Tag Archives: Canada

Jew of the Week: Sir Martin Gilbert

Martin John Gilbert (1936-2015) was born in London to parents of Russian-Jewish background. Soon after World War II broke out, the family was moved to Canada by the British government. Returning to England after the war, Gilbert finished his schooling and served for two years in the British Intelligence Corps. He then went to Oxford to study history. While a postgraduate in 1962, Gilbert was asked by Winston Churchill’s son Rudolph to assist as a researcher for Churchill’s biography. Randolph died a few years later, having brought forth just two volumes on Churchill. Gilbert took over and became the official biographer for Churchill, working on the project for over twenty five years, publishing many volumes along the way. (Currently, there are 31 books encompassing over 25,000 pages, and Gilbert had plans for more.) It was said that “Whoever made the decision to make Martin Gilbert Churchill’s biographer deserves a vote of thanks from the nation. Nothing less would suffice.” Aside from Churchill, Gilbert’s primary interests were studying the World Wars and the Holocaust, as well as producing historical atlases (his were among the very first produced). He also wrote a great deal of books and histories of Jewish communities, of Russia, Israel, and the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as to assist the plight of Soviet Jewry. All in all, Gilbert published an astounding ninety books, many of which were highly acclaimed. His abilities as a scholar and writer were praised. His first volume on Churchill had an original rough draft with two million words (which Gilbert narrowed down to 300,000 for publication), while the short “precis” version of the biography was a mere 981 pages! Gilbert also wrote for The Sunday Times, and for a number of films and TV programs, did research for the BBC, lectured at the White House, and stood before the UN Human Rights Commission. Since 2009, he served as the Privy Counsellor of the British commission inquiring into the Iraq War. Gilbert won numerous awards and honourary degrees, and was knighted in 1995. Sadly, he passed away last week after a lengthy illness.

Words of the Week

Everything happens by Divine Providence. If a leaf is turned over by a breeze, it is only because this has been specifically ordained by God to serve a particular function within the purpose of creation.
– Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov

Jews of the Week: Sarah Hughes and Dylan Moscovitch

World-Class Figure Skaters

Sarah Hughes, with former president George W. Bush

Sarah Hughes, with former president George W. Bush

Sarah Hughes (b. 1985) was born in New York to an Irish-Canadian father and a Jewish mother. She began ice skating when she was just three years old. By 1988 she won the US Junior Championships in figure skating, and the following year took silver at the World Junior Championships. After strong performances at a number of other events, Hughes qualified for the 2002 Winter Olympics, and graced the cover of TIME Magazine. Despite being just 16 years old, and the underdog, she won the gold medal at the Olympics in Salt Lake City. Away from the rink, Hughes is an active breast cancer awareness spokesperson, inspired by her mother, who is a breast cancer survivor. For over a decade, Hughes has also worked with Figure Skating in Harlem, a program providing free skating lessons to disadvantaged girls, as well as Skate for Hope, and the Women’s Sports Foundation. She graduated from Yale University in 2009.

Dylan David Moscovitch

Dylan David Moscovitch (b. 1984) is a Canadian figure skater with Romanian, Russian, and South African Jewish roots. He began skating at 13 months, and went on to compete in pairs figure skating competitions. He won gold and a couple of silvers at Canadian Championships, as well as a silver at the Four Continents Championships in Japan. Moscovitch competed at the Sochi Olympics earlier this year and won silver there, too. When not on the ice, he teaches the Israeli martial art Krav Maga.

Words of the Week

Where is God found? Wherever you let Him in.
– Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, the Kotzker Rebbe

Jew of the Week: Emile Berliner

Inventor of the Gramophone and Helicopter

Emile Berliner, inventor of the Gramophone and the helicopter

Emile Berliner, inventor of the Gramophone and the helicopter

Emile Berliner (1851-1929) was born in Hanover, Germany. Though he studied to be a merchant like the rest of his family members, he was always more interested in invention. With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Berliner fled to the US and settled in New York. During the day, he struggled to make ends meet by delivering newspapers and doing other petty jobs, while at night he studied physics. He became interested in the new technology of telephone and began working on sound transmission. Berliner first invented a new phone transmitter that was later adapted to make the first microphone. Bell Telephone Company bought out his patent and hired Berliner. He worked for Bell until 1883, when he established his own company. Building on previous phonograph technology, Berliner revolutionized the world in 1887 by inventing the gramophone and the flat disc record. At first, it was sold as just a toy, and only in Europe. In 1895, Berliner managed to get a $25,000 investment for his invention, and started the US Berliner Gramophone Company. Unfortunately, others stole his patents and sold unauthorized records, and Berliner was eventually unable to sell his own invention. He moved to Canada, started a new company, and soon focused on other technologies. One of these was an automatic loom for mass-producing clothes. Another, more famous, was the first helicopter. For over twenty years, Berliner focused on developing vertical flight machines, with the help of a number of other inventors and scientists. He designed the vertical rotor that made modern helicopters possible. In 1922, Berliner demonstrated the first helicopter to the US Army. Meanwhile, Berliner wrote and published five books, and was a noted advocate for public health and better sanitation. He won a number of prestigious awards for his work, which forever transformed the music, clothing, and flight industries.

Words of the Week

The souls of all the living… On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed: how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die… Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted. But repentance, prayer, and charity avert these severe decrees!
– Verses from Unetanneh Tokef, sung during Rosh Hashanah prayers