Tag Archives: Military

Jew of the Week: Ralph H. Baer

The Father of Video Game Consoles

Ralph Baer, Video Game Console Inventor

Ralph Baer, Video Game Console Inventor

If any one person can be credited with sparking the video game industry, it is Ralph Baer. Born in Germany in 1922, Baer was expelled from school at age 11 because he was Jewish. Fearing violent anti-Semitism, the Baer family fled to America before the onset of the Holocaust. Instead of going to school, Ralph worked in a factory for 12 dollars a week, but made sure to learn on his own. During World War II he served as an intelligence officer based in London, stationed in France. After returning home Baer was among only a handful of people to earn a Bachelor of Science in television engineering, and worked for several electronics companies (including IBM) before joining Sanders Associates, a defense contractor which builds electronics for the military. It was there that Ralph Baer began developing a gaming system in 1966. The prototype was complete by 1968, and in 1972 was released by Magnavox as the first ever home video game console, known as the Odyssey.

Magnavox Odyssey

Magnavox Odyssey

Shortly after, Baer also developed the first peripheral device to a video game console, the famous ‘light gun’. This gun technology has been used in some of the most popular video games ever since. Today, video games make up an incredible $25 billlion industry, with nearly 70% of all households owning consoles. Baer continued to develop electronic games (he invented the popular handheld memory game Simon) and home consoles until retiring in 1987. He was recently inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and has received, among many other awards, the National Medal of Technology for his “groundbreaking and pioneering creation, development and commercialization of interactive video games.”

Update: Sadly, Ralph Baer passed away on December 6, 2014.

Words of the Week

Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.
– George Carlin

Jew of the Week: Wolf Wissotzky


If you had a name like Kalonimus Kalman Vulf Ze’ev Yankelevich Wissotzky, you’d kick ass, too.

Kalman Ze’ev Yankelevich Wissotzky (1824-1904) was the son of struggling merchants in Russia. After studying at the famous Volozhin Yeshiva, he joined an agricultural colony which paved his way into the tea trade. In 1849, he established the Wissotzky Tea company in Moscow and very soon became known as the “King of Russian Tea.” By 1904, Wissotzky Tea was popular across the world, with branches in Europe and America. Meanwhile, the situation in Russia worsened to the point that Wissotzky Tea moved their headquarters to Israel. (During the Russian Revolution, the masses protested “Jewish domination” and chanted their slogan: “Tea of Wissotzky, Sugar of Brodsky, and the Tzar is Leiba Trotsky!”) In 1936, Wissotzky Tea opened a factory in Israel, becoming the first tea company in the region. Since then it has been Israel’s leading tea brand. It would surely make Wolf Wissotzky proud – he was an ardent Zionist and one of the main shakers of the movement. He gave 10,000 rubles to the Alliance Israelite for Zionist causes, then another lump sum of 20,000, as well as 6000 rubles to start one of Israel’s first monthly magazines (called HaShiloach). Wissotzky personally traveled to Israel and laid the groundwork for the Lod, Nablus and Gaza settlements. He also established and financed the first school in Jaffa. Outside of Israel, too, Wissotzky was a great philanthropist. In 1898, he gave 70,000 to build a yeshiva in Byelostok. Most amazingly, he worked tirelessly to help the Cantonists – young Russian Jews forcibly taken from their homes and conscripted into life-long military service. Wissotzky ensured many of them had Shabbat services and Passover meals, and helped bring countless young boys back to Judaism. Ultimately, he would leave over 1 million rubles to charity. In those days, one ruble was equal to 0.514 ounces of gold, which in today’s value is nearly $1,000. So, Wissotzky donated nearly one billion dollars to charity! Now that’s philanthropy!

Words of the Week

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
– Eleanor Roosevelt

Jew of the Week: Eli Cohen

The Impossible Spy

Eli Cohen: Possibly the greatest spy of all time

Eliyahu Cohen (1924-1965) was born in Egypt to an immigrant family of Syrian Jews. In the 1950s, he became involved in Israeli espionage activities, including Operation Goshen, which smuggled over 10,000 Jews out of Egypt, saving them from violence and persecution. Shortly after arriving in Israel he was recruited by the Mossad to be an Israeli intelligence agent in Syria. A new identity was created for him: Kamel Amin Thaabet, a wealthy Syrian returning from Argentina. To create a convincing spy, Cohen actually lived in Argentina before being deployed to Syria In 1962. He quickly gained the trust of powerful people, making friends with generals and rising through the ranks of the ruling Baath party. Cohen toured Syria’s most sensitive military sites, secretly sending the information to Israel (which many believe was absolutely critical in Israel’s 1967 victory). Amazingly, Eli Cohen was nearly appointed Syria’s Deputy Minister of Defence, and at one point, was third in the line of succession to Syria’s presidency!¬†Soviet agents uncovered Cohen’s identity in 1965. Without proper trial, he was publicly hanged to death, and the Syrians reburied him at least three times, fearing an Israeli operation to recover his body. To this day, the Syrians refuse to return his remains. Eli Cohen is considered one of the greatest intelligence agents of all time. His incredible story was captured in the film The Impossible Spy,¬†and more recently in the hit Netflix mini-series The Spy.

Words of the Week

When God desired to create man, Truth said: “He should not be created, for he is full of lies.” Kindness said: “He should be created, for he is full of kindness.”
Midrash Rabbah, Bereishit 8:5