Tag Archives: Polish Jews

Jew of the Week: Hyman G. Rickover

Father of the Nuclear Navy

Chaim Gedaliah Rickover (1900-1986) was born in Poland. When he was six years old his family fled to the United States to escape the Russian pogroms that had killed over 3000 Jews in Eastern Europe. The family settled in Chicago, where Rickover started working at just nine years of age for three cents an hour. He excelled academically, and after graduating from high school with honours, was nominated by a Jewish congressman to the US Naval Academy. Rickover distinguished himself while serving on a destroyer ship and was among the youngest people to ever be promoted to an officer. He went back to school and earned a Master’s in electrical engineering before doing further studies at Columbia. At 29, he decided to serve on a submarine, and was soon in command of one. His translation of the German Das Unterseeboot became the textbook of the US Submarine Service. Throughout World War II, Rickover repaired electrical systems on US Navy ships, for which he earned the Legion of Merit. Following the war, he applied to join the Manhattan Project’s new program to develop nuclear power plants. He was soon the deputy manager of the division developing nuclear-powered navy ships. Rickover saw that the greatest potential was for nuclear submarines, and ultimately succeeded in persuading the Secretary of the Navy to endorse building one. Rickover led its development, and played a central role in designing a nuclear reactor fit for submarines. His vision came to life in 1954 with the launch of the famous USS Nautilus. It put him on the cover of TIME Magazine that year. By 1958, Rickover was vice admiral of the Navy, and awarded a Congressional Gold Medal. His program would go on to produce over 200 nuclear-powered submarines, and 23 aircraft carriers and cruisers. Incredibly, none of these has ever had a meltdown – a feat credited to Rickover’s insistence on safety and obsessive attention to detail. (The Soviet Navy suffered at least 14 meltdowns in the same time period!) Rickover became known as the “Father of the Nuclear Navy”. He was the longest serving officer in US naval history, with 63 years of service under 13 presidents. A four-star admiral, his 61 civilian awards included a Presidential Medal of Freedom and two Congressional Gold Medals (an extremely rare feat). He was also awarded 15 honourary degrees, and made an honourary Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Rickover stated that he was not proud of his work, and saw it as a “necessary evil” to protect his country. He once said he wished “nuclear power had never been discovered” and hoped that the nuclear fleet would be dismantled.

Words of the Week

Cherish criticism, for it will place you on the true heights.
– Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber of Lubavitch

Special thanks to Yehuda Kernerman for suggesting this Jew of the Week.

Jew of the Week: Rabbi Marvin Hier

The Rabbi at Trump’s Inauguration

Rabbi Hier at Trump’s Inauguration

Moshe Chaim Hier (b. 1939) was born in New York to Polish-Jewish immigrants. At the age of 23, he was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi and moved to Vancouver where he soon took charge of its Congregation Schara Tzedeck. In 1977, Hier moved to Los Angeles and established the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a non-profit dedicated to “confronting antisemitism, hate and terrorism, promoting human rights and dignity, standing with Israel, defending the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaching the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations.” The Simon Wiesenthal Center is now one of the most well-known Jewish organizations in the world, with offices in Toronto, Jerusalem, Paris, Buenos Aires, and across the US. Its Museum of Tolerance welcomes 350,000 visitors a year, and its library holds over 50,000 important volumes. Hier also established the Moriah Films company, which has produced over a dozen films focusing on Jewish history and the Holocaust. Two of these won Academy Awards for Best Documentary. This makes Hier the only rabbi to ever win an Oscar. He is also the only rabbi to be a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Meanwhile, Hier established Los Angeles’ Yeshiva University High Schools and was its dean for many years. He is currently working on a $200 million project to build a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, to open next year, and producing his 16th film, about the life of Shimon Peres. Most recently, Rabbi Hier gave a blessing at President Donald Trump’s inauguration. This made him only the second Jewish religious leader in history to speak at a presidential inauguration, and the first Orthodox rabbi to ever do so. He has been ranked as the most influential rabbi in America, and was once described as being “one phone call away from almost every world leader, journalist, and Hollywood studio head.”

Rabbi Hier Explains Why He Prayed at Trump’s Inauguration

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Words of the Week

The bond that has united the Jews for thousands of years and that unites them today is, above all, the democratic ideal of social justice coupled with the ideal of mutual aid and tolerance among all men.
– Albert Einstein