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Jew of the Week: Samuel Ullman

Samuel Ullman (Photo Credit: likesuccess.com)

Samuel Ullman (Photo Credit: likesuccess.com)

Shmuel Ullman (1840-1924) was born in Hechingen, Germany. Due to persecutions of Jews in the region, his family fled to the US in 1850, settling in Mississippi. Ullman spent much of his youth working in his father’s butcher shop. The Civil War broke out when Ullman was just 21, and as a citizen of Mississippi, the young man served in the Confederate Army. Following the war, Ullman got married and started a dry goods business. He became active in his town’s political and religious life, often devoting his time to the needs of the community. He then moved to Alabama and started a new hardware business. Together with his wife, they founded a hospital for the needy. Ullman also served on the Board of Education, was a key civil rights activist, and fought tirelessly to bring equal education for African-American children. His efforts led to the first free public school for blacks. At the same time, he served as the president and unofficial rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham. When he finally retired, Ullman devoted his time to writing. The most famous of his essays and poems is titled “Youth”. It was the favourite poem of American General and World War II hero Douglas MacArthur, who credited the poem with getting him through the horrors of the war. MacArthur had it framed and hanging in his Tokyo office, and introduced the poem (and its poet) to the Japanese. Many Japanese, too, were given hope by those words, ultimately making Ullman one of the most popular poets in Japan – even moreso than in America! It was the same poem that inspired Konosuki Matsushita to start a business despite his advanced age, giving birth to Panasonic. Kim Dae Jung often quoted the poem in his successful campaign to become President of South Korea, as did Robert F. Kennedy, and countless other noted figures around the world. Seventy years after Ullman’s passing, his home was turned into a museum by the University of Alabama and the Japan-America Society.

Words of the Week

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind…
… Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals…
… Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul…
– Verses from Samuel Ullman’s “Youth”

Jew of the Week: Rabbi Col. Jacob Goldstein

Rabbi Goldstein (Courtesy: JEM/Chabad.org)

Rabbi Goldstein (Courtesy: JEM/Chabad.org)

Jacob Z. Goldstein (b. 1947) was born in Brooklyn to a devout Chabad family. In 1967, the Lubavitcher Rebbe instituted the Tefillin Campaign to get all Jews – especially those distant from Jewish religious practice – to regularly don tefillin. Goldstein diligently took up the cause. He was soon visiting a military base to provide tefillin for Jewish soldiers. By 1977, the base’s Catholic chaplain requested that Goldstein enlist in the army as a chaplain himself. With blessings from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Goldstein agreed. He has since served all over the world, in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, Bosnia and South Korea, Grenada, Israel, and even Cuba’s notorious Guantanamo Bay. Following the 9/11 attacks, Rabbi Goldstein was the Chief Chaplain at Ground Zero. Similarly, he was in charge of the chaplaincy in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Over the years, he has helped to permit wearing beards for religious reasons in the armed forces, bring kosher meals to American soldiers, pave the way for more Jewish chaplains, and establish holiday observances and prayer services at military bases around the globe. He has risen to the rank of Colonel, and despite the typical mandatory retirement age of 60, has remained in the armed forces for an additional eight years due to a lack of chaplains in the force. Rabbi Goldstein finally retired last month after 38 years of dedicated service. In addition to his military role, he is also the longest-serving chairman of his Community Board in New York, and has been noted as a successful local politician, and a promoter of interracial cooperation and understanding.

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Words of the Week

Fundamental to Judaism is the belief in One God, and the quest to seek unity in all things… What is truly remarkable is that this idea has also gained prominence in the sciences, particularly in recent years. Increasingly, scientific theory and research is focusing on the endeavor to express all physical phenomena in a single formula and, more importantly, to discover the singular unifying force which underlies all other forces, so that all other forces are shown to be aspects and outgrowths of this singular force…
The Lubavitcher Rebbe

Rabbi Goldstein with the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Courtesy: JEM/Chabad.org)

Jew of the Week: Comic Books

What do Batman, Spider-Man and Superman have in common?

The now-ubiquitous superhero comic book was originally a product of poor Jewish immigrants to America. (Look closely and you’ll find Jewish themes in all of them. Superman’s real name? Kal-El!) During the Great Depression, Max Gaines’ (born Max Ginzberg) only solace was reading newspaper comic strips. He wondered how it would be possible to maximize this experience, and thus was born the comic book. Teaming up with Harry Wildenberg, who worked for a colour printing company, they debuted the first ever comic book in 1934. By 1938, comic books had already taken America by storm when two Jews changed the industry forever. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster came up with Superman, the first action superhero. In 1939, Bob Kahn (who became Bob Kane in America) and Bill Finger (a poor Jew from Colorado) brought Batman to the world. In 1941, Joe Kirzberg (who became Joe Kirby) and Joe Simon created Captain America. Meanwhile, a young Romanian Jew named Stanley Lieber, also known as Stan Lee, dreamed up Spider-Man, the Hulk, Avengers and the Fantastic Four, as well as X-Men, Thor and Daredevil, propelling Marvel Comics (which was founded by Martin Goodman) from obscurity into a comics powerhouse. So why the Jews? Will Eisner, the originator of Wonder Man, said it was nothing more than a re-branding of Biblical heroes: “We are people of the Book; we are storytellers essentially. Anyone who’s exposed to Jewish culture, I think, walks away for the rest of his life with an instinct for telling stories…”

 

 

Words of the Week

He shall be free to his home for one year, and he shall cheer his wife whom he has taken.

– Deuteronomy 24:5

A newly-married groom, for the first year following his marriage, is commanded to remain together with his wife, and should not embark upon journeys, join the army in battle, or anything of the like (including civic duties). Rather he must rejoice with his wife for a full year – this is one of the 613 commandments (#214)!