Tag Archives: China

Jew of the Week: Tribich Lincoln

The Unbelievable Story of a Jew Who Almost Became the Dalai Lama

Lincoln as "Chao Kung"

Lincoln as “Chao Kung”

Trebitsch Ignácz (1879-1943) was born in the shtetl of Paks, in Hungary. The family moved to Budapest when he was a child, and after finishing school, he enrolled in an acting academy. By this point, Ignácz had left his Orthodox Jewish roots, and would often get in trouble with the police. At 18, he ventured to London and made friends with Christian missionaries. Ignácz converted two years later and was off to a seminary in Germany where he became a reverend. He was sent on missionary duty to Montreal, but didn’t last very long there, and returned to England. He changed his name to Ignatius Timothy Tribich Lincoln, or I.T.T. Lincoln, and got his British citizenship in 1909. He met the Archbishop of Canterbury (the head of the Church of England) who appointed Lincoln to be a parish priest in Kent. There, he met the millionaire politician Seebohm Rowntree, who made Lincoln his personal secretary. Somehow, Lincoln managed to get on a Liberal Party ticket and was elected to the British Parliament in 1910 in an upset victory over the favoured incumbent. However, MPs were not paid at the time, and Lincoln was soon bankrupt. He moved to Romania and started an oil business. When the business failed, he moved back to London and applied to become a British spy. The British rejected him, so he went to the Germans and was hired as a double agent. Lincoln traveled to the US, but then the Germans didn’t want him either, so he revealed his story to a magazine, and then had a book written about him. The book was popular enough that the British government was embarrassed by the whole thing, and had him extradited for fraud. Lincoln spent three years in prison. After this, he returned to Germany and rose through the ranks of various right-wing parties, at one point even meeting Hitler. Later on, he sold government secrets and was deported for treason. Lincoln now headed to China. After working for a number of Chinese warlords, Lincoln apparently had a revelation and converted to Buddhism. He became a monk and quickly rose to the high rank of abbot by 1931, at which point he founded his own Buddhist monastery under his new name, Chao Kung. In 1937, he became a spy for Japan, but at the same time seemed to assist Japan’s enemy, China. During World War II, Lincoln reconnected with the Nazis and offered to raise Buddhist support for them. When the 13th Dalai Lama passed away, Lincoln proclaimed himself the new Dalai Lama! Despite strong support from the Japanese, the Tibetans rejected his claim. Lincoln passed away in Shanghai not too long after. While some think he was a crazy adventurer who dangerously played both sides of every conflict to even the odds, others think he was a smooth-talking con artist who was simply exploring the limits of his acting abilities – and perhaps even surprised himself at how far he could go. It seems his only redeeming quality came at the end of his life: Lincoln protested the Holocaust and wrote a strongly-worded letter to Hitler to end the terror. Hitler requested that the Japanese have Lincoln poisoned, and this was likely the cause of his sudden death in 1943.

Words of the Week

People think of education as something they can finish.
– Isaac Asimov

Jew of the Week: Henry Heimlich

The Heimlich Maneuver

Henry Heimlich (Courtesy: tytekmedical.com)

Henry Heimlich (Courtesy: tytekmedical.com)

Henry Judah Heimlich (b. 1920) was born in Delaware and studied at Cornell University. In 1943, he earned his M.D. and was soon shipped off to the Pacific as a US Navy surgeon at the height of World War II. In China, he found a quick and effective way to treat trachoma. In the early 50s, he developed a method for replacing the esophagus, which is recognized by some as history’s first complete organ transplant. His experiences in treating injured soldiers helped him invent the flutter valve (also known as the Heimlich valve) which quickly drains blood and air out of a punctured chest cavity. Over 150,000 of these life-savers are used each year in critical situations. Heimlich also invented an efficient oxygen delivery system for injured patients, called the Micro Trach. He is most famous, however, for developing the technique of abdominal thrusts to save people who are choking. Following an eye-opening 1972 New York Times report that showed 3,000 Americans died yearly in choking accidents, Heimlich researched the ideal way to open an obstruction in the throat. He experimented with dogs and large chunks of meat, finding that an upward thrust into the diaphragm successfully opened a blocked airway. Heimlich published his findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association. At the same time, he knew that this information was far too important to be practiced only by health professionals, and described the technique in the more common Emergency Medicine. From there, the procedure’s success and fame spread quickly, and was soon known as the “Heimlich maneuver”. Heimlich also developed a technique to help stroke victims re-learn how to swallow, researched maneuvers for asthma and cystic fibrosis, and suggested a controversial treatment for AIDS (since debunked and rejected). He has made a number of other controversial suggestions, leading some to label him a charlatan of sorts. Nonetheless, it is estimated that the Heimlich maneuver has saved at least 50,000 people (including former President Ronald Reagan). Many credit Heimlich with “saving more lives than any other living American”, and he has been awarded the prestigious Lasker Award for Public Service. Last year, Heimlich published an autobiography, and a film about his life is currently in the works.

UPDATE: Sadly, Henry Heimlich passed away in December of 2016.

Words of the Week

Do not pass up a single day without doing a mitzvah.
Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov

Jew of the Week: Moe Berg

Baseball Player, Lawyer… and Secret Agent 

Moe Berg

Moe Berg

Morris Berg (1902-1972) was born in New York to Russian-Jewish immigrants. He began playing baseball at age 7, and by 16 was on Newark’s baseball “dream team”. He studied first at New York University, then Princeton, and graduated with a degree in languages, learning to speak seven of them. By his senior year, he was captain of Princeton’s baseball team. A day after his last game with Princeton, Berg signed a contract with the Brooklyn Robins. In the off-season, he headed to Paris and continued his studies at the world-famous Sorbonne (University of Paris). There, he began a personal routine of reading as many as 10 newspapers every single day. Berg was never very good at baseball, and was often traded and loaned between many different teams. Always a scholar first, in 1926 he told the Chicago White Sox that he is skipping spring training because he was enrolled in law school at Columbia University. He earned his law degree in 1930, and then split his time between baseball in the summer and working at a prestigious Wall Street law firm in the winter.

In 1932, Berg toured Asia, visiting Japan, China, Siam, India, and Egypt. A couple of years later, he returned to Japan with a video camera, later traveling to the Philippines, Korea, and Russia, before returning to play with the Red Sox for 5 seasons, then coaching the team for 2 more. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Berg joined the war effort and eventually became a spy. He shared his video footage of Japan, which was instrumental in planning American raids during the war. After serving in South America and the Caribbean, Berg was parachuted into Yugoslavia to assist resistance groups fighting the Nazis. His next mission was to travel across Europe and convince scientists working for the Nazis (particularly on their nuclear bomb project), to come work for the U.S. instead. In 1951, he requested that the CIA station him in Israel. Instead, they sent him to Europe to spy on Soviet nuclear work. In 1954, the CIA let him go and for the rest of his life Berg lived with his siblings, having never married. His wishes were to be cremated, and his ashes were scattered in Jerusalem. Berg was inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and Baseball’s Shrine of the Eternals. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom, and his baseball card is on display at CIA headquarters. Berg was described as “the most scholarly professional athlete”, and the “strangest man ever to play baseball.”

Words of the Week

If you begin a good deed, finish it, for a mitzvah is credited to the one who concludes the task.
– Talmud, Sotah 13b