Archive | Historical Perspective by Jerry Kasten

Emma Lazarus: Jewish experience, golden words

Posted on 08 January 2020 by admin

It was first named “Liberty Enlightening the World,” a gift of friendship, celebrating the successful struggles for independence achieved by the United States and its alliance with France.
We commonly refer to her as the Statue of Liberty.
The French were to supply the Lady of Liberty Statue as a gift of friendship, while the Americans were to supply her base, the pedestal, at a cost of $250,000.
One of the many ways that money was to be raised to help pay for the pedestal was the donation of works of art, including new poetry by invited poets, such as Emma Lazarus.
Emma was one of a number of grandchildren of a wealthy Jewish merchant with original ties to Portugal and the American colonies before the American Revolution.
Emma Lazarus, in her early writings while still in her teens, was recognized and encouraged by the poet William Cullen Bryant and the daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, who became a close friend.
She worked hard at her craft, poetry, and had gained professional recognition by the time the Statue of Liberty pedestal money-raiser had been announced.
Originally written in 1883, “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Recently at a news conference, discussing proposed immigration policy changes, one of President Trump’s immigration administrators Ken Cuccinelli, off-handedly altered part of this famous poem by Emma Lazarus, his view negating the beautiful welcome in Lazarus’ words.
Here are the two views of whom the United States welcomes into their country as immigrants.
The traditional way, embracing those who flee from poverty, war, and fear, seeking opportunities for a better life (E. Lazarus); or only those who are able to fend for themselves without any government assistance (K. Cuccinelli).
Emma Lazarus’ words are just as meaningful today, given the conditions and hardships facing those seeking hope and humanity in the United States.
On the other hand, there is little hope and humanity in Mr. Cuccinelli’s misreading of “your tired, your poor.”
If there is one part of Emma Lazarus’ poem that people remember the most, it is, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”
…And so may it remain.

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America’s earliest Colonial history revealed

Posted on 11 December 2019 by admin

The headline recently read, “American Students Don’t Know History,” referring to the Nation’s Report Card, evaluating the percentage of high school seniors’ knowledge of America’s history.
Only a dismal 12% of high school seniors were considered proficient in American history.
Before we place all the blame on the students, there is a long list of other factors which deserve to be considered, the topic perhaps for a future article.
One factor is the politicized Texas state-adopted history textbook from which students get their information.
Freedom to practice one’s religion, no matter how objectionable it may have been considered in old England, was one of the main reasons religious sects such as the Pilgrims, Puritans, Quakers, Calvinists, Amish and others undertook the long, arduous journey to an uncertain future in the New World. By far the largest single religious sect were the Puritans, who equated their journey to the new world with the Jewish people’s biblical escape from Pharaoh to the promised land.
Not accepting the authority of the English king and parliament to control their decisions, they relied instead on the teachings of the Old Testament, on Mosaic Law.
The Puritans also mandated school systems modeled after the Jewish community’s schools, which were proved as successful models.
Childhood education for all became an early goal. Laws were passed requiring parents to teach their children religious principles and important laws.
As population increased, education became formalized, schools built, teachers appointed, universities established with Hebrew and Bible studies being offered.
A modern tour of America’s oldest schools of higher learning — Princeton, Yale, Rutgers, Harvard, Dartmouth, and others — reveals Hebrew words or phrases in each school’s ancient emblems and seals.
In spite of all this historic evidence, the influence of the Old Testament’s teachings on the daily lives of the Puritans and others is never credited to the Jewish faith in Texas texts.
Jews are not the only minority group “short-changed” in Texas’ and other states’ history texts.
I use the expression “short-changed” to indicate the lack of historical accuracy by omission of the many positive contributions and achievements that Black Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans have made to the United States.
In light of the fact that by 2044, people who identify themselves as “white” will be a minority of the population while the rest will be a mixture of other ethnic groups, there may well be a greater emphasis on the early contributions of ethnic peoples than has previously been given.
A reflection of the changing racial and ethnic diversity patterns in the United States is the fact that for the fifth time, the United States Congress is more racially and ethnically diverse than ever.
Hopefully, Texas and other states’ history textbook writers will soon be more scholarly and less political.

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Hitler’s theft of Jewish Engineer’s Idea

Posted on 04 December 2019 by admin

Origins of VW Beetle from Ganz

By Jerry Kasten
Many Jews, even today, some 74 years after the end of WWII, refuse to buy German-made goods. Who could forget the Holocaust?
The iconic German Volkswagen Beetle, which has been one of the longest running car models in automotive history is finally coming to a halt this year with its 2019 models.
It was called the “People’s Car” in its early days, because it was small, utilitarian, and relatively inexpensive compared to other available cars.
What people need to know is that the founding days of the “Bug’s” development has an “unhealthy history.”
The story circulated by the Nazi propaganda office was that Hitler approached Ferdinand Porsche in 1933 with a sketch of a small, inexpensive car which most working people could afford, a “people’s car.”
And so, the story continues, that the idea for the “Bug,” “Beetle,” the Volkswagen or “people’s car” presented by Hitler was then engineered and placed into production by Porsche. It was 10 years earlier, in 1923, that a young, Jewish, mechanical engineering student, Josef Ganz, a WWI German Army veteran, had gone to work on his favorite project: cars.
Cars were expensive, too costly for the average German household. He believed that it might be possible to build a small car for the price of a motorcycle.
Submitting articles and sketches to a popular German motor sports publication he worked for, Ganz criticized the cars being produced as too heavy, unsafe and old-fashioned.
He was verbally attacked, and sued by the auto companies whose cars he criticized, but he gained publicity for himself and the magazine.
Working with motorcycle companies, he began to build two prototypes of a small people’s car in 1930 and 1931, the second named “the May-Beetle.”
Ganz, of course, obtained patents with each new concept and device, which went into his final production automobile introduced in Berlin in February 1933, selling for 1,590 Reichmarks.
Hitler, the new chancellor, voiced interest in both the design and the low cost of Ganz’s car, but as a Jew, Ganz’s accomplishment would not be acceptable by an anti-Semitic government.
It was at this point that Hitler’s sketch, obviously “borrowed” from his observation of Ganz’s car, was presented to Ferdinand Porsche for further development.
Initially arrested by the Gestapo on false charges in 1933, Ganz fled his native Germany to Switzerland, France and eventually — in order to escape Nazi assassination attempts — to Australia, where he finally settled and lived until his death in 1967.
Sadly, there may be some uninformed people who still believe that it was Hitler’s sketch that provided the idea for the “people’s car.”
No folks. It was Josef Ganz’s car.

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Remembering the master mime, Marcel Marceau

Posted on 13 November 2019 by admin

I never thought that a recent trip my wife, Deanna, and I took to North Carolina for a Road Scholar workshop would eventually lead me back to the master mime entertainer I had thoroughly enjoyed years ago, Marcel Marceau.
Marceau, considered by many to be the best mime ever, helped make mime internationally popular from 1948 through 2003.
Trying to contact an old Army buddy, Ben Martin, who had lived near our Montreat destination in North Carolina, I learned sadly that Ben had passed away two years previously.
Speaking to a friend of his, I also learned that Ben and Marcel Marceau had become good friends in Paris while Ben was a Time-Life photographer.
With Marceau’s’ permission, Ben took numerous photographs of the King of Mime, producing a wonderful 150-page display of the art of mime, titled “Marcel Marceau, Master of Mime.”
While this is primarily a photo book about Marceau, the entertainer, it also briefly mentions Marceau’s experiences evading the Nazis and helping to save hundreds of Jewish children from the Holocaust, a mitzvah he rarely mentioned. Just what you would expect from a silent mime.
Marcel’s real last name was Mangel, but he later changed it to Marceau when he needed an alias after joining the French resistance movement during World War II.
His family evacuated Alsace-Lorraine for central France. Sadly, like so many others, Marcel’s father, a butcher, was caught, deported to Auschwitz and gassed upon arrival.
Marcel, serving in the French underground with his brother, helped to hide many Jewish children from the Nazis and their French collaborators.
Changing the children’s ages from older to younger on their identity cards, Marcel was able to convince the enemy that the children were not old enough for heavy labor.
His acting ability shone through when he dressed, at times, as a Boy Scout leader, leading his charges to a campground in the hills, and across the border to safety in neutral Switzerland.
Because of his modesty, I suspect that many people are unaware of Marceau’s heroism during the war and are more knowledgeable about his successful mime career after the war.
With the liberation of Paris and the war in France drawing to a close, Marceau joined the Free French Army to use his language skills as a translator for General Patton.
Soon after Marceau’s pantomime skills became known to the GIs, there was a clamor for him to perform, resulting in his first professional performance, in a huge army tent before 3,000 troops.
In April 2001, Marcel Marceau received the Wallenberg Foundation’s award in recognition of his solidarity and courage during the Second World War.
If you don’t learn anything else from having read about Marcel Marceau, remember this: “Actions speak louder than words.”

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‘Race’ is a 4-letter word

Posted on 31 October 2019 by admin

Whoever we are and whatever we do in life, we are all being asked, many times over the years, to choose our race from a given list.
It may be a job application, health insurance or medical form, driver’s and marriage licenses, or school form; the list goes on and on.
No matter what justification is sometimes given, such as the need to identify individuals having a predisposition to certain diseases, the true purpose may lie elsewhere.
As recently reported in The New York Times marriage announcement section, a couple applying for a marriage license in Virginia refused to provide their race on the marriage license application, of which there were 200 choices including Aryan, Mulatto, Nubian and Octoroon (a person who is one-eighth black by descent).
The couple found the terms to be offensive and scientifically baseless.
They joined a class-action lawsuit which resulted in Virginia’s attorney general ordering court clerks to eliminate the “race” requirement.
Georgia and Louisiana, however, continue to require “racial information.”
We should never forget the use of racial profiling by Adolf Hitler and his attempt to create a superior Aryan race by eliminating those he deemed “inferior” such as Jews; Roma, also known as Gypsies; etc.
Who among the non-Jewish German population spoke up as their Jewish neighbors were disappearing during the Holocaust?
The “alt-right” White Nationalists, KKK, American Nazi Party and their ilk thrive on the concept of racial superiority. They even have referred to Jews as a race rather than a religion.
Renowned sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois, more than 100 years ago, expressed concern that race was being used as a biological term for what he felt were actually social and cultural differences.
The greater science community today agrees. Scientific scholars state that racial concepts in genetic research need to go.
Many people today, as they investigate their ancestry, are realizing for the first time that their family roots reveal a multiethnic heritage.
There has historically been tremendous assimilation through the centuries of various ethnic groups. There is no “pure” or unmixed group.
We should celebrate our ethnic heritage, whatever it may be, and bury the racial stereotypes forever.

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America’s Jewish farmers helped agricultural expansion

Posted on 16 October 2019 by admin

Many people are unaware of the fact that Jewish immigrants were part of the great agricultural expansion which took place in the United States from 1800 to 1900 and beyond.
The usual belief is that Jews were merchants, generally found in towns and cities and not farmers out in the countryside, tilling the soil.
Not quite so. Fleeing the disastrous pogroms and lack of economic opportunities under the czar, Eastern Europeans especially those with farming skills, found agricultural opportunities easily available.
A number of Jewish organizations such as the Hebrew Union Agricultural Society, the Jewish Colonization Society, and the American Hebrew and Horticultural Association attempted to promote and assist Jewish settlers to organize groups (collectives).
They would be trained, then formed into groups which would share the work and any profits thus derived.
The Jewish agricultural collectives which were established in 12 states eventually failed to last very long because the immigrants did not want to share their profits with their fellow workers, some of whom they felt may not have worked as hard as they.
With the eventual failure of collectives, the Association began to fund individual farmers instead of groups.
Many Eastern European Jews fleeing the hopelessness of bleak futures under the czar’s repressive measures against Jews, found work as farm laborers.
My father, of blessed memory, escaping as a teenager from being swept up in Eastern Europe’s pre-WW1 gathering storm, fled to America in 1914.
Joining his older brother, who was working on a chicken farm in New Jersey, he learned to work with chickens, eventually opening his own market in New York.
I remember during World War II when meat was scarce and rationed, that we always had meat on the table, chicken, that is.
Farming, in general, was changing during and after World War II. Smaller farms were disappearing, being bought out by large co-ops and corporations.
Modern farming now required lots of land and a highly mechanized and modernized approach.
While the number of Jewish farms has greatly decreased, there have been some recent developments.
Coinciding with the growing interest in organic foods, there is the environmental health movement. Organic farms are increasing and some have become large corporations, such as Ben and Jerry’s.
The Jewish Farm School centered in Philadelphia has been operating for nearly 14 years, but is scheduled to shut down as an organization this fall.
Yet, as one Jewish agricultural group fades, others, like newly planted seeds, pop up. Idealistic young Jews have helped to form farms, co-ops, and organizations in order to teach and incorporate Jewish values into food production.
Some of the groups which impose a higher standard during food production include Adamah, EcoGlatt, Grow and Behold, Hazon, Jewish Farm School and others.
Yet, as one Jewish Farm group, in Philadelphia, appears to be fading, another in Baltimore appears to be emerging.
For any TJP readers contemplating becoming a Jewish farmer, you may be interested in attending Cultivating Culture, the First Annual Gathering of Jewish Farmers, to be held at the Pearlstone Center near Baltimore, Maryland Feb. 13-16, 2020.

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Honoring Roddie Edmonds, Righteous Among Nations

Posted on 18 September 2019 by admin

This non-Jew saved 200 Jewish POW during WWII

Many accounts of bravery have emerged among the many thousands of American prisoners of war during World War II in the Pacific and European Theatres.

September 20 is POW/MIA Recognition Day, a day worth remembering the actions of Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds of Knoxville, Tennessee. Edmonds, along with others of the 422nd Infantry Regiment, was forced to surrender to an overwhelming force of Germans during the Battle of the Bulge, toward the end of the war in Europe.

As was the custom, officers went to one camp while the enlisted men went to another, Stalag IXA, located near Ziegenhain, Germany.

Jewish-American soldiers had been warned to throw their ID tags away, so they could not be singled out by the Jew-hating Nazis. In violation of the Geneva Convention, the Nazis were sending those soldiers to slave-labor camps where chances of survival were minimal.

As the highest-ranking enlisted man, Edmonds was in charge of all 1,275 prisoners — 200 of whom were Jews — whose well-being he considered his responsibility. After they arrived in the bitter cold, the Nazi commandant ordered Edmonds to identify all the Jews in his group, and to have them in formation the next morning. Instead, Edmonds ordered all 1,275 men to assemble outside their barracks, which they did. Outraged, the Nazi commandant drew his pistol, pointing it at Edmonds, demanding that he identify the Jews.

“We are all Jews here,” Edmonds said. “If you want to shoot Jews, you must shoot everyone.”

He warned the commandant that, with the war ending, if the prisoners were harmed, he would be hunted down and tried as a war criminal. The commandant holstered his gun and walked away.

Edmonds, who also served in the Korean War, never received official recognition saving the Jewish soldiers. It was only after his death in 1985, when his wife gave Edmonds’ two diaries to his son, a Baptist minister, that Edmonds’ bravery became known to his own family.

In 2015, Yad VaShem named Roddie Edmonds a Righteous Among the Nations.

Unfortunately, an attempt to confer the Congressional Medal of Honor has stalled because no battle had been fought nor blood shed in his efforts. Yet, with or without a medal, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds will always be remembered as a non-Jewish, Jewish American Hero.

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Siegfried Marcus invented the ‘auto-mobile’

Posted on 04 September 2019 by admin

The 1800s German Jew introduced a liquid-fuel breakthrough

It sure is amazing. I just saw a TV report showing a self-driving car safely navigating the streets and eventually parking itself. So, can you imagine people’s reaction, way back in the late 1800s, when they saw one of the first cars on the street?
The person who generally gets credit for inventing the very first road vehicle is Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot, a French military engineer, who in 1769, built a steam-driven three-wheeler designed to pull artillery. Other inventors followed with steam-driven and coal gas models, but most engineers describe the first true car as “one driven by liquid fuel.” Fulfilling this breakthrough was Siegfried Marcus, a German Jew and prolific inventor, who spent most of his life in Austria.
Starting as a 12-year old machine-shop apprentice, Marcus blossomed in the telegraph industry, eventually improving telegraphic relay systems and gaining recognition as an “up-and-coming engineer.”
One of his most well-known inventions was the T-handled plunger device used by mining and construction companies, which safely detonated explosives. By the 1860s, money from Marcus’ successful inventions allowed him to build his own research laboratory, where he could experiment with whatever he chose.
While using liquid fuels for ignition purposes, Marcus understood the force that developed when sparks ignited, enabling him to build a two-cycle engine. He mounted his motor to the rear wheels of a four-wheel cart, providing the basis for a motor-driven cart.
Finally, in 1888, Marcus announced his much improved car. Sporting a four-cycle, gasoline powered engine, the “auto-mobile” reached a top speed of 10 miles per hour.
For a brief time, Siegfried Marcus was celebrated as the inventor of the first automobile. However, when he was to be honored by the Austrian Auto Club, he surprisingly declined to attend, stating that the idea of the auto was a waste of time. And, interestingly enough, he made no further effort to perfect and market his car. I suppose once he accomplished what he set out to do, there was no longer a challenge.
Thirty-five years after Marcus died, and soon after Hitler came to power, evidence of the inventor’s achievements disappeared. Blueprints, files, and patents of Marcus and other Jews were destroyed. The Nazis attempted to destroy all evidence of Jewish achievements, including a monument honoring Marcus at the Vienna Technical University.
In 1950, Marcus’ second car was found where it had been hidden: bricked up behind a false wall of a Viennese museum by employees to protect it from Nazi destruction. Siegfried Marcus’ second car is now on permanent display at the Vienna Technical Museum.
While the Viennese support Siegfried Marcus as the inventor of the first car, most auto historians give credit to Gottlieb Daimler (1885) for the first modern engine and Carl Benz (1886) for the first gasoline-fueled car.
But Marcus, the Jewish inventor, also deserves to be remembered as one of the first inventors of the automobile.

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South African Lemba have similar lineage to Jews

Posted on 22 August 2019 by admin

You have heard of the Black Ethiopian Jews, many now living in Israel, but do you know of the Lemba people of Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi and Mozambique?
The Lemba are estimated to number 50,000, resembling their neighbors, the Bantus, but have religious beliefs similar to Judaism and Islam.
After the destruction of the Temple, a group of Jews left Judea, settling in Yemen. When the economy failed in Yemen, Jews left for Africa, settling in both Tanzania and Ethiopia. Many in Ethiopia moved south into Zimbabwe.
They have certain dietary rules which closely resemble those of Judaism and Islam. Those Lemba who most resemble Jews also have close Christian beliefs.
Among the Lemba’s Jewish-like practices are:
• Observance of Shabbat
• Praise of a God who considers them the chosen people
• Teaching their children to honor their parents
• Avoiding pig and other certain foods
• Having ritual animal slaughter and preparation
• Practicing male circumcision
• Putting the Star of David on tombstones
• Marrying only other members of their group
Their oral tradition explains that the Lemba are descended from seven Jewish men who left Israel 2,500 years ago, marrying Lemba women.
Their language at prayer is a mixture of Hebrew and Arabic. They have a religious artifact which is a replica of the Biblical Ark of the Covenant. This ark was built almost 700 years ago from the remains of the original ark which had stored the Ten Commandments.
Members of the Lemba priesthood, known as the Buba, have a priestly line, known as Kohanim.
According to Professor Tudor Parfitt, of the University of London, “the Jewish priesthood continued in the West by people called Cohen the same way it was continued by the priestly clan of the Lemba.”
While the Lemba have not yet proven that they are one of the lost tribes of Israel, DNA evidence shows that the Lemba of South Africa share a common ancestor with the Jewish people.
Modern genetic science has shown similar genetic characteristics of Jews with the Lemba people.
Israeli’s right of return law, which guarantees citizenship for any Jew, may be difficult to apply to the Lembas. They establish identity paternally, while under Israeli law, identity is established maternally.
But the Lemba consider themselves part of our Jewish tradition. We should welcome them.

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Fighting anti-Semitism with Anne Frank’s tree

Posted on 07 August 2019 by admin

Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, as well as in the United States.
Whether we are Jewish or not, we should recall the horrors of the Holocaust, which began with a systematic program of anti-Semitic moves by the Nazis.
In response to this current rise in anti-Semitism, the Anti-Defamation League is sponsoring a Walk Against Hate in Dallas on Sept. 15.
Various synagogues are holding discussion groups on the subject today, since a growing number of young people are not learning about the Holocaust.
With the advent of the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness tests, teachers feel pressured to teach to certain objectives, allowing less time for meaningful discussions such as Hitler’s use of anti-Semitism and the resultant Holocaust.
Motivated and self-directed educators will make use of Holocaust centers, if possible, to provide an effective learning experience, but directives and guidelines will pressure teachers to move on.
Some educators are told not to spend too much time on Hitler’s Germany, putting greater emphasis on Germany after World War II. As a result, a growing number of school children are unaware of who Adolf Hitler was. Something more effective is needed in terms of educating young people about the evils of hate and anti-Semitism.
Many people have heard of the book, “The Diary of Anne Frank,” but have they read it? Everyone should because it provides a personal account of what life was like as a Jew hiding during the Holocaust. Her diary, historical records and the declining number of Holocaust survivors are some of the only tangible resources we have left to show our children.
While it is only mentioned three times, Anne found much joy in nature, commenting on the lone chestnut tree she observes from her hiding place in the Secret Annex.The tree provides insightful symbolism to readers.
On May 13, 1944, Frank’s diary reads, ”Our chestnut tree is in full bloom. It’s covered with leaves and is even more beautiful than last year.”
Her tree symbolizes freedom and continues to do so through its saplings replanted at many locations worldwide.
Fifty years after Anne Frank and her sister lost their lives to typhus at Bergen-Belsen, her tree also succumbed to disease.
Thankfully, caretakers at the Frank House, discovering the tree’s plight early enough, created saplings to be later planted at various sites around the world.
Anne Frank trees have been planted in places like: the U.S. Capitol, the Boston Common, the United Nations, the W.J. Clinton Presidential Center, Central High School in Arkansas, Southern Cayuga School District in New York Liberty Park, the New York Children’s Museum and several other places.
Some teachers assign Anne Frank’s diary to their students and foster meaningful discussions, encouraging their entire school to plant a tree on campus as a memorial dedicated to Anne Frank.
So many of life’s lessons can be learned if today’s children read Anne Frank’s words.
“We’re all alive, but we don’t know why or what for; we’re all searching for happiness; we’re all leading lives that are different and yet the same… we have the opportunity to get an education and make something of ourselves…but we have to earn it. …doing good and working, not being lazy. Laziness may look inviting, but only work gives you true satisfaction.”
Demonstrations and discussions translate to short-term lessons, but the reading of Anne Frank’s diary, followed by the planting of a tree at a school in her honor, results in a lifelong remembrance.

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