Why Do We Say “May Her Memory Be for a Blessing”? Originally Published September 25-26, 2020.

The world has lost Ruth Bader Ginsburg (z”l).  So just why do we say “May her memory be for a blessing”?  (That “(z”l)” after her name above stands for zikhronah livrakha, blessed memory, in the shorthand form.) Proverbs 10:7 says “the memory of the righteous is invoked in blessing” but “the fame of the wicked Read More…

Why Do You Want Their Mothers’ Hebrew Names? Originally Published September 11-12, 2020.

Our friends were injured in an accident.  They will be okay, but there is a long road to healing.  So we ask that their names be put on a “Mi Sheberakh list” for the time being. The term “Mi Sheberakh” means “May the One who blessed,” the first words of the prayer which goes on Read More…

What Is Hoshana Rabbah? Originally Published September 4-5, 2020.

Hoshana Rabbah, observed on the seventh day of the festival Sukkot (Aramaic הוֹשַׁעְנָא רַבָּא from the Hebrew – which we recognize from the Hallel – הוֹשִֽׁיעָה נָּא), is sometimes referred to as the “Great Supplication,” also sometimes called a “mini-Yom Kippur.”  It is described in Psalms 118:25. The name means, in Aramaic, “Great Hoshana,” or “Save Read More…

Who Was Philo of Alexandria? Originally Published August 28-29, 2020.

Born around 20 BCE in Alexandria, Egypt, Philo was also known as Philo Judæus.  He was a (Jewish) philosopher.  We know about him through what tidbits he left behind in his own philosophical writings, and through Josephus the historian who lived around the same time. The author of such works as Legatio ad Gaium (Delegation Read More…

Who Was Man Ray? Originally Published August 21-22, 2020.

Emmanuel Radnitzky was born on August 27, 1890, in South Philadelphia to Max Melach (a tailor) and Minnie.  In 1897 they moved to Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York, and in 1912, their son Sam prompted them to change their surname to Ray to help avoid discrimination.  Max worked in a garment factory in addition to Read More…

What Famous Jewish Person Was Born on August 21, 1906? Originally Published August 14-15, 2020.

Isadore “Friz” Freleng was born on August 21, 1906, and the work he did is still going strong. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Friz Freleng seems to have known what he wanted to do from the very start.  He began his career with United Film Advancement Services at age 17, working as an animator (having Read More…

What Noteworthy Jewish Athletes Were Born in August? Originally Published August 7-8, 2020.

While researching Lillian Copeland for last week’s entry, your correspondent learned that Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller both had birthdays in August:  Glickman’s August 14, 1917, and Stoller’s August 8, 1915.  We noted that Ms. Copeland boycotted the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, based on Chancellor Adolph Hitler’s banning Jewish athletes from Germany’s teams.  Stoller and Read More…

What Did Lillian Copeland Do on August 2, 1932? Originally Published July 31 – August 1, 2020.

On August 2, 1932, Lillian Copeland, at the age of 27, set new Olympic and global records in discus.  She threw the discus 133’ 1.625”, winning a gold medal. This was not her first record-breaking achievement; she had already gained acclaim as one of the earliest and best female track and field athletes. According to Read More…

Is a Rabbi a Judge? Originally Published July 24-25, 2020.

Part of the purview of a rabbi may be acting as a judge, to answer your question. Back in the day, Moses (Exodus 18:13, Parashat Yitro) sat in judgment, and folks waited in line for him to apply his wisdom to their cases.  Seeing the lines, his father-in-law Jethro advised him to delegate his work.  Read More…

What Is “Halevai”? What Is “Davka”? What Is “Zhe”? Originally Published July 17-18, 2020.

Your correspondent’s great aunts were known to lob a “halevai” or three at the younger generation during family get-togethers, always with a sidelong glance.  Halevai (הַלְוַאי), an interjection sort of meaning “if only it should happen” or “I wish,” came to us along with related words “lu” (“if”), “lulei” (“if not for”), and “uli” (“perhaps”).  Read More…