A Jewish version of ‘Believe it or Not’

A Jewish version of “Believe it or Not”: From the strange to the subliminal

Lately, the news about the treatment of Israel by the world community, save for the US and  a few other countries, and by the wretched so- called   “progressives” and “liberal” and “the left-wingers”of  the Jews of the US branch of the Diaspora  has been rather depressing.

Hence, I thought that it is about time to change the subject to the things members of our People, the Ashkenazi Sephardic, Asian  and other Jews,” have done and achieved of which we are all pleased or proud. “

For my  part, over  the last few years I have been compiling a list of  Jews, whose names and doings were until then unknown to me and- I venture to think, to a good number  of fellow Jews, who have done or are doing things that range from the strange to the subliminal.

I have a lot of fun in the compilation of the list and what I learn on an ongoing basis causes me a good many surprises, much hilarity, personal joy and pride in my tribe even in those instances, I admit it, my reaction ought to have been more sober (hmm) .

I now want to produce  the following list  to share my experiences with you .

I hasten to add that a good number of the entries below come from the wonderful electronic magazine titled “Jewniverse” (hereinafter referred to as “J”) and are identified as such. I always read the read the new issues with much anticipation and pleasure and I commend it to you. (N.B. This is not a paid or unpaid advertisement on behalf of J’s publishers.)

Hence, believe it or not,

  1. There have been Jewish pirates from 1492 until  the middle of the 17th century. (via Google; see also: Jullan Schvindlerman’s “Sobre Piratas y Corsarios Judios” in “Compromiso” yr.4 no.19, 2012). Besides Salah Sinan  a pirate nick-named  “the Great Jew”, another  famous and sophisticated one was Samuel Pallache (1550-1616) whose forbears were deported from Spain to Morocco. Samuel and his brother, attacked Spanish commercial ships arriving from South America and sold the bounty , of all places ,in Spanish ports  cities. Samuel also worked as an ordained rabbi, ship captain, spy and Moroccan ambassador to Holland  and finally assembled  and headed a large  fleet of pirate ships-  each of which served kosher food  and had a synagogue, that became the Pirate Unit of the Dutch navy, that hunted Spanish ships.(Ushi Derman)
  2. Abe Saperstein, a British born American Jewish businessman and the original owner, coach, trainer, booking agent, PR Director, chauffeur and occasional player of the world-famous basketball team, the Harlem Globetrotters. He introduced the razzle-dazzle comedic showmanship such as gravity defying slam dunks, trick shots and improbable long shots and other antics for which  the team is famous. He was also a leading figure in black basketball and baseball  before the racial integration of these sports. (Avishay Artsy, Jewniverse; abridged)
  3. Three Polish Jews, the Hassenfeld Bothers, created the toy ”Mr. Potato Head” in United States. They were inspired by children’s fascination with potatoes peeled to make latkes and their keen interest in making faces out of them . It is the first toy ever advertised on TV and it sold more than a million units in its first year. Originally made with vegetables and later with plastic when mothers started complaining about rotting vegetables and in order to comply with sanitary regulations .Mr. Potato Head has “Brother Spud” and “Sister Yam.”  Mr. PH  is a cultural staple  of the country. (Avishay Artsy, Jewniverse, abridged)
  4. In 1863, Joseph Malin  an immigrant to Britain from eastern Europe was the first  person ever to make and sell the  English fish and chips which contrary to common belief was introduced to England by east European Jewish refugees in the 1800s.
  5. Bagdadi Jewish actresses with screen names such as Lilian,Rose, Romila, Arati Devi, Pramila (also producer),Sulochana Firouza Begum,Nadira, Asha Bende, Pearl Padamsee, were Indian cinema’s first actresses and stars,  at great risk to their reputations, and played a critical role in the development of the cinema at a time when the profession was considered to be disreputable and taboo in proper Indian society. During the silent movie era, most of India’s film stars were Jewish. The  Jewish actresses, actor, screen writers, directors are commemorated in a number of noteworthy ways, including in the Jews and the Indian National Project.(Kenneth X. Robbins,)
  6. During the late 18th century, Daniel Mendoza is the First Jewish boxer. He was a Sephardic refugee in London who clinched the English Heavy weight title and became  the dominant figure of the highly fashionable  sport of boxing, “the sweet science”. Despite the rampant anti-Semitism of the times, he was the first boxer to earn royal patronage and an audition with King George III.(“Sephardi convicts in Van Diemen’s Land” Susan Ballyn and Lucy Frost, in “A Few from Afar-Jewish Lives in Tasmania from 1804, and Andrew Schneider “The First Jewish Boxer”, J, edited and combined excerpts)

6.Salvador Fernando Zarco alias Christopher Columbus a.k.a Colon whose name to fame needs no introduction. A number of authors and researchers have presented that tends to sustain their argument that he was a Spanish/Catalan crypto-Jew (anusim) expelled from Spain.

  1. Miguel de Cervantes- Descendant of Jewish converts?( Michael McGaha, “Is There a Hidden Jewish meaning in Don Quixote? In Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 24.1(2004) Hisotrian Abraham Haim said : “Don Quixote de la Mancha, is the product of the silence experienced by a Jewish soul”
  2. Did expelled Sephardic Jews that settled in Italy invent the viol and the violin? (Theory of Roger Prior et al. see: Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog, 29 August 2009 )
  3. Adolf Zukor (sic.) built the first theater solely dedicated to showing movies.

10.Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer(SG&LBM) produced the first full length sound picture “The Jazz Singer”.

  1. SG&LBM created the idea for the Oscar.

12.All the Hollywood studios  were founded by European Jews

  1. Emile Berliner is the man who developed the modern day phonograph and beat Thomas Edison to it.
  2. Casimir Frank ,a Polish Jew who pioneered in a new field of medical research, gave us the word ”vitamin”.
  3. Dr. Simon Baruch was did the first successful operation of appendicitis.
  4. The medieval popes secured the services of Jewish doctors not only for their expertise but just as importantly because they did not fear being poisoned by them.
  5. Dr. Abraham Jacobi is hailed as the father of pediatrics.
  6. Americans believed that the tomato was poisonous until Dr. Siccarry demonstrated that it is not.
  7. The perennially most popular Christmas song “White Christmas was written by Irving Berlin.
  8. The first commercial parking lot in United States was opened by Max Goldberg while the first Louis Blaustein opened the first gas station.

20.Emma Lazarus famous poem  is in the inscription of the Status of Liberty.

  1. In 1939 Moses(Moe) Nadler started his lingerie business in Canada and bought the rights to the American  Wonder-Bra and  in due course changed the spelling to Wonderbra. In 1963, the product underwent a  radical change of design, when its original  patented sewn construction was  replaced by the  “plunging lace push up” model using engineering to great effect  to become for women  an undergarment  almost of legend, that sold its way to the Guinness Book of World Records. (Jana G. Pruden, “Wonderbra changed fashion’s foundation”,The Toronto Globe and Mail,2017 ,edited excerpts)
  2. In 1945, Bess Meyerson was crowned as the first and so far, only Jewish Miss America.

22.In 1968, Harriet Glickman, a school teacher, deeply shaken by the assassination of Martin Luther King became the person  behind the introduction of Franklin Armstrong,  the first Black  “Peanuts” character  as well as the  first minority character to ever appear in a mainstream comic strip. Abby Sher “Jewish Schoolteacher Behind the First Black ‘Peanuts’ Character””. J, edited excerpts

  1. In 2013 the Maasai Tribe, an ancient, Nilotic pastoralist people numbering just over one million who live in southern Kenya and neighbouring northern Tanzania, officially inducted Eric Young, a Jewish Torontonian  on as an “Elder” member of the Tribe on its traditional lands in a traditional ceremony.Eric Young is the founder of the Social Projects Studio, and a distinguished visiting professor of social innovation at Toronto’s Ryerson University. (For some fascinating reading about the history and the future of this most unusual event see: Robert Sarnier “Jewish Torontonian turned African Tribal elder spearheads nature conservancy” Times of Israel-electronic edition- January 30,2018)

21.Flo Zigfield created  the  American burlesque.

  1. Benny Rothman born to a poor British family in 1911 was an avid outdoorsman, he was very angered with what he perceived to be the unjust lack of access to nature. He joined with the Young Communist League and gained momentum. In 1932, he led 500 people in the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass hiking defiantly across privatised land. Five participants including Rothman were charged and tried by a notably anti-Semitic judge and sentenced to 4 months in jail. He came out re-energised.he spent the next few decades fighting for workers’ rights against fascists sand for open access to the outdoors. His efforts were finally rewarded in 1949 when the British Parliament enacted the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. ( Abby Sher,”The Jew Who Made England a Paradise for Walking”, J , edited excerpt)
  2. Joseph Stalin, alas no friend of Jews, was originally named Joseph David Djugashvili ( translates as “son of Jew”) and all his three wives were Jewish.

23.In 1902, Morris and Rose Mitchtom, a married Russian Jewish immigrant couple who ran a penny store selling candies and such items, one night heard about President Teddy Roosevelt’s bear hunt. During the hunt, one of his fellow hunters smashed the skull of an old and fat a 235 pound black bear struggling with the hunting dogs,  tide him up and signalled Roosevelt for the kill. When Roosevelt arrived and saw a bloody and gasping bear in the water tied to a tree and the hunting dogs killed or injured by the bear to save himself, despite an offer to untie the bear, Roosevelt refused to draw his gun believing that such a kill would be unsportsmanlike. The bear was than killed to death with a knife by two members of the hunting party after a terrible struggle .That night, Rose quickly formed a piece of flush velvet into the shape of a bear, sawed some eyes on it and the next morning the Mitchtoms placed  “Teddy’s bear” on displayed in the store window, and with the President’s permission to use the name, they launched Teddy’s Bear its historic  trajectory as much adored nowadays as it was by the folks who saw it on the window store and wanted to buy it. (Gilbert King, “The History of the Teddy Bear: From Wet and Angry to Soft and Cuddly”,Smithsonian.com ,edited excerpts)

  1. Moses Jacob Ezekiel a.k.a Moses Ritter von Ezekiel sculpted some of the controversial confederate statutes that glorify among other things, the South, slavery, Rebel soldiers and their sacrifices causing much anger  with those who fight, the seemingly, interminable battle against racism  (Tamar Fox, Jewniverse (excerpt edited  and partially reworded).

24.A child of Orthodox Lithuanian immigrants, Louis Zukowsky a Jewish Marxist  cult poet, was a good friend of Ezra Pound, the king of modern poetry and a notorious and vociforous anti-Semite. Zukovsky ‘s take on Pound was “I never felt the least trace of anti-Semitism in his presence.” An anti-Semite considerate of his Jewish friend’s  feelings, no less. (Zachary Solomon, J,edited excerpt)

25.Elias Abraham Rosenberg, a Jewish peddler with a shady past, dubbed  “Holy Mose” became the trusted adviser to the last reigning King of  Hawai’I,King  David Kalakaua, by getting him drunk, chanting in Hebrew, and casting rosy horoscopes about his future. Needless to say, Rosenberg did not save the kingdom from its ruinous end. (Jenny Levinson, J, excerpt,edited)

26.Three Jewish kids surnamed Mulroney played important roles in the Royal wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle: Ivy,4, was a bridesmaid,  7 year old twins Brian and John held Markle’s veil as she climbed the church steps and walked down the aisle. Nice Jewish names!

  1. Saul Kripke, a child prodigy, philosopher and logician who has been described to be as the “Smartest Jew in Philosophy” to which I would add “ ..that has a wonderful sense of humour.( Zachary Solomon, J, edited excerpts)

28.Lazarus Ludwig Zamenhof, a Polish Jew, invented “Esperanto” as a universal  neutral language  that would  transcend  social, cultural and political barriers to united humanity in peace.(Jenny Le3vison, J, edited excerpts)

  1. Question: Did you know that there are Romani Jews (commonly referred to as gypsies)?
  2. In 1930, Max Fleischer, a Viennese Jewish immigrant, created the popular character “ Betty Boop” with a pair of Yiddish speaking parents. In 1932, a famous episode titled “Minnie the Moocher” Betty was brazen,sultry and eager was determined to take this new world by storm while also feeling terrified by the unknown. Ultimately, Betty was too much for the Hollywood production codes of the day and was censored. Although she was toned down, Betty’s sassy independence attracted  a cult following   and her spirit lives to this day. (Abby Sher, J, minor editing)
  3. George Osborne, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer (Minister of Finance) of the U.K. is delighted to discover that he’s Jewish.
  4. Isaac Rosenberg, was the son of a penniless Lithuanian Jew who fled to Britain to escape Tsarist anti-Semitism, born in Bristol was “a slum child” lived with his family on the edge of destitution for most   of his childhood and teenage years. Motivated by poverty, and nothing else, he joined the army in 1915 where he started to write poetry.  Although poor in soldering skills performance, he has nevertheless  has been ranked by literary scholars among the most distinguished of the sixteen poets of  WWI; described as “ undoubtedly one of the finest  poets produced by the WWI; while  an American cultural historian labeled one of his poems “Break of Day in the Trenches” as “the greatest poem of the war”.     (unable to identify or locate the source of  the narrative.)

32.H.Joseph Gerber an Austrian Jew  who after fleeing Nazi occupied Austria with his mother managed to get into the United States and started technological revolutionising with his major inventions starting first with  an obscure  but heralded engineering tool called “Gerber Variable Scale”. In the course of his career, he was granted no less than 650 patents for  his various inventions, a good number  of which were significant ones.(Zachary Salomon, “The Austrian Jewish Refugee With Over 650 Patents to his name”,J, edited excerpts)

33.In 1928, Louis Behr, a Jewish student at the University of Wisconsin was awarded the Kenneth Sterling Day Trophy for “Christian character, distinguished service and scholarship”. Mazaltov. The professor  who made the award, said that the committee that chose the winner felt that the word Christian  nowadays had come to mean a certain standard of conduct instead of adherence to a certain faith. (unable to identify or locate the source of  the narrative.)

And this is just a sample!

My mother raised me by continuously  telling me  to behave like a good Jewish boy because she told me that all Jews are good and there are no bad Jews; no Jewish criminals, prostitutes, gangsters, con men or any other kind of bad ones. Strangely enough, I ended up believing her until the day I realised that if that was the case, Jews could not belong  to the human race  and yet they did. And I further figured out  that since everybody hated them throughout history to the present day, Jews must be an integral part of humanity, whose importance supersedes that of all the peoples and nations that hated, harassed, oppressed, dispossessed them when they were not busy expelling, killing , burning them on the stake or gassing them.(unknown author)

About the Author
Doğan Akman was born and schooled in Istanbul, Turkey. Upon his graduation from Lycee St. Michel, he immigrated to Canada with his family. In Canada, he taught university in sociology-criminology and social welfare policy and published some articles in criminology journals After a stint as a Judge of the Provincial Court (criminal and family divisions) of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, he joined the Federal Department of Justice working first as a Crown prosecutor, and then switching to civil litigation and specialising in aboriginal law. Since his retirement he has published articles in Sephardic Horizons and e-Sefarad and in an anthology edited by Rifat Bali titled This is My New Homeland and published in Istanbul.