Jerome Silberman (1933-2016) was born in Milwaukee, the son of Russian-Jewish parents. When he was eight years old, his mother fell ill and the doctor told him to try to make her laugh. This is when his passion for acting began. At 13, he started taking professional acting lessons, and his mother soon sent him to a school in Hollywood. As the only Jewish kid, he was often bullied and abused, and had to leave the school shortly after. Back in Milwaukee, he performed in his first official play (Romeo & Juliet) at 15. Silberman went on study theatre at the University of Iowa, where he became a lifelong member of the Jewish fraternity AEPi. After college, he went to acting school in England. There, he also studied fencing and became a fencing champion. Upon returning to the US, Silberman was drafted to the army and served as a medic. After this, he went back to acting school (in New York) and supported himself by working as a limo driver and fencing instructor. After three more years of study, he started getting professional acting jobs. During this time, he adopted the stage name Gene Wilder. It wasn’t long before Wilder appeared in a number of hit Broadway plays. In 1967, he got a leading role in The Producers. The movie became a comedy classic, and Wilder was nominated for an Oscar. After some more successes, Wilder was cast as Willy Wonka in the adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, perhaps his most famous role. Wilder went on to star in many more popular films, including multiple collaborations with fellow comedy legends Richard Pryor and Mel Brooks. All together, he appeared in 23 films, 9 television shows, and 5 Broadway plays. He inspired a generation of comedians, actors, and pastry chefs. Wilder also wrote 6 books. Sadly, the beloved actor passed away earlier this week. His film Blazing Saddles – which some consider the funniest movie of all time – will be playing in many theaters this weekend as a tribute.
Words of the Week
Most tragedy is misunderstood comedy. God is a great humorist working with a rather glum audience. – Garrison Keillor
Golda Mabovitch (1898-1978) was born in Ukraine and moved with her family to Milwaukee when she was 7 years old. A leader from her youth, she raised funds to pay for her classmates’ textbooks while in elementary school, and ran her parents’ grocery store in their absence. At 14, Golda rebelled against her mother’s wishes to abandon her studies and get married. Instead, she fled to Denver to live with her older sister. There she was first exposed to Zionism, and met her husband Morris Meyerson, from whom she took the last name, later shortening it to Golda Meir. She only married him with the promise that they would move to Israel. After working as a teacher for a few years, Meir finally made aliyah in 1921, joining a kibbutz where she worked on farms and chicken coops. Recognizing her leadership, the kibbutz appointed her their representative to the Histadrut (Federation of Labour). Meir rose through the ranks, eventually becoming head of the Jewish Agency and chief negotiator with the British Mandate. In 1948, she single-handedly raised $50 million for Israel to purchase arms in the wake of war. Ben-Gurion famously said that this was the money that “made the State possible”. She was one of 24 signatories of the Declaration of Independence, and the first person to carry an Israeli passport. Meir served as Labour Minister, and then Foreign Minister, until retiring in 1966 due to lymphoma. But she came back three years later, aged 72, to become Israel’s Prime Minister. She was Israel’s “iron lady” during the Yom Kippur War, maneuvering a victory against all odds. Nonetheless, she took the blame for the war and resigned. She succumbed to lymphoma shortly after. A winner of the Israel Prize, and voted to the list of greatest Israelis, her maxims are often quoted. Meir once said: “Pessimism is a luxury that a Jew can never allow himself.”
Words of the Week
Ten measures of speech were given to the world, and nine of them were granted to women. – Talmud, Kiddushin 49b