In the Beginning: 1854

Each week The American Israelite will print an item from the first years.

Baltimore, MD. — Dying Twice. — In Baltimore a Hebrew woman, who was supposed to be dead, was dressed in her shroud, placed in her coffin, and the lid was about to be screwed down, when it was discovered that life was not extinct. All present immediately gathered around the coffin, and the enshrouded, corpse-like form arose from her narrow bed and embraced her children and relatives with all the server of renewed life. To all appearance she became convalescent, and subsequently partook of food. She remained in this condition until the approach of night, when she tottered to the bed and in a few moments breathed her last.

Editor’s Note: Stories like this often appeared in newspapers during this time. During the Victorian period, premature burial was thought to be common, and taphophobia, the fear of being buried alive, was prevalent. Coffins were often rigged with bells or air tubes so that the decedent, having come back to life below ground, could notify the living above ground and escape their early tomb. While the subject of this story escaped her coffin before it was buried (albeit only to return to it later that day), the fear of premature burial remained prevalent for many years after.

— August 4, 1854

150 Years ago


– According to recent statistics, British India contains 152 millions of inhabitants; among these are about 10,000 Jews.

– A ludicrous but disgraceful story is told of the president and directors of one of the Paris railways. While the Board was sitting, a shareholder of the company abruptly entered and gave an account of a terrible accident which had taken place on the line, and which was sure to cost the company a good  round sum of money in the way of damages and compensation to passengers. As he proceeded in his narration, director after director slipped out, one by one, and long before he reached its close he was left alone with the president, who, grossed by the recital he had heard, did not perceive the departure of his directors. When he did notice it, he struck his forehead with his hand, jumped up and ran off, leaving the shareholder still talking. The shareholder was amazed, but he soon discovered the explanation of this strange conduct — they had run to the Stock Exchange to sell their shares before the intelligences was made public.

– If you wish particularly to gain the good graces of certain people, men or women, try to discover their most striking merit, if they have one, and their dormant weakness — for every one has his own — then do justice to the one, and a little more than justice to the other.

— August 1, 1873

125 Years ago


– Prince Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor, the greatest statesmen of the century, died Saturday night between 11 and 23, at the age of 83 years. The story of his life is well known, we need not repeat it. May God forgive him all his sins, also his sponsorship of anti Semitism.

– The Holiday Sheaf is the title of a book containing six sermons for New Year’s day and Day of Atonement, by Rev. Dr. David Philipson; Bloch Publishing Co., Cincinnati, 1898. The book looks well and the sermons can only be good, as their author is the Professor of Homiletics in the Hebrew Union College and is acknowledged as a first class pulpit orator. It is finished in form, sound in spirit, and rich in contents.

Champagne for the Wounded

Lieut.-Colonel J. Morris Brown, in a letter to G.H. Mumm $ Co., who have donated twelve hundred bottles of Extra Dry for the use of the wounded soldiers and sailors, says that the generous gift is appreciated by the Surgeon-General’s office, not only for itself, but because it may stimulate others firms and individuals to contribute for the comfort and health of the wounded, such delicacies as the Army and Navy Commissary cannot by any possibility afford. Two hundred and forty bottles were left on the Olivette, and the balance will be used according to the directions of the Surgeon General’s office.

Editors Note: The Spanish American was ongoing at this time, and here we have an example of the ways in which American companies were seeking to support military personnel.

— August 4, 1898

100 Years ago


– This month “The American Israelite” begins its seventieth volume. It was founded in Cincinnati in 1854 by Isaac M. Wise, the leader of Reform Judaism. The “Israelite” shows no signs of decrepitude. It is a lusty septuagenarian, good for another hundred years, in the opinion of “The Modern View.”

– No anti-Jewish disturbances have occurred in Persia since September last, Rabbi Joseph. S. Kornfeld, United States Minister to Persia, declares in a letter to the Joint Distribution Committee in New York. “All reports of anti-jewish disturbances in Tehran are not accurate,” the Minister writes from the Persian capital. “None has occurred since last September.”

Wailing Wall Stone in New York Synagog

A stone from the ruins of the Temple of Jerusalem and formerly part of the famous “Wailing wall” grooved and furrowed, as legend would have it, by the tears of Jews bewailing the destruction of the Temple, has completed its journey from the Biblical capital to New York where it will enter into the making of the New Synagog House now being erected in West 68th Street near Central Park by the federated Central and Free Synagogs, which are under the religious leadership of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise.

A special place will be hollowed out in one of the foundational walls to receive the stone, so as to make it a part of the foundation of the structure. The stone will be marked by a metal plate bearing an appropriate inscription. Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, while visiting Jerusalem last year, accepted this stone as a gift from Sir Wyndham Deedes, the Civil Secretary of the Mandate Government of Palestine. A mishap occurred in the transportation of the stone. For months it appeared to have been lost in transit. After a long and diligent search however, it was retraced and safely brought to its destination.

Editor’s Note: The synagogue mentioned here is the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, still located on 68th St in New York City. The foundation stone is still located at the temple.

— August 2, 1923

75 Years ago

Rabbi Essrig Named To HUC Faculty

Dr. Nelson Glueck, presides of the Hebrew Union College, announced today the appointment of Rabbi Harry Essrig as visiting instructor in Jewish education at the College.

Rabbi Essrig will continue his duties as spiritual leader of Congregation Emanuel in Grand Rapids, Mich. he will teach at the College two days of each week.

August 4th at 8:15 p.m. Marks Date of Young Adult Disk Jockey Outdoor Dance On the Jewish Center Nursery Grounds

The Jewish Center Senior Acvitives Committee has completed preparation for a DISK JOCKEY DANCE to be held out-of-doors on Wednesday, Aug. 4th, on the Center Nursery grounds.

The admission fee will be 25c and will entitle one to a long, cool evening of dancing, refreshments, and the opportunity to make new friends.

Milt Pensak will emcee the affair in the role of disk jockey, playing request numbers, interspersed with chatter, and a few commercials.

Cincinnati Social and Personal

Dr. Samuel Wohn of Wise Temple attended the recent World Jewish Congress sessions in Montreux, Switzerland, as an American delegate.

He met with Congress delegates from more than 60 countries — from Tunisia and Algeria to Australia.

His European itinerary also includes Belgium and France (previous to the Congress sessions), DP camps in Germany, Czecho-Slovakia.

— July 29, 1948

50 years ago

Heat Wave Worsens Water Problems

JERUSALEM (WNS) — With temperatures over 95 degrees, a heat wave has added to water shortage in Jerusalem.

Some 1500 families in the north Jerusalem suburb of Beit Hanina were without water five or more days because of breakdown of a pump.

But water consumption has been rising in Jerusalem because of the heavy development since the Six-Day war.

The water shortage is expected to continue through August.

Bar Mitzvah

– Our son, Martin Bennett, will read a portion of the Haftorah on the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah at Adath Israel Synagogue Saturday morning, Aug. 11, at 9:00 a.m. We would be honored to have our friends and relatives worship with us and join us for the Kiddish following the service.

Sylvia and Leonard Cohen.

– Mr. and Mrs. George Steward are happy to announce the Bar Mitzvah of their son, Edward Asher. The ceremony took place Thursday, July 26, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Fishel J. Goldfeder conducted the service.

Among those present were Edward’s parents, Anita and George Stewart; his brothers, Charles and Jeff; his sister, Merrie Lynn; and Mrs. Louis Stewart.

Also joining the group were Edward’s grandparents, Esther and Issy Robinson, of Houston, along with a large group of cousins from Israel and various parts of the United states, Canada and Barbados, West Indies.

Following the ceremony there was a brunch at King David Hotel.

— August 2, 1973

25 Years ago

Jewish Federation Campaign chairmen named

Neil Bortz, Linda Hochberg, Marvin Rosenberg and Anita Schneider are serving as co-chairmen for the 1999 Jewish Federation Campaign, announced Harry Davidow, Jewish Federation president.

“We are very fortunate to have these four individuals at the help of our campaign at this time,” said Davidow. “Anita and Linda bring a valuable year of experience as co-chairmen of the 1998 campaign. Neil and Marvin have just returned from an intensive mission to Moscow, Baku, and Israel and are eager to tell the stories of the many Jews they met who truly need our help. Their special dedication to the notion of tikkun olam, repairing the world, will impact the 1999 campaign significantly.

Ya’al Group collects toys for kids

The Ya’al Group of the Cincinnati Chapter of Hadassah has collected children’s toys for New American children. For the second year, the project’s chairman was Carol Ann Schwartz.

“We were able to collect twelve 55 gallon drums filled with stuffed animals, board games, action figures and presents for teens for the New Americans in Cincinnati,” Beverly Williams, president of the Ya’al group, stated. “Our members wanted to do something special. The drums were even donated by one of our members.”

“Everyone was wonderful about having collection barrels in their synagogues and temples,” Schwartz noted. “The day school locations, Yavneh and Cincinnati Hebrew Day, were also great places for people to give items.”

— August 6, 1998

10 Years ago

Center for Holocaust & Humanity Education presents Voices of Humanity

Voices of Humanity, a dinner benefitting The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education will recognize the positive impact on local Holocaust education made by an individual, an educational institution and nine businesses and institutions. All are committed to leveraging history to teach lessons for today about perseverance, courage, compassion, justice, tolerance, choice and diversity.

Holocaust survivor Werner Coppel and Summit Country Day School will be honored for their pioneering commitment to Holocaust education in Cincinnati. Werner Coppel was the first survivor to begin sharing his story nearly four decades ago. Each year, he speaks about his experiences to thousands of students and community members.

Wise Temple congregational dinner features legal expert on marriage equality

In light of the recent Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act and California Proposition 8, Wise Temple is excited to bring in noted national legal expert Marc Spindelman, the Isadore and Ida Topper Professor of Law at Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University to address the Court’s decisions and their implications for the future of the ongoing legal push for same-sex marriage equality and equal rights.

— August 1, 2013