Tag Archives: Turkey

Jews of the Week: Jerry Seinfeld & Larry David

Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld

Voted one of the greatest comedians of all time, Jerome Allen “Jerry” Seinfeld started his career at an open-mic night after graduating from college. He found his way to a Rodney Dangerfield HBO special, then appearances on late night talk shows, and small roles in little-known sitcoms. Finally, in 1989 he created The Seinfeld Chronicles along with fellow New York Jew Larry David. By its fourth season (then known simply as Seinfeld) it had become the most successful sitcom ever, and made Seinfeld the highest-paid celebrity of the time (he earned $267 million in 1998 alone!) Seinfeld is also a bestselling author and winner of multiple Emmy and Golden Globe awards. Interestingly, his father was Austrian Jewish, and his mother’s family is Syrian Jewish, having immigrated to the US from Turkey. Seinfeld also worked in an Israeli Kibbutz when he was 16.

Larry David

Larry David

Meanwhile, Lawrence Gene “Larry” David co-created and wrote 62 episodes for Seinfeld, including “The Contest” which won the distinction of being the best TV show episode of all time. Previously, he was a writer for Saturday Night Live, and many other comedy shows. Larry David is most famous for starring in Curb Your Enthusiasm, a unique show where the script is improvised by the actors as they are being filmed. It has been both criticized and praised for its heavy emphasis on Judaism and Jewish themes, and the show is thought to be based on the Yiddish archetype of a “schlemiel”. Like Seinfeld, Larry David is an author and winner of multiple Emmy awards.

Words of the Week

“A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking.”
– Jerry Seinfeld

Jew of the Week: Sir Moses Montefiore

The Legendary Moses Montefiore

Moshe Chaim Montefiore (1784-1885) was born in Livorno, Italy to a wealthy Sephardic family. Raised in England, he worked as a grocery merchant before earning great wealth in the stock exchange. In 1824, Montefiore retired and dedicated his life to making the world a better place, funding countless schools, hospitals and other institutions. He was a key figure in abolishing slavery, and even raised the money used to compensate angry plantation owners. Montefiore served as Sheriff of London, and was knighted by Queen Victoria for his selflessness. In 1827 he travelled to Israel and the experience returned him to his Jewish roots. He became a strictly Torah-observant Jew, so much so that he had a personal shochet travel with him so that he can have kosher meat. Fighting for each individual Jew, Montefiore personally went to Turkey to gain the release of 10 imprisoned Jews. He did the same in trips to Russia, Morocco, Rome and Romania. In 1862 he built a Sephardic yeshiva, in addition to the great Montefiore synagogue, built on the former estate of Queen Caroline. Montefiore would make 7 trips to the Holy Land over his life time (the last at age 91!) setting the ground work for the Zionist movement. He financed much of the early construction projects, including the first printing press and textile factory, established multiple agricultural colonies, and even commissioned several censuses that provide us with important information to this day. Montefiore died childless at the age of 100. His centenary was celebrated as a national holiday. Today, the 13th of Av, is his yahrzeit.

Words of the Week

A wealthy anti-Semite once told Moses Montefiore that he had just returned from Japan, where there are “neither pigs nor Jews.” Sir Moses replied: “then you and I should go there, so that they should have a sample of each.”

Jew of the Week: Don Joseph Nasi

Prince of Europe

NasiDon Joseph Nasi (1524-1579) I’m not sure why they haven’t made a movie about this man yet, but they should. His story is quite fascinating. In a nutshell, he was the head of a banking empire, the Duke of Naxos, the Count of Andros, and the Lord of Tiberias. He actively sought a national homeland for the Jews, initially hoping for Cyprus, later receiving a grant from the Ottomans to start settling Israel. He single-handedly triggered a war between Turkey and Venice, sparked the Dutch uprising against Spain and brokered a peace treaty with Poland. At one point, he went by the secret name Juan Miguel to escape the inquisition. He monopolized the wine industry in Moldavia and the beeswax industry in Poland, financed the Yeshiva of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul), established a printing press for Jewish texts and maintained a vast library in his house to be used freely by Torah scholars.

Constantinople (Modern Instanbul) – where Don Nasi financed the Yeshiva

Words of the Week

The entire people of Israel comprise a single soul; only the bodies are separate.

– Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (Tanya, ch. 32)