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50 States/50 Stories

Jewish historical societies and museums across the country are the keepers of colorful, enlightening, and surprising stories about the accomplishments and contributions of American Jewish men and women who have helped to weave the fabric of American history, culture, and society. Meet them here--the inventors, the philanthropists, the pioneers, the entrepreneurs--who have helped to make America great.

Do you have a story about a Jewish American contribution to tell? Click here to submit your story for consideration. (JAHM reserves the right to edit or refuse any submission.)




Courtesy of Institute of Southern Jewish Life  

Samuel Ullman 1840-1924

Born in Hohenzollern-Hechingen in 1840, Samuel Ullman came to America was he was eleven. After spending many years in Mississippi, Samuel and his wife Emma moved to Birmingham, Alabama in 1884 and opened a hardware store. The same year he arrived in the "Pittsburgh of the South," Ullman became president of Temple Emanu-El and joined the Birmingham Board of Education, on which he served for eighteen years. In 1899, Ullman persuaded the city to build its first permanent public high school. In board meetings, he would often arouse criticism due to his outspoken support of various controversial issues. He actively lobbied for the education of Birmingham's black community, and convinced the board to open the Industrial High School for African Americans in 1900. The Birmingham school board later named an African-American high school in Ullman's honor.

After he lost his hearing and retired from business, Ullman pursued his passion of writing poetry. One of his poems, entitled "Youth," written while Ullman was in his 70s, was admired by General Douglas MacArthur, who hung a framed copy of it in his office in Tokyo during the years right after World War II and often quoted it during speeches. The poem, which begins with the lines "youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind" became well-known in Japan due to MacArthur's influence, and was beloved by many of its residents. More than two decades after his death, Ullman became a celebrated figure in Japan. In 1994, after a joint fund raising effort in Japan and the United States, the University of Alabama at Birmingham opened the Samuel Ullman Museum in his former home.

Text courtesy of Dr. Stuart Rockoff, Director, History Department, Institute of Southern Jewish Life



Courtesy of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives

Robert 1878-1974 And Jessie 1887-1980 Bloom

One untold story in American Jewish history is how two Irish Jews, Robert and Jessie Bloom, became Jewish pioneers of the Alaskan frontier.

Robert and Jessie were both raised in Dublin, Ireland. Robert came to Alaska as a young man in search of gold. Instead of riches, Robert found he loved the region and decided to stay, opening a hardware and general merchandise store in Fairbanks.

At age 21, Jessie left Dublin for London, England. There she became involved in the growing women's suffrage movement. She joined the Women's Freedom League and worked for passage of a suffrage law by selling pro-suffrage newspapers and attending rallies.

Robert and Jessie met in Dublin in 1910 and were married in 1912. Shortly thereafter the newlyweds moved to Alaska.

Together, the Blooms brought their Jewish identity to the frontier and helped create a Jewish community where none had previously existed. Robert was a founder of Congregation Bikkur Cholim in Fairbanks and served as chairman of Alaska's Jewish Welfare Board. The couple also served as unofficial chaplains for Jewish servicemen stationed in Alaska during World War II.

The Blooms were involved in many activities during their long lives – working in business and culture while always respecting the beauty and nature of Alaska's wilderness. Robert Bloom helped to establish the first Air Force base in Alaska and was a founder of the University of Alaska (1918). Meanwhile, Jessie Spiro Bloom founded the Fairbanks kindergarten and first Girl Scout chapter in the state (1925).

The papers of Robert L. and Jessie S. Bloom reside at The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives on the historic Cincinnati campus of the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion.



Courtesy of Arizona Jewish Historical Society Archives  

Freeda Lewis 1885-1946

Born in Sellel, Russia, Freeda Lewis immigrated to Ontario, Canada as small child. She married a young lawyer named Barnett E. Marks in 1903, and in 1906 they moved to Phoenix, Arizona. An energetic volunteer and ardent Republican, Freeda served as legislative chairman of the Central Arizona District Federation of Women's Clubs and president of the Phoenix section of the Council of Jewish Women. Her volunteer activities propelled her into political life where she held several significant appointed and elected posts in Arizona government.

Freeda Marks was not only a pioneer of women politicians, but an important Republican figure in the 20th century. She served as a national Republican committeewoman from 1920 to 1922, a 1922 minority leader in the legislature, and an elected associate member of the national committee as the Arizona member of the Republican national committee in 1928 at a time when there were only 2 Republican members. She was also an elected representative of Maricopa County in the sixth legislature and the Republican nominee for the speaker of the house.

Freeda was well liked by Arizona citizens and respected by her political peers. However, the Arizona activist was sometimes controversial. Not afraid to speak her mind, she once told the newspapers that "Senator Harrison needs to live and learn" when he criticized the presidential candidate, Calvin Coolidge.

Freeda retained her identity as a Jewish woman by remaining involved in Jewish charitable organizations throughout her life. Her tenacity and intelligence earned her general public admiration and local and national prominence.

Text courtesy of Emily Jacobson, Arizona Jewish Historical Society



Courtesy of Institute of Southern Jewish Life  

Jane Mendel 1924-2006

In 1957, the court-ordered integration of Central High School was the first serious test of the Supreme Court’s recent Brown v Board of Education ruling. Led by Governor Orval Faubus, the forces of resistance pulled out all the stops in their efforts to thwart the court’s ruling. For Jane Mendel, staying on the sidelines was not an option. Born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, Mendel moved to Little Rock at age 19 after she married local boy Edwin Mendel. When the governor shut down Little Rock’s public high school in September of 1958 rather than integrate, Mendel and other women created the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC) to fight against it.

The WEC became the public face of the fight for integrated public schools in Little Rock. Mendel was the keeper of the WEC’s top-secret telephone chain master list. When they needed the group’s membership to mobilize, Mendel would activate the telephone chain. Through this system, over 2000 members could be reached in a short period of time. With Mendel at the helm, the WEC phone chain was able to quickly rally public opinion against segregationist proposals. Mendel was one of many Jewish women in Little Rock who were involved in the WEC.

An active member of the Little Rock Jewish community, the Jewish Federation created the Jane Mendel Tikkun Olam Award in 2003 to honor Jewish community leaders who fulfill the mitzvah of repairing the world. Jane Mendel died on January 20, 2006, after a lifetime of working to make her community a better place for everyone.

Text courtesy of Dr. Stuart Rockoff, Director, History Department, Institute of Southern Jewish Life



Courtesy of American Jewish Historical Society.  

THELMA (TIBY) EISEN 1922-present

One of the most versatile and talented Jewish professional athletes in America was Gertrude "Tiby" Eisen. Born in Los Angeles in 1922, Tiby Eisen was a star of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the only professional women's league in baseball history. The women's hardball league lasted from 1943 to 1954. One of at least four Jewish women in the AAGPBL, Eisen was its only Jewish superstar and a pioneer in American women's sports.

The young Eisen was an outstanding athlete in her native Los Angeles and started playing semi-pro softball at age 14. When the AAGPBL was formed in 1943, Eisen won a spot on the Milwaukee team, which moved the next year to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Eisen's best season was in 1946, when she led the AAGPBL in triples, stole 128 bases and made the all-star team.

Eisen's family was ambivalent about the career choice this "nice Jewish girl" had made, although she ultimately won their respect. "We played a big charity game in Chicago for a Jewish hospital," Eisen recalled in an interview with historian David Spaner. "My name and picture were in every Jewish newspaper. My uncle, who had said, 'You shouldn't be playing baseball – you'll get a bad reputation, a bad name,' was in the stands . . . bursting with pride that I was there."

When Eisen retired from professional baseball 1952, she settled in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles and became a star for the Orange Lionettes softball team, leading them to a world championship. In 1993, she helped establish the women's exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Eisen told David Spaner, "We're trying to record this so we have our place in history. It's important to keep our baseball league in the limelight. It gets pushed into the background ... [just as] women have been pushed into the background forever. If they knew more about our league, perhaps in the future some women will say, 'Hey, maybe we can do it again.'"

Text courtesy of American Jewish Historical Society.



Courtesy of Center for Judaic Studies and Penrose Library, University of Denver.  

Frances Wisebart Jacobs 1843-1892

Frances Wisebart Jacobs was a young bride of twenty in 1863 when she accompanied her new husband by covered wagon from Cincinnati to their first home in Central City, a burgeoning silver boom mining town about thirty miles west of Denver, in the Colorado Territory. In 1870, the family relocated to nearby Denver, where Bavarian-born Abraham became active in business and politics and Frances soon became an icon in the area of philanthropy, becoming known as Denver's "Mother of Charities." In 1872, Jacobs helped organize and soon served as president of the Hebrew Ladies' Benevolent Society, and in 1874 she helped found the nonsectarian Denver Ladies' Relief Society, primarily to aid Denver's ill and impoverished, and served as the organization's first vice president.

In 1887, Mrs. Jacobs, along with Reverend Myron Reed and Father William O'Ryan, organized a federation of Denver charities that was the forerunner of the Community Chest, which, in turn, evolved into the modern, national United Way. Especially concerned with the plight of tuberculosis victims, Frances was also the primary impetus behind the founding of the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives (NJH), which opened in Denver in 1899 and served thousands of patients from all over the United States. In 1900, when sixteen portraits of pioneers were selected to be placed in the windows of the dome of the Colorado state capitol building, Jacobs was chosen as one of the small elite group and the only woman. When she died in 1892 at the age of forty-nine, nearly 2,000 people attended her funeral in recognition of her impact on philanthropy in Colorado.

Text courtesy of Jeanne Abrams, Rocky Mountain Jewish Historical Society and Beck Archives, Center for Judaic Studies and Penrose Library, University of Denver.


Courtesy of University of Denver  

Ed Stein 1946-

Political cartoonist Ed Stein is a brilliant and an important member of the Denver community. Born November 22, 1946, Ed is an American cartoonist and former editorial cartoonist for the now-closed Rocky Mountain News in Denver. Stein drew editorial cartoons five days a week, and previously published a local daily comic strip called Denver Square. He continues to draw editorial cartoons, which are syndicated by United Media, and have been printed in newspapers across the world in many languages. On September 20, 2010, he launched a syndicated national comic strip, entitled "Freshly Squeezed."

Ed Stein's story is part of the Community Narratives Project, a video element of the Mizel Museum's permanent exhibit, 4,000 Year Road Trip: Gathering Sparks. The project began in 2008 as a collaboration with the Center for Digital Storytelling to augment an exhibit called Voices of Resilience. Mizel Museum staff has built the collection of short digital stories to over 45, with an additional 15 audio-only segments about community members with stories from the Pale of Settlement during the Holocaust. The stories are a great vehicle for the museum to share the life experiences of the Denver Jewish community, as well as to teach about Jewish life and culture, immigration, and inspiring accounts from individuals who are working to repair the world. Community Narratives Project stories can be viewed in the permanent exhibit and on iPads that can be checked out during your museum visit.

Here is Ed Stein's digital story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDuNT9TgRgE

Text courtesy of Mizel Museum



Courtesy of Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford  

Louis "Kid" Kaplan 1900⁄01-1970

Louis "Kid" Kaplan was born in 1901 or 1902 in Russia. When he was a boy, his family came to Meriden, Connecticut, where his father became a junk dealer. After a grade school education, Kaplan entered boxing and had his first professional match at the age of 19. Kaplan became boxing's World Featherweight Champion in 1925. He was considered by Ring Record Book to be one of the ten best featherweights of all time. In addition to his skill, he became known for his sportsmanship and integrity, refusing to "throw" matches for money. Retiring undefeated in 1933, Kaplan became an insurance agent under Abraham Goldstein, owned a liquor store, and opened a restaurant in Hartford. Kaplan died in 1970.

Text courtesy of Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford


Courtesy of Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford  

Annie Fisher 1883-1968

Annie Fisher devoted her life to public school education in Hartford, instituting many reforms aimed at aiding immigrant children and those with special needs. Fisher came to America as a child with her family to escape the persecution of Jews in Russia. She received a scholarship to attend Wesleyan University during the Wesleyan’s early experiment with co-education. After graduation, Fisher returned to Hartford to teach. She received her first full-time position at Barnard School only because she could speak the language of the large immigrant population. Realizing that students of vastly different ages were being put in class together without testing or special help, Fisher evaluated students and designed programs that fit their skills. Fisher wrote two English textbooks for the foreign-born that were in use for many years. Fisher became Hartford's first female district superintendent and first female principal, but sometimes had to suffer the prejudices of colleagues who didn't want to accept a female or a Jew in these positions. Gradually, however, she won the respect of her colleagues who saw value in her reforms. She also worked on gaining reforms in salary and pensions for both female teachers and teachers in general. When she retired in 1945, Fisher was held in great esteem and a Hartford elementary school was later named in her honor.

Text courtesy of Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford



Drawing by Chris Monaco: A modern rendering, based on Moses Levy's written instructions to his carpenter, of his house at Pilgrimage Plantation.
Courtesy of the Collection of the Jewish Museum of Florida

Moses Elias Levy 1782-1854 And David Levy Yulee 1810-1886

Moses Elias Levy was one of the antebellum South's most influential and interesting Jews. Born in Morocco where his father was a courtier to the sultan, through his career as a merchant shipper in the Caribbean, he was also one of the earliest and largest developers in Florida. He purchased 92,000 acres that were part of the Arredondo Spanish land grant by 1819.

As a refuge for Jews fleeing persecution in Europe, Moses Levy founded Pilgrimage Plantation, the first Jewish communitarian settlement in America, in 1822. At least five German Jewish families lived there. The 1,000-acre plantation operated until 1835 and contained houses, a sugar mill, saw mill, corn mill, stable and blacksmith shop. Levy reintroduced sugar cane and fruit trees to Florida as viable crops and established the first sugar cane plantation in Alachua County.

Pilgrimage was the first residence in Florida of "the architect of Florida" David Levy Yulee, a son of Moses Levy. Yulee (the family's ancestral name in Morocco), brought Florida into statehood in 1845; was Florida's first U. S. Senator; the first person of Jewish ancestry to serve in the U.S. Congress; and built Florida's first cross-state railroad.

Moses Levy was a civil rights activist and America's first Jewish abolitionist author in 1828. An early advocate of public education for both boys and girls, he was instrumental in establishing Florida's first free public school in St. Augustine and served as the territory's first education commissioner.

Text courtesy of Marcia Jo Zerivitz, Founding Executive Director, Jewish Museum of Florida



Louis Cohen, far right, Sandersville, GA
Courtesy of The Breman Jewish Heritage & Holocaust Museum

Louis Cohen 1849-1937

A banker, a railroad magnate, a public servant, and a philanthropist. All of these adjectives describe Louis Cohen of Sandersville, Georgia, a man whose community involvement helped to improve the lives of the people of Central Georgia.

Born in Germany in 1849 Louis Cohen immigrated with his parents to Georgia in 1852. Louis was raised in Americus, Georgia, and moved to Sandersville in 1877, where he established a general merchandise business. In 1885, along with Morris Happ, he established a banking house that later became the Banking House of Louis Cohen. Financial institutions, which had flourished in Georgia prior to the Civil War were few and far between in the next several decades which followed. The Banking House of Louis Cohen was one of only two in operation between Macon and Savannah. According to one account, the bank had worked a local miracle it "had emancipated our merchants from the bondage of the cotton factor and for the first time in history made the average merchant a free man."

Described as "a conspicuous and worthy representative of that class of American citizens, native-born and naturalized, who have done so much toward rehabilitation the south and developing her magnificent possibilities," Cohen led the campaign for the construction of the Sandersville and Tennille railway, serving as its president. This three mile shortline railroad is still in existence, providing excellent freight service to Washington County. In addition to his interests in the railroad and banking Cohn helped to establish the Sandersville-Tennile Telephone Company which later merged with Southern Bell, is credited with installing the first electric light system in Sandersville, served on the school board for 30 years, and was elected mayor of Sandersville in 1887.

Text courtesy of Sandy Berman, Archivist, The Breman Jewish Heritage & Holocaust Museum



Courtesy of the Iowa Women's Archives and the Iowa Digital Library  

Louise Rosenfield Noun 1908-2002

Louise Rosenfield Noun, social activist, art collector, author, philanthropist, and co-founder of the Iowa Women's Archives, was born in Des Moines, Iowa, to Meyer and Rose Rosenfield. Noun graduated from Grinnell College in 1929 and received her M.A. in art history from Harvard in 1933.

Noun is widely recognized for her leadership and commitment to a number of organizations and causes. She served as president of the Des Moines chapter of the League of Women Voters in 1948, the Iowa Civil Liberties Union from 1964 to 1972, and the Des Moines chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) from 1974 to 1976. She was a charter member of the Iowa Women's Political Caucus and instrumental in establishing the Young Women's Resource Center in Des Moines and the Chrysalis Foundation to provide assistance to Iowa women. Noun was elected to the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1981.

Louise Noun is also the author of several books including Strong-Minded Women: The Emergence of the Woman-Suffrage Movement in Iowa (1969); More Strong-Minded Women: Iowa Feminists Tell Their Stories (1992); Iowa Women in the WPA (1999); and Leader and Pariah: Annie Savery and the Campaign for Women's Rights in Iowa (2002, posthumously).

With the sale from her collection of Frida Kahlo's painting Self-Portrait with Loose Hair, Noun was able to endow the Iowa Women's Archives (University of Iowa) along with her co-founder, Mary Louise Smith. The archives opened in 1992 as a repository for primary source material that documents the lives and experience of Iowa women.

This text is a condensed version of the finding aid for the Louise Rosenfield Noun papers at the Iowa Women's Archives.


Photo courtesy of www.levicelebration.com  

Alexander Levi 1809-1893

Alexander Levi has been credited with being the "founder of Jewry in Iowa." He was born March 13, 1809 in Alsace, a province on France's eastern border with Germany. Levi came to Dubuque on August 1, 1833, and opened a grocery store there. Over the years, he expanded his commercial operations into dry good, clothing and also the lead mining operations that were pivotal in the early settlement of Dubuque. Levi's business interests were successful and he became one of Dubuque's most prominent leaders. In 1847 Alexander Levi traveled back to France to marry a distant cousin, Minette Levi. They ultimately had five children: Eliza, Emile, Gustave, Celine (Celia), and Eugene.

In addition to his charitable contributions for Jewish causes, Levi's philanthropy extended to the Presbyterian and Catholic Churches in Dubuque. He was instrumental in the formation of Dubuque’s first Jewish Congregation in the 1860s and contributed land for the Jewish section that became known as the Alexander Levi Cemetery Association of Dubuque. Alexander Levi died in Dubuque on March 31, 1893 and is buried in the cemetery section that he established. A tall obelisk marks the grave of Iowa’s first Jewish Pioneer.

In 1837, Levi traveled to St. Louis along with several other foreign born residents of the Iowa Territory. The story is told that as these men were standing in line waiting to become official citizens of the United States, the gentleman in front of Levi asked him to change places because he wanted to observe the process before taking part in it. Whether or not these were the actual circumstances in St. Louis, Alexander Levi is the first recorded foreigner to become a naturalized citizen in Iowa. Even more astounding is the fact that Iowa is the only state in the American Union in which the first naturalized citizen was a person of Jewish faith.

Text courtesy of the Iowa Jewish Historical Society, written by David Gradwohl for the Society's newsletter, The CHAIowan 1 (1), 1998.



Courtesy of Institute of Southern Jewish Life  

Judah Touro 1775-1854

Raised in Rhode Island, where his father was the leader of the Newport congregation, Judah Touro arrived in New Orleans in 1801. Using his contacts in New England, Touro built a successful trading businesses as a broker and wholesaler of goods made in the northeast and Europe. Touro purchased a lot of property in New Orleans as the city emerged as a commercial center of the American South. During the Battle of New Orleans, Touro fought heroically and suffered a serious wound. After his injury, Touro became a recluse, rarely venturing out in public as he continued to manage his significant financial interests.

Touro was not involved in the founding of the city’s first Jewish congregation, and at first seemed more interested in supporting local Christian churches. He had bought a pew in a local Episcopal Church and bought the building of First Presbyterian Church so the congregation would not be evicted. Later in his life, Touro began to offer more financial support to Jewish institutions in the city, donating a building to the new congregation Dispersed of Judah. He also helped the Gates of Mercy congregation in their fundraising drive to build a synagogue. In 1854, he established Touro Infirmary, a charity hospital supported by the local Hebrew Benevolent Association. When Touro died in 1854, his will included many donations to Jewish institutions around the country, including over $100,000 to Jewish causes in New Orleans. Touro, who had little contact with the organized Jewish community during his lifetime, had become the first great Jewish philanthropist, whose largesse benefited congregations across the United States.

Text courtesy of Dr. Stuart Rockoff, Director, History Department, Institute of Southern Jewish Life



Courtesy of Jewish Museum of Maryland  

Henrietta Szold 1860-1945

Born in Baltimore, Henrietta Szold was a teacher, writer, Zionist, and reform advocate. In 1888, Szold helped establish a night school for Russian immigrants in Baltimore, a model program that was replicated in other cities. She went on to work for the Jewish Publication Society as a writer and editor. A 1909 trip to Palestine inspired Szold to focus her energies on health issues there. In 1912, she established Hadassah, the women's Zionist organization, and she eventually moved to Palestine to oversee the establishment of the Rothschild-Hadassah Hospital and the Hadassah School of Nursing. In 1933, Szold turned her attention to the plight of Jewish European refugees who sought escape from the Nazis, and she became the director of Youth Aliyah, an organization dedicated to resettling Jewish children in Palestine. Szold is buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

Text courtesy of Jewish Museum of Maryland


Courtesy of Jewish Museum of Maryland  

Dr. Bessie Moses 1893-1965

After meeting with national reproductive rights leader Margaret Sanger in 1927, Dr. Bessie Moses opened Maryland's first birth control clinic, the Bureau for Contraceptive Advice, in a working-class neighborhood of Baltimore. Though the Comstock Laws banned the distribution of contraceptives across state lines, Dr. Moses and her staff managed to conduct their activities lawfully by operating as a research institute that studied the efficacy of birth control methods, mainly diaphragms and condoms. In the 1940s the clinic became Planned Parenthood of Maryland. Moses served as the clinic's medical director until her retirement in 1956.

Committed from an early age to women's health, Moses had been the first female obstetrical intern at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She became a prominent figure, mentoring students and speaking before groups. A compassionate physician as well as a rigorous scientist, she spoke out against restrictive birth control laws, testifying with Sanger at Congressional hearings. Her clinic served blacks as well as whites (although on segregated days, as local custom demanded). In 1938 she established the Northwest Maternal Health Center to serve black patients, the first in the nation staffed by African American physicians. In 1950, Moses and Sanger were the first women honored with Planned Parenthood's Lasker Award.

Text courtesy of Jewish Museum of Maryland



Courtesy of The Vilna Shul  

The Vilna Shul 1919-present

The Vilna Shul, Boston's Center for Jewish Culture, has its home in the former Vilner Congregation's 1919 synagogue building on the north slope of Boston's finest neighborhood, Beacon Hill. During the 1920s, there were 50 synagogues within the Boston city limits and eight of them were in Boston's West End, a poor mixed race neighborhood that was a first home to the poorest European immigrants—mostly Irish, Italians, and Eastern European Jews. During the early and mid 1900s, later generations of West End Jews were more affluent and moved out of the West End to the middle class neighborhoods of Dorchester, Roxbury and beyond. With that decline of Jewish residency in the West, the West End synagogues closed. The Vilner was the last West End synagogue to close and, now, is Boston's only intact immigrant era synagogue building.

The Vilner Congregation was founded in 1893 by immigrants from Lithuania. They met for 14 years in congregants' homes, and then owned two buildings before the current site at 18 Phillips Street. The pews and furniture that came along with the ark and Torah scrolls to the new synagogue in 1919 had been occupied by former slaves and 54th Regiment volunteers, members of the Twelfth Baptist Church, the home of the Vilner Congregation from 1906-1916. The Vilner Congregation held its last worship service in 1985. Under threat of demolition, the property passed into state receivership. After several years of court and city historic committee hearings, the courts awarded the property to the Vilna Shul, Boston's Center for Jewish Culture. The property is now used to introduce others to the history of Jewish Boston and to perpetuate an enduring Jewish identity in Boston.

Text courtesy of The Vilna Shul


Dr. Reyersbach and a patient. Courtesy of Jewish Women's Archive  

Gertrud Reyersbach 1907-1999

For the parent of a sick child the time between dawn and when one can call the doctor seems interminable. Dr. Gertrud Reyersbach took phone calls and made house visits at all hours of the day and night. Independent-minded, determined, daughter of a highly respected family in Oldenburg, Germany, she decided as a young woman to go to medical school.

Her professors admired her; in 1933 one of them wrote, "I would be very happy if Miss Reyersbach would succeed in completing her studies despite the different regulations," a covert reference to the anti-Semitic laws of Nazi Germany. Gertrud realized that the doors had closed; in May 1937 she sailed to the United States.

Recertified in the United States as a fully qualified pediatrician with special training in endocrinology and rheumatic diseases, she was invited to Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital at the beginning of World War II as one of the first women residents.

She published papers on rheumatic fever; on persistent infectious diarrhea; on brain damage in juvenile diabetes; on a link between excessive vitamin A intake and bone deformation; on inherited kidney disease. In 1957 the Boston Globe ran a front-page article on her research into the relationship between estrogen and height in young girls. She taught Harvard medical students; she cared for children whose parents were on welfare, or members of prominent Boston families.

Immigrant, female: Dr. Reyersbach’s career was made possible by her intelligence, her dedication, and her determination to become part of the community and to support it—and by the fact that the United States and Massachusetts recognized and welcomed her.

Text courtesy of Jewish Women's Archive



Courtesy of Detroit Symphony Orchestra  

Ossip Solomonovich Gabrilowitsch 1878-1936

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Ossip Gabrilowitsch was well known as a concert pianist and orchestra conductor on both sides of the Atlantic before immigrating to the United States in 1917. He joined the Detroit community in 1918 and left an indelible stamp on the culture of the city through his work with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Gabrilowitsch was the resident conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra during the 1918-1919 concert season and was offered the conductor's position on a permanent basis. He declined to return to Detroit unless a proper hall was built for the orchestra. A site was purchased, the existing building razed, and Detroit's renowned Orchestra Hall built on its foundation. In October 1919, Ossip Gabrilowitsch returned to the podium to lead the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in its new musical home for the next 16 seasons.

In addition to conducting and occasional solo performances, he was active in the establishment of the Women's Association of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which became the fundraising backbone of the orchestra. He was also instrumental in establishing a music program for school children to hear and learn about classical music, instruments, and composers.

The cultural legacy begun by Ossip Gabrilowitsch continues to distinguish Detroit and its surrounding area through the concerts performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in Orchestra Hall, through school concert programs, and through the continuing work of volunteer groups whose membership and efforts have expanded far beyond those envisioned when the Women's Association was formed.

Text courtesy of Cynthia Korolov, Archivist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, for the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan



Courtesy of Institute of Southern Jewish Life  

Paula Ackerman 1893-1989

When Rabbi William Ackerman of Meridian’s Congregation Beth Israel died suddenly in 1950, the members asked his wife Paula Ackerman to fill his shoes as “spiritual leader” of the congregation. Paula felt that accepting this position would be a way to honor her husband and to help ease her sorrow.

Though she had no ordination or formal training, Paula Ackerman led Beth Israel for three years until they were able to find an acceptable rabbi. Paula’s pioneering tenure was twenty years before the first woman was ordained as a rabbi. Though she was always called “spiritual leader” rather than “rabbi,” Paula filled all the roles of a rabbi including leading weekly Shabbat services, giving sermons, and conducting marriages and funerals. In spite of much media attention and criticism from Jews around the country, including the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the congregation remained united under her leadership. Ten years later, she served a similar function at a temple in Pensacola, Florida, where she had grown up.

Paula recognized the importance of what she was doing, and early on, expressed hope that it would help lead to the ordination of women as rabbis. As time went on, the leadership of Reform Judaism recognized her as a pioneer. In 1986, the president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis wrote to Paula, stating that “more than two decades before our movement ordained its first woman as a rabbi, you demonstrated how capable a woman could be in leading a reform congregation.”

Text courtesy of Dr. Stuart Rockoff, Director, History Department, Institute of Southern Jewish Life



Courtesy of Incrediware Blogspot  

Jacob W. Davis 1831-1908

Although the Levi Strauss name is indelibly associated with copper-riveted jeans, it was Jacob W. Davis who first fabricated them at his Reno, Nevada shop in 1871. Jacob Youphes was born in Riga, Latvia and immigrated to the United States at the age of 23, where he changed his name to Davis. He worked as an itinerant tailor in New York, Maine, and Northern California, panned for gold in Canada, sold tobacco and wholesale pork in Virginia City, Nevada, and settled in Reno in 1868 where he helped proprietor Frederick Hertlein build his Reno Brewery. Davis soon turned to making tents, horse blankets, and other outdoor supplies for surveyors and teamsters working for the Central Pacific Railroad. He used denim and duck twill that he purchased from wholesaler Levi Strauss in San Francisco. When the wife of a laborer asked him to make a pair of sturdy pants in late December 1870, Davis used the duck cloth from Strauss and added copper rivets to strengthen the seams. Davis was soon selling his creation for $3.00 per pair, and he could not meet the growing demand. On May 20, 1873, Strauss secured a patent in the name of Jacob W. Davis and Levi Strauss & Company. Davis moved to San Francisco, and until his death he supervised up to 450 employees at Levi Strauss & Company. His copper-riveted sensation was arguably the most enduring Nevada-based invention in the state's history.

Text courtesy of The Online Nevada Encyclopedia

New Jersey


Courtesy of The Jewish-American Hall of Fame  

Albert Einstein 1879-1955

Born in the German town of Ulm, Albert Einstein spent his early youth in Munich. While attending Zurich Polytechnic Institute he became a Swiss citizen; after graduating in 1890, he took a post at the Berne patent office and carried out experiments on his own time. In 1905, he published three scientific papers, including one that would make his name a household word - the Special History of Relativity. Einstein demonstrated that motion is relative and that physical laws must be the same for all observers moving relative to each other, as well as his famous equation E=mc² showing that mass and energy are equivalent. He received the Nobel Prize for physics in 1921 for his explanation of the photoelectic effect. Another paper published in 1920 predicted that large masses would deflect planets or light rays from their paths; this was proven when it was shown that starlight was deflected by the gravitational field of the sun during a total eclipse of the sun in 1919. In 1933, Einstein was appointed as a life member of the newly founded Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University in New Jersey and lived here for the remaining twenty-two years of his life. Einstein's interests were not confined to his research alone. His friend and collaborator Dr. Otto Nathan writes: "Except for his devotion to science, no cause was more important or closer to his heart than the determination that the institution of war be forever abolished." He was also deeply concerned with Jewish affairs, and devoted his active interest to the creation of the Hebrew University and Brandeis University. After the death of Chaim Weizmann, 73 year old Albert Einstein declined the presidency of Israel, writing "I am deeply moved by the offer from our State of Israel [but] I lack both the natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people and to exercise official functions." In the December 31, 1999 issue of Time Magazine, Albert Einstein was named "Person of the Century." Albert Einstein was inducted into the Jewish-American Hall of Fame in 1970.

Text courtesy of The Jewish-American Hall of Fame

New Mexico


Courtesy of Jason Bache, Nerds Limited, LLC.  

Frank G. Hesse, M.D.

For almost fifty years Dr. Frank G. Hesse has been the driving force in New Mexico for public health reform and the delivery of vital health services. Frank and his immediate family were fortunate to flee Nazi Germany after Kristallnacht. He received his M.D. from the New York Upstate Medical Center at Syracuse, spent two years in the Public Health Service treating Native Americans in Arizona, did his residency in general surgery in Syracuse and spent a year as chief of surgery, at the Public Health Service Hospital in Shiprock, New Mexico. In 1962, Frank and his wife Zora (Getmansky) moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Frank established a very successful practice in general surgery, becoming an early practitioner of laparoscopy on gall bladder patients. Meanwhile, he had plunged into public health issues. Frank and Zora led the fight for implied consent legislation to combat the plague of DWI in New Mexico. With allies in the medical community and government, Frank challenged the dysfunctional rescue system and created the highly effective modern two-tier emergency system that Albuquerque enjoys today. He led the drive to recruit medical personnel for the New Mexico’s vast rural community. Currently, Frank is Acting Director of the state’s Health Policy Commission. The Hesses believe that their extensive involvement in politics (Zora served as New Mexico’s Democratic National Committeewoman) was instrumental in securing these and other advances in public health, winning friends for Israel, erecting a Holocaust Memorial in downtown Albuquerque, and gaining support for other Jewish causes.

Text courtesy of Noel H. Pugach, Professor Emeritus (History), University of New Mexico (Albuquerque)

New York


Courtesy of Surprise Lake Camp  

Surprise Lake Camp 1902-present

Founded in 1902 by the Educational Alliance to provide a summer vacation for Jewish boys from the tenements of Manhattan's Lower East Side, Surprise Lake Camp in Cold Spring, New York, is the oldest Jewish camp in America continuously operating in its original location.

The first campers arrived via the New York Central Railroad. They hiked two miles into camp where they lived in tents for two weeks, were served food cooked outdoors, and washed in the lake.

During its 109 year history, partners included the 92nd Street Y and the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies. Surprise Lake became a New York not-for-profit in 1920, eventually leading to compete independence from its founding agencies.

One of Surprise Lake's first campers was Eddie Cantor, who, upon achieving success as an entertainer, became one of the camp's most ardents supporters. Among the thousands of young people served, many have achieved prominence, including Neil Diamond, Larry King, Jerry Stiller, Joseph Heller, Nancy Lieberman, Walter Matthau, and Larry David.

Over its long history, Surprise Lake Camp has been dedicated to feeding undernourished boys, has operated as a year-round camp with formal education, and is now a general co-ed summer camp with special emphasis on scholarships serving boys and girls from the Greater New York City area from 7 to 15 years of age. In 2010, with over $850,000 in total scholarships provided, Surprise Lake is believed to be the most generous Jewish scholarship camp in the United States.

Text courtesy of Surprise Lake Camp



Jacob Reingold 1915-1999

Jacob Reingold was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1915 and emigrated to the United States, joining his two brothers in Cincinnati in 1936. He later moved to New York City and became a leader in caring for the elderly. His advocacy laid the groundwork for the nationwide observance of Grandparents' Day – celebrated annually on the second Sunday in September.

Grandparents' Day was first celebrated in the United States at The Hebrew Home at Riverdale on September 16, 1961. Mr. Reingold created the holiday following his participation at the White House Conference on Aging that year. By 1963 it became an official holiday in the Bronx, New York. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed Grandparents' Day a national holiday, and on January 27, 1987, the Congressional Record affirmed Jacob Reingold's pioneering efforts to gain recognition for grandparents as well as a national day to celebrate them.

Mr. Reingold also pioneered staged options of living, which allow the elderly to live at home or to take advantage of different levels of institutional care as their needs change. He also put into effect the first policy in the United States regarding the rights of elderly residents of a long-term care facility to freedom of sexual expression. Also at the Hebrew Home, he established a renowned art collection and Judaica Museum, now known as the Derfner Judaica Museum.

Mr. Reingold received a bachelor's degree in social work from the University of Cincinnati in 1942 and a master's degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1943. He did further graduate work at the Center for Human Relations and Community Studies of the New York University School of Education. Early in his career, he headed a reception center in the Bronx for orphans from displaced persons camp in Germany.

North Carolina


Courtesy of the Institute of Southern Jewish Life  

Gertrude Weil 1879-1971

Gertrude Weil was born in 1879 in Goldsboro to an antebellum German immigrant family. In 1901 she became the first North Carolinian to graduate from Smith College. After she toured Europe, her family called her home.

While Weil men created businesses and philanthropies, Gertrude's mother Mina Rosenthal Weil and aunt Sarah Einstein Weil founded cultural societies, women's clubs, and social service agencies. Mina's friends included Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah.

"Federation Gertie" was a Progressive Era "new woman." As officer of the North Carolina Federation of Women's Clubs, Weil recognized that social reform was impossible unless women secured the vote. In 1914 she organized the Equal Suffrage League, serving as state president and national secretary. Founding president of the state's League of Women Voters, she worked for labor rights and social welfare. A member of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, she endorsed integration in the 1940s. In her eighties when civil rights movement arrived, she opened her door to African Americans for the Goldsboro Bi-Racial Council.

Active in Jewish causes, Weil attended Sabbath services loyally at Temple Oheb Sholom. She was twice president of the North Carolina Association of Jewish Women. Family efforts to save German relatives from Nazi persecution strengthened her Zionism. In 1951 she visited Israel and served Hadassah locally and regionally.

Her awards included an honorary doctorate from North Carolina Woman's College, a B'nai B'rith distinguished service award, and her alma mater’s Smith Medal. In 1971 she died in the Goldsboro house where she was born.

Text courtesy of the Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina

North Dakota


Courtesy of Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU, Fargo (2048.3.50)  

Harry Lashkowitz 1889-1962

Harry Lashkowitz was born in the southern Ukraine. He immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 6 years old. The family lived in New York City for nine years before moving to Fargo, where Harry's father owned a modest butcher shop. After high school, Harry moved back to New York, where he attended City College and then went on to graduate from the New York University School of Law in Brooklyn. He returned to Fargo and started a law practice, married, and had a family. In the early years, he taught commercial law at the North Dakota Agricultural College. Lashkowitz soon became involved in local and national politics. He was appointed first assistant U.S. Attorney by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933, a position he held for 20 years. Lashkowitz was also a leader of local, national, and international Jewish groups, including the Fargo Hebrew Congregation, the John Hay Lodge No. 634, and the District Grand Lodge of B'nai Brith, where he served as vice-president.

Text courtesy of Horizon Lines



Courtesy of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives  

The Fechheimer Family

The Fechheimer family originated in Mitzitz, Bavaria, where family patriarch, Samuel Maier, was a merchant. Several of his fourteen children immigrated to the United States in the mid-1800s and at least three of them settled in Cincinnati and started a clothing business that would become the Fechheimer Brothers Company. Samuel Fechheimer was the first owner of the company, which opened in 1842, and it expanded, with branches in Kentucky and Kansas. His sons May and Jacob were early owners as well, soon joined by their uncle, Marcus. A third brother, Wulf, also settled in Cincinnati and frequently opened his house to other family members arriving as immigrants.

The Fechheimer Brothers Company still exists and its corporate headquarters remain in Cincinnati with union manufacturing plants in Hodgenville, Kentucky and Grantsville, Maryland. It sells uniforms online to police, fire, military, postal, and other service industries.

The German-Jewish Fechheimer family has a long and distinguished history in the Cincinnati area. One of the descendants, A. Lincoln Fechheimer (1879–1954), became a renowned architect who built the original classroom building and Bernheim Library of Hebrew Union College, the former Wise Center building in Avondale, and the Wilson Auditorium on the Clifton campus of the University of Cincinnati. The architecture firm of Fechheimer, Ihorst & McCoy designed the Dale Park School in Mariemont (1924–1925) and the firm of Fechheimer & Ihorst designed the Ault Park Pavilion in 1930.

Rare documents pertaining to the Fechheimer family are located at The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives located on the historic Cincinnati campus of the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion.


Courtesy of American Jewish Archives and www.franksredhot.com

Frank's Original Redhot Cayenne Pepper Sauce

Around the turn of the 20th century, an expanding consumer market provided numerous opportunities for entrepreneurs to find a niche for their products. In 1896, Jacob Frank ended his career as a traveling salesman and founded the Frank Tea & Spice Company along with his brothers Emil and Charles. Located on East Second Street in Cincinnati, Ohio, the company introduced small, shelf-size, packages of whole and ground spices for customers, replacing bulk merchandise. As their market expanded, so too did their offerings; ranging from teas and spices to peanut butter and olives. In 1918, Jacob contracted with the Estilette Pepper Farm in Louisiana, and became a business partner with Adam Estilette. The two men mixed spices, vinegar, garlic and cayenne peppers and allowed them to age, and created the original blend of Frank's RedHot as it first appeared on the marketk in 1920. In 1964, Frank's RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce was used as the secret ingredient for the first ever Buffalo Wings, made in Buffalo, New York by Teressa Bellissio at the Anchor Bar and Grill.

In 1977, Frank's RedHot was sold to Durkee Famous Foods. Since the purchase of the Durkee brand in 1995, it is owned by Reckitt Benckiser. Frank's is now produced in Springfield, Missouri.

Text courtesy of American Jewish Archives and www.franksredhot.com



Courtesy of Oklahoma Historical Society

Sylvan Nathan Goldman 1898-1984

Considering that Jews constitute a mere one-tenth of one percent of Oklahoma's population, their contribution to the state is staggering. Sylvan N. Goldman, a native Oklahoman born of a Lithuanian immigrant father and French immigrant mother in Ardmore, Chickasaw Nation is a perfect example.

The shopping cart was introduced on June 4, 1937, in the Humpty Dumpty supermarket chain in Oklahoma City, of which Goldman was the owner. As an original self-service grocery retailer, Goldman observed the shopping habits of his customers, realizing he could provide better service and sell more groceries if only he had some means of helping them carry more merchandise. From this simple observation the shopping cart was born. The first prototype was constructed from a folding chair. It utilized two wire hand baskets to carry merchandise. Sylvan Goldman founded a company to manufacture his new idea and called it Folding Carrier Basket Company after the design of the first cart.

The shopping cart was not immediately embraced by the public. Men found them effeminate; women found them suggestive of a baby carriage. After hiring several male and female models to push his new invention around his store as well as greeters to explain their use and demonstrate their utility as part of his "No Basket Carrying Plan," shopping carts became extremely popular and Goldman became a multimillionaire by collecting a royalty on every shopping cart in the United States until his patents ran out.

With only an eighth grade education, Goldman revolutionized supermarkets and retailing in America today. Other inventions include the grocery sacker, the folding inter-office basket carrier, and the handy milk bottle rack. Goldman also invented the baggage cart, which is seen today in every airport around the world.

Goldman was a philanthropist, a patron of the arts and contributed many works of art to Oklahoma institutions. He gave time and money to the National Conference of Christians and Jews at the Southwest Center for Human Relations at the University of Oklahoma, and received many honors, including the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanities Award in 1965.

Text courtesy of the Phil Goldfarb, President of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Tulsa



Courtesy of The Oregonian, April 27, 2011  

Harold J. Schnitzer 1923-2011

Schnitzer was one of Oregon's most powerful and wealthy men, and from one of its most prominent families. His professional and charitable activities touched nearly every corner of Oregon life.

Harold and his wife, Arlene have given more than $80 million since 1993, helping build up the Portland Art Museum, the Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center at Oregon Health & Science University, and Judaic Studies programs at the University of Oregon and Portland State University. "We are losing a combination of vision, passion and wealth that has changed the face of every institution he's become part of," said longtime friend Bruce Guenther, chief curator of the Portland Art Museum. "No one is ready to step into Harold Schnitzer's shoes."

Born in 1923, Harold Schnitzer was the fifth of seven children of Russian immigrants Rose and Sam Schnitzer, who transformed a junk business into a steel empire.

As a boy, Harold earned 25 cents a week for polishing metal at his father's scrapyards. He told teachers at Lincoln High School he saw his future: the steel business. By 16, he was studying metallurgy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He graduated in 1944.

Schnitzer dealt scrap metal for the Army during World War II and was being groomed to take over the family business. But Arlene Schnitzer said her husband didn't want to compete with brothers Leonard, Gilbert, Manuel and Morris. So in 1950, he left to start his own real estate company, Harsch Investment Properties. The name is a play on Schnitzer's first and last names.

The firm, which Schnitzer started after buying a downtown building, today owns 21 million square feet of industrial, office, retail and multi-family property in five states. The company has 225 employees.

Text courtesy of The Oregonian, April 27, 2011



Juniata River and Bell's Island, Mifflintown, PA c. 1960. Courtesy of www.empirekosher.com  

Empire Kosher Poultry 1938-present

It all started back in 1938 when Joseph N. Katz, an Austrian immigrant, recognized that the Jewish population in America's suburbs and rural areas couldn't find kosher foods. Katz sought to change that reality and started his own company on a shoestring budget in a garage in the small town of Liberty, NY and named it after the Empire state. Katz recruited some of the most diligent Rabbis from Israel and Europe and invested a lot of time learning to clean and dress chickens under the Rabbis' watchful eyes.

In the early 1960s, Empire Kosher relocated to Mifflintown, PA when Katz purchased a small processing plant there.

Today, still headquartered in the rolling hills of central Pennsylvania, Empire Kosher Poultry, Inc. is the largest kosher poultry producer in the United States. Practicing sustainable farming, promoting social justice, and strictly observing the Jewish dietary laws, Empire Kosher dependably produces the best tasting and highest quality all-natural poultry products. Empire chicken and turkey are not only for those who keep kosher for religious reasons; Empire Kosher is the best option for any consumer who wishes to eat healthy and safely, buy responsibly, promote worker and animal rights, protect the environment, and support local farmers and their communities.

Text courtesy of www.empirekosher.com



George S. Kaufman 1889-1961

When playwright George S. Kaufman was growing up in Pittsburgh, he was just plain George – he added the "S" later to honor his grandfather Simon and to give himself a three-initial byline for the light verse he published in newspapers. George, born in 1889, was a third-generation Pittsburgher. His grandparents on both sides were founding members of Rodef Shalom, Pittsburgh's first Jewish congregation.

Kaufman acted and directed for the dramatic society founded by Rodef Shalom's Rabbi J. Leonard Levy. In high school, he acted in school plays, wrote for school publications, and also submitted adventure stories to Argosy magazine (all were rejected). At the age of fourteen, Kaufman, his best friend and first dramatic collaborator Irving Pichel, and five other Jewish boys formed a celibates' society, based on their vow of sexual abstinence until marriage -- a vow that Kaufman, later a notorious womanizer, was bound to break.

After graduating from high school in 1907, Kaufman tried law school and a variety of jobs while still involved in amateur theatricals. Once he moved to New York, his career took off, and he held the position of Drama Editor for the New York Times for thirteen years while writing and directing a string of hit dramas and musicals for Broadway and Hollywood.

Kaufman, a tall, skinny bookworm who was always sharply funny and always attractive to women, worked with stars such as George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Moss Hart, and the Marx Brothers. He wrote and co-wrote huge hits that included "You Can't Take It With You," "Dinner at Eight," and "The Man Who Came to Dinner." A few years before his death in 1961 he was asked to write his own epitaph. He immediately came up with a one-liner typical of his style of humor: "Over my dead body."

Text courtesy of Martha L. Berg, Archivist, Rodef Shalom Congregation

South Carolina


Portrait by Theodore S. Moïse, ca. 1840. Collection of Anita Moïse Rosenberg. Courtesy of the Jewish Heritage Collection, College of Charleston  

Penina Moïse 1797–1880

Daughter of Abraham and Sarah Moïse, Penina Moïse was one of the first female poets published in America. Her poems appeared in newspapers and journals in Charleston, Boston, and New Orleans. In 1833 she published a collection of her poetry entitled Fancy's Sketch Book. Moïse wrote 60 of the 74 hymns for Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim's first hymnal (1842), including a new song for Hanukkah which marks the first effort to Americanize the holiday.

When Sally Lopez withdrew from Beth Elohim with other traditionalists, reform-minded Moïse took over leadership of the congregation's Sunday school. Moïse wrote fervently of the plight of the Irish during the famine of the 1840s, and of religious intolerance in England. She spent the Civil War years as a refugee in Sumter with her sister Rachel and Rachel's only child Jacqueline. Upon their return to Charleston "The Trio" opened a school for girls. Her teaching methods were based on a pedagogy known as "Magnall's Questions." She herself taught advanced reading and gestures in elocution—even as she was losing her eyesight.

To keep physically and mentally fit, Moïse, who suffered from painful neuralgia, exercised daily by walking around her bed. She would choose a letter from the alphabet, and name all the cities, mountains, rivers, historical figures, and literary characters whose names began, say, with A. The next day she would take the letter B and walk a mile around and around the bed until she had exhausted her subject.

Humble to the last, Penina Moïse's final words were: "Lay no flowers on my grave. They are for those who live in the sun, and I have always lived in the shadow."

Text courtesy of the Jewish Heritage Collection, College of Charleston



Photo credit: Memphis, June, 2000  

Josephine Wainman 1915-2009

Josephine Wainman (Mrs. Leo) Burson, the first Jew appointed to a State Cabinet position in Tennessee, served as Commissioner of Employment Security under Governor Buford Ellington from 1967-71. She introduced programs that enabled minorities to pass civil service exams; and through her efforts, Tennessee became the first state to have a federally supported work incentive program.

"Josie" said: "Hadassah was my college education." Hadassah sent her to many places throughout America and abroad, speaking to diverse groups as national vice-president.

Josie earned her political stripes as the Women's Chairman for the successful l948 Senatorial Campaign of Estes Kefauver. His victory marked the beginning of the end to a "benevolent dictatorship" of "Boss" Edward Crump as mayor of her home city of Memphis.

During the Kennedy-Johnson campaign of l960, Mrs.Burson brought black and white women together in the local political arena for the first time. When told that Lady Bird Johnson's forthcoming political appearance must be followed by separate receptions, she-- small in stature -- large in determination--arranged the first integrated political function at a newly built Convention Center.

Her public career complemented her role as wife and mother of two children, Linda and Charles. She was selected by Congress as National Mother of the Year on Mother's Day, l975, ---the first Jewish woman so honored. "She is a lady and a wonderful wife," said her husband, an attorney. "For many, many years I have thought she was one of the most outstanding women in the United States."

Essays written from personal interviews by Selma Lewis, author of "A Biblical People in the Bible Belt", Mercer University Press, l998

The Commercial Appeal (Memphis newspaper), May 12, 1975

Adapted by Margery Kerstine and Harriet Stern, Temple Israel Archives, Memphis, TN



Frances Kallison with daughter Maryann and son Pete, 1940
Photo courtesy of Kallison Family
Polled Hereford Association Directory, early 1960s
Photo courtesy of Kallison Family

Frances Rosenthal Kallison 1908-2004

Frances Elaine Rosenthal Kallison was a horsewoman and a historian, a co-founder of the Bexar County Sheriff's Posse drill team and a charter member of the Texas Jewish Historical Society. As comfortable with a lead rope as a fountain pen, Kallison wrote for the Cattleman magazine—with stories about palominos and cutting horses—and for the American Jewish Historical Quarterly with an essay about Jewish acculturation in frontier Texas. She helped manage the family ranch, the Diamond K, which raised polled Hereford cattle. At San Antonio’s Institute of Texan Cultures, she was the primary researcher for the permanent exhibit about the Jews of Texas. Part western and part Victorian in her outlook, until the day she died in 2004 at the age of 96, Kallison kept an assortment of leather work-gloves for the ranch and white-cotton gloves for the city.

As local president of the National Council of Jewish Women, Kallison opened a pre-natal clinic for the poor and lobbied for a maternity ward at city’s public hospital. Her drill team raised money to underwrite a physiotherapy unit for the children’s hospital’s polio ward.

Born in Fort Worth, Nov. 29, 1908, Frances was a second-generation Texan. She grew up riding the draft horses that hauled her family’s furniture wagons. She studied at Vassar, graduated from University of Chicago, and in 1931 married Perry Kallison, whose family operated Kallison’s Feed & Seed in San Antonio. From 1935 to 1981, Perry hosted a daily radio show, “Kallison’s Trading Post,” a folksy 15-minute broadcast that advised ranchers of weather, crop prices, agricultural developments, and community happenings. Perry, a pioneering agriculturist, served as president of San Antonio’s Temple Beth-El.

Text courtesy of Hollace Ava Weiner, www.hollaceweiner.com



Photo courtesy of Washington State Jewish Historical Society  

Bailey Gatzert 1829-1893

Bailey Gatzert was born in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany and came to America by 1853, joining his sister in Natches, Mississippi. He learned English—and American customs—there while a clerk, then went to California, where he worked first in the Sierra gold rush towns of Auburn and Nevada City. In 1861, Gatzert went to San Francisco and after marrying Babette Schwabacher the couple moved to Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon, where they lived until his grocery business there was dissolved in 1865. He then operated a general-merchandise store until he and the Schwabacher brothers decided to pool their interests, forming a partnership that was to last through three generations.

Bailey and Babette Gatzert came to Seattle in 1869 to open the Schwabacher branch. About 1870. they built a home on the northwest corner of Third Avenue and James Street, where in 1880 they entertained President Rutherford B. Hayes. Gatzert was partner and general manager of Schwabacher & Bros., one of Seattle’s earliest hardware and general mercantile stores, later to become the start of wholesale trade in Seattle.

Gatzert became a leading Seattle figure, and was elected as the first and only (as of 2011) Jewish mayor of Seattle and the eighth mayor of Seattle, Washington, serving from 1875 to 1876. He founded the city’s first kindergarten and established the children's fund at the University of Washington. One of the early Columbia River steamers was named the Bailey Gatzert in his honor. Built by the Seattle Stem Navigation and Transportation Company in 1890, it later became a ferry on Puget Sound. The Bailey Gatzert Elementary School also was named for this Seattle Pioneer.

Bailey Gatzert was known as a generous man. After every big fire in the city, the old volunteer fire department would receive a $100 check from him. Gatzert and his wife Babette (Schwabacher) Gatzert were involved in many business and civic ventures critical to the establishment of early Seattle commerce and infrastructure.

Text courtesy of Washington State Jewish Historical Society


Photo courtesy of Washington State Jewish Historical Society  

Warren Fein 1959-

Small school venues gave future doctor a front row view of prejudice

It was hard for Warren Fein to focus on basketball while he continually looked over his shoulder. That's because the back-up shooting guard had more to worry about in 1976 than zone defenses and pick-and-rolls. Fein knew his every move on the court would be judged and then could be used against him at a future date by the referee, Todd Warnick. Turns out the ref was dating his sister.

But Fein had the last laugh. He married the referee's sister.

There is one running debate at Fein-Warnick family gatherings that may never be settled. Warren Fein continues to deny his brother-in-law's claim that he was slapped with a technical foul during an intense moment of a regular season basketball game.

"Todd claims that he charged me with a technical," Fein said. "I will not deny that I received some calls in high school for my reactions. But I don't think Todd ever blew the whistle on me."

Growing up in Seattle and sheltered by his education at The Lakeside School, Fein remembered how shocked he was by the ugly comments from spectators aimed at minority members of his team. Many of the Single A schools with enrollments comparable to Lakeside at the time were located in rural communities as far away as Darrington and Langley. As the only Jew on the Lakeside squad, Fein said he took the racial comments directed at some his teammates personally.

"None of the abuse was ever directed at me, but I heard the comments being made about the four or five black players on our team. Lakeside may have been the only team in the league with minorities. There was taunting and blatantly bad calls by the referees at those small town schools," he remembered. "It was a new experience for me. This was the mid-'70s. I mistakenly believed that residents of Washington had grown past racial slurs by then."

The Seattle native did admit that part of the hostility at away games may have been because Lakeside had gone undefeated in league play for two consecutive years.

Fein had no doubt similar remarks would have been directed at him if the onlookers knew he was Jewish. He proudly pointed out that almost every member of his high school team went on to college and most have established, successful careers. Fein graduated from medical school at the University of Washington and is now the Executive Medical Director of Primary Care for the Swedish Medical Group.

Athletics at small schools 30 years ago were not as specialized as today, according to Fein. Many of the same student-athletes switched from football to basketball and then to baseball depending on the season. One season, the future doctor boasted to his teammates that he was probably the only Jew in the small school state playoffs. He was surprised, however, that his football coach at Lakeside did not understand why Fein elected to skip the football game that conflicted with Yom Kippur.

"Apparently he had never heard of Sandy Koufax."

Fein said his parents accommodated his dedication to sports by temporarily suspending Shabbat dinners during the football and basketball.

His best memory from high school athletics was when Lakeside upset a powerful team from Roosevelt in basketball. The public high school had an enrollment four times larger than Lakeside.

"Roosevelt was literally in a different league. They had better players overall. They even had better Jewish players, like my friend Josh Schorr."

Fein and his wife — the former Lisa Warnick — have two sons, Jacob and Sam. Their older son, Sam, followed in his father's athletic footsteps and by played basketball at Lakeside for three years.

Text courtesy of Washington State Jewish Historical Society

Washington D.C.


Photo and stamps courtesy of Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington collections, gift of Theresa Goode Kaplan

Alexander Goode 1911-1943

Alexander Goode, a native of Brooklyn, grew up in Washington, D.C., where he graduated from Eastern High School. During summers while studying for his ordination at Hebrew Union College, he served Washington Hebrew Congregation. After graduation, Goode worked as a rabbi at Temple Beth Israel in York, Pennsylvania, and became well-known in the Reform movement.

When World War II broke out, Goode enlisted as a military chaplain and requested to serve in a combat zone. He was assigned to the Dorchester, an overcrowded Army transport ship carrying more than 900 soldiers and civilian workers to Europe. In February 1943, just miles off the Greenland coast, a German U-boat torpedoed the ship. In the ensuing pandemonium, Rabbi Goode and three Christian chaplains--Father John Washington, Reverend George Fox, and Reverend Clark Poling--calmly directed their fellow soldiers to the few remaining lifeboats. The four chaplains gave away their life jackets, and joined arms at the ship's railing--praying and singing hymns to men on lifeboats and in the icy water. The ship sank 27 minutes later, taking the chaplains with it.

In 1948, Chaplain Goode (far right on the stamp) and three Christian chaplains were memorialized on this 3-cent stamp for their heroism. In 1961, a new medal--the Chaplain's Medal for Heroism--was specially created for Goode and the other chaplains and awarded to surviving family members. The chaplains are also commemorated in a stained-glass window at the National Cathedral and at the chapel in the Pentagon. An interfaith chapel at Valley Forge is dedicated to them.

Goode's widow, Theresa, returned to Washington to raise the couple's daughter. Eventually, Goode's family donated items about him to the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, the only repository for papers, artifacts, and images from the two-centuries of Washington's Jewish community. For more information about Chaplain Goode, including an educational poster and teacher resources, visit http://www.jhsgw.org/education/jahm_resources07.php. To learn more about the Society, visit http://www.jhsgw.org.

Text courtesy of Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington

West Virginia


The children of I.L. and Sarah Shor, outside their home in Keystone. Shor was a prominent businessman and city council member.
Courtesy of Cindy Burgin.

The Jews of Keystone

Deep in the mountains of southern West Virginia, the coal town of Keystone had around one thousand residents in 1900, and 110 of them were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and their children—more than 10 percent of the population. Jews had arrived as peddlers in the 1890s, becoming among the first merchants in the newly-created mining hub. They joined an ethnically and racially diverse mix of people who gathered to participate in the coal boom as miners, coal operators, and supporting players.

Though few Jews entered the coal industry, they integrated easily into town life as leading merchants and a key component of Keystone’s small middle class. They served on the City Council and the police force, joined social and civic clubs. Max Ofsa built the water tower; his son Simon was fire marshal. Charles Budnick founded the bank; decades later, his son Julian became mayor.

As saloon owners, poolroom operators, and brothel landlords, Jews joined in the activities that gave Keystone its reputation as the most "wide open" boomtown in the region. But some Jewish citizens tried to help Keystone clean up its act. Isadore Katzen was one of the town's two prohibition officers, often "swooping down" on local bootleggers to make dramatic arrests, according to the local newspaper.

Keystone's Orthodox synagogue (complete with mikvah) occupied a prominent place on the main street. It lasted into the 1950s, when the decline of the coal economy caused the town to decline as well. Today little evidence remains of Keystone’s vibrant Jewish past.

Text courtesy of Deborah R. Weiner, www.coalfieldjews.com.


Photo from e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia  

Alex Schoenbaum 1915-1996

Businessman Alex Schoenbaum, born August 8, 1915, in Richmond, founded Shoney's and made it into one of the nation's largest family restaurant chains. Schoenbaum was an All-American tackle at Ohio State University, where he graduated from the Fisher College of Business in 1939. He settled in Charleston, West Virginia, in 1943.

In 1947, Schoenbaum opened the Parkette Drive-In and Bowling Alley on Charleston's west side. Four years later, he purchased Big Boy hamburger chain franchise rights for the southeastern states. The number of restaurants grew, and in 1953 they were named Shoney's when Schoenbaum's nickname was selected as the company name in an employee contest. In 1971, Schoenbaum and Ray Danner, a Shoney's Big Boy franchise holder in middle Tennessee and the founder of Captain D's restaurants, merged their companies to form Shoney's Big Boy Enterprises, Inc. The company suffered financial difficulties and was sold in 2002.

Schoenbaum's philanthropy and that of his wife, Betty, is honored in the naming of Schoenbaum Hall at Ohio State, Schoenbaum Library at the University of Charleston, and the Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center and a Schoenbaum soccer facility in Charleston. Alex Schoenbaum, who lived his later years in Charleston and Florida, died December 6, 1996.

Article from e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia



Courtesy of Jewish Museum Milwaukee  

Harry Soref 1885-1957

The world-famous Master Lock was invented by Harry Soref, a Milwaukee-area itinerant locksmith born in Russia in 1885. In 1919, Soref designed a padlock with laminated layers of steel like those used in the production of bank vault doors and battleships. He hoped to sell the design to a hardware manufacturing company. Soref's padlock required several parts and production steps, and engineers, manufacturers, and patent attorneys found the product design too cumbersome. Supported by the financial help of two friends, P.E. Yolles and Sam Stahl, Soref began his own company, Master Lock Company, in 1921. He patented the first laminated padlock in 1924 using a lion's head logo for name recognition.

With only five employees and limited equipment in a small Milwaukee shop, Master Lock produced the best padlock available and the public liked it. Pabst Brewery closed during Prohibition, so Master Lock moved to its factory and grew rapidly. Prohibition helped Master Lock expand even more because federal authorities purchased large quantities of the padlocks to close bars and clubs that sold alcohol. In February 1928, Master Lock shipped 147,600 padlocks to New York City for just this purpose.

Soref was an authority on locks. The escape artist Harry Houdini visited Soref in Milwaukee after failing to escape from a set of handcuffs. They discussed handcuff keys and Soref advised Houdini on hiding them under his tongue and in between his fingers during his performances. A Master Lock exhibit at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair taught the public about the construction of laminated steel locks.

Until his death in 1957, Harry Soref continued to perfect his invention with new innovations like combination locks and a lock capable of protecting a tank.

Text courtesy of Jewish Museum Milwaukee


Courtesy of Jewish Museum Milwaukee  

George Bursak 1913-2005

George Bursak was born in Birmingham, New York in 1913 to Russian immigrant parents. After moving to Milwaukee, George attended public school; he was placed in a special class because he could not keep up with the class. In 6th grade, he went to Boy's Tech trade school, taking two trades at once – electrical and mechanical. At school, George was given a week-long electrical assignment that he easily finished by noon on the first day, but he could not keep up with the written work. In those days, people did not know what dyslexia was. Dyslexia interferes with the brain's ability to process written words, but it doesn't affect intelligence.

George had mechanical skills and was a great inventor. At 13 years old, he invented a working telegraph made from two cigar boxes, a wooden key, wire and lights from a Christmas tree. As an adult and working without blueprints because of his learning disability, George invented the Bell-Pak and Bursa-Fill, high speed machines capable of packing liquids, creams, powders and solids into disposable sterile packets of medications for hospitals and the healthcare industry. Every time you have take-out food, you can thank George Bursak—ketchup and soy sauce packets wouldn't exist without his inventions.

In addition to his skills as an inventor, George was a great philanthropist. In 1999 he wrote a book called "If I Can Do It, So Can You: Triumph Over Dyslexia" which gives the following advice: "Believe in yourself. Keep trying, and keep on trying again. Reach out to the people around you. And finally, give something back."

Text courtesy of Jewish Museum Milwaukee


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