Archive | Historical Perspective by Jerry Kasten

Honoring veterans with interview

Posted on 09 November 2017 by admin

Happy Veterans Day (Nov. 10) to TJP readers who are veterans.
It makes no difference whether you served in peacetime or wartime. We all took the same oath requiring us to follow the orders of our officers and commander in chief.
We are all vets who have served our nation and this is our day to be thanked for that service. But it also is an opportunity to help children of non-veterans learn about service to one’s country, “patriotism.”
If you are a veteran, be prepared to be interviewed by non-veterans about your experience, especially children who are always curious.
If you have a child or grandchild whom you are planning to take to Friday’s parade, why not work with your child to create a few questions to ask a veteran? Or you may want to refer to the list of suggested questions below.
This is their opportunity to learn what a historian does, “asking questions to seek the truth.” They could share their interview experience with their teacher and classmates when they return to school Monday.
One place you will find veterans to interview will be in front of Dallas City Hall, before the parade starts Friday at 11:30 a.m.
Often there are veterans who choose to watch the parade along Commerce Street. Some of them may be among the homeless as well.
Another opportunity to interview a veteran or a veteran’s wife will be this coming Sunday morning when members of the Jewish War Veterans (JWV) and the Ladies Auxiliary, will be in front of Cindi’s and other popular eateries.
They will be collecting cash donations that will benefit patients at the Dallas Veterans Medical Center. The JWV’s last donation helped pay for a new acupuncture treatment room.
Since there are so many possible questions you can ask a veteran and just a small amount of “answer time” available, why not have just a few which you and/or your child believes are most important, then ask additional questions, if time permits?

Possible interview questions for veterans

  • 1. Which branch of service were you in?
  • 2. What was your job in the military? (Like/dislike?)
  • 3. Where did you serve?
  • 4. Any unusual or memorable experiences?
  • 5. What did you like and dislike about your experience?
  • 6. Did you make any close friendships with anyone you met?
  • 7. What type of work did you do after leaving the military?
  • 8. How did your military service and experiences affect your life?
  • 9. Did you join a veterans’ organization? Why? Why not?
  • 10. Is there something that you want to tell about your military experience that I have not asked you?
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Move over, swabbies: US Army has own navy

Posted on 26 October 2017 by admin

It’s no secret, but many people are unaware of the fact that our Army does indeed have its own navy.
Having a strong, efficient, modern army does not mean just manpower and weaponry. It also involves having the means to carry and deliver whatever the soldiers need, where they need it and when they need it.
That’s the job of the U.S. Army Transportation Corps (USATC). Their history includes the use of mules, horses and, for a brief time, even camels.
That’s right, camels! Brought to the United States in 1855 as an experiment by the U.S. Army to test their worthiness for use as a pack animal in America’s hot and arid Southwest.
But, you know, the Army’s camels are another story, perhaps worth telling at another time.
Sometimes you can find Army boats plying the rivers and lakes of our nation delivering supplies to nearby bases, but most of the Army’s larger vessels have their home base on either the Atlantic or Pacific coasts, or are overseas on assignment.
The men and women of the Army Transportation Corps (ATC) serving on ships and boats, refer to themselves as Army Mariners.
Since the ATC carries the supplies and materials the troops need, many of these supply and repair vessels can be found at various times at overseas ports, such as Hawaii, South Korea, Japan, Spain and Israel, among others.
Just in case you are wondering what the difference is between a “boat” and a “ship” … most people guess correctly that it is size.
A boat too large and heavy to be lifted onto the deck or into the hold of a ship, is itself a ship.
The ATC operates hospital ships, various types of repair ships, coastal freighters, over 4,000 tugboats, mine vessels, plus many barges and assault boats.
As the number of American overseas military bases and installations greatly increased after World War II, the need for expansion of the Army’s Transport Command increased as well. It is estimated that the Army now has approximately 130,000 vessels; most are small, unnamed and simply have an assigned number.
The latest watercraft developed for the ATC is the Maneuver Support Vessel (MSV), which comes in various sizes, the largest allowing up to 24 huge Abrams Tanks, and having aft and stern (front and rear) ramps for loading and/or unloading.
Many people are unaware of the scope of the Army’s “navy” and young people seeking the possibility of learning a lifelong job skill or needing funds for college might do well to look into the MOS (Military Occupation Skills) available in the Transportation Corps from which a new recruit can choose before basic training.
On the other hand, for those families envisioning future doctors or lawyers, there’s the Medical Corps and the Judge Advocate Corps as well as the educational benefits that follow after discharge.
The military route is not for everyone, but be it the Army’s Transportation Corps or some other job specialty, these are choices open to young men and women who might otherwise be blocked by limited funds or not-so-perfect grades.
Admittedly, I’m probably influenced by my own life experience. The GI Bill allowed me to attend college after military discharge, providing career opportunities I would not otherwise have.
If it seems that I may have strayed somewhat from the original subject, keep in mind that the “Army’s navy” is a prime example of the great variety of occupational learning and work experiences available to young people seeking to improve their lives.

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Columbus Day not what it used to be

Posted on 12 October 2017 by admin

In case you may have forgotten, the reason we didn’t get our mail this past Monday was that it was Columbus Day, a national holiday since 1937. It doesn’t seem to be as popular as it used to.
I remember being a young teenage-member of the New York Naval Cadets proudly marching in the Columbus Day Parade. We were taught back then that Columbus was a hero.
Hearing the crowd’s applause, I felt proud honoring the man who “discovered America, proved the Earth was round, not flat, and brought advanced European civilization to the primitive people of the new world.”
That is what our history book said, what I was taught in school in the 1940s, what I believed to be true, and what I still read in textbooks issued by the Dallas I.S.D when I began teaching in 1961.
By the 1970s, however, scholarly research was revealing Christopher Columbus as a mariner whose primary ambition was personal wealth and power, and the willingness to use unspeakable cruelties against the native peoples in order to achieve those goals.
While Columbus’ voyages did contribute toward a more accurate view of the then known world (larger than most thought), he was not the first to discover it. Leif Erickson beat him by 500 years, but Columbus did a better job of informing Europe of his findings.
Columbus did not prove the world was round. Enough voyages by various explorers and mariners occurring many years before 1492 had already shown that to be true. Only a few ignorant people may have believed the earth was flat when Columbus sailed.
Finally, the only advanced items of European civilization he brought were armor and weaponry with which he used to conquer, intimidate, punish, torture, decimate and enslave the native peoples.
Some recent articles present the possibility that Columbus may have been a Marrano (a Jew pretending to be Catholic), but his inhumane treatment of native peoples would indicate otherwise.
If my Italian-American friends need a national Italian hero, there are so many to choose from (Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caesar, writers, artists, etc.) In fact, I just read in The New York Times that over 100 Italian-American authors marched as a group in Monday’s Columbus Day parade, celebrating their heritage.
The discussion about replacing Columbus Day began in 1977 during an International Conference of Indigenous People. More evidence from scholarly research revealed the true nature of Christopher Columbus and his horrific mistreatment of Native Peoples.
While it is unlikely that Columbus Day will ever be entirely eliminated, its popularity is on the decline. On the other hand, local Indigenous People’s Day observances now number almost 50 across the country and are on the increase.

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Don’t forget stories of Evian Conference, Sosua

Posted on 28 September 2017 by admin

A historic event known as the Evian Conference of 1938 is rarely if ever mentioned in American history textbooks, nor is its anniversary imprinted on calendars … for good reason.
It was originally publicized as an attempt by the United States President Franklin Roosevelt to save displaced German and Austrian Jews who were seeking refuge from the Nazis. An international conference of 32 nations was held July 6-15 at the resort town of Evian-les-Bains, France.
Months before, Nazi Germany had marched into Austria, extending its policy of confiscation of Jewish money and property. These penniless Jews were still allowed to leave Nazi control if they could find a nation that would accept them.
America’s immigration quota system, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, anti-Semitism and the increasing cost of fighting the Depression, all worked to prevent allowing penniless refugees into the United States.
Many humanitarian organizations, mostly Jewish, were present as observers at the conference, including Golda Meir, but were not allowed to participate.
German Nazis were present as well, even though they had not been invited. No doubt the anti-immigrant comments made by the British who were blocking European Jews from entering Palestine, as well as the general lack of immigration support by the conference, pleased Hitler.
The failure of the Evian Conference, the unwillingness of nations to save the Jews, was probably Hitler’s “green light” to advance his plans for the Holocaust.
Only one small nation, the Dominican Republic, represented by President Rafael Trujillo, offered to allow up to 100,000 Jewish men and/or married couples to settle in his country, under certain conditions.
Why Trujillo, well-known as a ruthless dictator, would make such an offer, is explained by historians this way: It was well-known that Trujillo was obsessed with favoring white-skinned people. He was known to powder and lighten his own dark skin daily.
By opening his country to 100,000 Jewish refugees, he would be countering previous bad publicity about his cruelty to his black-skinned Haitian neighbors.
The land in the north central Sosua area needed to be cultivated and what better way than to have white-skinned Europeans farm the land, marry Dominican women, and thereby expand the white population.
Because of the expanding war and bureaucratic red tape, it was becoming more difficult after the conference to fulfill the original promise of 100,000.
Of 5,000 visas originally issued by the Dominican Republic, only 600 European Jews had taken advantage of the offer. An additional 100 Jews arrived in Sosua by war’s end from Shanghai, China.
The American Joint Distribution Committee assisted in working out an agreement between the new Jewish settlers and the government of the Dominican Republic.
Many former city dwellers who had never been on a farm, found themselves behind a plow and building new homes.
A collective at first, much like an Israeli kibbutz, the land was worked by little more than half the Jewish population, with the remainder instead choosing commercial and financial enterprises.
As the (Jewish) village of Sosua evolved, enterprising residents developed commercial ventures and public services such as a school, a library, water works, a medical clinic and, of course, a synagogue.
The original farming venture eventually developed into a more successful dairy, meat and cheese production company, known today as Productos Sosua, well-known for its meat and cheese products, including ham.
Jewish life has diminished greatly in Sosua over the years as children are often sent off to the United States for higher education, Jewish men have intermarried with Dominican women, and others have left for business and job opportunities in larger cities.
Like most island bays, Sosua has become a resort community, a favorite with many European tourists.
Only six or seven of the original settlers have family members still remaining in their haven of Sosua. There is a small Jewish museum and a synagogue which is maintained, whose presence memorializes the original founders who escaped the Holocaust, a relative few survivors when there could have been so many more.
We must never forget the Evian Conference of 1938 and the relatively few Jews who escaped the Holocaust.

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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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