Archive | Historical Perspective by Jerry Kasten

Marco Polo was not the first world traveler

Posted on 11 July 2019 by admin

By Jerry Kasten
Every summer, children splash the pools trying to evade capture in a game called “Marco Polo.” The game is simple: A blinded tagger roams the pool shouting, “Marco!” while others respond, “Polo!” driving the tagger in the direction of his or her victim by sound.
I assume these children were taught that the game is named after Marco Polo, an early overland traveler merchant who helped the East meet the West.
Marco Polo crossed into Asia by a combined land and sea journey from southern Europe to India and China. His journey established trade routes and fostered the exchange of European and Asian knowledge.
However, Marco Polo was not the first to conquer this task.
Benjamin of Tudela, a Spanish Jewish scholar, made a similar journey 100 years before Marco Polo. His observations provided a more scholarly insight and perspective and might have served as a foundation for Marco Polo’s journey.
Since knowledge of life outside of Western Europe was limited, any eyewitness accounts by travelers helped contribute to the knowledge of the world. Benjamin’s travels took him from Europe to Asia and Africa.
We know that Benjamin left Tudelo, Spain, around 1160 and returned in 1172.
Places he visited included Barcelona, Marseilles, Rome, Naples, Rome, Salonica, Constantinople, Corico, Jerusalem, Damascus, Mosul, Bagdad, Cairo and Palermo.
He visited both Jewish and non-Jewish communities, keeping a travel diary titled “The Travels of Benjamin,” during his journey of a dozen or more years.
Benjamin’s observations describe each area’s sociological and geographical features, in addition to its Jewish community.
Originally written in Hebrew, his book was deemed important enough to be translated into the major European languages for all to read, including future travelers such as Marco Polo.
World history publishers need to credit Benjamin of Tudela (Spain) in addition to Marco Polo (Italy) with helping to provide significant geographic knowledge of our early world.

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Correcting a Buchenwald historical inaccuracy

Posted on 27 June 2019 by admin

One of the world’s greatest horrors unleashed on mankind, the mass extermination plan against Jews and others deemed inferior by the Nazis under Adolf Hitler, is known as “the Holocaust,” which was carried out throughout Nazi-occupied Europe.
One of the first and largest of the concentration camps was Buchenwald, located near Weimar, Germany. More than a million people each year visit Buchenwald, which operated from July 1937 to April 1945. When visitors travel through Weimar, they see signs crediting the Soviets for Buchenwald’s liberation. In truth, it was the American army, under General George Patton, who first reached the camp April 11, 1945. The Soviets did not come to the area until July 3, 1945, almost three months later. However, as a part of the Potsdam Agreement, the eastern sector of Germany, which included Buchenwald and its surrounding cities, was turned over to the Soviets.
Almost immediately after the Soviets took possession of Buchenwald, they took credit for the area’s liberation. However, since the Soviet Union’s fall and Germany’s reunification in 1990, there has been a need to place a historic marker to properly credit Buchenwald’s liberators, the U.S. Army.
According to Jerry Klinger, president of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, the cities closest to Buchenwald, Weimar and Thuringia, still have publicly posted signs crediting the Soviet Union with the Buchenwald liberation. But no signs exist crediting the United States.
The organization approached the Buchenwald Foundation with a proposal to pay for a single American Liberators Memorial to be placed at the front entrance, properly crediting the American forces with being the first to reach and liberate the camp. If approved, it would be the only Buchenwald memorial crediting Patton’s Third Army as the camp’s liberators.
Before the American rescuers arrived, many prisoners attacked fleeing Nazi guards, and were consolidating their control of the camp.
Instead of having to face the Nazi enemy, Patton’s troops had to fight the powerful stench and horrible unhealthy living conditions, while treating starving and sick survivors.
The Army medics did what they could to help save whom they could, as many were dying before their eyes. An enraged Patton sent military police with army interpreters such as Rudy Baum, my friend of blessed memory, to nearby towns, forcing residents to see, up close, how their death camp looked and smelled inside.
“Nothing I have experienced in my entire life can compare with the impact that Buchenwald had on me,” wrote Rudy, in his 1996 memoir, “Children of a Respectable Family.” “When I talk or think about the Holocaust, it brings back to my mind pictures of the emaciated, dying victims in the camp. It embodies all the evil inflicted by the Nazis on mankind in general, against the Jews and especially against my family. It is the epitome of man’s inhumanity to man, which hopefully will never happen again. Only through a miracle could a human being survive the indescribable brutalities and atrocities, including floggings, starvation and mass executions committed by the Nazis.”
Rudy is gone, as are many of his fellow veteran liberators. But hopefully, the American Liberators Memorial in Buchenwald will become a reality for those remaining survivors, liberators and all future visitors to see.

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Does history repeat itself? The choice is ours

Posted on 14 June 2019 by admin

One of my amusing former teaching experiences occurred when a student in my American History class asked me a question just as I began passing out the weekly 20-question, multiple-choice quiz, which covered the week’s work.
“Mr. Kasten, does history repeat itself?” Since his question did not relate to anything on this quiz, I assumed he asked, hoping that I would be so engulfed in answering his question that I wouldn’t have time to give the quiz, and might postpone the quiz altogether.
As interesting a question as it was, I wasn’t going to allow it to stand in the way of my prepared quiz.
I suggested instead, that they could earn “extra credit” when they returned Monday with an example of how history repeated itself or was in danger of doing so.
Here’s how history is in danger of repeating itself:
Many German Jews were highly assimilated — were decorated veterans of World War I and chose to stay in Germany — while others, especially after Kristallnacht, began to flee the country.
As the Nazi grip tightened, many German and Polish Jews fled to the countryside to join bands of guerrillas hiding in the woods — or tried to leave Europe for Canada, Africa or the Americas.
Sadly, there were also many Jews — especially the elderly and children, who could not escape and became Holocaust victims — reduced to slave labor, victims of “medical” experiments, or reduced to bones and ashes.
The “lucky ones” were the Jews of Germany, Austria and Poland that sent their children away to relative safety in Palestine, or in England on the “Kindertransport.”
The extent of the Nazis’ concentration camp system was much greater and diverse than most people realize. In 2013, researchers at the U.S. Holocaust Museum documented hard evidence that there were 42,500 camps and ghettos throughout Europe.
In addition to the more well-known death camps such as Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald and Dachau, there were other facilities where Jewish slave labor was used on a regular basis — where torture and “punishment” was a daily event.
A Holocaust research group issued the following stats: 30,000 slave labor camps, 1,150 ghettos, 980 concentration camps, 1,000 POW camps, 500 brothels, and thousands of other camps for killing and experimentation in all of Nazi-occupied Europe.
Forced labor camps were everywhere. Given that there were so many locations where prisoners were transported and used on a regular basis (3,000 camps in Berlin and 1,300 “Jew-houses” in Hamburg), the citizens of those cities had to know of the existence of those camps.
Today we have white nationalists parading anti-Semitism and other hatreds.
That is why Holocaust museums and museums of intolerance are so important. They display the truth and horror of what happened — what must not happen again to any people.
Many of the soldiers who freed the camp, including Lt. Rudy Baum (of blessed memory) and Mike Jacobs (of blessed memory), survived the camps to tell the stories they have passed on.
If history, this darkest page of history — the Holocaust — is not to be repeated against any people, it will be the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum — and all the other Holocaust museums — that will make it so.
In September 2019, the newest Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum will be open to help educate young and old as to the dangers of prejudice and discrimination, no matter what form it may take.
We must be alert to the great danger of history repeating itself. As the Dallas Holocaust Museum states: “An Upstander stands up for other people and their rights, combats injustice, inequality or unfairness, sees something wrong and works to make it right.”
Only then will Holocaust history not be repeated.

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American hero Maurice Rose modest about his success

Posted on 25 April 2019 by admin

Rose Medical Center in Denver, Colorado is considered one of the best maternity hospitals and a leader in women’s medical services. However, many might be unaware that it is named in honor of hometown hero, Maurice Rose. Rose, a highly-ranked officer who fought in both World Wars (as well as being a member of Colorado’s National Guard), wasn’t a publicity seeker. His accomplishments are mostly unknown. However, in my opinion, he was one of our best military leaders, and a Jewish guy, to boot.
Rose was born in 1899 in Middletown, Connecticut, and his family relocated to Colorado in 1902. Though raised in a family of rabbis, Rose was drawn to the military, rather than religion.
Falsifying his age, he joined the Colorado National Guard shortly after his high school graduation, joining the U.S. Calvary in its quest for Pancho Villa on the Mexican border.
However, when Rose’s parents notified the National Guard that he was underage, he was released, and went to work for a year in a meatpacking plant.
When the United States officially entered WWI, Rose joined the U.S. Army, and his parents relented, allowing him to rejoin the Army, whereupon he falsified his age once more in order to apply for Officers Candidate School.
Anxious to move up in the ranks, Rose trained both in the United States and France, where he commanded an infantry unit as a first lieutenant. . Early in combat, he was wounded by shrapnel and had to be forcibly removed.
He later returned to the battlefield against doctors’ orders.
During his service, Rose gained a reputation as a strong leader and fighter, continuing to serve in Germany after the war. He was discharged in 1919.
After working less than a year as a traveling salesman, Rose rejoined the Army with his previous rank of first lieutenant. However, after a review of his war record, Rose was promoted to the rank of captain the next day.
After a series of challenging, yet successful, training and leadership assignments, Rose saw greater opportunities for leadership advancement in the growing armored divisions. He finally ended up as leader of the Third Armored Division, after a promotion to the rank of major general.
One of the many accomplishments of the Third Armored was its longest single-day advance through enemy territory, in the history of mechanized warfare — 101 miles through Central Germany. He was, in fact, the first to cross into Germany.
Other accomplishments credited to Rose’s name included negotiation of the German army’s surrender in Tunisia and aiding the 101st Airborne at Carentan. His division also halted the German advance to the Meuse River.
On March 30, 1945, Rose was riding with his staff in a jeep near the front of a Third Armored column, when the troops came upon a German armored column. The American Jeep became wedged between the Nazi tank and a tree trunk as the driver attempted to escape, and the occupants were dumped out.
As Rose’s crew scattered, the German tank commander popped out of his tank, waving his machine pistol. The Nazi soldier fired at Rose, as the latter reached for his holster, either to shoot back or surrender his gun. Rose was instantly killed. .
What set Rose apart from the other military commanders was his aggressive style, commanding from the front, rather than from the rear. He was the highest-ranking American officer killed in Europe during the Second World War.
He is the recipient of many high awards and honors, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest award after the Medal of Honor. Rose is buried in the American Military Cemetery, in the Netherlands.
Throughout his Army career, Rose was more interested in service than in accolades. More than 70 years after his death, we can honor his life.

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More troops killed in training than in war

Posted on 11 April 2019 by admin

As a result of three Boeing 737 Max aircraft crashes since October, 2018, airlines have shut down operations using this plane, while investigations are undertaken.
A total of 346 people had lost their lives before the FAA decided to ground the aircraft, deeming it unsafe to fly.
Sadly, there are also an alarming number of American military air crashes which also account for much loss of life.
Lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee recently stated that “almost four times as many military died in training as were killed in combat,” a shocking and alarming statement.
If this were common knowledge at the time a recruit joins the service, our military might have an even greater problem in attracting personnel.
Featured in the April 2019 issue page of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA Annual Calendar is a brief story of one of its members, 28-year-old Marine Captain Samuel Schultz, of Trevose, Pennsylvania. He was recently killed in a training accident in Southern California, along with three of his crew while piloting the CH-53.
The military aircraft which appears to carry the highest accident record is the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter, used by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines, yet it is considered the most versatile model, able to lift the heaviest of equipment.
Hopefully, the recent lobbying efforts of the JWV and others will result in improved training and equipment maintenance of the CH-53E and therefore fewer accidents, until they are replaced in 2020.
Adequate upkeep and repair to our current fleet must continue to ensure the optimum safety of our military personnel.
Since there are never enough military funds to buy the latest development in planes, ships, tanks and weaponry, and as well as maintain the current equipment, the number of accidents have increased; 132 of our nation’s finest have been sacrificed since 1974 on new aircraft.
There are many possible causes of training accidents, injuries and deaths. I recall basic training many years ago at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, with freezing temperatures and foot-deep snow on the ground. One of the recruits, complaining about his ears hurting, wanted to report to “sick call” but our Company Commander refused in order to maintain his unit’s perfect training attendance record.
By the time the recruit did get medical help, it was too late and frostbite took his ear. As a result of this “incident” the commander was court-martialed.
Everyone in the military is rated or judged by their performance record. I wonder how many and how often “shortcuts” are taken in order to maintain “high performance.”
Pentagon budget cuts began in 2013 and may be a factor in fatality increases. Military pilots are not flying as many training hours as they have in the past.
Planes are grounded for repairs for longer periods of time by an inadequate number of trained mechanics to handle the workload.
Adequate funding for equipping our military is one thing, but the safety of our military in training should be our greater priority.
We mourn all who die in our military, including Captain Samuel Schultz and his crew, lives that should not have been lost.

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The first Jew in Texas — before it was Texas

Posted on 28 March 2019 by admin

Before there was Mexico, there was New Spain, formed by the conquests of the Indians by the Spanish conquistadors in the New World.
The names of Pizzaro, Coronado, Cortez, Verrazzano, DaVaca and Balboa are just a few conquistadors you may recall from your history classes.
You might not have read of Luis de Carvajal, an adventurer seeking to offer his ship, crew and services to New Spain’s growing Spanish government. Born Jewish, Carvajal claimed he was a “converso,” a Jew in 14th- and 15th-century Spain or Portugal who converted to Catholicism.
Carvajal made an impression on the Spanish viceroy by capturing more than 70 Englishmen who had been marooned on a beach after a shootout with the Spanish fleet. After he received his captain’s commission, Carvajal was sent to punish native Indians who had mistreated Spanish shipwreck victims on Padre Island. On this mission, he became the first Spaniard to cross the Rio Grande.
Each successful venture seemingly emboldened him further, eventually leading to a grand plan, presented in Spain to the king’s appointees overseeing the Indies.
Carvajal’s plan was to develop and build mines, and to connect ports across New Spain, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific coast. The crown, impressed with his plan, gave Carvajal a ship, manpower and supplies. He loaded the ship with many family members, who were also conversos.
Though Carvajal always sent glowing progress reports about village settlements, conflicting reports also surfaced of slave raiding and the sale of hundreds of Indian captives. Additionally, village, road and port development was not progressing as Carvajal had claimed.
Added to the charges of working with slave trade renegades, he was accused of heresy by not revealing that members of his family, conversos like himself, were secretly practicing Jews.
Carvajal was tortured, and confessed to being a Jewish heretic. He also named his mother, brothers and sisters, all of whom were eventually executed.
Carvajal, meanwhile, was imprisoned in 1590. Once he realized there would be no escape, he began to write a miniature religious memoir, titled “Memorias.” The 3-by-4-inch, 180-page treatise was completed before Carvajal was burned at the stake at 30 years old.
Though his morality was questionable and his life ended violently, Carvajal is credited with being the first Jew in Tejas (Texas), as well as author of the first book in the New World, written 20 years before the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock.

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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