tried to avoid serving in the military. This was followed by a letter from a Civil War veteran who claimed he never knew of any Jewish soldiers nor any other soldiers who knew of any Jews in the Union army.
Since a bounty system was in place, allowing draftees in the Union Army to pay a bounty to someone to take their place, the implication was that Jews paid bounties and never served.
Nothing could be further from the truth, and many Jewish veterans let their objections be known to The Review.
A small group of Jewish Union and Confederate Civil War veterans met to form an organization which pledged to stand up to the anti-Semites.
Known today as The Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A., they are the oldest continuous veterans organization.
Simon Wolf, a Jewish attorney, diplomat, and active benefactor to Jewish charitable causes, saw the North American Review’s anti-Semitic article as an opportunity to show that Jewish Americans have served as patriots, soldiers and citizens throughout its history.
It took Wolf almost four years (1895) to compile government personnel records totaling 10,000 Jewish names, 7,000 from the North and 3,000 from the South.
In addition, he included the Jewish soldiers’ and sailors’ contributions in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the War With Mexico.
Here are some interesting facts involving Jewish soldiers on both sides during the Civil War.
President Lincoln awarded seven Medals of Honor to Jewish soldiers. This is the highest award that can be issued to a member of the military.
There were various Jewish families of brothers who served: six Cohens of North Carolina, five brothers of Jonas (four Confederate, one Union) from Mississippi and other family groups of Moses, Goldsmith, Levy, Wenk, Feder, Emanuel and Koch, etc.
Also included in Simon Wolf’s findings of Jewish Civil War veterans are names of 24 Union staff officers, 24 Confederate staff officers, 11 Confederate Navy officers and over 300 pages alphabetically listing names of thousands of Jewish soldiers from both armies, classified according to states.
After completing the 576-page account of the Jewish population’s contribution to America’s military, Simon Wolf sent a copy to Mark Twain, who had previously questioned the amount of Jewish support given during the Civil War.
After examining Wolf’s book, Twain reversed his position, stating that the numbers show a even greater ratio of participants than the non-Jewish population. Twain apologized for his ignorance.
Additional records of Jewish Civil War personnel not made available to Simon Wolf have since been uncovered by the Roster Project and will be added to his original list of Jewish military personnel.
The additional discovery of Jewish soldiers’ artifacts such as ketubahs and letters to Jewish mothers should bring even greater excitement to this future online Civil War exhibit, due to be available in 2018.

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Lying a sad fact of life

Posted on 17 August 2017 by admin

Show me a person who believes that he or she has never, ever told a lie and I will show you a very rare bird indeed — either that or a liar.
Given the fact that we are in the midst of a prolonged post-election investigation involving a foreign power and possible collusion with one or more members of the president’s staff, the subject of lies and ascertaining “truth” belches at us every time we turn on the news.
In all fairness to the politicians, the group of people generally rated high on the lying scale, the public itself is guilty of lying, no matter what their occupation.
My column today barely scratches the surface of this topic of deception. Checking Amazon’s book catalog, I found over 50 different titles before I quit counting those dealing with lies and detection techniques.
Among the many reasons people lie are to fulfill a wish, to avoid the truth, to avoid punishment, to “get back” at someone, to heighten or maintain self-esteem, to put one over, to change the behavior of others, or to be treated in a certain way.
While the study of human behavior has been investigated for hundreds of years, it has been only in the last 50 or more years that the study of detecting deception has undergone scholarly research.
Here are some of the major findings. Children start lying as early as six months, primarily to get attention. Most people assume avoiding eye contact is a sign of lying, but it is not. It is normal for people to keep eye contact for just a small percentage of time.
People are lied to as many as 100-200 times a day and fail to detect lies 54 percent of the time. One slightly positive sign is that one quarter of the time, our lies are for another person’s benefit.
Amazingly, 75-80 percent of lies go undetected. The people who really need to detect deception — juries, police, and judges — fare poorly at detecting lies. Only the Secret Service scores high on lie detection.
In addition to law enforcement and intelligence, the group most interested in lie detection, as you might expect, is the corporate world of industry, business and finance.
Much research and analysis on the subject of lying and lie detection is available for any and all liars and lie detectors to read.
Pamela Meyer, the author of Liespotting, Proven Techniques to Detect Deception, is one of the most sought-after speakers and consultants on this “deceptive” subject.
In little more than 200 pages, she describes the techniques of detecting lies from the face, body, and words of those being interviewed. A very useful read for those who need to detect lies, and, of course, those not wanting to be caught lying.
Not that you would, but the next time you consider telling a lie, remember one of Mark Twain’s thoughts on why it’s easier to tell the truth. … “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

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Good gun clubs teach safety, too

Posted on 03 August 2017 by admin

It all started innocently enough when I read the latest TSA’s report of a record 89 concealed firearms discovered in carry-on bags in one July week at airports around the nation. Most of them were loaded and one was even “hidden,” sewn inside a wheelchair cushion.
While some of those gun-owners obviously knew what they were doing, the majority claim that “they failed to check their bag before packing, having forgotten that they had left their weapon inside.”
Violators can be arrested and fined up to $11,000, poor memory notwithstanding. “So irresponsible,” in my opinion. Perhaps if gun-owners belonged to gun clubs, firearms safety would improve as well.
Since it seemingly would be impossible to learn how many Jews own guns, I did learn that there are Jewish gun clubs around the country.
On the West Coast (LA area), there’s Bullets and Bagels (with a good schmear) which welcomes Jews and others monthly at an Orange County firing range. Strict adherence to safety rules and a love of bagels is a requirement. Their training emphasis is on defensive use of their weapons and safe gun handling.
While firearms safety is always a consideration, other gun clubs, such as the Las Vegas Jewish Cigar and Shooting Club, also promises social and educational opportunities. Cigar smokers have their events separately, of course.
A growing, active firearms group in Texas is the Jewish Rifle and Pistol Club of Central Texas, meeting monthly at a shooting range in the hill country, near Austin.
In Teaneck, New Jersey, the Golani Rifle and Pistol Club meets on Shomer Shabbos and serve strictly kosher food at all its events. It promotes responsible firearms use by its 50 New Jersey and Pennsylvania members.
Other Jewish firearms and marksmanship groups can be found in other states, as well. Not all Jews, however, support gun ownership.
Various Jewish organizations, such as the ADL, the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America have taken positions in support of banning assault weapons and discouraging any gun usage for sport or recreational purposes.
These groups do believe that gun ownership should be allowed, but for defensive purposes only. A problem with this position is that a gun in the hands of someone who does not practice firing and is not familiar with proper usage, handling and maintenance is a danger to himself and others nearby.
Another safety concern is that of children at the homes of gun owners, yours and others which your child may visit. It is a good idea for parents to learn which homes have guns. If their guns are not locked up, keep your child away.
Good gun clubs teach gun safety, not just shooting accuracy. If I chose to own a gun, I would join a good gun club, preferably a Jewish one, offering bagel and schmears.

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Military’s expanded recognized religions list worthwhile challenge

Posted on 20 July 2017 by admin

I vaguely recall in filling out my Army enlistment papers in the 1950s, being asked to either check one of the six or so religions shown, check no preference, or to write one in on the blank line provided.
Fast-forward to the present, when I recently received a government news release announcing the Department of Defense increasing its list of recognized faiths and belief systems from a little over 100 to an expanded list of 221.
Some of the faiths I had never heard of included; Eckankar, Heathen, Church of the Spiral Tree, Troth, Wicca, Pagan, Deism and Asatru.
What a shocker! Obviously I have not been following developments in this area. It seems that there have been growing numbers of military enlistees whose faiths and belief systems were not among the mainstream and not officially recognized.
So, how does this recognition of religious belief systems outside the traditional mainstream faiths help the military and its members?
The Chaplains Corps believes that by being all-inclusive, service members of the non-mainstream faiths will now feel more accepted and will be more willing to approach Chaplains of any faith with the expectation that they will be heard and helped.
For incoming Jewish military, they can still choose “Jewish” or one of the three (Orthodox, Conservative or Reform), bringing the number of Jewish choices to four.
Before one criticizes our military leaders for possibly making things more complicated and confusing than they need to be, consider the following.
There is a rational justification for developing a more accurate, complete list of faith groups to which a military member may belong.
This change means that servicemen and -women who are members of small faith groups will now have the same rights and protections granted to service members of the larger, traditional faith groups.
Before the faith group list was expanded, there were some military who were refused time off for religious observances because their faith was not listed. Some service-members were even punished and given extra duty for requesting time off.
Our military now recognizes the 200-plus listed faiths, allowing all service-members to attend and/or observe legitimate holidays, if possible. Of course, the needs of the military always come first, no matter what the religion or holiday.
On one hand, this expanded list of recognized faiths by the U.S. Military sounds fair, democratic and inclusive, but at the same time it must present a challenge to the Chaplain Corps who are generally not members of those sects.
Let us wish them well. Hopefully this expansion of faith acceptance will serve to further strengthen the unity of the men and women of our military.
Bless them all, whatever their faith.

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Brief chapter of Old West’s Jewish chief

Posted on 06 July 2017 by admin

In case you thought that the only Jewish Native American Indian chief was the Yiddish-speaking one portrayed by Mel Brooks in that hilarious film, Blazing Saddles, you are mistaken.
Among the European immigrants who came to “America, the land of opportunity,” was a Jew, destined to play an important leadership role in America’s Indian Southwest.
Sixteen-year-old Solomon Bibo decided in 1869 to join his two older brothers who had emigrated years earlier.
With America’s Civil War over, the transcontinental railroad completed, free farmland available under the Homestead Act, and sporadic announcements of gold and silver strikes out west, European immigrants surged across America’s West seeking a better future.
While his brothers were building a trading business in the New Mexico territory, Solomon, at first, stayed in the East, finding work and learning English before eventually joining them.
While hard-working European immigrants like the Bibos envisioned a better life, Native Americans were facing a losing battle: loss of ancestral lands and traditional lifestyle, broken treaties, and an ever-uncertain future.
Bibo and his brothers became successful traders and transporters of goods, earning a reputation for honesty and fairness.
Other traders often treated Native Americans unfairly, taking advantage of their English-language deficiencies in the signing of contracts and agreements, often cheating the Indians.
The Acoma Pueblo of New Mexico came to accept the Bibos as honest and fair. Solomon had learned their language and, with their permission, he became their spokesperson in a land dispute with a neighboring tribe.
The disputed survey would give the Acoma people less land than they felt they historically owned.
Letters to the Department of the Interior by Solomon and his brother Simon resulted in the victory of a second survey being taken, but in the end the agency ruled against the Acomas.
The Acomas were disappointed to have lost their case, but they appreciated the Bibos’ effort to win their case.
Solomon Bibo endeared himself even further when he announced his forthcoming marriage to Juana Valle, the granddaughter of a former Acoma governor.
No rabbi was to be found in the New Mexico Territory so two weddings took place.
The first wedding was a traditional Indian ceremony supervised by a Catholic priest, automatically making Solomon a member of the tribe.
The second ceremony, four months later, was before a JP. Juana had renounced her Catholic faith and converted to Judaism.
That same year, 1885, Solomon Bibo was elected by the Acoma Indians as their governor (the equivalent of chief) and was re-elected three more times for eight straight years.
The highlight of Governor Bibo’s leadership was his overseeing of the installation of the federal government’s mandated educational system for the Pueblo’s children.
Showing support for the educational initiative, Bibo turned one of his buildings into a school for the educators’ use until the new school under construction was completed.
In supporting the new educational program, Bibo soon ran into opposition by parents who complained that their children were being taught to give up traditional tribal beliefs. So Solomon began to feel unwelcome as a supporter of the government’s program.
In 1889, after his governorship was over, Solomon decided it would be a good time to move his family to San Francisco, where his businesses were expanding and his children could get a Jewish education.
Solomon would make occasional return visits, but the era of the Jewish Indian Chief had passed, a most unusual but proud chapter in America’s Jewish pioneer history.

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See something wrong? Do something right

Posted on 22 June 2017 by admin

It was another insightful Torah study lesson recently coming to a close when the question arose, “What obligation do we have when it comes to witnessing a wrong being committed against someone, perhaps a person we don’t even know?”
Of course, as you might expect, everyone seemed supportive of the mitzvah of aiding a person in need.
“In real life, that doesn’t always happen,” I thought to myself … and instantly knew the subject of my next article.
Just before the Bible study group broke up, someone mentioned the tragic Kitty Genovese case of 1964, wherein late one night, “38 apartment dwellers in Kew Gardens, Queens, New York, witnessed the assault and murder of a young woman and not one person bothered to call the police or come to the victim’s aid.”
At least that was the story appearing in the highly respected New York Times — “If it’s in the Times, it must be true” — but it was not completely true.
By the time the police investigation had been completed, and The New York Times had admitted gross inaccuracies in its earlier story, it was too late. Everyone already believed that no one called police or tried to help, which was untrue.
The belief had been planted that people living in densely populated centers were becoming indifferent to the needs of others, thinking of themselves as “bystanders.”
If you wish to learn more about the truth of the Kitty Genovese case, the Dallas Public Library has an excellent book, No One Helped by Marcia Gallo. Also, a prize-winning 2015 documentary, The Witness, can be found on Netflix.
In today’s real world, given the easy access to weapons as well as those individuals and groups willing to use them, we have no choice but to follow the advice of law enforcement: “If you see something, say something.”
This rings especially true in light of the recent gunman’s attack at a Congressional baseball practice in an Alexandria, Virginia park.
The question, as always, will be asked, “Did anyone see or hear something before the attack?” If so, was it reported?
While we may feel that it is highly unlikely that we would ever be caught up in a terrorist attack, there is a greater possibility that we will see or hear something, as we go about our daily lives, that we know is wrong, but will we do or say something about it?
John Quinones of ABC’s What Would You Do has a program setting up situations in public, using actors to simulate abusive or immoral behavior against another person.
How will unknowing onlookers react to the public display of mistreatment or cruelty? Will they look on, but say nothing, or will they do something by confronting the guilty?
The next time you see something suspicious or someone being unkind, what will you do?

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Rediscovering Jewish pioneers of Old West

Posted on 08 June 2017 by admin

Recently, a Nevada news item popped out at me as I searched the web for the latest news, a controversial silver and gold mining operation that was “possibly endangering nearby historic Virginia City, Nevada.”
I didn’t realize that the old 19th century silver and gold mining activity had been renewed. Perhaps the use of modern technology has led to discovery of previously hidden rich veins of ore.
The brief news item reminded me of a ’90s road trip Deanna and I took out of Las Vegas. Since neither of us are gamblers, we rented a car and hit the open road, stopping six hours later in the old mining town of Virginia City, Nevada.
As we entered what looked just like the main street of Hollywood’s version of the Old West, movies I had enjoyed as a child, I wondered out loud, “Do you think any Jews lived here back then?”
Starting with the first building, the Fourth Ward School, we walked through town visiting old saloons, boarding houses, the opera house, mercantile stores, cafés, hotels, museums and old homes.
Picking up a brochure at the visitors’ center, I took time during lunch to read about the different people who lived in and around town during its glory days.
And yes, there were Jews!
Many came from the overflow of the earlier California gold rush, seeking fresh opportunities in neighboring Nevada Territory.
In addition to those involved in mining, there were also Jewish doctors, engineers, storekeepers and fortune seekers.
By 1862, Nevada’s Directory listed 200 Jews in the Virginia City area. One Jewish child who attended the Fourth Ward school was born into a Jewish family and became famous in later life after moving to California by becoming the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Albert Abraham Michelson is known for formulating the experiment to measure the speed of light. His storekeeper parents were not religious Jews and he considered himself an agnostic.
The first Jewish school in Virginia City was started by Rabbi Herman Bien in 1861 and he was one of four Jewish members of the state’s constitutional convention.
Another notable Jewish resident was Joseph Goodman, a writer and co-owner of the first printed newspaper in Nevada, The Territorial Enterprise.
Goodman gets credit for recognizing the talent of a young then unknown reporter, hiring Samuel Clemens, writing under the name of Mark Twain.
Goodman’s paper became so popular that he allegedly had more subscribers in California than in Nevada.
In a short time, I found some interesting information about just a few of the many Jewish pioneers in the Old West.
We Jewish people are contributors to our country wherever we land. More about the “Jewish West” to come.

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Make this Memorial Day more meaningful

Posted on 25 May 2017 by admin

With Memorial Day weekend just ahead, here are some suggestions to make these three days an opportunity for each of us to perform a mitzvah.
Whether or not you are Jewish, attend your house of worship, paying homage to the sacred memory of those men and women who gave their lives defending our country.
On Sunday morning and early afternoon, members of the Jewish War Veterans and Ladies Auxiliary will be collecting your contribution, handing you a poppy, as they shout, “Please help the hospitalized veterans.”
Combined with funds collected again on Veterans Day in November, the total will help the VA Medical Center in Dallas to purchase one or more needed items which our Congress has not funded.
Past “poppy drives” have helped pay for acupuncture treatment equipment, waiting room furniture, television sets, recreational equipment, an ice machine, an ice cream maker, a miniature golf course, and other items selected from the Dallas VA’s “wish list.”
Then Monday, Memorial Day, take a friend, the family and especially yourself, and attend the very meaningful programs at Restland Cemetery in Richardson or especially at the DFW National Cemetery in Grand Prairie. It will be a learning experience, especially for children, one which they cannot get in the classroom.
While you are at one of these locations, members of The Dr. Harvey J. Bloom Post 256 of the Jewish War Veterans will be placing American flags at grave sites of deceased JWV members at all of the Dallas Jewish cemeteries, to be repeated on Veterans Day in November.
Unlike a number of other veterans groups who often spend time drinking, smoking, playing cards and telling “war stories,” JWV Post 256 and its Auxiliary truly devote their energies to performing mitzvot for our hospitalized veterans.

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‘Other’ Irving Berlin pioneered radio advertising

Posted on 11 May 2017 by admin

It’s May 11th. …
Happy Birthday Irving Berlin!
Your memory lives on in all the beautiful music you created, but if you don’t mind, I want to inform TJP readers on this occasion of a great contribution made by someone few people know of, your nephew, Irving Berlin Kahn.
After World War II, when radio and movies drew the greatest audiences and television was still in its infancy, Irving B. Kahn was pioneering radio advertising for 20th Century-Fox movies.
Those of us old enough to remember either daytime radio soap operas or evening programs such as Gangbusters, The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet and many other shows, knew that with a good script, good actors, a great sound effects person, and the listener’s imagination, this was entertainment at its best.
Once shows moved to television, however, actors couldn’t use scripts. They had to learn their lines, their expressions and movements, just as if they were on Broadway. But unlike Broadway, there was a new set of lines to learn each time.
Shows had to be taped so that retakes could be taken when someone forgot their lines. All-in-all, a costly process, that is until Irving Berlin Kahn and two of his associates — one an actor, Fred Barton, and the other an engineer, Hubert Schlafly — invented a device which revolutionized television.
The teleprompter was born in 1950, first used on the set of a soap opera titled The First Hundred Years; it freed actors from having to memorize their lines.
While the original “prompter” was a mechanical device, today’s prompter is truly electronic, allowing the performer to read the lines on the screen as he or she looks into the lens.
Kahn not only envisioned the teleprompter concept, but he also correctly predicted that cable would eventually deliver most television reception. As a believer, he sold his share of the TelePrompTer business, investing in cable and satellite broadcasting.
Perhaps the reason Irving Berlin Kahn’s name is not usually associated with his famous uncle’s is the fact that Kahn was once convicted for bribery which he claimed was actually extortion committed  by the other party.
To his credit, however, once released from federal prison in 1974, he bought a successful cable franchise, eventually selling it to the New York Times for $82.5 million and becoming their consultant for another $24 million.
The sale included the stipulation that he would never compete against them.
Irving B. Kahn obviously was a success in his own right. There’s no evidence that he ever boasted of his family connection to his more well-known uncle, Irving Berlin.
The Berlin family could well be proud of both Irvings, another Jewish immigrant success story.
“God Bless America,
Land that I love….”

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