Tag Archives: University of Paris

Jew of the Week: Moe Berg

Baseball Player, Lawyer… and Secret Agent¬†

Moe Berg

Moe Berg

Morris Berg¬†(1902-1972) was born in New York to Russian-Jewish immigrants. He began playing baseball at age 7, and by 16 was on Newark’s baseball “dream team”. He studied first at New York University, then Princeton, and graduated with a degree in languages, learning to speak seven of them. By his senior year, he was captain of Princeton’s baseball team. A day after his last game with Princeton, Berg signed a contract with the Brooklyn Robins. In the off-season, he headed to Paris and continued his studies at the world-famous Sorbonne (University of Paris). There, he began a personal routine of reading as many as 10 newspapers every single day. Berg was never very good at baseball, and was often traded and loaned between many different teams. Always a scholar first, in 1926 he told the Chicago White Sox that he is skipping spring training because he was enrolled in law school at Columbia University. He earned his law degree in 1930, and then split his time between baseball in the summer and working at a prestigious Wall Street law firm in the winter.

In 1932, Berg toured Asia, visiting Japan, China, Siam, India, and Egypt. A couple of years later, he returned to Japan with a video camera, later traveling to the Philippines, Korea, and Russia, before returning to play with the Red Sox for 5 seasons, then coaching the team for 2 more. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Berg joined the war effort and eventually became a spy. He shared his video footage of Japan, which was instrumental in planning American raids during the war. After serving in South America and the Caribbean, Berg was parachuted into Yugoslavia to assist resistance groups fighting the Nazis. His next mission was to travel across Europe and convince scientists working for the Nazis (particularly on their nuclear bomb project), to come work for the U.S. instead. In 1951, he requested that the CIA station him in Israel. Instead, they sent him to Europe to spy on Soviet nuclear work. In 1954, the CIA let him go and for the rest of his life Berg lived with his siblings, having never married. His wishes were to be cremated, and his ashes were scattered in Jerusalem. Berg was inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and Baseball’s Shrine of the Eternals. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom, and his baseball card is on display at CIA headquarters. Berg was described as “the most scholarly professional athlete”, and the “strangest man ever to play baseball.”

Words of the Week

If you begin a good deed, finish it, for a mitzvah is credited to the one who concludes the task.
– Talmud, Sotah 13b

Jew of the Week: Ruth Westheimer

Dr. Ruth

Dr. Ruth: Beloved Therapist, Deadly Sniper

Karola Ruth Siegel was born in Germany to an Orthodox Jewish family. Orphaned by the Holocaust, she migrated to Israel at 17 and joined the Haganah defence force, fighting in the 1948 War of Independence as a sniper (“For some strange reason,” she says, “I can put five bullets into that red thing in the middle of the target.”) After recovering from injuries sustained by a nearby exploding shell, Ruth studied psychology at the University of Paris. From there she immigrated to the U.S., receiving a PhD in human sexuality. In 1980, she was invited to do a 15-minute radio segment discussing sex. That transformed into one of the most popular radio shows of all time, featuring “Dr. Ruth”, which quickly became a household name. Later a television program, Dr. Ruth remains the most well-known sex therapist in America. She wrote several popular books on the subject, taught at Princeton and Yale, won a Leo Baeck Medal for humanitarian work, and still belongs to two Manhattan synagogues.

Words of the Week

An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that, in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle.
Francis Crick, Nobel Prize-winning discoverer of DNA structure