Mar 1, 2015

Non-Jewish Interest In The Old Jewish Culture of Poland

Date: Wed April 29, 2015
Time: 8:00 pm

The non-Jewish interest in things Jewish in Poland has been looked upon with skepticism by North American Jews.

American cultural anthropologist Erica Lehrer will give us a glimpse into the backstage of the Jewish heritage industry.


Erica is Assoc Prof and Canada Research Chair in the depts of History and Sociology-Anthropology at Concordia U in Montreal.

She is the author of Jewish Poland Revisited: Heritage Tourism in Unquiet Places (Indiana University Press 2013), and co-editor of Jewish Space in Contemporary Poland (Indiana University Press, 2014), and Curating Difficult Knowledge: Violent Pasts in Public Places (Palgrave 2010).

As a curator, she produced the 2013 exhibit Souvenir, Talisman, Toy: Poland's Jewish Figurines in Kraków's Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum, and published the accompanying catalog Lucky Jews (Ha!Art 2014).

Feb 27, 2015

Ancestry Leads To Suicide

Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich committed suicide after telling a reporter that a fellow Republican was conducting a whisper campaign about his Jewish background.

Apparently, his grandfather was Jewish but  he himself attended an Episcopal church.  Schweich was planning a run for governor.

"His grandfather taught him to never give an inch where anti-Semitism was concerned, Schweich told me. His current political consultants.... told him to let it go. It’s not good politics to pick a fight with the party chairman."

Feb 24, 2015

Stories of Regeneration from The 2nd Generation

The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is excited to announce that they will be live streaming this very special Museum program.  Next Thursday, February 26, at 7:00pm,tune into Stories of Regeneration from the Second Generation through the link below and watch it live from anywhere in the world!
This storytelling event, produced to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, will be moderated by Amichai and features notable 2Gs (children of survivors) and their extraordinary stories about growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust.  Through the live stream, the Museum of Jewish Heritage is delighted to enable limitless community participation in this incredibly moving, one-of-a-kind event.
 Cannot catch the live stream? Check out the recording on the Museum’s YouTube channel to be available following the event.   

Feb 23, 2015

Discovery By Accent

By Billy Bradin

Yesterday my father, Sam (Judkiewicz) Bradin met with a person, Leon "Lazer" Levy from his home town of Dombrowa Gornicza, Poland. The last time that they saw each other was about 75 years ago.

It is all thanks to one of Leon's granddaughters who met my father in Aruba this past December 2014. She heard my father speaking and said to him that her grandfather speaks with the same accent. From there, they played Jewish geography and found out that our Jewish world is really very small.

Her grandfather and my father came from the same town. My father knew him and now the rest is history. Leon & his lovely wife (of almost 70 years), Lilly invited us over. They finally met again yesterday after 75 years!

Leon, who is approaching 91 years young, is 4+ years older than my father. My father used to play ball with Leon and his brothers before and during the beginning years of the war. Leon was shipped out to a forced Labor Camp and was liberated on May 8th, 1945.

My father was sent to Auschwitz along with Leon's father. They were together for approximately 6 weeks in Birkenau. After the initial 6 weeks, Leon's father was sent to the gas chambers. My father remained in Auschwitz until the Death March and was liberated from Bergen Belsen on May 1, 1945.

They were sharing experiences, looking at pictures, and telling stories. My father, thank G-d, has an excellent memory and remembers everyone and everything. They were both very open and shared what it was like to be a young Jew growing up in an Anti-Semitic Poland before and during the war in their home town/ghetto. At the end of the get together, we all felt like we had known each other for such a long time.

Communism As a Subculture

The "romance of American Communism" described by Vivian Gornick, while applicable to all ethnic groups, has special resonance for Jewish communists. 

Indeed no academic study of the CPUSA can hope to fully describe or explain the powerful ties of comradeship and idealism that infused the Communist movement during the depression years. 

The depression, Gornick points out, "was profoundly crucial to the making of many Communists...the clarifying experience, imprinting upon them in lines of fire, memories of comradeship that became the rooted source of their political passion." 

This view is shared by Paul Lyons' in his pioneering study of the heavily Jewish Philadelphia Communist Party--the only study that focuses direct attention on the "significance of Jewish identity" among second generation Jewish Communists. 

Based on oral interviews with former party members he argues that the idealism of Jewish Communists was "rooted in a subculture of identity, style, language and social network" and that most former Jewish Party members wore "their Jewishness casually but experience[d] it deeply". 

No other group had greater faith in the CPUSA as a vehicle for the eradication of racial and religious barriers in society, and the struggle against American anti-Semitism. 

Yet, it was the very depth of this faith that permitted Jewish Communists to allow or even encourage policies that denied assimilated Jews and Yiddish culturalists alike, full equality within the movement itself. Only in the late 1930's, using the previously neglected International Workers Order (IWO) as a vehicle, would the CPUSA openly accept even basic expressions of Jewish cultural and national identity.

More on John Kerry's Jewish Ancestry

Benedict Kohn was a beer maker in the late 19th century in Bennisch in the Austrian Empire. Today it is Horni Benesov in the Czech Republic.

His first wife, Rosa Winter, had a son named Bernhard Kohn. After Rosa died, Ben married Mathilde Frankel and they had a son named Fritz Kohn who would be John Kerry’s grandfather.

Both Bernhard and Fritz decided that the Kohn name and their Jewish heritage made it too difficult to advance in the Austrian Empire so Bernhard changed his name to Kaulbach and Fritz changed his name to Kerry and changed his religion to Catholic.

Fritz wrote on an application that he wanted to change his name because “it is so typically Jewish” and he believed “that the name will hinder his career in the military.”

Because the half-brothers chose different names their families didn’t know they had common ancestry.

Fritz moved to the United States and his wife, the former Ida Lowe, gave birth to Richard Kerry who was John Kerry’s father.

Ten years ago, a Boston Globe reporter informed Kerry that he had an Austrian grandfather who changed the family name from Kohn to Kerry and their religion from Jewish to Catholic.

Kerry said he knew nothing about this paternal history and the family has spent years tracking down more information.

The Kerrys knew nothing of the Kaulbachs until Keith Kinsbrook in Britain hired a genealogist who told him that his grandfather, Bruno Kaulbach, was the descendant of Benedict Kohn.

Kerry’s brother, Cameron, is slated to visit the Czech Republic this week in an effort to learn more about the family’s Jewish roots. (He had married a Jewish woman and converted to Judaism).

Feb 19, 2015

Is there anyone alive today who has spoken to someone who met someone born in the 1700's?

Stephen Fry, on meeting Alistair Cooke, noted "You're shaking hands with someone who shook the hand of Bertrand Russell (died 1970).

Cooke replied "That's not that strange. What's strange is that Bertrand Russell's aunt danced with Napoleon".

COMMENT: The earliest ancestor I can find was listed as 60 years old on an 1848 census. That means he was probably born in 1788. My dad's grandfather was born in 1854 and lived in the same village. The older man was probably a grandfather or great-grandfather. So they probably knew eachother and my dad remembers his grandfather from when he was a toddler. And my dad's cousin is 3 years older than him and knew the grandfather too. I have a picture from a wedding in 1923 and they are both in it. So are other people I knew who are now gone.