Who Was Yip Harburg? Originally Published May 29-30, 2020.

May is Jewish American Heritage Month!  Edgar Y. “Yip” Harburg (he liked to say his middle name was “Yipsel,” but folks were dubious) was born Isidore Hochberg on April 8, 1896, to Lewis Hochberg and Mary Ricing, from Russia, on New York’s Lower East Side.  We lost him to a car accident on March 5, Read More…

Who Was Belle Miriam (Silverman) Greenough? Originally Published May 22-23, 2020.

May is Jewish American Heritage Month!  Belle Miriam Silverman was born on May 25, 1929, in Brooklyn, NY, to insurance broker Morris Silverman and musician Sonia (Shirley Bahn) Silverman.  She would become a powerful presence in many ways.  We lost her on July 2, 2007, to lung cancer.  Belle began performing at age three, was Read More…

Who Was Bessie Abramowitz Hillman? Originally Published May 15-16, 2020.

Born Bas Sheva Abramowitz on May 15, 1889, in Grodno Guberniia, Belarus, Bessie Hillman would become a leader of American labor.  Ms. Abramowitz set out for America in 1905 with an older cousin, reportedly to avoid the matchmakers.  She was given the name Bessie at Ellis Island, and she headed to Chicago, where she had Read More…

Who Was Mike Wallace? Originally Published May 8-9, 2020.

May is Jewish American Heritage Month!  Mike (Myron Leon) Wallace was born on May 9, 1918, in Brookline, Mass., to Frank & Zina (Wallik) Wallace.  He would become one of the most trusted sources of news in the United States.  We lost him on April 7, 2012. Mr. Wallace’s parents had immigrated from Russia, and Read More…

Who Was Lorenz Hart? Originally Published May 1-2, 2020.

May is Jewish American Heritage Month!  On May 2, 1895, Lorenz Milton Hart was born in Manhattan to Max Meyer Hart and Frieda Hart (whose great-uncle was German poet Heinrich Heine).  We lost Mr. Hart to pneumonia at age 48, on November 22, 1943.  Between those dates, Mr. Hart made quite a splash as a Read More…

What Is Jewish American Heritage Month? Originally Published April 24-25, 2020.

The month of May has been designated Jewish American Heritage Month in the United States.  The resolution creating this honor was introduced in 2005 by Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Florida) and Senator Arlen Spector (z”l) (Pennsylvania).  (Previous resolutions and proclamations had been passed for a week or a month in prior years; this resolution would Read More…

Tefillin or Not Tefillin? Originally Published April 17-18, 2020.

Hol HaMo’ed (חול המועד), literally “weekday of the festival,” refers to the days in the middle of a festival.  Pesah and Sukkot (but not Shavu’ot) have festival days at the beginning and ending of their roughly week-long celebrations, and we are referring to the days that are not considered to be full festival days:  days Read More…

Whose Birthdays Occur This Week? Originally Published April 7 for April 10-11, 2020.

As we hunker down, each sequestered with our families, we offer an appreciation of two luminaries on the anniversary of their births, both on April 11th – one still with us and the other whom we have lost but remember fondly.  Singer, actor, dancer, director Joel Grey (born Joel David Katz in Cleveland in 1932 Read More…

ת׳נ׳צ׳ב׳ה׳? Originally Published April 3-4, 2020.

A couple weeks ago, we talked about abbreviations.  The abbreviation above, which is often found on gravestones, stands for תהא נשמתו/ה צרורה בצרור החיים (t’he nishmato/ah tzerurah bitzror hahayyim), “may his/her soul be bound up in the bond of life.”  It is derived from 1 Samuel 25:29, in which Abigail tells King David “And though man Read More…

Is a Bat Mitzvah a Daughter of the Commandments? Originally Published March 27, 2020.

This is a question that may cause Rabbi Adelson to gnash his teeth.  The answer is a qualified “no.”  (Rabbi Adelson is now jumping up and down saying, “It is not qualified.”  Let me explain, please, Rabbi.) Bat mitzvah as a term for a young woman observing a rite of passage is a more recent Read More…