Tag Archives: Hungarian Jews

Jew of the Week: Yitta Schwartz

The Woman With 2000 Children

A rare photo of Yitta Schwartz from the 1980s

A rare photo of Yitta Schwartz from the 1980s

Yitta Schwartz (1916-2010) was born in Kalev, Hungary to a Chassidic family. During the Holocaust, her entire family was taken to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where two of her six children died. A strong and pious woman, Schwartz persevered, and took care of many other people in the camp, often at great personal risk. One Holocaust survivor recalls how Schwartz took care of the deceased, carefully cleaning their bodies, digging graves, and burying them. Following the war, Schwartz’s family started to rebuild in Belgium, and helped countless refugees in the process, giving them shelter in their own tiny apartment. In 1953, the family (now with 11 children) moved to the US, where Schwartz had 5 more kids. Schwartz’s husband sold furniture, while she took care of their 16 children, and then the many grandchildren that followed. By the time of her passing at the age of 93, Schwartz had over 200 grandchildren, many more great-grandchildren, and nearly 2000 descendants altogether. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of her time was spent going from one family event to the next. When arriving at these gatherings, people would say she resembled the Prophet Elijah, her presence filling the room with light, and everyone clambering for a bit of the great matriarch’s attention and blessings. A very modest woman, she avoided being photographed or filmed. She is remembered as having an infectious smile, a thirst for life, and an excellent memory. Knowing that she would always live on in the doting hearts of her descents, she once said, “If you leave a child or grandchild, you live forever.”

Words of the Week

So said God: ‘Let a wise man not glory in his wisdom, nor let the strong one glory in his strength, nor let the wealthy glory in his wealth. Only in this may one glorify himself: in discerning and knowing Me, for I am God, Who performs kindness, justice, and righteousness – for these are what I desire…’
– Jeremiah 9:22-23

Jew of the Week: Adolph Zukor

“Napoleon of Motion Pictures”

Adolph Zukor

Adolph Zukor

Adolph Zukor (1873-1976) was born in Hungary, and orphaned by the time he was just 7 years old. He was raised by his uncle, the local rabbi, and once had dreams of becoming a rabbi himself. At the young age of 16, he set out on his own and immigrated to the US with just $40. He first got a job sweeping floors for $2 a week at an upholstery store, and then apprenticed as a fur-maker. He set off on his own once again when he was 20, heading to Chicago to start his own fur business with a friend. Zukor was soon a noted clothing designer, and a wealthy man. In 1903, he partnered with his cousin to open an arcade. Of all the entertainment at his arcade, Zukor was most fascinated by movies, and decided to focus his efforts on the new medium. By 1912, he founded his own film distribution company, ‘Famous Players’, which soon premiered the first feature-length film in America. By 1919, Zukor had sole control of his company, later to be known as Paramount Pictures, and owned hundreds of theatres across the country. He also made it the first company to both produce films and distribute them, as well as show them at its own theatres, making Paramount a revolutionary film industry giant. Zukor personally signed some of Hollywood’s earliest stars, though he himself was not a fan of the spotlight, and was a humble, modest businessman. At one point, his Publix movie theatre chain had over 2000 screens across the country, and was showing over 60 new Paramount flicks each year. Unfortunately, the Great Depression hit the film industry hard, and Paramount went bankrupt. Despite no longer being the company’s president, Zukor helped to save Paramount, and continued to play a critical role in the company until 1959, when he officially retired. He remained on the board as an honourary chairman until his passing at the age of 103 – of natural causes, while taking a nap. (He once said, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”) Zukor continues to be remembered as the greatest of Hollywood pioneers, and has been called ‘the Napoleon of motion pictures’, and ‘the true founding mogul of Hollywood’.

Words of the Week

Creativity is intelligence having fun.
– Albert Einstein

Jew of the Week: Janet Rosenberg Jagan

President of Guyana

Janet Rosenberg Jagan

Janet Rosenberg Jagan

Janet Rosenberg (1920-2009) was born in Chicago, the granddaughter of Jewish immigrants from Romania and Hungary. As a young nursing student she met a Guyanese dentist, Cheddi Jagan. The two got married less than a year later, and moved to Guyana, where Rosenberg worked as a nurse in her husband’s dental clinic. Meanwhile, the couple joined the British Guianese Labor Union and were very active in the political scene. Rosenberg founded Guyana’s Women’s Political and Economic Organization, and its Political Affairs Committee. Shortly after, she and her husband co-founded the Marxist-Leninist People’s Progressive Party (PPP), with Janet serving as its General Secretary. Soon, she was elected to the City Council of Guyana’s capital, Georgetown. From there, she moved up to the House of Assembly, and was appointed Deputy Speaker. However, for vocally opposing British colonial rule over Guyana, the Jagans were both jailed for 5 months, then kept under house arrest for another 2 years. After finally being freed, Rosenberg won back her seat in the Assembly and was appointed Minister of Labour, Health and Housing. In 1973, she was elected to the national parliament, and was re-elected three more times, making her the longest serving parliamentarian in the country’s history. In 1992, her husband became Guyana’s president, and after he passed away in 1997, Janet became the country’s prime minister and vice president. She won the national elections later that year and became president herself, making her just the third woman (and coincidentally, the third Jew) to head a nation in the Western Hemisphere. At age 79, the popular Rosenberg resigned her post due to health problems. She continued to serve in the government, and was still on the PPP’s Central Committee until shortly before her passing, at age 88. Aside from government, Rosenberg worked hard to expand the Guyanese literary world, and to make books available for Guyana’s children. She wrote several of her own books, and was the editor of the PPP’s newspaper for over 20 years. Rosenberg received Guyana’s highest honour, the Order of Excellence, along with a UNESCO award for her efforts on behalf of women’s rights.

Words of the Week

Greater is hospitality to wayfarers than receiving the Divine Presence.
– Talmud, Shevuot 35b