The “Aliyah Bet” seamen operated ships that ferried Holocaust survivors from the displaced persons camps of Europe to then-Palestine shortly after World War II.
Aliyah Bet was the name given to the operation run by the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary organization that transported the refugees to the future state of Israel. Of the fewer than 250 volunteers from North America, most had served in the U.S. Merchant Marine or U.S. Navy during the war. The majority were Jewish and American.
As many as 120 vessels—purchased and refurbished in secrecy—were used in the operation. In order to make their way to Palestine, they had to run the British blockade. It has been estimated that approximately half of them were intercepted, and the captured refugees were sent to internment camps on Cyprus, Germany and Palestine.
Marvin “Bucky” Bacaner, a native of Chicago, served in the U.S. Merchant Marine in World War II and was recruited to be an Aliyah Bet seaman. Bacanar was interviewed by writer Bruce H. Wolk for B’nai B’rith Magazine.
BBM: Where did your love of the sea originate?
Marvin Bacaner: I was initially trained to be a marine engineering officer at the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, on Long Island, New York.
BBM: And your love of Israel?
MB: I grew up in the Habonim movement (a youth Zionist movement), and, from the age of 10, I was a passionate Zionist.
BBM: How did you first come to learn about the need for Aliyah Bet seamen?
MB: After the war was over I was a professional seaman and I was still sailing. I had signed on as chief engineer on a ship heading to Antwerp, Belgium. One day while I was on shore leave. I saw a British captain who was wearing kilts. He wore a Star of David arm patch. I asked the officer, “Why do have a Star of David?” He said he was a member of the Jewish Brigade (a unit of the British army that included many Jews from Palestine). I told him I had been a Zionist all my life and never heard of the Jewish Brigade. He invited me to come back to the barracks with him, and a few of us sat around a table drinking coffee. … They were looking for volunteers to bring Jewish Holocaust survivors to embarkation ports in Italy and France and then take them through the British blockade to Palestine.
When we got back to the States a letter was waiting for me at home from my Zionist youth leader. I called him, and he said, “Bucky, don’t sign onto to a new ship. Come and talk to me first.” The Jewish Agency had just bought two Canadian corvettes (anti-submarine ships that escorted convoys across the Atlantic to protect them from German submarines).
The Haganah was originally smuggling Jews to Palestine in small, often dangerous boats using [paid] crews because big boats were difficult to obtain.
BBM: As an Aliyah Bet marine engineer, what was your role?
MB: We towed the [decommissioned Canadian] ships down from Canada to City Island for rehabilitation. We needed to overhaul all the machinery. I was in charge of supervising the re-conditioning, recruiting personnel and then training the ship’s engineering crew. It was kept very secret. We couldn’t talk about it.
BBM: How did you go about recruiting seamen to work under you?
MB: I went to Hashomer Hatzair (a socialist-Zionist youth movement) and Habonim, where volunteers were training for kibbutz life. I recruited the Hashomer Hatzair volunteers from their Hightstown, N.J., farm, and we also recruited from the Cream Ridge, N.J., Habonim camp. We assembled the crew for the two ships on City Island [in New York].
BBM: You talked of working in secret. How do you keep a ship secret?
MB: As part of the refurbishing process, among other things, we cut off the guns and the torpedo tubes, so that the ships didn’t look like [military vessels].” We were registered under Panamanian registry, and we got licenses from Panama as sailors.
BBM: What was your journey like?
MB: Both ships sailed together to Europe, and then my ship went to Gibraltar. One ship set sail for Sète, France, which was a fishing village where we rescued Jews who were in the displaced person camps. My ship went to Savona, Italy, where we loaded up Holocaust survivors. The name of my ship was the Josiah Wedgwood. We set sail for Palestine, but if we got caught, we carried no papers and our instructions were to disappear into the refugees we took on board.
On June 27, 1946, the British Royal Navy intercepted the Josiah Wedgwood as it reached Haifa. (Wedgwood, for whom Wedgwood china is named, was an 18th century English potter and abolitionist.) Bacaner, his crewmates and 1,257 passengers were taken to an internment camp in Atlit, in what was then still Palestine. They would be slowly released into the population.
After independence, the ship that Bacaner refurbished would become part of the Israeli Navy and was renamed the Hashomer (“The Watchmen”). In 1998, Bacaner was present at a 50th anniversary event for the Aliyah Bet/Machal volunteers. Following the ceremony, an elderly woman and her two daughters approached Bacaner and tearfully thanked him. “I remember you,” said the older woman, a Holocaust survivor whom he had helped transport from the camps to Israel. He realized that everything he had gone through had been well worth the effort.
In June, the B’nai B’rith archives and its Holocaust and Related Materials Collection were transferred to the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives (AJA) in Cincinnati, Ohio. Click on the image above to watch a YouTube video produced by the AJA about the B’nai B’rith archives. The video includes photos of the various materials included in the B’nai B’rith archives while AJA director Gary P. Zola explains the significance of the collection to the study of Jewish history in America. Read below for an interview with Zola where he discusses why the AJA was an ideal fit to house the B’nai B’rith archives.
B’nai B’rith Magazine: When did the process of transferring the B’nai B’rith archives to the AJA begin?
Gary P. Zola: As soon as I became the director of the American Jewish Archives, a number of people came and spoke to me. They all spoke to me and said it would be wonderful if we could bring B’nai B’rith’s records to Cincinnati. Then we were doing everything we could to persuade the leadership of B’nai B’rith that the American Jewish Archives was the place for the B’nai B’rith records.
B’nai B’rith did a lot of due diligence in terms of looking for where they felt the best place would be for their history, and of all the places they reviewed, they…picked the American Jewish Archives.
BBM: What was your sales pitch to B’nai B’rith? Why did you say the archives would be best housed at the AJA?
GPZ: I wanted them to see, number one, our resources. I consider our physical resources—the ability with which we have to care for all of our historical records, the size of our institution and its ability to serve the community of researchers—[to be] without parallel, without peer. I wanted them to come and see the AJA for themselves.
Number two, and this was to me equally important, is that, although [even though] the records of the national B’nai B’rith includes correspondence regarding B’nai B’rith lodges all over the world, the American Jewish Archives had many, many records from the 19th century of individual [B’nai B’rith] lodges all over America…I wanted to show them that this collection would integrate into a mass of materials that we already have on B’nai B’rith. I wanted them to see that with their own eyes.
BBM: Will the B’nai B’rith archives be separate from the materials you already have, or will it be integrated?
GPZ: By arrangement, this will be a discreet collection, it won’t be integrated…Just to have the national history together with the regional and local history is a huge, huge boost to scholars who are going to be able to see what the national office was doing or what it wanted done, what the officers wanted and then how that was translated into local lodges.
And the final thing, and this is also important, is that in the 19th century…the overlap sociologically between the people who were Reform Jews and B’nai B’rith was a very important overlap. Some of the early lodges bear the names of important, prominent Reform leaders, and many of the early prominent Reformers were presidents active in B’nai B’rith. [The AJA’s] strength is the non-Orthodox religious community in America. This too was another remarkable phenomenon that I thought beckoned these records to Cincinnati.
BBM: Why do you think that the B’nai B’rith archives are significant, and how do they contribute to understanding the history of Jews in America?
GPZ: B’nai B’rith was, without question, the first national, federated [Jewish] benevolent organization in the history of our country...It moved the nature of Jewish life outside the doors of the synagogue and into the general Jewish community. In other words, before B’nai B’rith all organizational Jewish life was anchored in the synagogue. But, you start to have this drive to go beyond the boundaries of the synagogue, and, of course, this is connected to the creation of multiple synagogues in a city. You bring [the Jews from different synagogues] together to do good deeds together, to study together, to socialize together, to do projects together. And this is the impetus for the creation of the lodge.
B’nai B’rith becomes in a way reflective of the American Jewish community and its interests in a very important way. B’nai B’rith is extremely important to scholars and historians to the understanding of the American Jewish experience in 19th century [in particular.] As you get into the 20th century, you have the creation of a whole bevy of Jewish organizations that do some of the same things that B’nai B’rith does…But, in the 19th century, B’nai B’rith is the first, it dominates…it is indispensible to the study of the American Jew.
By Willy Leventhal
Plains, Ga., where I now sat, seemed so peaceful…but the images of the gunshots a few weeks earlier in Americus, Ga. were still vivid. It had happened so fast—but at the same time, it was almost like a freeze frame slow motion film in the glare of the afternoon sunlight. The Klansman’s gun six feet from my face, the gunshots, the rush of adrenaline when I dropped to the floor beneath the steering wheel instinctively hitting the brake—and the car skidding to a stop. Then, the confused relief when the bullet holes and the blood I checked for were not there. My mind went blank for a few seconds, and then came the realization that I hadn’t been hit.
The images faded and the reality of Plains—closed down for the day—came back into focus. The sun’s final tapestry of colors began to fill the horizon. Plains, known for peanut farming, was a few miles down the road from Americus, the county seat. Plains would become a national dateline years later as the hometown of President Jimmy Carter, but back then it was nowhere of note. This little Sumter County hamlet was where I spent this mid-August 1965 day trying to encourage local blacks to do something that had in the past been almost exclusively “white folks biznez”—registering to vote.
My work for the day was done, and I was waiting for a ride back to Americus as I watched a couple of kids down at the train depot who were playing hide-and-seek around shipping crates filled with peanuts. Across the dusty tranquility of the town oval—Plains being too small for the quintessential southern town square—was a stocky young blond man at a service station in a baseball cap, drinking a few beers as he tossed a stick for his dog.
He paid me no attention.
It was past dinnertime, and the sky was now beginning to turn darker shades of orange and purple. The southern Georgia heat had begun to subside, and the shade of the porch made it less oppressive.
The ’55 Dodge pickup, a little on the raggedy side, with Judson Ford at the wheel, pulled to a stop, raising some sticky red dust from the clay-laden Georgia soil. David Bell, riding shotgun, leaned his head out the window and smiled a broad grin. David had an attractive ebony face that was a contrast between his adolescent mirth and apparent deep concentration beyond his years. David’s family had become my movement family, giving me a bed to sleep in, and meals…as had the Simmons’ back in Macon, Ala., beginning in mid-June.
“Hey, Willy,” David called. “Get in, brother. My mom be holding dinner for us. And, those collards be gettin’ …coe-lll-ddd (c-o-l-d).” With a smile, he continued: “I know they’re not your favorite, even when they be steaming.”
“OK,” I called back, picking up the voter registration leaflets, “and, big brother David, you’ll be glad to know that a nice elderly lady, not more than a mile out in the country, promised me that she would go down to the courthouse in Americus and ‘reddish’ [register]. And, even without you watching out for me, I got through another whole day without being shot at.”
A few days earlier, David had been trying to get new voters scheduled to go to the courthouse, when he and white volunteer, Bill Rau, had been attacked by two white men in a car who threw bricks at them, hitting Bill in the face, opening a wound that took thirteen stitches to close. As David tried to give aid to Bill, the two men got out of the car and attacked Bill with clubs. Had Bill not gone into the fetal position with his hands covering his head, as we had been taught at orientation by Hosea Williams and other movement military vets, he might have had a fractured skull, rather than broken fingers.
David gave me another big grin, and said: “None of those bad white dudes been chuckin’ rocks at you?” Judson, David and I laughed as I climbed into the pickup, still smiling.
Judson nodded at me, with a soft smile. He was twice David’s age of 17, but just as lean and hard. Judson Ford had served in Korea, and the day before, at Barnum’s Funeral Home, the hub of the movement in Americus, I saw him stick a .38 revolver in his belt as we were getting ready to go out in the country to pick up some movement folks who had been trying to solicit new voters among the few residents in the tiny villages of DeSoto and Leslie.
Surprised, I said: “Judson, what’s the gun for? I thought we were nonviolent?”
Judson had gazed blank–faced at me for a moment. And then, he had a long silent look that said, “I’m not sure if you’re for real, young white boy; or, if you can understand the implications of what I’m going to tell you, or about what’s really going on down here for that matter.” He then spoke without emotion:
"Oh yeah, we are nonviolent, little brother...Andy Young, even Willie Bolden and Big Lester, as tough as they are. All of Dr. Martin Luther King’s staff...J.T. Johnson, and Lula Williams, too. And, the good Lord knows Dr. King, our leader, is. But, Willy, this ain’t no demonstration we’re fixing to leave for right now. No TV cameras to help protect us, and I plan to get me and you, and the other youngsters back alive. There’s been more reports of heavy gunfire down in terrible Terrell County. I decided after Korea, even if I couldn’t vote when I got back, that I’d be a target for no Kluxer, or anyone else. You comin’?”
I had still been trying to wrap my mind around what Judson said as I drove our Dodge pickup—Judson riding shotgun beside me—from Barnum’s on down the hill to Lee Street, and then south on Highway 19. The gun didn’t bother me, and, in fact, it made me feel less afraid. That trip was one of more than a few times when my idealism and my faith in Dr. King’s teachings of nonviolence came face to face with the reality of southwest Georgia in the summer of 1965.
B’nai B’rith member William Korey sought to uncover the truth
The year 2012 marks the centennial of Raoul Wallenberg’s birth and the 67th anniversary of his disappearance. The occasion has been marked by the celebration of Wallenberg’s goodness and his achievements—the hundred thousand Hungarian Jews he saved from Nazi persecution—while the search for answers regarding his mysterious imprisonment and death continues.
William Korey, who died in 2009, worked with B’nai B’rith for decades, advocating tirelessly on behalf of Soviet Jews and other causes of importance to the Jewish people. He served as director of both the Anti-Defamation League as well as B’nai B’rith International’s United Nations Office in New York City. Korey was also one of the leading experts on Raoul Wallenberg.
Korey authored two books on the subject—“The Wallenberg Mystery: Fifty-Five Years Later” and “The Last Word on Wallenberg? New Investigations, New Questions”—in addition to writing op- eds for various newspapers, including one published in The Wall Street Journal in 1989 entitled “The Soviet Union Should Come Clean on Raoul Wallenberg.”
In 2006, Korey appeared before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus to discuss the latest in what had been a decades-long search for the truth regarding the fate of Wallenberg.Click on the video below
to watch Korey’s testimony in front of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.
Jews in the Military
I recently received from the B’nai B’rith Magazine and read numerous letters to the editor dealing with your article about Jews serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
My father, Chaim Herzog, Israel’s sixth president, served as the Military Attaché of Israel in the USA between 1950 and 1954 in the rank of Colonel. In his autobiography “Living History” (Pantheon Books, 1996), he depicted the unique situation which certain Jewish commanders in the U.S. army felt anti-Semitism at the time.
Isaac (Bougie) Herzog
Member of the Knesset
The Message of Passover
Allan Jacobs’ column in the recent issue of B’nai B’rith Magazine had more of an impact than you might realize. My immediate reaction to it was “My God, this is what I’ve been trying to impart to all the people who come to meetings and who have no idea what B.B. is all about except for the fact that they live in a B.B. building.”
I am an almost 92-year-old woman who has been a member of B.B. since 1941…over 70 years!!!! Oh, what glorious days they were! It was an “honor” to become a member and activity was bubbling over. I think I must have been chair of every position on the board including “President” three times…wherever I moved. Now I live at Homecrest House in Silver Spring, MD and am the closet advisor to our unit.
We held a general meeting recently which was conducted by our newly elected president, Sandy Wasserman, which went very well. I had mentioned your article to Sandy before the meeting, and she asked if I would read it. Well, I did…and it was so well received, the audience actually applauded. It was the first time that, for a good portion of the attendees, they ever heard an explanation of what B’nai B’rith is all about. Your message is so complete, so succinct; there wasn’t anything to be explained. Several people approached me later to thank me and to say it was an eye-opener.
Thank you so much for giving ME the opportunity to do what I’ve been trying to do for so long. Thank you again for your marvelous message. Let your imagination give you a big hug from me.
Silver Spring, Md.
The Jews of Berlin
As a former Berliner, I was very interested in the article about Berlin in the recent issue of the magazine. However, I noted that there was no mention of the wonderful Jewish museum in that city. It is fairly new, and visitors to the city should not miss seeing it. Also, the article about the B'nai B'rith lodge in Berlin did not mention what that unit is doing now. When my husband and I, and another B’nai B’rith couple were in Berlin in 1991, we were invited by the lodge president for a social evening and also spoke to the audience briefly about our involvement and work in the organization in the U.S. Many of the lodge members were from the former Soviet Union and quite a few from Israel.
Your article in the spring magazine brought lots of memories. Born in Berlin, my grandfather’s name was Louis Schachmann. My father’s name was Carl Schachnann. They both were members of B’nai B’rith. I remember my grandfather showing me on his gold chain hanging a little gold triangle which was an emblem from B’nai B’rith. My grandfather had been a president in one of the synagogues you mentioned; however I cannot remember which. I just know that we had a big silver bowl with an inscription about my grandfather serving as president.
My best regards to you,
Postcards from the Holocaust
I was both amazed and excited to read Dara Kahn's account of Torkel Wachter's project in the spring issue of the B'nai B'rith Magazine. I was amazed because his serendipitous find of the 32 postcards led him to an ever expanding understanding of his family relations, his roots and ultimately his identity. It is a personal story with an historical background that should take its place among Holocaust literature, never to be forgotten. I was excited, because I have come unexpectedly into possession of a collection of correspondence of my uncle, who had saved all the letters and postcards written to him by his family and mine when they were still in Germany, in Poland, or on the way to the Americas. That mail dates from the last years of World War I (1917) and ends abruptly in the middle of World War II (1941). It is written in German (many in the old German script) and Yiddish.
I am in the process of organizing this material, preserving it, translating it and drawing on it for an expanded memoir I have written but not published. Needless to add, as an 87-year-old Jewish refugee and grandfather, I feel an urgency to complete my project and would also welcome some help with my work.
Translated by Jan Lee
A published author and chef, Antoní Pinya is one of Mallorca’s foremost authorities on Balearic Island cuisine. He has devoted much of his career to discovering and perfecting subtleties of Mallorca’s many famous dishes, as this delicate Sephardic Passover torte demonstrates. Chef Pinya’s baking notes are included at the end of the recipe.
You can either grind the blanched almonds yourself, or purchase almond flour, which is sold in most natural foods stores.
2 cups 1 teaspoon almond flour (finely ground raw almonds)
1 1/4 cups sugar
The grated peel of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground coffee (not instant)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
A pinch or so of matzah flour
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 F*
Butter a tart mold with butter or margarine.
Sprinkle it with the matzah flour.
Separate the egg whites from the yolks.
Beat the yolks, blending with the sugar until the mix has doubled its initial volume.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff.
Fold the yolk mixture into the whites.
Add the ground almonds with the coffee, cinnamon and the lemon peel, and combine into the mixture
Pour the mixture into the buttered mold.
*Bake at 350˚F for the first 15 minutes, and then reduce heat to 320˚F for the remaining 25 minutes.
Remove mold from oven and let it rest for five minutes.
Carefully remove the torte from the mold.
Sprinkle the torte with a bit of confectioner’s sugar.
This is a cherished delicacy on the island of Mallorca, and especially among chueta families. Its ingredients, the manner of preparation and its qualities reflect its Jewish culinary heritage. Today, we can find its origins reflected in other Sephardic communities.
In Italy, it is known by the name of Bocca di Dama, although the latter version is made with flour and is served during the break-the-fast that follows Yom Kippur. In Turkey, surprisingly, it goes by the same name as in Mallorca, but has a distinction: Turkish Jewish cooks use walnuts in place of almonds, and call it Gato de Muez de Pesah. In Morocco it is known by the name of Pallebe aux Amandes, and like in Italy, is made with flour. These examples confirm that Jews throughout the Diaspora have adapted to the places in which they have settled, changing the aromas, but staying faithful to the same traditional conventions.
Antoní Pinya holds a shechita knife, used in the kosher slaughtering of
animals, reportedly passed down
by his ancestors. Pinya is a master
chef in Mallorcan cuisine.
Photo of synagogue in Fez courtesy Inter-American Institute.
B’nai B’rith’s History in Arab Lands: 1940s to 1970s
By Dara Kahn
The mid-20th century was a tumultuous time for Jews in North Africa and the Middle East. With the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and ongoing wars of independence from British and French colonial rule, the situation in the area was quickly changing, mostly to Jews’ detriment. Many left for Israel, Western Europe or the United States.
Extracted from B’nai B’rith’s archives, the following are but brief highlights of the organization’s extensive role in helping Jews in three of these countries.
AlgeriaFor nearly 2,000 years, a sizable Jewish community lived peacefully in the North African country—until the brutal uprising against French rule, stretching from 1954 to 1962.
In 1961, the B’nai B’rith International Council prepared a background study on the Algerian Jewish community, at the time 130,000 strong. The council asserted: “To Algerian Jewry, guarantees of minority rights for Europeans is a crucial matter. Equally so, at the moment, a definition of their own status: Is the Algerian Jew European or Algerian?”
Though both French and Algerian leaders assured Jews that their rights would be protected, Arab nationalism and hostility often turned to violence, leaving the longevity and safety of the Jewish community in question.
On May 9, 1962, French Ambassador to the United States Herve Alphand addressed the B’nai B’rith International Council at a diplomatic dinner at the Sheraton-Carlton Hotel in Washington, D.C., reaffirming that “all through the negotiations in Evian with [Algeria’s National Liberation Front], it was the French government’s concern to protect the fate of the Jewish population of Algeria,” according to the Washington Evening Star. He also noted that since the French issued a decree in 1870 granting French citizenship to the Jews of Algeria, they would also have automatic immigration rights to France.
But as Algerian independence loomed and Jews’ rights slowly disintegrated, they began to leave by the thousands, most immigrating to France, others to Israel and North America. Today, fewer than 100 Jews remain.
EgyptBy the early 1900s, B’nai B’rith had established two lodges in Egypt—District Grand Lodge Egypt and Lodge Port Said—as part of District No. 16. By 1948, about 100,000 Jews, mostly stateless residents, lived in Egypt.
In 1956, after Israel, France and the United Kingdom invaded Egypt over ownership of the Suez Canal, Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser authorized the confiscation of Jewish property and the incarceration of innocent Jews. Egypt also deported nearly 25,000 Jews with little notice, breaking apart families and allowing them to bring only one suitcase and $56.
In response, B’nai B’rith participated in an emergency conference of major Jewish groups in New York, where they asked President Eisenhower to express shock to the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt to express the United States’ shock at these atrocities. Simultaneously, B’nai B’rith urged its lodges to join with other groups in local protest meetings.
IraqPrior to Iraq’s independence from Great Britain in 1932, the country’s Jewish population was prosperous. Though Iraq’s declaration of independence pledged full equality and cultural autonomy to all citizens and minority groups, the promise was short-lived.
A “Memorandum on the Situation of the Jews in Iraq,” signed and presented to the U.S. State Department on Nov. 3, 1949 by B’nai B’rith and six other major American Jewish organizations, stated: “From the day of its independence, Iraq has followed a militant anti-Jewish policy. Under a swift succession of Iraqi governments, anti-Jewish discrimination spread to government service, education, and economic fields. Anti-Jewish propaganda was indulged in by the Government.” Jews were arrested and killed, their businesses were looted, hundreds of Jewish homes were destroyed and other properties were confiscated. Their emigration rights were also severely restricted.
Evoking anti-Semitic stereotyping similar to what Jews in many countries face today, the memorandum asserted that, “All Jews of Iraq, of whatever political creed, fall under the shadow; a so-called ‘anti-Zionist’ campaign is used as camouflage for the persecution of an entire ethnic and religious minority in violation of the United Nations Charter and common human rights.”
Two decades later, in January 1969, B’nai B’rith President Dr. William A. Wexler wrote to the Secretary General of the United Nations urging “consideration and action” to look into “the condition of Jews in Iraq,” following the execution of 14 Iraqis, nine of whom were Jewish, on charges of espionage. B’nai B’rith held a memorial service for those Jews in Washington, D.C., and sent letters to the Pope, U.S. President, Secretary of State, congressmen and others thanking them for condemning the hangings.
As of 2008, fewer than 10 Iraqi Jews remained in the country.
Hearing the Great American Songbook’s Jewish Roots
The Great American Songbook is steeped in Jewish liturgical tunes and songs from Yiddish theater, music that was an integral part of the lives of many Jewish songwriters and composers in the early 20th century. Click below to hear some of this music.
Di grine kuzine (The Greenhorn Cousin) Click here to listenBy Abe Schwartz
This theatrical song from 1921, written by Abe Schwartz, was a major boost to his career and helped him gain access to some of New York’s major Yiddish theaters.
The piece reflects many immigrants’ feelings of disillusionment about their lives in the “promised land” of America. Other such “disillusionment” songs of the era became folksongs, some lighthearted, some not so much. These songs all spoke of the unexpected economic hardships and difficult, sweatshop conditions they found where they had heard that the streets were paved with gold.
This piece also initiated a genre of songs about “greenhorns”—a reference to newly arrived, un-Americanized immigrants.
Courtesy of the Milken Archive of Jewish Experience. For more information visit http://www.milkenarchive.org/works/view/582
Sheyyibbaneh beit hammikdash (Song for When the Temple is Rebuilt)Click here to listenBy Israel Schorr
This prayer’s structure is one example of the type of Jewish liturgy that many argue has seeped into the American Songbook.
“Sheyyibane beit hammikdash
” is Israel Schorr’s best-known composition, one that expresses hope that the messiah will come, that the ancient Temple will be rebuilt and the Jewish people’s spiritual and sovereignty in its biblical homeland will be restored.
Schorr (1886-1935), born in what is now Poland, began his cantorial career as a child soprano to the Hasidic courts of two rabbis. In 1904, he became the official cantor for the rebbe in Rymanover, succeeding his relative Boruch Schorr. After serving in the Imperial army during World War I, he had cantorial pulpits in Brunn, Krakow, Piestany, west Slovakia and Zurich. When he immigrated to the United States in 1924, he was cantor at synagogues in Chicago and New York, during which time he began to compose his own pieces. Many of these became well known and were expanded by other virtuoso cantors to concert versions and recordings. In this case, Schorr’s composition became famous through performances and recordings by Moshe Koussevitzky (1899–1966), a renowned chazzan first in Poland, then New York.
For more information visit The Milken Archive
Small-Town Charm: An Ingredient for Successful Seders
By Dara Kahn
“Wherever you go, there's always someone Jewish/ You're never alone when you say you're a Jew/ So when you're not home and you're somewhere kind of 'newish'/ The odds are--don't look far, 'cause they're Jewish, too.”—song lyrics by Rabbi Larry Milder, of Westborough, Mass.
While Milder’s verse may be something of an overstatement, it is true that in most corners of small-town America, any Jew can find a welcome mat for a Passover Seder. Of course, obtaining the necessary ingredients for the Seder table can be a challenge. While local groceries may carry basics such as matzah and gefilte fish, many of these communities compile a list of other items to order for Passover. Sometimes, it takes a drive to the nearest large city to buy what’s needed. Or Passover products are shipped in from across the country or from Israel.
Rabbi Gordon Fuller of Congregation Agudath Jacob in Waco, Texas, has convinced local grocery chain H-E-B to carry certain kosher-for-Passover products and some kosher meat. For everything else, the rabbi and community members drive two hours to Austin or Dallas. Since 2004, he has kashered the synagogue’s kitchen in preparation for the community Seder that draws about 60 participants. His wife, Sharon, and volunteers cook the food.
“There’s a lot of respect for religion [here]. It’s not unusual to see people hold hands and pray in a public restaurant. I hadn’t seen it anywhere else,” said Fuller, who is originally from Detroit and lived in Dallas for many years. “While I never would have imagined myself in a place like Waco, [my wife and I] really like it here. There’s something nice about being in a smaller community.”
Many of these communities contain the only Jewish presence for miles. In Pocatello, home to Idaho State University, non-denominational Temple Emanuel is the lone Jewish institution in the eastern part of the state. There are maybe 100 Jews in the area, and only 15 to 20 regularly attend synagogue. “[But] during Passover when we have our community Seder, it’s a full house at the synagogue,” said Debra Shein, who leads the service.
The Pocatello community always holds its Seder on the Saturday that falls during Passover, the most convenient time, especially for those from outlying areas. For nearly 15 years, it has been catered, with salmon pate substituting for gefilte fish.
In Woodstock, Vt., only 40 of the town’s 3,000 residents are Jewish, though the synagogue’s mailing roster includes 400 people from all over central Vermont.
“I’ve lived in Woodstock most of my life, and when I first moved here you could not have put a minyan together. That’s how much things have changed…it’s pretty amazing,” said Jeff Kahn, the current president of Congregation Shir Shalom, the only reform temple in central Vermont. Because everything is volunteer-run and funded by donations, members do not pay dues. In the late 1990s, the community bought a farmhouse built around 1850. They tore it down and in its place built a sanctuary mimicking the original barn, where they now hold the annual community Seder.
“It’s always been a really wonderful experience. People love to have home Seders but this one feels like home,” Kahn said. The potluck banquet table stretches down a long hallway that connects the sanctuary and a farmhouse, where the religious school meets.
“Potluck is kind of our way of doing things in general. Sharing the [Passover] story with the community is such an important part of the fabric of being Jewish—doing the whole Seder, reading about the passage of our people to their home and the whole message it brings. [Our community Seder] feels like a much bigger home celebration,” Kahn said. In some cases, congregants drive 30 minutes to an hour or more for Passover and other services.
In all of these places, dedicated volunteers keep the Seders going. As Fuller said, “Because we’re so small we depend on each other to have that community.”
Three British adults of different religious backgrounds meet during one of the forum’s teacher training days this past academic year. (Photo courtesy of Three Faiths Forum)
Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, as well as Farah Pandith, the State Department’s special representative to Muslim communities, attended this year’s Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe conference in late June, along with several nongovernmental organizations.
One of these was the Three Faiths Forum, a British interfaith group whose volunteers of various religious backgrounds work to fight hatred through education, engagement, and action, focusing on youth. The group—composed of 70 regular volunteers, about 10 interns, and an advisory board of 200—develops and runs interfaith programs in more than 100 British schools, mentors students, trains teachers, and travels across the world from Dublin to Rio to promote its programs.
“We’re trying to reduce ignorance by increasing people’s knowledge about different faiths and beliefs and providing opportunities for continued interaction,” said the Forum’s Deputy Director Rachel Heilbron, who noted that in many of the British schools they visit, the majority of the children have never met a Jew. On more than one occasion, students have made comments embuing “all Jews” with certain traits or characteristics. The goal of the Three Faiths leader is to explain and discuss why it is unacceptable to think of a religious group as completely homogenous, a tendency that can lead to anti-Semitic stereotyping.
“We talk about why we wouldn’t say that and start to break down this idea that people from a single faith are all the same,” Hebron said.
In one of the high schools, a student asked the Jewish speaker, “Do you know Anne Frank?” This student had heard of the young girl who died in Nazi concentration camps but left her diary for all time, but she knew absolutely nothing about her, even that she was no longer alive. Yet, this was her only connection to Judaism. In one particularly difficult session, Hebron said, “We had some young people who were very concerned about the situation with the Palestinians, and their tone moved from concern to accusing a Jewish student…We’re dealing with a very tough situation, and a lot of ignorance. There’s a huge amount of work to do.”There are countless other organizations diligently working to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, both in the United States and in Europe. Here are a few:B’nai B’rith International
: We are dedicated to shining a spotlight on hatred of Jews as a distinct and unique social illness. We supported the bill that eventually became law which created a State Department office to monitor anti-Semitism around the world. We work extensively with governmental officials, domestically and internationally, and with the 56-nation Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.www.bnaibrith.org/issues/antisemitism.cfm
The U.S. State Department’s Office of the Special Envoy To Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism – United States
: This office was established by the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004 and works to implement U.S. policy on anti-Semitism worldwide. The current envoy, Hannah Rosenthal, meets regularly with governmental leaders, ambassadors, educators, and nongovernmental organizations. www.state.gov/g/drl/seas/The Community Security Trust - United Kingdom
: CST not only collects and analyses statistics about anti-Semitic incidents in the United Kingdom, but it also helps secure more than 170 synagogues, 80 Jewish schools, 64 Jewish communal organizations, and approximately 1,000 communal events. The Trust is also the go-to representative body of the country’s Jewish community for various governmental and policy-making bodies, academics, and the media.www.thecst.org.uk/
The Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism – Israel
: Based at Tel Aviv University, the institute researches to anti-Semitism and racism and releases an annual report on anti-Semitism worldwide. It also constantly monitors incidents, publishes briefs and articles, sponsors lectures, and hosts various educational events.www.tau.ac.il/Anti-Semitism/Jewish Community Protection Service (SPJC) – France
: This group, established by the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, the United Jewish Social Fund, and others, has provided security for Jewish institutions since 1980. www.spcj.org/