Cleaning up problems, loose ends from 5775

Here we are in Elul, the month of preparation for Rosh Hashanah. A good time, I think, to tie up some loose ends before the New Year arrives. Here are a few things to kiss goodbye as 5775 recedes into the past:
Emory University finally apologized for its blatant anti-Semitism between 1958 and 1961, when 65 percent of Jewish students in its dental school were either flunked or made to repeat a year or two, regardless of grades. (The school’s dean resigned in ’61, but this mea culpa has been a long time coming.)
Makes me think of my own father, who was second in his medical school class at Louisville. It was a long tradition in virtually all medical schools that their No. 1 and 2 graduates were automatically inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha, the prestigious professional honorary. But my dad was passed over for Number 3 — because Number 1 was also Jewish. …
When a cousin in California found a YouTube video on the history of the WACs (in World War II, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps), there was her mother, my aunt, one of the earliest enlistees. Because there were so few WAACs at the start, Aunt Sophie moved up quickly into a leadership position.
Then she met the soldier who would later become her husband. But she and Uncle Aaron had to sneak around to see each other, because she outranked him!
Before and during World War II, Ernst Leitz was head of the family firm that designed and manufactured that early, great 35mm camera, the Leica. To help his Jewish workers and their families, this Protestant patriarch had special trains take them out of Germany, on the pretense that they were going to work for the company in other countries.
And they did; he first assigned them to sales offices elsewhere, then arranged for their ocean passage to New York. When they disembarked — all with new Leicas around their necks — they went immediately to the company’s Manhattan office, where jobs were found for them there or in other businesses dealing with photography.
One of Ernst’s top executives and his own daughter were jailed by the Gestapo for their efforts to help Jews, but that great family name — and some well-placed bribes — secured their release.
I’m proud of Pittsburgh, my hometown, because it’s one of the few American cities that still has two independent daily newspapers. And one of them, the Tribune-Review, made me even prouder when it published an editorial titled “Funding Slanders: Stop This Nonsense.”
“One regrettable reason for rising anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiments is that the United States and some European governments fund groups promoting these reprehensible views,” it began.
And it named some names. A United Kingdom-based group called Medical Aid for Palestine got money from both the European Union and Australia while accusing Israel of war crimes. A group called BADIL ran an anti-Semitic cartoon contest while collecting a reported quarter-million dollars from Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands. And one called MIFTAH published an Arab-language article with that old “blood libel” theme while collecting money from different United Nations programs.
“Europeans must demand that their governments stop supporting such despicable groups,” the editorial concluded. “And this is yet another reason for the United States to stop funding the United Nations and lead formation of a League of Democracies instead.”
And finally, the Associated Press reported reasons why Islam bans depictions of the prophet Mohammed: ‘Religious traditions built over the years (are) to discourage idolatry…The ban is further rooted in a wider prohibition against images or statues of human beings.” Has no one noted that Judaism led the way in this, as in so much else? Look around your synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and see beautiful artwork, but no statues of individuals, and certainly no representations of God. Just something else to think about as we enter another New Year together!

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