Tag Archives: New York City

Jew of the Week: Isaac Rice

Chess Master, Musician, Submarine Tycoon

Isaac Rice

Isaac Leopold Rice (1850-1915) was born in Bavaria to a German-Jewish family, and grew up in Philadelphia. At 19, he went back to Europe and studied music at the National Conservatory of Paris. At the same time, he was a European correspondent for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, and regularly wrote newspaper articles. After three years, Rice briefly moved to England and became a music teacher. He was an avid chess player and won a UK chess championship in Manchester. Rice then moved to New York and wrote his first book, the philosophical “What is Music?” He taught music classes for ten hours a day in order to support his struggling parents and siblings, and spent several more hours composing new music. In 1878 he enrolled in Columbia Law and graduated at the top of his class two years later. Rice worked primarily with railroad companies, and over the next decade became the most famous railroad lawyer in America. Meanwhile, he co-founded Columbia’s school of political science, and taught the subject (along with law and economics) for four years. He also established Forum Magazine, and was a regular contributor for decades. Rice was fascinated by electricity and its potential. In 1892 he bought out the failing Electro-Dynamic Company, producer of motors and generators. He then founded the Electric Vehicle Company, and is thought to be the first person in New York to have a car, bringing another dozen motorized cabs to operate in the city for the first time. In 1897, Rice bought the Electric Storage Battery Company and the Holland Torpedo Boat Company, creating his new Electric Boat Company. Rice secured a contract with the US government to build America’s first submarines (designed by John Philip Holland). He went on to supply the US Navy with 85 submarines and 722 submarine chasers, which were instrumental in World War I, as were his 580 motor boats for the British Royal Navy. Rice sold his Electric Boat Company for $2 million several months before he passed away. His companies later formed General Dynamics, today one of the largest military contractors in the world, employing over 100,000 people, and still the main supplier of the Navy’s submarines. (The company’s most famous creation: the F-16 fighter jet.) Rice continued to play chess and host tournaments until his last days. He is credited with playing a key role in boosting the popularity of chess in America. Rice was president of the Manhattan Chess Club, and discovered a classic opening move of chess that is named after him (the Rice Gambit). His large New York home, which he built in 1903, is an official historical landmark, and currently houses a yeshiva.

Amazing Discovery of Biblical Joseph’s Statue in Egypt

Words of the Week

This is a fight for the homeland – it is either us or the Israelis. There is no middle road. The Jews of Palestine will have to leave. We will facilitate their departure to their former homes. Any of the old Palestine Jewish population who survive may stay, but it is my impression that none of them will survive.
– former PLO chairman Ahmed Shukairy

New York City is famous for its cabs. It all began with a set of motorized cabs, like the Electrobat on the right (designed by Morris and Salom) – first introduced by Isaac Rice.

Jews of the Week: Sydney Pollack and Bruce Geller

Mission: Impossible

Bruce Geller

Baruch Bruce Geller (1930-1978) was born in New York City. Although he studied psychology at Yale University, he was far more interested in theatre, and ended up working as a screenwriter. Finding little success in New York, he moved to Hollywood and worked on a number of television shows. In 1965, Geller had an idea for a new secret agent thriller TV show, and created Mission: Impossible. The show ran from 1966 to 1973, with Geller as producer, writer, and director. The hit series went on to win 8 Emmy Awards, including two for Geller as producer and as writer. The show was resurrected in 1988 for another couple of seasons. (Its extremely popular theme song was written by former Jew of the Week Lalo Schifrin.)

Sydney Pollack

In the early 1990s, Sydney Irwin Pollack (1934-2008) began working on a film adaptation of Mission: Impossible. Starring Tom Cruise, the movie became a huge hit, and spawned five sequels, become one of the highest-grossing film franchises of all time, and earning over $2.7 billion, so far. (The latest installment of the film series, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, opens tomorrow.) Pollack was born in Indiana to Russian-Jewish immigrants. After finishing high school, he moved to New York City and studied acting. Pollack served two years in the armed forces, then returned to theatre as a stage assistant. He moved to Hollywood in 1960 to coach child actors, and slowly shifted from acting to directing. Pollack first worked on television shows, then made the jump to feature films, and was hugely successful right from the start. His films went on to earn 48 nominations and 11 wins at the Oscars. Pollack eventually went back to acting, and appeared in numerous films and TV shows. He died of cancer in 2008. Both Pollack and Geller were avid pilots, and enjoyed flying their Cessnas. Sadly, Geller’s life was cut short when his plane crashed in 1978.

Tu b’Av Begins Tonight – Chag Sameach!

Why Tu b’Av Is More Important than Yom Kippur

Words of the Week

I’ve lived through Israel’s entire 70-year history and I believe it is one of the most remarkable countries in the world.
– Warren Buffett

Steven Hill in the lead role of the 1966 pilot episode of Mission: Impossible, and Tom Cruise in the lead role of the 1996 film, together with the film’s most famous (and oft-spoofed) scene.