POW! PERSONS OF THE WEEK – (immigration related) - Immigrants who sought advice from Bintel Briefs (Yiddish) bintel means "bundle" and brief means a "letter" or "letters." Bintel Brief was a Yiddish advice column. It printed a reader's question (without showing their name) and posted an answer meant to help others as well. The column was started by Abraham Cahan the editor of Der Forvertz (The Forward) in 1906 to help bewildered Eastern European immigrants to the US learn about their new country. The column also gave a forum for seeking advice and support in the face of problems ranging from wrenching spiritual dilemmas, to petty family squabbles, to the sometimes hilarious predicaments that result when Old World meets New. These letters and responses, compiled into books, have become for today's readers a remarkable record not only of the varied problems of Jewish immigrant life in America but also of some of the catastrophic events of the first half of our century.
Joachim Gans is renowned for being the first recorded Jew in North America. Gans, born in Prague, was a mining expert. His most dramatic scientific discovery was to reduce the time to purify a batch of copper ore from 16 weeks to just 4 days. Additionally, Gans was able to use the impurities removed from the copper ore in textile dyes. These discoveries along with the general body of his scientific work led to a degree of fame. Gans almost certainly served as the model for the heroic Jewish scientist Joabin, in Sir Francis Bacon's utopian novel, The New Atlantis. In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh recruited him for an expedition to found a permanent settlement in the Virginia Territory of the New World (they founded Roanoke Colony, off the coast of North Carolina). Because the Royal Mining Company failed to resupply the colonists, they accepted an offer from Drake in 1586 to sail them to England Each of the colonists, including Gans, left North America. Gans moved to the town of Bristol where he gave Hebrew lessons to English gentlemen who wanted to read the bible in its original tongue. He was later tried for blasphemy – the trial results and future history of Gans are unknown.
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Emma Lazarus' famous line captured the nation’s imagination and continues to shape the way we think about immigration and freedom today. Written in 1883, her celebrated poem, "The New Colossus," is engraved on a plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Over the years, the sonnet has become part of American culture, inspiring everything from an Irving Berlin show tune to a call for immigrants' rights. One of the first successful Jewish American authors, Lazarus was part of the late nineteenth century New York literary elite and was recognized in her day as an important American poet.
Harvey Bernard Milk was an American politician who became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Milk served 11 months in office and was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for the city. On November 27, 1978, Dan White, another city supervisor who had recently resigned but wanted his job back, assassinated Milk and Mayor George Moscone. The assassinations and the ensuing events were the result of continuing ideological conflicts in the city. Anne Kronenberg, his final campaign manager, wrote of him: "What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us." Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000.
The 2011 Nobel Prize in physics goes to astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter, 52, a graduate of Germantown Friends School who grew up in Mt. Airy and now works at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He is one of three men who upended our view of the heavens by discovering that the universe, rather than continuing to slow down after the Big Bang, is now speeding up as it expands - due to a still-mysterious force that has been dubbed dark energy. Perlmutter attended a Folkshul in ____________, called ____________, just before it merged with our Folkshul. His sister, Tova, graduated from our Folkshul. Mazel Tov to Fayge and Dan Perlmutter, Saul’s parents.
When Ruth Bader Ginsburg was sworn in as the 107th justice to the United States Supreme Court in August 1993, she became the second woman to sit in this court (Sandra Day O'Connor was the first woman) and the first Jewish justice since 1969. After three months of searching for a candidate, Bill Clinton nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Senate approved her nomination by a vote of ninety-six to three and she was sworn in. Ruth Bader Ginsburg had to overcome many obstacles as a woman and as a Jew to achieve her success. She applied for a job with the local Social Security office while she was pregnant. She was appointed to a position and when she told them that she was pregnant, they demoted her three levels in pay. She has paved the way for other Jewish women to move up the ladder of success.
Fran Kleiner - Fran was born in Brooklyn, NY, into a family of Eastern European immigrants steeped in the history, culture and music of the Jewish people. She first introduced Yiddish music to children at Jewish camps in the late 1940’s. She has taught at Folkshul for 35 + years, including being co-director. She has worked on music curriculum development for Folkshul and led workshops at CSJO conferences. She has translated Yiddish songs and interpreted their historical and cultural significance. Her music has been played on radio stations in the Us and other countries. She is the mother of three and the grandmother of three, including Matthew and Devra, who are in 6th grade at Folkshul. She just received the Max Rosenfeld Education Leadership award at our 100th Anniversary Celebration of Secular Jewish Schools and Camps. Mazel Tov, Fran!