Posted on 16 March 2017 by admin
In my opinion, one of the great weaknesses of American history textbooks, at least the ones traditionally issued in Texas public schools, has been the omission of those “common” people who took an unpopular position to do the “right” thing.
One such person was Dr. Herman Bendell of Albany, New York, who served as a field surgeon on various battlefields throughout the Civil War, and was even present at Lee’s surrender to General Grant at Appomattox.
After providing four years of outstanding combat medical services as a field surgeon, Dr. Bedell, at the war’s end, left active duty with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Five years later, Dr. Bendell was called back into government service by his old commander, Ulysses S. Grant, who was now the president of the United States.
Bendell became the only Jew ever appointed into what had been an all-Christian Bureau of Indian Commissioners. His job was to manage supplies for the native population in Arizona Territory, as well as to establish and maintain positive relations with the tribal leaders.
After almost two years of his conscientious effort, helping to establish a good working relationship with the tribes, his fellow commissioners recognized and praised his accomplishments.
They felt he was deficient in one category: religion. They felt that Indians becoming Christian was an important step in their “civilizing process.”
They petitioned the president: “Dr. Herman Bendell, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Arizona, is a most excellent official, a man of splendid judgment, strict integrity, who has managed the affairs of the office to entire satisfaction, but unfortunately he is not a Christian.”
Bendell was asked to step down, but in consolation for his efforts, President Grant appointed him for a short-term as consul to Denmark.
Following his stint in Denmark, Bendell returned to the States.
And so, “The Jewish Chief of the Indians of Arizona, 1871-1873” married, had four children, and finally settled down to a normal life as a physician in Albany, New York, one of the unsung (Jewish) heroes in American history.
Posted on 02 March 2017 by admin
People are protesting many of the actions of our new president’s administration, while he has been attacking the credibility of the press. That is “only the tip of the iceberg.”
People are rightfully concerned and many are questioning his actions.
Can a U.S. president do whatever he pleases? What about Congress and the courts? We should all know the answers to these questions, but many of us do not.
Studies taken by various professional education organizations show that only 25-30 percent of America’s high school students are proficient in U.S. history, civics and geography.
In spite of these alarming statistics, many of our nation’s top universities may actually be contributing to this problem.
A recent national study reveals that of the 76 most highly rated universities, only 23 require history majors to take at least one U.S. history course.
Remember that these are “leading” universities that other schools tend to emulate.
This de-emphasis of U.S. history and U.S. government at the college level may help to, at least partially, explain the problem of today’s ill-prepared high school students whose history and government teachers may be as ill-prepared as they.
In addition, state- or federally-mandated tests at public schools often pressure teachers to teach to the expected test items in the form of short-answer-type questions, such as true-or-false, multiple-choice, matching and fill-in-the blanks. None of these determines a student’s understanding of government and history as would essay questions, which require more complex thinking and general knowledge.
The good news is that we have the U.S. Constitution, which defines the specific powers of each branch of government and the rights of the people as specified in the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, otherwise known as the Bill of Rights.
No matter what your level of knowledge may be of the Bill of Rights, I highly recommend that TJP readers of all ages make their way to the Bill of Rights exhibit, currently running through March 16 at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, in downtown Dallas.
The Dallas Holocaust Museum, which is just around the corner from the Sixth Floor Museum, has a special exhibit, Filming the Camps.
A daylong visit to both exhibits will be a meaningful learning experience for anyone concerned about people’s rights in our nation.
A supposed Thomas Jefferson quotation says it all. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.”
Posted on 16 February 2017 by admin
I am watching the 5:30 p.m. news when a colorfully red commercial pops up advertising Valentine’s Day with a jewelry store’s array of diamonds, which of course “would make wonderful gifts for your loved ones on Valentine’s Day.”
It really got my attention because I am writing this on Jan. 31 and Valentine’s Day is still two weeks away. Maybe it will take that long to float a loan to pay for those expensive jewelry items.
By the time you read this, Valentine’s Day, 2017, will have passed, but after seeing that ad, I recalled that growing up in a primarily Jewish neighborhood in The Bronx during the 1940s and early ’50s, Valentine’s Day was still called by many adults “Saint Valentine’s Day,” a goyishe holiday.
Times were changing, however, and many Jewish and non-Jewish youth seized the day as an opportunity to express their romantic feelings by giving Hallmark or homemade heart cards to the girl of their dreams. Valentine’s Day had no aspects of religion attached to it at all.
As far as religion is concerned, what may have begun as a pagan purification ritual in ancient Rome was introduced into the Catholic church’s rites of purification, honoring two or three saints, all named Valentine.
Because of the confusion surrounding the true identity of Saint Valentine, Pope Paul VI removed him from the Catholic calendar of saints in 1969.
For those Jews who still think of Valentine’s Day as a Christian belief, there is always Tu B’Av (15th of Av), falling this year on Aug. 7.
Historically, Tu B’Av was a celebration of the grape harvest in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, which included unmarried girls dressed in white, dancing in the vineyards.
In modern Israel, Tu B’Av has great similarities to Valentine’s Day, a day of engagements, weddings, renewal of vows and a general celebration of love.
So, if you are really serious about the one you love, remember that you will have another opportunity to express your feelings on Tu B’Av, Aug. 7.
Posted on 02 February 2017 by admin
Worried about the election results? Have no fear, “checks and balances” are still here!
As the Republican presidential primary campaign rocked along, the candidate least expected to win among an original field of 17, Donald Trump, won. He made what many considered to be “outlandish” promises if he were elected; as we know, he succeeded in both the Republican primary and in the general electoral balloting, becoming our 45th president.
Now many Americans are concerned, some even frightened, by many of the future actions the new president might take which could adversely affect civil liberties.
Given the fact that the revamped American Nazi Party, David Duke, the Ku Klux Klan and Richard Spencer’s “Alt-Right” (supremacist) group all supported Trump’s election, many Jews and other minorities are especially concerned with what future developments might occur.
Do you remember what you were probably taught at least as early as the ninth grade, the concept of “checks and balances”?
That is, under the U.S. Constitution, each of the three branches has a primary purpose: Congress makes laws, Executive enforces laws and Judicial interprets laws.
In addition, each branch has “checks” on the powers of the other two branches. For example, the president can issue executive orders, but Congress can refuse to pay for their cost.
Given the fact that the majority of members of both houses of Congress and the president of the United States are members of the same political party (Republican), you might think that the president has carte blanche to do whatever he wishes. … Not so!
Actions deemed “unconstitutional” could be brought before the U.S. Supreme Court. Also remember that not all congressional Republicans may agree with the president on each and every issue. They may withhold funding, and often there are disagreements within each party on various issues.
Other protections against possible presidential or congressional abuse include the people’s right of protest (freedom of speech) and news sources’ right to inform (freedom of the press).
The next four years may be some of the most interesting in our lifetime. Whatever may happen, be sure to keep those U.S. Constitutional checks and balances in your thoughts.
Let’s not forget that as good citizens, we have a responsibility not only to stay informed, but also to communicate with our representatives by writing or calling our congressmen, our senators and the president to express our views on the issues which most concern us.
Remember that We the People are the most important part of our “checks and balances” system.
Posted on 19 January 2017 by admin
Whenever and wherever anti-Semitism appears, we must do what we can to help stop it.
Case in point: Whitefish, Montana, a lovely small town of 6,500. In the summer, a gateway city to Glacier National Park. In the winter it transforms to a busy ski resort town.
Among Whitefish’s citizens, there are some half-dozen or more Jewish families, including one rabbi. Historically, there have not been any acts of religious bias.
“People have always gotten along,” said an unidentified member of local anti-discrimination group Love Lives Here.
That is, until recently. One of its part-time residents is Richard Spencer, leader of the Alt-Right (neo-Nazi) Movement which supported President-elect Donald Trump. The Anti-Defamation League has identified him as a leader in white supremacist circles.
Spencer’s mother, a longtime Whitefish resident, purchased and developed a property in the downtown area.
Now that her son has returned to Whitefish as head of the National Policy Institute, local residents fear that Spencer would use part of his mother’s property to “grow” his organization, attracting other white supremacists and neo-Nazis to Whitefish.
In 2014, residents of Whitefish, through its City Council, spoke out against discrimination, forming Love Lives Here, and held rallies against Richard Spencer and his organization.
In reacting to local citizens’ moves to pressure his mother to sell her downtown property, Spencer recently turned to a national neo-Nazi group for support and assistance.
The Nazis have reacted by publishing the names and addresses of Whitefish’s Jewish families and they promised to “march 200 strong with weapons through the streets of Whitefish on Martin Luther King Day — Jan. 16.”
Local and state police as well as the FBI are involved in ensuring the protection of people and property in Whitefish.
Hopefully, if the Nazis should show up, they will have no audience other than law enforcement. They want publicity so they really wish as many protestors as possible. Such confrontations would mean news photos and stories. The lack of an audience would make these neo-Nazis appear foolish, which is what they deserve.
The best way, in my opinion, that we can support the good citizens of Whitefish in their struggle against the anti-Semites is to let them know they are not alone. Even if this march does not take place, new maneuvers will probably be planned.
The following is a copy of my note to Mayor John Muhlfeld, city of Whitefish, Montana:
“Many thanks to you and those in your community who have stood tall and strong in the support of those residents threatened by extremist bigots. Please feel reassured that you are not alone. — Sincerely, Jerry Kasten”
By the time TJP readers see this column, we will know what happened in Whitefish on Martin Luther King Day 2017. Whatever occurs, we should not dismiss the Whitefish scenario as unimportant.
Jewish people need to be alert to threats against Jews anywhere in the world.
Posted on 05 January 2017 by admin
Growing up as a boy in The Bronx, I ate fatty food, was overweight and had little desire for sports. As a result, I spent too much time reading and listening to the radio and less time running around.
I loved to listen to radio serial shows such as Superman, The Green Hornet, The Shadow
(“… who could cloud men’s minds so that they could not see him”), and any other fantasy shows that were available.
Reading science fiction magazines was a natural “step-up” for me from comic books. The front covers displaying scantily-clad women in their tight-fitting space suits shooting through space or fending off space monsters were a real attention-getter, but I was already “hooked” on those weird interplanetary stories.
It was interesting that I rarely found any stories in those magazines that had any connection to those sexy covers.
Another boy in my apartment building had a huge collection of Astounding Science Fiction magazines which I greatly envied. Little did I know that many of the authors of those sci-fi stories were Jewish, even if their names didn’t at all sound Jewish.
Anti-Semitism was rampant in the 1930s and ’40s, and caused many Jewish writers to submit their work under non-Jewish sounding names in order to get their stories published.
Some examples of those “Jewish Aliases” included Horace Gold, who wrote under the pen names of Clyde Crane Campbell, Dudley Dell, Leigh Keith and Richard Storey. Horace’s brother Floyd was a book reviewer writing under the name Floyd Gale. William Tenn was really Philip Klass, and so on and so on.
By the time World War II was over, attitudes toward Jews improved. There’s no greater equalizer than soldiers fighting side by side against a common enemy.
Isaac Asimov was an exception. He refused to write under an assumed name. He was a successful biochemist; his brilliant mind and talents took him in many directions, one of which was the writing of science fiction. His success became a source of admiration and hope for other Jewish writers trying to make their way in the field of science fiction.
Those were exciting times in science fiction: Items such as helicopters, spaceships, cellphone-like devices, electric ray guns, lasers, virtual worlds, multiple music tracks, space stations, and space travel were all part of the fantasy world of science fiction in those early years.
The vivid imagination of sci-fi writers provided the scientific community with the seeds of potential reality. Examples among many include the Star Trek communicator which became today’s cellphone; Tom Swift’s electric rifle gave physicist Jack Cover the idea for his invention, which is commonly known today as the Taser.
If you’re interested in learning who these Jewish science fiction pioneer writers were and reading their exciting Jewish-themed fantasy stories, check out Wandering Stars, 1974 and More Wandering Stars, 1981, both edited by Jack Dann.
Here’s a closing thought after National Science Fiction Day, Jan. 2. If you think that Star Wars is the ultimate future, think again. Scientists estimate that we currently possess only four percent of space knowledge. You Jewish space scientists and science fiction writers have your work cut out for you.
“May the Force be with you!”
Posted on 22 December 2016 by admin
Rubbing his palms together and with a big smile on his face, the local TV weather forecaster seems all excited about the first winter freeze expected to hit the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
This combination of wintry weather report and the birds at my patio feeder remind me of an unusual experience I had as a youth, growing up in the University Heights area of The Bronx during the ’40s.
The meet-up place in our neighborhood for getting a game together or planning activities was the southeast corner of 181st Street and Grand Avenue. A street light pole and a postal department mail storage box next to it made it an ideal location to sit on or lean against.
As I was waiting there by myself one cold wintry day, my friend Paul came out of his apartment building nearby and asked, “What’s up?”
“Nuthin’,” I said, to which he replied, “Do you want to meet the Jewish Bird Lady?” Jokingly, I asked, “Does she talk or chirp?
“Both!” he answered.
As we walked up the stairs to the second floor, I remembered having seen a thin, elderly white- haired lady feeding pigeons and other birds outside at various times and wondered if she was ”The Bird Lady.”
Paul’s apartment was on the left, but he rang the bell on the right. Introducing me to that same bird-feeding lady I had seen, we entered the apartment. She greeted us in Yiddish, which really wasn’t unusual in my neighborhood.
There was a living room with two bedrooms. The bedroom door on the left was closed. We entered the one on the right. Paul quickly closed the door behind us and, except for an awful smell, the room looked like a Walt Disney movie.
Birds of various colors were flying in and out of the open windows on the right, which faced the churchyard next door. The half-opened windows not only allowed birds to enter and leave at will, but also allowed some of the church tree’s thin, outstretched branches to reach into the room. Bird poop was here and there.
The room felt cold, but was probably warmer than the outside temperature. The stench was getting to me. I was afraid I might have an asthma attack, but I had to check out the two dressers against the wall. They were the only pieces of furniture in the room.
There were a few birds’ nests both on top of the dressers and in many of the open drawers. Some, but not all, of the nests contained eggs. I remember that there were blue eggs and also speckled eggs, but no baby chicks as I had imagined there might be.
As if what I had seen (and smelled) wasn’t unusual enough, I believe that I could hear the “Bird Lady” softly chirping and “talking” to the birds, who seemed to be chirping back. Who would have expected such an experience could occur, let alone in an apartment building, in The Bronx?
Fast-forward to September 2013, when I was a National Park Service volunteer for a month at Gateway National Recreation Area on Staten Island, New York.
On one of my days off, I visited my old neighborhood in The Bronx, which I hardly recognized. My old apartment building was still there, but Paul’s apartment building was gone, as well as the church next door.
In their place was the Grand Playground, but unlike many New York City neighborhood playgrounds, this one had many trees and plants growing, just where the churchyard had been. There was one especially large old tree with branches stretching way out to the sides.
It looked strangely familiar, especially with all the birds flying around. Some things never change.
Posted on 08 December 2016 by admin
Here it is, almost the end of the year, and hopefully as a caring citizen, you’ve taken a moment during one or more of the anniversaries of Memorial Day, D-Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day and yesterday’s Pearl Harbor Day, to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in their service to our nation.
I hope that you will agree with me that it is very important also to remember the tragedy of the MIA, those 85,694 souls who are listed as missing in action, whose remains, as yet, have not been found or identified.
The count of those still missing is: World War I: 3,000; World War II: 73,137; Korean War: 7,807; Vietnam War: 1,618; Cold War: 126; Gulf Wars: 5; and a little-known conflict known as The El Dorado Canyon “incident” in Libya: 1.
Many people are unaware that there’s an arm of the Defense Department known as The Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office and Accounting Command with an annual budget of $105 million, whose job it is to recover missing soldiers from past wars.
This large sum of money allocated by Congress each year reflects the reality of the commitment our government has to return home all of its military that it possibly can.
While some relatives have expressed discontent with the efforts of this group, it has generally received high praise for the extent of its efforts in finding, recovering and identifying the remains of missing Americans.
The search and identification team include professional genealogists, forensic anthropologists, archeologists, dental technicians, DNA scientists and explosive ordinance specialists. All of these specialists work as a team, 600 in all, to locate, recover, and identify remains to be returned to family members along with a book which details all aspects of the search and an analysis of the findings.
The Missing Personnel Office budget pays airfare for the closest of their kin to attend burial at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
More Americans should learn about the good work of this small, but important, governmental agency.
All our military deserves to come home.
Posted on 24 November 2016 by admin
Friday, Nov. 22, 1963 seemed like any other school day at Bryan Adams High. The first sign of an unusual day was when the principal told us teachers as we signed in, “Some kids will be skipping school, without permission, to attend JFK’s arrival and motorcade. Make a list of all absentees!”
I had actually forgotten that Kennedy was coming to Dallas. I was excited about my upcoming marriage, just 30 days away, not the arrival of the president.
Sure enough, many students were absent. I had reminded my history and government classes earlier in the week that if they were planning to see the president’s arrival at Love Field or his motorcade downtown, that they could get “extra credit” by writing a brief “on the scene” report of what they observed. The principal might not have liked that, but it was my way of turning a “punishable offense” into an “educational moment.”
The early afternoon startling announcement of JFK being shot and soon thereafter being declared “dead” seemed to subdue most kids. They mumbled among themselves, trying like the rest of us, to sort things out.
Thankfully, school let out early. As I headed out to the parking lot, I wondered if it were the Russians or the Cubans who were responsible for our nation’s terrible loss. Maybe I would find out later that evening when I was scheduled to report for my weekly duty as a Dallas Police Reservist at police headquarters.
After Oswald was captured, police reservists were asked to be on duty Saturday and Sunday. It was shocking to see how the world’s press corps had actually taken over almost every desk and phone normally manned by police personnel.
It was bedlam as they moved Oswald through the hall. You’ve seen the scene, replayed each November, Oswald’s blackened eye, the smirk on his face, being led into an office as an officer followed, holding the rifle aloft for all to see. Detectives wore white Stetsons. My eyes were glued on Oswald so I missed spotting Jack Ruby, standing nearby, whose gray hat I later recognized on television.
Everyone on duty that weekend was soon questioned by the FBI. I was no exception. Arranging to meet me at Bryan Adams during my planning period were two agents. One asked the questions while the other took notes.
It was quite sobering at first when one agent asked, “Is the information you’re about to give, truthful? You will be liable if you have not told the truth.” This meant that lying to the FBI is a punishable offense, so I was very, very, very careful of what I said.
“I didn’t personally know Jack Ruby but I once visited his Carousel Club office in downtown Dallas with the officer I was riding with. It was a cold night and we had stopped for a free cup of hot coffee.”
“More recently, about three weeks before the assassination, while riding with two officers, one of the officers said, “Hey, there’s Jack! Let’s stop!” We were on Industrial Boulevard. Coming out of a nightclub was “Jack” with two fur-draped women, one under each of his arms.”
“Both officers got out of the car to speak with “Jack.” I was told to stay in the car to listen for any radio calls. After a few minutes, a call did come in. We quickly left and I soon forgot about “Jack.” I later recognized him in the newspapers as Jack Ruby.
“The Sunday morning Oswald was to be transferred to the Dallas County Jail, I had been placed on duty across the street from the police garage tunnel exit. I had been told to prevent anyone from crossing the street to the police building. There were around 40 or so spectators waiting for Oswald’s transfer.”
“The ‘boom’ of the shot echoed out of the tunnel and the armored truck soon pulled out, allowing the police ambulance to leave, rushing Oswald to Parkland Hospital. I noticed the armored truck’s right-side door was swinging open, about to possibly hit someone standing at the curb edge of the sidewalk. Running up to it, I closed it shut before it could hurt anyone.”
My complete story and others can be found on the Sixth Floor Museum’s interview collection, “Living History, Jerry Kasten” on YouTube.
Chances are that there are childhood memories and historic events which you remember. Why not share those memories with your children and grandchildren by writing them down in a notebook, including comments, photos?
The Dallas Jewish Historical Society located at the Dallas JCC, has a wonderful oral history project, which involves videotaping interviews with senior citizens. These professionally done conversations can then be accessed online by friends, family members and anyone wishing to learn events of the past from those who actually experienced them.
We are all part of history. What’s your story?
Posted on 10 November 2016 by admin
During peacetime or wartime, every person who enlists or is drafted into an armed force takes an oath to “… support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies … and … obey the orders of the officers appointed over me … So help me God.”
All members of America’s armed forces receive basic military training so that no matter what their daily job may be in peacetime, they will be able to take up a weapon to “support and defend” if called upon.
Having served in South Korea in 1955-1956, years after the truce had been signed, I am not an actual “war” veteran, but am classified as a Korean War-era veteran. As an Army photographer, I “shot” many people … but only with my camera.
Fast-forward to Sept. 11, 2001, and soon thereafter I found myself and other veterans being referred to as “heroes.” I have felt quite uneasy and undeserving of such praise. I cannot think of one thing that I’ve done that was “heroic.”
There are approximately 40-plus veterans’ organizations in the United States but I joined just two, The Korean War Veterans and The Jewish War Veterans.
In each of them, I have had the honor of meeting some real heroes, who, as soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, have faced and fought the enemy in battle. Some of their stories will eventually appear in this column.
I’m sorry to say that there are some folks, veterans and non-veterans, who are “hero wannabes.” They embellish their service by wearing medals and service ribbons they never earned or were never in service to begin with. Real heroes do not boast.
As for the rest of us true veterans, we are generally not the heroes that others make of us. As veterans, we are just citizens who have had different experiences. Ask us what those were and then you can decide if we are heroes.
I value the training and experience I received in the military and I will forever be grateful for the higher education I received as a benefit of my military service.
I am a veteran, not a hero.