Tag Archives: Siberia

Jew of the Week: Avigdor Ben-Gal

The Man Who Saved Israel

Avigdor Ben-Gal

Avigdor Ben-Gal

Janusz Ludwig (1936-2016) was born in Lodz, Poland. At the outbreak of World War II, his family managed to escape to the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, they were soon mired in Siberia, where Ludwig’s parents disappeared. Thankfully, Ludwig and his sister made it to Israel, together with a group of other Polish children (many of whom were orphans) by way of Iran. They settled in Tel-Aviv, and were raised by their cousin. In Israel, Ludwig adopted a new name: Avigdor Ben-Gal. Though he initially aspired to be a physician, Ben-Gal enjoyed his military service with the IDF, and decided to be a career military man. He saw his first action in Egypt during the 1956 Suez Crisis. Just over a decade later, he was an operations chief during the Six-Day Way. By 1973, Ben-Gal was commander of the 7th Armored Brigade. He sensed that a war would soon break out, but was ridiculed by most others within the political and military sphere. Nonetheless, he began preparing his own brigade for war. When the Yom Kippur War did indeed break out, Ben-Gal’s brigade was the only one ready for combat. They were able to miraculously defeat the Syrians in the Golan Heights despite being heavily outnumbered (700 Syrian tanks vs. 175 Israeli tanks). Ben-Gal’s skill and heroics turned back the Syrian invasion after just 3 days of combat. He then led a brave counter-offensive that brought the IDF within 20 miles of Damascus just 4 days later. At the war’s conclusion, Ben-Gal was credited with having “saved the State of Israel” by defense minister Moshe Dayan. In 1976, Ben-Gal helped to plan the rescue operation of Israeli hostages in Entebbe. A year later, he was put in charge of Israel’s Northern Command. After retiring from the military, Ben-Gal served on the board of Israel Aerospace Industries, the state-owned aviation manufacturer (and one of Israel’s largest employers). He was also on the board of Tahal – an engineering and infrastructure company that is an important defense contractor – as well as the NSO Group, an Israeli tech start-up focusing on surveillance and security. Sadly, Ben-Gal passed away last Saturday.

Words of the Week

I will always stand with Israel. I can’t tolerate people who criticize Israel without walking in their shoes. I hate the lies they spread and their lack of knowledge. I’m proud to stand up for the Israelis.
– Adam Sandler 

Jew of the Week: Ernst Gräfenberg

Ernst Grafenberg (courtesy of muvs.org)

Ernst Grafenberg

Ernst Gräfenberg (1881-1957) was born in Adelebsen, Germany, where his father was a successful businessman and head of the Jewish community. Gräfenberg studied medicine and earned a Ph.D by the time he was just 23. He first worked as an ophthalmologist, then shifted his focus to gynecology. At the same time, he did important research on cancer, presenting a theory on metastasis. Following his World War I service as a medical officer, for which he was decorated with an Iron Cross, Gräfenberg became the chief of gynecology at a Berlin hospital. He did simultaneously did research on reproduction at Berlin University. In 1929, he invented the first modern contraceptive intrauterine device (IUD), then called the “Gräfenberg ring”. Today, IUDs are the most widely used form of female contraception, with nearly 200 million users around the world. Unfortunately, the Nazis forced Gräfenberg to give up his posts in 1933. Despite pressure to leave Germany, he continued his gynecology practice, thinking that he would be safe since many of his patients were the wives of Nazi officials. Nonetheless, Gräfenberg was arrested and spent three years in prison. It wasn’t until 1940 that he was finally able to flee to the US (through Siberia and Japan). There, Gräfenberg continued his studies on female physiology. Among other things, he described a little-known erogenous zone that was later named after him: the “Gräfenberg spot”, better known as the “G-spot”. He also did important work on egg implantation and pathology. The effects of Parkinson’s Disease forced Gräfenberg to retire in 1953, and he passed away several years later in New York City.

Words of the Week

Humility is not a question of thinking less of yourself, it’s a question of thinking of yourself less.
– Larry Bossidy

Jews of the Week: Zev Wolfson and Sir Isaac Wolfson

Zev Wolfson

Zev Wolfson (1928-2012) was born in Lithuania, deported to Siberia during World War II and finally made his way to New York. With no money he began working as a light-bulb salesman, but soon found his way into real estate where he quickly earned a large sum of wealth. Inspired by the sight of an Israeli flag, Wolfson began working tirelessly for Israel, lobbying the U.S. government to help the nascent state. He secured arms for Israel during the critical period of the Yom Kippur War, and built countless institutions across the country. Yitzchak Rabin said he didn’t know “one other Jew in the world who, as an individual, had done more for the State of Israel”. In spiritual matters, too, Wolfson was a giant, financing yeshivas worldwide, and paying for such programs as RAJE, Aish Fellowships, and Argentina’s Morasha, which bring thousands of young Jews to Israel every year at virtually no cost. Possibly every Jew in the world has somehow been touched by Wolfson’s outreach – he even established a Torah-learning program in Iran during the times of the Shah! Humble and dedicated to Torah, he made sure to donate more than 50% of his earnings, and was known to fly economy class despite his wealth. His family continues to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to Jewish causes every year.

Sir Isaac Wolfson

Zev Wolfson is not to be confused with Sir Isaac Wolfson (1897-1991) of Scotland, another great Jewish philanthropist. Born to poor Polish immigrants, Isaac Wolfson couldn’t afford school so he became a salesperson. He worked his way up to become director of Great Universal Stores, once among the largest retailers in the UK, with over 50,000 employees. A devout Orthodox Jew, Sir Wolfson donated virtually all of his wealth, much of it to build the young State of Israel, saying “No man should have more than £100,000. The rest should go to charity.”

Words of the Week

People are accustomed to look at the heavens and wonder what happens there. It would be better if they would look within themselves to see what happens there.
– Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, “The Kotzker Rebbe”