Tag Archives: Polish Jews

Jew of the Week: Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer

The Rabbi Who Launched Zionism

Zvi Hirsch Kalischer (1795-1874) was born in what was then Prussia (now Poland) to a long line of rabbis. After receiving his own rabbinic ordination and getting married, he moved to the city of Thorn and there served as the rabbi for over forty years. Incredibly, he never took a salary for this role, and instead made a living running a small business with his wife. He wrote commentaries on the Torah, Talmud, Passover Haggadah, and a wide range of topics in Jewish law. Meanwhile, Rabbi Kalischer was deeply concerned about the state of Jewry, both in Europe and in the Holy Land. He worried about the pogroms, persecutions, and poverty experienced by Jews in Eastern Europe, and equally worried about the mass-assimilation, secularism, and rise of Reform Judaism in Western Europe. Meanwhile, he wanted to make existing Jewish communities in places like Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberias, and Tzfat flourish and become self-sufficient, instead of relying heavily on donations from abroad. For Rabbi Kalischer, the solution to all of these problems was Jewish nationalism, and he began writing on these issues in the Hebrew magazine HaLevanon. In 1862, he put his ideas together in a book titled Derishat Zion, and followed it up with Rishon L’Zion in 1864. He argued that Jews should come together to purchase land in Israel, build agricultural schools to teach farming and land management, and to establish a Jewish military force to protect the Jews of the Holy Land. He also hoped to re-establish the sacrifices and offerings in Jerusalem as specified in the Torah. Rabbi Kalischer argued that Jews should stop waiting for God to solve their problems: “One should not think that the Blessed One will suddenly descend from the Heavens to tell his people – ‘leave!’ – or that he will send His messenger any moment to call us on the trumpet…” While many critiqued this approach, Rabbi Kalischer defended his position with citations from all across Jewish holy texts. He went on speaking tours around Europe to spread the message, and convinced countless people to join the cause. Rabbi Kalischer was a key inspiration for prominent figures like Sir Moses Montefiore, Adolphe Crémieux, and Edmond de Rothschild. His work led directly to the establishment of the first agricultural school in the Holy Land in 1870, called Mikveh Israel. He even donated his own savings of 12,000 francs towards purchasing more land in Israel. Rabbi Kalischer is widely regarded as one of the early founders of Zionism.

Torah Simulation Theory (Video)

Words of the Week

If whites are successful, it’s “white privilege”; if minorities are successful, it’s “empowerment”; if Jews are successful, it’s a conspiracy.
– Jon Stewart 

Jew of the Week: Yair Stern

Israel’s Freedom Fighter

Avraham Yair Stern (1907-1942) was born to a Russian-Jewish family in what is today Poland. The family fled during World War I, and Stern ended up living in a small village in Siberia. At 18, he made aliyah on his own to the Holy Land. Stern joined the Haganah defense organization and took up studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 1932, he joined the more right-wing Irgun and trained to become an officer. Stern was also a passionate writer and poet. His lyrics were credited with inspiring and strengthening countless Jewish pioneers in Israel. The Hebrew University was so impressed that they sent him to Italy for doctoral studies. Meanwhile, he travelled around Eastern Europe to convince more Jews to make aliyah and join the Zionist movement. Stern quickly recognized the British as oppressors and foreign colonialists, and argued that as the indigenous people of the land Jews had to do whatever it took to reclaim their ancestral home. When the British released the infamous 1939 White Paper limiting Jewish immigration (allowing only 75,000 Jews to enter over five years), Stern concluded that negotiations and diplomacy with the British was no longer possible, and armed resistance was necessary. At the outbreak of World War II, Stern was actually part of a training program with the Polish Army to train 40,000 Jews to liberate Israel from the British! The Nazi invasion of Poland put an end to that program. Stern eventually broke away from the Irgun and formed Lohamei Herut Israel, “Freedom Fighters of Israel”, abbreviated Lehi, in 1940. Some Lehi members sought to recruit local Arabs in their struggle against the British oppressor. But Stern, having lived through the terrible 1929 Hebron massacre and Arab riots (in which over 130 Jews were slaughtered and hundreds more injured and raped), foresaw that the Arabs would never share the land with the Jews in the long-term. Stern went on to organize attacks on British positions and assassinations of British authorities. His group was commonly referred to as “the Stern Gang”. Stern was shot to death by a British policeman in early 1942. Nonetheless, the Stern Gang continued its activities, and even assassinated the antisemitic Lord Moyne, the highest-ranking British official in the Middle East. These events finally convinced the British to abandon the Holy Land for good, allowing the State of Israel to be proclaimed. Immediately after, the new government of Israel disbanded Lehi. In January of 1949, they granted amnesty to past Lehi members, including future Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir. Though he was only 34 years old when he was killed, Yair Stern is credited with playing an instrumental role in the formation of the State of Israel.

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Words of the Week

The current Palestinian political economy, influenced far too greatly by the BDS and anti-normalization campaigns, amounts to a corrupt, unsustainable, terror-supporting regime that is disinterested in the economic well-being of its own people and the development of a new state.
Khaled Abu ToamehArab journalist and filmmaker 

Jew of the Week: Two-Gun Cohen

The Jewish General Revered in China and Taiwan

Moszek Abram Miączyn (1887-1970) was born in Poland to a deeply religious Jewish family. When he was two years old, the family moved to England and changed their last name to Cohen. Growing up in poverty, he got into a lot of trouble and was sent to a Rothschild-funded school for wayward youth. In 1905, his parents sent him to Canada to work on a farm, hoping it would strengthen and mature the young man. Now known as Morris Cohen, he became a typical “cowboy” and, when not raising livestock, spent his time in saloons, playing cards, shooting guns, and ending up in jail on several occasions. Cohen befriended Chinese immigrants working on the Canadian Pacific Railway. At the time, racism and abuse against the Chinese was rampant, and Cohen soon gained a reputation as the only white man who stood up for them. This eventually brought him an invitation from Sun Yat-sen, renowned philosopher and freedom fighter, who led the resistance in overthrowing the Chinese monarchy and who is today revered as a founding father in both China and Taiwan. Cohen and Sun Yat-sen became close friends. Meanwhile, Cohen enlisted in the military during World War I, fighting valiantly and rising to the rank of sergeant. When he was shot and injured in his right arm, he decided he needed to learn how to shoot with his left, too, and carried a revolver on both sides, earning the nickname “Two-Gun Cohen”. Upon his return to Canada, Cohen found himself without money or work. He headed to China and rejoined Sun Yat-sen, becoming his advisor and aide-de-camp. He helped in building China’s railways, and at the same time trained Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionary troops. Cohen became Sun Yat-sen’s personal bodyguard, and was given the Chinese name Ma Kun. After Sun Yat-sen’s passing, Cohen continued to work for the Kuomintang (the Chinese Nationalist Party), and was given the rank of major-general in the Revolutionary Army. During World War II, Cohen fought alongside the Chinese against the Japanese. He was captured in one battle, imprisoned and tortured, and was only freed in December 1943 in a prisoner exchange. He settled in Montreal and got married. In 1947, as the UN vote on the partition of Israel approached, Cohen heard that China planned to oppose, so he reached out to his contacts and made sure the Chinese government would abstain, which they did. Cohen remained neutral during the China-Taiwan split in 1949, and was one of the few people in the world permitted to travel directly between the two countries, as he was admired in both. At his funeral in Manchester, England’s Blackley Jewish Cemetery in 1970, delegations from both China and Taiwan arrived, marking one of the rare occasions when the two governments appeared together in public. Cohen’s life inspired at least three films, including The Gunrunner, where Cohen’s character was played by Kevin Costner.

Words of the Week

Since the Exodus, freedom has always spoken with a Hebrew accent.
– Heinrich Heine