Archive | Historical Perspective by Jerry Kasten

The JCCs: how this great idea got started

Posted on 13 March 2019 by admin

I go to the J every week: to the Tycher Library to find a book, to attend the monthly Jewish War Veterans breakfast meeting, to have a coffee and schmooze, to hear a speaker, to have a senior lunch, to attend a program, to “get in” a workout, to attend the monthly Men’s and Ladies’ Book Club Meeting, etc.
It may not all be in the same day or week, but the list gives you an idea of just a few of the many activities I participate in at the J.
Of course, there are probably many folks who use the J much more than I do.
Have you ever stopped to wonder how the Jewish community center movement got started? We should never forget the pioneers in this movement of Jewish activities outside of synagogues.
It began in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1854, as the Hebrew Young Men’s Literary Association under the leadership of Dr. Aaron Friedenwald, a renowned eye surgeon and medical school professor and benefactor to many Jewish causes.
There was a need for expanded space to accommodate ever-increasing numbers of immigrants seeking classes on American culture, civics and citizenship at that time.
Both the numbers of Jewish community centers and the diversity of activities they offered increased as Jewish immigration surged.
It has been brought to my attention that another reason for increased interest in Jewish communal activities may be due to the establishment and growth of the Reconstructionist Movement led by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan.
Among the ideas expressed by Rabbi Kaplan is the concept of Judaism as a civilization, not just a religion of beliefs and rituals.
He suggested the idea of a synagogue, which offered not only prayer services, but also programs which included song, dance, drama, study and even sports and exercise, the very activities being incorporated into the growing JCC movement.
Twenty years after Baltimore’s Jewish center was begun, the first YMHA was opened in Manhattan, in 1874, followed by a women’s annex, the YWHA, in 1888.
As a result of various mergers of Jewish service organizations during World War I and World War II, many were renamed Jewish Community Centers (JCCs), while others retained their historic titles.
To encourage a true community spirit, JCC membership was offered to non-Jews beginning in the 1960s.
The reality is that the JCCs each became what its Jewish community wants them to be.
The early JCCs helped turn immigrants into American citizens. During the two World Wars, they ministered to the needs of the Jewish military.
In more recent years, the J has come to serve as a common meeting area for all Jews while striving to enhance the welfare of the entire community.
There is something for everyone at the J.
“See you there!”


What black history means to the Jews

Posted on 28 February 2019 by admin

Today may be the last day of Black History Month, but it can also be the first day that you consider looking into the historical connections of black people and Jews.
There is a strong relationship, if you are willing to examine the facts.
Both black people and Jews have faced death from the hands of their oppressors: Jews faced the death of their first-born sons in Egypt, followed in our time by the gas chambers and crematoriums of the Nazis.
Black Americans, as slaves, experienced the possibility of death or horrible punishment by the whims of their overseers.
Lynching of black people in the South and elsewhere occurred after the Civil War, as part of an informal, repressive system to keep them “in their place.” It may not seem so today, but it was not that long ago, historically speaking, that America’s Jews experienced prejudice and discrimination in their daily lives.
For example, during the 1950s in Chicago, Jews and black people were equally baited. “Jewtown” became a section of Chicago where Jewish and black musicians, as well as tradesmen, could intermingle freely, separate from mainstream Chicagoans.
In many ways, the civil rights struggle was also a Jewish struggle, first in Eastern Europe against the Czarist-supported pogroms which terrorized every Jewish shtetl. Then fleeing to America, seeking safe, new lives in a strange new land, Jews were forced to struggle again to adapt and be accepted, without giving up their heritage.
As Jews, we should embrace our rich multicultural history, which includes people of color.
Here are just a few of the many black Jews who rank high as achievers in their respective field:
Darrin Bell , cartoonist; David Blu, basketball player; Lisa Bonet, actress; Sammy Davis, Jr., dancer and singer; Ada Fisher, physician and politician; Aaron Freeman, comedian; Capers C. Funnye Jr., rabbi; Lewis Gordon, philosopher; Reuben Greenberg, criminologist; Lenny Kravitz, musician; Sandra Lawson, rabbi; Adah Menken, actress and poet; Alysa Stanton, rabbi; and Andre Tippett, football player.
Here are some interesting achievements among black Americans.
Jack Johnson, a black longshoreman working the docks of Galveston, developed into a boxer, eventually becoming the first black man to win the title of the Heavyweight Boxer of the World in 1908. While his boxing title was impressive, it was not the achievement I had in mind. I have a tool in my garage that you probably have as well, which Jack Johnson invented. It is called a “wrench.”
Another black inventor was Elijah McCoy, whose parents were runaway slaves that fled north to Canada, before returning to the United States after the Civil War. As a teen, Elijah journeyed to Scotland to study engineering, but, upon returning to the United States, could only find a job as a railroad fireman.
Part of his duties was to lubricate moving parts every time the train stopped. He invented a device that lubricated the train’s parts while it traveled, saving much time and eventually increasing the company’s profits. Though other copycat inventors tried to duplicate McCoy’s patented model, their products were inferior. When railroad engineers wanted the patented device for their trains and didn’t want the fake copycats, they asked for “the real McCoy.”
One of the most important inventions of World War II was developed by Dr. Charles Drew, while he was a medical student at McGill University in Canada, during the 1930s. Drew invented a process for preserving blood plasma, which allowed quantities to be stored and transported over a period of time. Before the United States officially entered the war, Drew helped supply Great Britain with needed blood plasma in its struggle against Hitler’s onslaught. Once the U.S. entered the war, Drew was put in charge of the blood collection program for America’s troops.
Against Drew’s objections, the plasma collection was segregated, dividing white from black donors. Drew spoke out against this racist policy, but the Army refused to change their policy, so he resigned in protest.
America’s modern blood bank storage system owes a huge debt of gratitude to the work of Charles Drew and his assistants.
Many thousands of America’s soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen survived the war because of the process he developed in helping to maintain an adequate blood supply wherever it was needed.
As Black History Month draws to a close, it’s a good idea for us, as Jews, to seek out similarities and successes in our backgrounds, rather than dwelling on the differences.


Theodore Roosevelt: friend of the Jews

Posted on 14 February 2019 by admin

With President’s Day around the corner, it is an appropriate time to think about our nation’s chief executives.
We have had 45 Presidents of the United States, so there is enough material for a complete encyclopedia. However, I hope that you’ll be satisfied with a few scatterings of interesting factoids.
In 1945, I was looking for a seat on the uptown subway after seeing a Broadway movie, I noticed that everything was much more quiet than usual, except for some sobbing. It was eerie. No one was talking, newspapers were wide open, and I could see the front-page headlines: “Extra: FDR Dies.” This is a childhood memory I will never forget.
My interest has also been focused on FDR’s presidential relative, Theodore Roosevelt. What first endeared me to that Roosevelt were descriptions of how he struggled to overcome childhood asthma.
I, too, had asthma as a child and was overweight, to boot. Roosevelt’s struggle to develop physically, to overcome his handicaps, was also my struggle.
His love for the outdoors was one I shared later in life. One of the “must visit” places in the New York City area is Sagamore Hill, a national historic site on Oyster Bay, Long Island.
Sagamore Hill was TR’s home for the last 33 years of his life. From 1901 to 1909 it was the Summer White House.
What struck me on my visit to this National Historic Site were the great number and variety of wild animal heads, horns, skins, and bodies on display, on walls, floors, and ceilings.
Specimens from the many hunts he participated in before, during, and after his presidency “follow you around” as you try to concentrate on other aspects of his life and home.
It is strange to think how, on one hand, this man could gain a reputation as a great hunter. Yet, on the other hand, he is highly regarded as a great conservationist. The greatness of the man was his ability to be hunter, protector of wildlife and caretaker of the wilderness.
And, as Jews, we should consider Theodore Roosevelt a friend, as evidenced by many examples. While serving as New York City Police Commissioner, he was under pressure by New York’s Jews to ban the speaking engagement of an anti-Semitic German preacher.
Roosevelt instead ordered that the police bodyguard unit consist only of Jews. The result was that the anti-Semitic preacher was duly embarrassed by the newspaper coverage, especially the editorial cartoons that poked fun at the speaker’s predicament in the next day’s newspapers.
President Roosevelt publicly denounced the Russian pogroms of Kishinev. He supported the idea of an independent Jewish state of Palestine. Additionally, he favored independence for the Arabs and the Armenians.
And finally, Roosevelt was the first president to appoint a Jew to a cabinet level position; Oscar Straus had the position of U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Labor from 1906 to 1909.
Perhaps the one the one thing that endeared Theodore Roosevelt to most Americans, including its Jews, was the Teddy Bear. Roosevelt, who had been invited to hunt bears by the Mississippi governor, hadn’t had any sightings, and was the only hunter without a bear. An aide felt sorry for the president, and captured an old, injured, emaciated bear and tied him to a tree for the president to shoot. President Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear. Rather, he ordered it put down, to spare it any more pain and suffering.
A few days later, a Jewish candy store owner, Morris Michtom in Brooklyn, New York, saw a cartoon poking fun at Roosevelt, the hunt, and the president’s refusal to shoot the bear. Michtom, and his wife Rose, created stuffed animals, which they sold out of their store. One of those animals was a stuffed bear, which Michtom sent to President Roosevelt with a request that the product be named Teddy’s Bears.
President Roosevelt gave his permission, and worldwide demand for the Teddy Bear eventually led to creation of the Ideal Toy Company.
Most of my family and friends had a Teddy Bear in their home at one time or another. I still have a Teddy Bear, for the grandkids.
To conclude, Theodore Roosevelt was larger than life, with a focus on conservation and justice. He was also supportive of the Jewish community in a time during which such support was needed.


The pursuit of equal opportunity

Posted on 30 January 2019 by admin

Last week’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day was an appropriate time to assess how far our society has come with regard to achieving equality of opportunity. My brother, Fred, I am proud to say, was part of that effort.
While looking through my old files recently, I came across a large mailing envelope with Fred’s name on it. I began to peruse its contents, items he had sent sporadically over the years. Fred, of blessed memory, passed in 2014.
From various notes, greeting cards and news clippings, I pieced together a story about Fred and his wife’s efforts to do the right thing.
Although Fred was a scientist, specializing in cellular biology, he and his wife, Marie, got involved in righting injustices.
After a two-year research/teaching stint at Roswell Park Cancer Hospital in upper New York State (where he encountered anti-Semitism), Fred returned to Texas at A&M’s biology department, carrying out research, writing and teaching for the next five years.
Although relatively new to the College Station community, he soon became aware of violations of rights held by members of the black community.
Streets in the black community were not paved, but most of the white families’ community streets were paved. The Postal Service would not deliver mail to the black community because of the “poor conditions” of their unpaved streets. Fred and Marie quickly became strong voices, vital parts of an existing citizens’ group who worked to change and improve life for all in the A&M community.
Fred pointed out a map to the city manager, showing the location of all the city’s fire hydrants, none of which was in a black neighborhood. New hydrants were subsequently installed.
After Fred consulted with a representative of the city and the Postal Department, streets became paved and mailboxes were built and placed. For the first time, mail was delivered to everyone’s household.
Some people opposed to change began to make threats against Fred and his family. He was even referred to as a Communist. Some members of the A&M faculty came to his defense, as did various members of the community.
Not being a lawyer, Fred had to inform himself as best he could. He had to use law books where they were stored, in the office of the president of A&M College, Retired Army General Earl Rudder.
While Fred pored over the books at one end of the long table, General Rudder, grumbling at the other end, asked Fred, “Why are you involved in this?” But,Fred continued working silently.
Early in 1961, Fred had received a collaborative research fellowship which would take him, his wife and four boys to Europe for two years. This arrangement was allowed under an agreement Fred had with the university.
When it became time to return to Texas, however, Fred’s department failed to respond, so he obtained a position elsewhere, at the Pasadena (California) Research Institute.
Committed to serving others, Fred and Marie continued their good work by helping organize a dental care program for needy children in the Pasadena area.
The majority of Fred’s professional career was as professor of anatomy at Louisiana State Medical School for 25 years, where one of his areas of research included uncovering documentation on medical crimes carried out by Nazi medical professors, information which he has since shared with the Wiesenthal Center.
One usually thinks of a research scientist stuck in a laboratory, laboring over microscopes and test tubes; but with Dr. Frederick Kasten, his mind and heart were greater than that.


1920s-1940s were Jewish gangsters’ heyday

Posted on 16 January 2019 by admin

As a young “boychik” growing up in the Bronx in the ’40s, one of my fondest memories was attending the movies, especially enjoying western and gangster movies, followed by war movies during World War II.
Little did I realize at that time that many of the real gangsters, especially those in the New York City area, were Jewish like myself, my friends and my neighbors.
It seems that thievery and corruption knew no bounds. Each immigrant group — Irish, Italian, Chinese, Jewish and others — had their “no-goodnicks” and thieves.
Formed into organized gangs, they often found themselves competing and fighting for control of ever-expanding territory of all sorts of illegal activities within their own ethnic group and sometimes across ethnic neighborhoods.
There have been primarily four or five phases of Jewish organized crime in the United States.
With the large influx of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe in the early 20th century, there also arrived mobsters who formed gangs in New York’s Lower East Side. Organized crime activity included “protection,” prostitution, tax evasion and gambling.
During the period known as prohibition (1920-1933), when alcoholic beverages were illegal to produce, bottle, transport and sell, Jewish gangsters such as Arnold Rothstein, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Abe Bernstein, Dutch Schultz, Moe Dalitz, Kid Cann, Charles “King” Solomon and Abner “Longy” Zwillman all became wealthy.
An unusual “twist” in the traditional relationship between the “feds” and the mobs occurred after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Fear of possible infiltration through American ports by German and Italian agents led U.S. Naval Intelligence to gather information from the many Italian-American dockworkers and fishermen in the New York-New Jersey area.
Little success resulted from Naval Intelligence’s efforts, because the dockworkers were reluctant to work with government agents. The agents became more successful by switching tactics.
Enlisting the aid of Lansky, a known Jewish mobster who hated the Nazis, Naval Intelligence was able to negotiate with the top mobster of organized crime at the time, Salvatore “Lucky” Luciano.
Luciano, who was serving 30-50 years in prison, was open to an arrangement that might prevent him from spending the remainder of his life behind bars.
Lucky’s deal with Naval Intelligence resulted in full cooperation by the dockworkers and fishermen, but more significant was the gathering of intelligence concerning the Sicilian coastline in preparation for the Allied 1943 invasion known as “Operation Husky.”
In Israel’s 1948 War for Independence, Lansky and other Jewish gangsters took an active role in the collection and shipping of weapons during the arms embargo in which shipment of arms to either side was prohibited.
Other than Italian-American criminal elements, Irish-Americans and Jewish- Americans in organized crime have somewhat faded into obscurity.
Since the decline of the former Soviet Union, Mafia types have emigrated to Israel, some posing as Jews seeking asylum. Various Russian and Israeli Mafia groups include the Mogilevich, Fainberg and Abergil crime families.
In more recent years, beginning in the 1970s, Jewish-American organized crime has formed primarily in the Brighton Beach area of Brooklyn, where many former Soviet immigrants have settled, including criminal elements.
Hopefully, the New York City Police Department and the FBI, with their long history of having to deal with organized crime, will continue to be up to the challenge that these groups present.
While gangster movies might make for good entertainment, in real life, too many good people are hurt by organized crime and Jewish organized crime is a shameful situation.


The perfect Aryan was really Jewish

Posted on 02 January 2019 by admin

Here is a perfect follow-up to my Dec. 20 column on the significant role of Jews in the story of photography.
The following story unfolded in 2014 during a presentation of a gift from Hessy Levinson Taft, now 80, to the Yad Vashem archives.
A newly married Latvian Jewish couple came to Berlin in 1928 with hopes of finding success as opera singers. Once the husband’s stage name of Lenssen was revealed as the Jewish name of Levinson, his contract was canceled and he had to find work out of his field.
Bad timing, as his wife soon gave birth to Hessy Levinson, a beautiful baby girl. At the urging of her mother, she took her child at 6 months to a professional photographer, Hans Ballin, who produced what they considered a beautiful photograph of a beautiful baby.
Once they placed the framed photo on their piano, proudly satisfied, they thought no further of it until a visitor recalled having recently seen it on the cover of a Nazi endorsed publication.
Once the parents confirmed that the photo on the magazine cover was that of their daughter, they sought out the photographer for an explanation.
They were terrified, since this was a Nazi-endorsed publication. They couldn’t understand why their (Jewish) baby would be displayed.
Their photographer explained. The Nazis approached him and nine of the other top photographers to each submit their 10 best photos. The best one of the Aryan race was to be chosen by Joseph Goebbels.
The photographer laughed, but the Levinsons were terrified that they would be found out and be punished severely, if not executed.
Their photographer thought that the business about the superiority of the Aryan race was stupid and that this contest result proved it.
The Levinsons made a series of moves to avoid being swept up in the Holocaust, making it to Cuba and eventually settling in the United States.
The Nazis never realized that their beautiful Aryan baby contest only proved one thing, that they were fools.
Hessy, “the perfect baby,” eventually grew up to raise her own family, becoming a chemistry professor in New York state.


Jews were leaders in photography movement

Posted on 19 December 2018 by admin

I cannot help but smile when I see people taking “selfies” with their phones.
I guess that I am somewhat old-fashioned, but I associate “photography” with cameras and not with cell phones. If you want to think of your cellphone as a camera, be my guest. Who am I to argue?
Obviously, we have come a long way in the history of photography. My belief is that most people do not know that Jews have been a significant force in the field of photography.
One of the earliest Jewish contributors was Levi ben Gershom, who, in the early 1300s, used a camera-like box to temporarily capture and observe images and eclipses of the sun. It wasn’t an actual camera, but you have to start somewhere.
Two years after the Daguerreotype was first developed in 1839, Herman Biouw, a Jewish artist, became famous for portraits of royalty as well as the earliest news photographs, of the Great Fire of Hamburg. Other of Biouw’s historic photos were the first Jewish family portrait (the Hahn family of Berlin) and the first portrait taken of a rabbi, Rabbi Samuel Hirsh of Hamburg.
Biouw’s achievement’s included making prints from copper plates, gold-toning and hand-coloring of prints. Tragically, he died as a result of inhaling the fumes of the processing chemicals.
Around the same time period in Melbourne, 1842, George Goodman pioneered photography in Australia, opening that nation’s first portrait studio.
As interest in photography grew in Australia, Jabez Small opened studios in Melbourne and Sidney and, eventually, a chain of camera shops that his son extended to every major city in the country.
In the 1840s, father and son David and Solomon Nunes Carvalho brought studio photography to Charleston, South Carolina. They eventually founded a photographic shop in Los Angeles as well as the city’s first Hebrew School.
Other Jewish photographic pioneers included Friedrich Lessman, Mendel Diness (first Jewish photographer in Jerusalem) and Michael Greim (1860).
In addition to portraiture, Jewish photographers documented life around them. They were sensitive to the issues facing other Jews like themselves. Photographers, especially Jewish ones, knew Jewish folkways, likes and dislikes.
Jewish photographers had the opportunity to capture old, traditional folkways, some of which were changing and disappearing. One cause of picture postcards becoming so popular was this very reason.
In addition to its growing commercial success, photography was also gaining acceptance and expanding as an art form. Jews and others found it easy to join with other artists and groups to learn and expand in this relatively new area of expression.
One example of how Jewish photo-artists developed and flourished is that of Andre Friedman, known to the world as Robert Capa. Born in Budapest, he left for Berlin at age 18, escaped to France as Hitler gained power and became world famous with his photo coverage of the Spanish Civil War.
Who could forget Capa’s photo of a soldier falling backward at the moment of being struck on the battlefield?
You may recognize the name of Margaret Bourke-White, in reality Margaret Bourke-Weiss, a Life magazine photographer whose grandparents were Orthodox Jews from Poland.
Alfred Stieglitz left his family’s printing business, becoming one of the first great art photographers of street scenes, portraits and nature.
The most famous images of World War II were captured by Jewish photographers such as Capa, Walter Rosenblum, Martin Lederhandler and Louis Weintraub.
AP photographer Joe Rosenthal captured the famous Iwo Jima flag-raising image, probably the most memorable photo of World War II.
Life magazine was considered the prime publication for creative photographers. Look magazine, another pictorial magazine, achieved success under Arthur Rothstein, its director of photography, and its creative artist, Ben Shahn.
And if you are not convinced by now that Jews played a significant role in the history of photography, I need only remind you of that famous Life magazine cover photo of the V-J Day Times Square celebration showing the sailor kissing the nurse.
The famous image was captured by Life photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, a German-born Jew.


Honoring the Jews of WWII on Pearl Harbor Day

Posted on 05 December 2018 by admin

The Japanese sneak attack on America’s naval base at Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, should have come as no surprise to our military and government leaders.
Less than a year earlier, the United States had begun a lend-lease program to send war materials to its ally, Great Britain, an enemy of Germany (Japan’s ally). Also, the United States was leading the effort to prevent oil from reaching the Japanese war machine. It was just a matter of time before the Japanese would strike, and we should have been ready for the attacks.
Soon came the rallying cry, “Let’s Remember Pearl Harbor,” and America’s industrial might quickly shifted into wartime mode.
While most waited to be drafted, many young men and women rushed to the enlistment centers to the defense of their country.
Although the Jewish population was only 4½ million, or 3.33 percent of the nation’s 135 million, it provided 4.23 percent of its armed forces.
Of the Jewish men and women in the U.S. military, 26,000 received 49,315 awards, including all levels of distinction and bravery. Among those were 14,550 Purple Hearts and three Congressional Medals of Honor.
Many people forget that a million Jews also fought against the Axis powers while serving in the armies of Great Britain, Poland and Russia.
Who were some of these young patriotic American Jews who stepped up in the Jewish American tradition to serve their country during World War II?
Here are just a few local examples of Jewish patriots I have known personally who served our nation well during the Second World War. There are likely numerous others. May their memory be a blessing.
Rudy Baum, left Frankfurt, Germany, 1936. Parents died in the Holocaust. Drafted and became part of military intelligence, a “Ritchie (Maryland) Boy.” Received Bronze Star, promoted to Captain.
Shirley Greenwald, Captain, U.S. Army Hospital Nurse, Germany.
Roland Greenwald, Sgt. Major, U.S. Army, served under Gen. George Patton, guard at Nuremburg Trials, Served 1944-1972. Assignments included Germany, Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan. JWV Post Commander.
Hillel “Hy” Perlstein, Army 1943-46, machine-gunner. Wounded in action six months before war’s end.
Leon Rubenstein, U.S. Navy, S First Class, Pacific invasions, Okinawa, Iwo Jima Ship hit by kamikazes, but he survived. Not all were so lucky.
Stanley Shulkin, U.S. Army Air Corps, 1942-46, Link trainer instructor for P-38s, B-17s, B-24’s and B-29s. Became JWV Post Commander.
Jordan Uttal, U.S. Army Air Corps,1941-45, radar operator, OCS to Lt., Major, Control Officer, Bronze Star, Croix de Guerre. Married British lady. Established Second Division Air Force Association.
And a snappy salute of veteran’s appreciation to Dallas Rabbi Andrew Paley of Temple Shalom for his popular annual Veteran’s Shabbat Service held each November.
It should be noted that Gen. David Goldfein has become the second Jew to lead the United States Air Force.
I am sorry to say that, unlike in the past, Jews now make up just a small fraction (4,515) of today’s U.S. military.
Weak Jewish participation in America’s armed forces provides fodder for the anti-Semitic propagandists.
We must consider America’s defense of Israel as an additional obligatory reason to increase the Jewish contribution to America’s military forces.
I believe that as Jews, we have an obligation to provide at least a proportionate number of military members as reflects our population. Just as on Dec. 7, 1941, “We must always be prepared.”


‘Thanksgiving Story’ is not all that factual

Posted on 29 November 2018 by admin

Each year, approximately 50 million elementary school students in the United States are taught the “Thanksgiving Story,” which goes something like this;

When the Pilgrims arrived in America, they were destitute and had great difficulty living off the land.

A group of Wampanoag Indians led by Massasoit befriended the pilgrims at Plymouth, showing them how to live off the land, growing corn and using fish to fertilize their fields.

In celebration of their successful harvest and improved living conditions, the Pilgrims and Indians enjoyed a three-day feast, becoming the first Thanksgiving.

It is estimated that this annual festival lasted no more than one generation. You may have been one of those children who was told the fairy-tale version of the story, which states that ever since the first Thanksgiving, it has been an annual tradition…

The reality of growing European colonialism affected the native peoples in a decimating fashion. As the number of European settlers increased, Native Indians were pushed farther into the interior, losing traditional hunting and farm land.

Any Native contact with Europeans led to widespread epidemic diseases to which most Europeans were immune.

It is estimated that eventually 90 percent of the Native American population of North America died as a result of having never been previously exposed to smallpox, measles and flu.

The original unified celebration of Thanksgiving took on a more sinister singular nature in 1637, when Massachusetts Bay Gov. John Winthrop proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving a day after the Pilgrims carried out a surprise attack on a defenseless Pequot village, resulting in the slaughter of 700 native men, women and children.

From then on, successful massacres of Indians were usually followed by a “Thanksgiving celebration” (not the type of Thanksgiving we normally think of).

In grade-school classrooms this Thanksgiving Week, students will re-enact that “first Thanksgiving.” Hopefully, their teachers have done their research, not depending on that state-adopted text book for the “facts.” Some misconceptions:

• The English settlers did not wear somber black clothing and silver-buckled shoes, as usually depicted. They didn’t even refer to themselves as “Pilgrims.”

• Nor did the native Wampanoags wear the full-feathered head dress they are usually depicted as wearing.

• Their Thanksgiving food of deer meat, corn and shellfish bear little resemblance to today’s plethora of turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberries and pie.

What is more important than what they looked like and what they ate was how they interacted with each other. Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe, had earlier experiences with Europeans and knew English. After helping the settlers learn to plant corn and use fish to fertilize their fields, both sides agreed to defend each other against any attacks by other tribes.

The peaceful arrangement was short-lived, as increasing numbers of additional European colonists pressured government support for additional land expansion in the colonies. To most colonists, the Indians were “in the way.”

Teachers have an opportunity to provide a learning environment where the Indian people are not marginalized as they often are (in textbooks and instructional materials).

More Native Americans today live in urban areas (20,000 in the D-FW area) than they do on reservation land. They are not just part of our past to be considered one day each year as a “feel-good” story.

The Thanksgiving Story can be a good start to the even bigger story of how people should not treat each other.


Jewish War Veterans honor their own at gravesites

Posted on 09 November 2018 by admin

Most TJP readers are probably used to seeing the Jewish War Veterans or members of their Ladies Auxiliary collecting donations in front of local eateries and delicatessens around Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
These funds are used to help pay for needed items at the VA Medical Center that Congress has not funded. There is another area of giving by the Jewish veterans organization which you may not be aware of: concern for deceased JWV members and their families.
A mitzvah activity by the JWV is the placement of American flags at the gravesites of its deceased members at each of Dallas’ five Jewish cemeteries, sometimes assisted by Jewish Boy Scouts.
Approximately 125 flags are placed at gravesites around Memorial Day in May and are replaced again around Veterans Day in November, totaling 250 per year.
The placement of flags is a solemn occasion culminating in a ceremony at the flagpole of the Congregation Shearith Israel Cemetery, where the Pledge of Allegiance is said and “Taps” is played by a bugler.
Deceased veterans who were JWV members are automatically entitled to have an engraved JWV flag holder buried at the gravesite, free of charge.
In addition, if the deceased veteran’s family desires and there is enough time to prepare, the JWV provides an honor guard ceremony involving the folding of the flag, the reading of the JWV tribute and the playing of “Taps,” all coordinated with the rabbi.
In cases in which the deceased was a career veteran, having served 20 or more years, they are entitled to a military honor guard from the National Cemetery, including riflemen and bugler.
At times, the JWV and the military honor guard have coordinated their efforts in a combined ceremony.
The Jewish War Veterans truly honor the military men and women of the Jewish faith who have served their nation.


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