Tag Archives: Japan

Jew of the Week: Ernst Gräfenberg

Ernst Grafenberg (courtesy of muvs.org)

Ernst Grafenberg

Ernst Gräfenberg (1881-1957) was born in Adelebsen, Germany, where his father was a successful businessman and head of the Jewish community. Gräfenberg studied medicine and earned a Ph.D by the time he was just 23. He first worked as an ophthalmologist, then shifted his focus to gynecology. At the same time, he did important research on cancer, presenting a theory on metastasis. Following his World War I service as a medical officer, for which he was decorated with an Iron Cross, Gräfenberg became the chief of gynecology at a Berlin hospital. He did simultaneously did research on reproduction at Berlin University. In 1929, he invented the first modern contraceptive intrauterine device (IUD), then called the “Gräfenberg ring”. Today, IUDs are the most widely used form of female contraception, with nearly 200 million users around the world. Unfortunately, the Nazis forced Gräfenberg to give up his posts in 1933. Despite pressure to leave Germany, he continued his gynecology practice, thinking that he would be safe since many of his patients were the wives of Nazi officials. Nonetheless, Gräfenberg was arrested and spent three years in prison. It wasn’t until 1940 that he was finally able to flee to the US (through Siberia and Japan). There, Gräfenberg continued his studies on female physiology. Among other things, he described a little-known erogenous zone that was later named after him: the “Gräfenberg spot”, better known as the “G-spot”. He also did important work on egg implantation and pathology. The effects of Parkinson’s Disease forced Gräfenberg to retire in 1953, and he passed away several years later in New York City.

Words of the Week

Humility is not a question of thinking less of yourself, it’s a question of thinking of yourself less.
– Larry Bossidy

Jew of the Week: Samuel Ullman

Samuel Ullman (Photo Credit: likesuccess.com)

Samuel Ullman (Photo Credit: likesuccess.com)

Shmuel Ullman (1840-1924) was born in Hechingen, Germany. Due to persecutions of Jews in the region, his family fled to the US in 1850, settling in Mississippi. Ullman spent much of his youth working in his father’s butcher shop. The Civil War broke out when Ullman was just 21, and as a citizen of Mississippi, the young man served in the Confederate Army. Following the war, Ullman got married and started a dry goods business. He became active in his town’s political and religious life, often devoting his time to the needs of the community. He then moved to Alabama and started a new hardware business. Together with his wife, they founded a hospital for the needy. Ullman also served on the Board of Education, was a key civil rights activist, and fought tirelessly to bring equal education for African-American children. His efforts led to the first free public school for blacks. At the same time, he served as the president and unofficial rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham. When he finally retired, Ullman devoted his time to writing. The most famous of his essays and poems is titled “Youth”. It was the favourite poem of American General and World War II hero Douglas MacArthur, who credited the poem with getting him through the horrors of the war. MacArthur had it framed and hanging in his Tokyo office, and introduced the poem (and its poet) to the Japanese. Many Japanese, too, were given hope by those words, ultimately making Ullman one of the most popular poets in Japan – even moreso than in America! It was the same poem that inspired Konosuki Matsushita to start a business despite his advanced age, giving birth to Panasonic. Kim Dae Jung often quoted the poem in his successful campaign to become President of South Korea, as did Robert F. Kennedy, and countless other noted figures around the world. Seventy years after Ullman’s passing, his home was turned into a museum by the University of Alabama and the Japan-America Society.

Words of the Week

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind…
… Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals…
… Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul…
– Verses from Samuel Ullman’s “Youth”

Jew of the Week: Hilik Magnus

“The Godfather of Search & Rescue”

Hilik Magnus (Courtesy of Hilik Magnus and Times of Israel)

Hilik Magnus

Yechiel “Hilik” Magnus (b. 1949) was born in Sweden to a German-Polish-Jewish family that moved to Israel while he was still an infant. Magnus grew up in the Holy Land, and served in the IDF as an elite paratrooper, as well as with the special forces, and later with the Mossad. After his military career, he worked as the director of nature conservation in Israel’s southern regions. During an Israeli-Japanese cultural project, Magnus found a new passion in traveling to the Far East, and toured the region extensively. Due to his intense military and intelligence training, Magnus was soon involved in a number of rescue missions to save Israeli backpackers trapped in Asia. By 1994, he turned this into a full-time job, creating an international search and rescue team that works with insurance companies and worried parents. He has helped bring thousands of families back together, earning the nickname of Israel’s “national rescuer”. These missions have included saving people from natural disasters, accidents, druggings, hostage situations, and even freeing Israelis from prison. Several years ago, he tracked down the body of a young man missing for over a month in Brazil. Most recently, he journeyed to Nepal to help those trapped in the snowstorm that killed dozens. His expertise makes him sought out by various governments and organizations all over the world. He is the first man Israeli parents call when their children abroad are in trouble. Soon, it won’t be just Israeli parents, as Magnus has grown his search and rescue team, and intends on offering these services to any family in need of assistance. Despite being in his mid-60s, Magnus still leads even the most difficult of missions.

Words of the Week

Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world.
– David McCullough Jr.