Uriah Phillips Levy (1792-1862) was born in Philadelphia to parents descended from German and Portuguese Jews. At age 10, he left home to work as a cabin boy on a merchant ship. At 13, he returned home for his Bar Mitzvah (having already traveled the world!) He continued on the nautical path and became a sailor. Levy enlisted in the navy during the War of 1812, where he was captured and imprisoned for 16 months. After the war, he returned to the navy and rose through the ranks, participating in many conflicts (including the Barbary Wars) and eventually becoming commodore of the Mediterranean Fleet. This made him the first ever Jewish commodore – the highest naval rank at the time. Facing extreme anti-Semitism throughout his military career, he would defend his honour in some violent fights, for which he was court-martialed no less than 6 times! He became a champion of the lowly soldier, refusing to participate in flogging or any form of corporal punishment. For this he was dismissed from his post, but by 1850 was able to convince Congress to pass an anti-flogging bill, thus abolishing the practice. He then wrote a new manual for humane military discipline. Away from the army, Levy found success in real estate, and became a noted philanthropist. In 1834 he purchased Thomas Jefferson’s estate (Monticello) and paid for its restoration. For this he is considered by many to be the first (modern) person to restore a historical site. He donated Monticello to the U.S. government in 1862. He also commissioned a statue of Jefferson for the Capitol building, which remains to this day the only piece of artwork in the Capitol to be privately commissioned. Levy financed the Bnai Yeshurun Jewish seminary of New York and served as the first president of the Washington Hebrew Congregation. The destroyer ship USS Levy is named after him.
Words of the Week
Do not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your destitute brother. – Deuteronomy 15:7. It is forbidden to withhold charity and relief for the needy if we are aware of their desperate situation and have the means to assist them. This is one of the 613 commandments of the Torah.
The Three Stooges. From Left: Larry, Curly and Moe
Of all the comedy acts ever produced, few can claim the wild popularity and success of the Three Stooges. The act began in 1925 as “Ted Healy and His Stooges”, with the first film produced in 1930. But it only catapulted to success after 1934, when the cast was solidified as the famous “Larry, Curly and Moe” trio. Moses “Moe” Horowitz (1897-1975) and Jerome Lester “Curly” Horowitz (1903-1952) were brothers born to Jewish-Lithuanian immigrants in Brooklyn. Despite his on-screen debacles, Moses was actually a child prodigy who had a photographic memory. His brother Curly (whose birth name was Yehuda Lev) was initially a well-known ballroom dancer and singer. They had a third brother Shmuel “Shemp” Horowitz (1895-1955) who was also part of the original act, and later returned after Curly died of a stroke in 1952. Meanwhile, Louis “Larry” Feinberg (1902-1975) was a Jewish-Russian comic and violinist from Philadelphia (who was once a professional boxer!) Together, Larry, Curly and Moe revolutionized farce and slapstick humour, and film comedians today owe a great deal to these pioneers. The Three Stooges starred in 220 films, at one point under contract to release 8 films every year because of their incredible popularity. They also appeared in four TV spin-offs, and between 1959 and 1966 recorded popular music albums. In the 1980s, a Three Stooges video game was created. It was so successful that the game was reintroduced in 2002 for GameBoy and in 2004 for PlayStation. Episodes of the Three Stooges continue to re-run around the world (and are particularly popular in East Asia). A new “The Three Stooges” movie is currently in production, reportedly starring Jim Carrey.
Words of the Week
When the mind is occupied… there is no room for stupid and vain thoughts devoid of substance. – The Lubavitcher Rebbe in Hayom Yom, Cheshvan 16