Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Jew of the Week: Lou Lenart

The Man Who Saved Tel-Aviv

Lou Lenart

Lou Lenart

Layos Lenovitz (1921-2015) was born in a rural Hungarian village, the son of farmers. While still a child, his family fled to America to escape persecution. They settled in Pennsylvania, and survived by selling home-made noodles. Growing up, Lenovitz was commonly a victim of anti-Semitic attacks, so he took up bodybuilding to protect himself. This led him to join the Marines at 17. Now going by the name Louis Lenart, he ended up in flight school and became a fighter pilot. During World War II, he served in the Pacific, and participated in a number of key battles, including the Battle of Okinawa – one of the war’s largest. Upon returning home (with the rank of Captain), Lenart learned that many of his relatives, including his grandmother, perished in the Holocaust. In response, he moved to Israel and volunteered with the Sherut Avir, the “air force” of the Haganah – which had no military planes at the time. Lenart helped to secretly smuggle four S-199 fighter planes from Czechoslovakia. Following its declaration of independence, Israel’s Arab neighbours immediately invaded. By the end of May 1948, the Egyptians were nearing Tel-Aviv with a force of 10,000. Lenart was called up to command Israel’s only four fighter planes to stop the Egyptian advance – the very first mission of the newly-created Israeli Air Force. The Egyptians thought Israel had no air force, and were shocked when they were being attacked from above. Thinking that Lenart’s four planes were just the first small foray of a larger attack, the Egyptians retreated in fear. Israel’s most populous city was spared from what could have been a devastating battle, and Lenart was nicknamed “the man who saved Tel-Aviv”. Following the war, Lenart played an important role in Operation Ezra and Nehemiah, which airlifted over 120,000 Iraqi Jewish refugees to safety in Israel. Outside of the military, Lenart was a pilot for El Al. Later in life, he moved to Los Angeles and helped to produce six Hollywood films while at the same time working as the general manager of the San Diego Clippers basketball team (before the team moved to LA). Lenart retired in Israel, where he spent the last years of his life. His story was featured in Nancy Spielberg’s award-winning 2014 film Above and Beyond, and the 2015 A Wing and a Prayer.

Words of the Week

It was the most important moment of my life, and I was born to be there at that precise moment in history… I survived World War II so I could lead this mission.
Lou Lenart, on his mission to save Tel-Aviv during the Independence War

Jew of the Week: Solomon Jackson

Magazines like this one owe their existence to the work of Solomon Jackson

Solomon Henry Jackson was born in late 1700s England to parents of Sephardic origin. At a young age he immigrated to the United States, settling in Pennsylvania where he got married. Noticing a great lack of Jewish texts in the New World, Jackson moved to New York and established the first Hebrew printing press in the country. With this press, he was able to publish the very first siddur/prayer book in America (a Sephardic one, catering to the majority of the Jews in the U.S. at the time, who were of Spanish and Portuguese descent), as well as the first Passover Haggada. He also started the first Jewish periodical in the U.S, a magazine called ‘The Jew’. This magazine was primarily an anti-missionary journal, published to counter the dramatic wave of missionaries that targeted poor immigrant Jews for conversion. At the time, approximately 3000 Jews were already living in the U.S., with many more arriving on its shores each day. The magazine thus helped disseminate information that prevented countless Jews from leaving behind their religion, traditions, and heritage. He was also an active leader in a nascent organization called Hevrat Hinukh Na’arim, which strove to promote Jewish education in America. In 1837, Jackson started a movement to bring more Jews to America (saving many from persecution in Europe), and settle the vast expanses of virgin land in the New World. He passed away in 1847, having built a strong foundation for Jewish life to flourish in the United States.

Shavuot Begins Tonight!

Words of the Week

You speak of what you need, but you say nothing of what you are needed for.
– Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi