A Letter from a Jewish Surgeon During the Russo-Japanese War

October 5, 2013

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A Russian Correspondent of The Times says that the mother of one of the Jewish surgeons who were sent from Warsaw to the war recently received from her son a letter written in the usual official Russian style and bearing the stamp of the censor. The letter stated that the writer was in good health, that admirable order prevailed among the troops, who were certain of victory and amply supplied with all necessaries, and that there was so little illness that the army surgeons had hardly anything to do. It concluded with the request that his mother send some Hebrew books of which he gave the titles. These read: “Famine and Destitution,” “Consequent Fearful Epidemics,” “Scarcely Any Sanitary Appliances,” Demoralization of the Army Constantly Increasing,” “End of Discipline,” “Wish I were Taken Prisoner.” Evidently the censor did not know Hebrew.

Posted in: Jewish History

The King is Dead, Long Live the… Wait, is it Good for the Jews?

May 8, 2013

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"Is it Good for the Jews?" is a generations-old criterion for making sense of world events. Wars, revolutions, natural disasters, something colossal has happened, at the bottom line we want to know the only thing that matters - is it, or is it not? For the occasion of the abdication of Dutch Queen Beatrix and the inauguration of her son Willem-Alexander, I translated with the help of my friend David Nortman a 1890 article from Ha-Melitz reporting the death of King Willem III of the Netherlands. I found this article randomly while looking for materials on the Jewish migration overseas, and thought that it was worth presenting as a pure demonstration of this analytic tool in action, a hilarious combination of cosmopolitanism and provincialism. It reads as "The King is Dead, Long live the… Wait, is it Good for the Jews?".

Posted in: Jewish History

The Gatekeepers-Keeper

January 16, 2013

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Raving reviews, both in the Israeli and the foreign media, set the expectation bar for The Gatekeepers high. Perhaps too high. It is indeed a must-see, for Israeli audience. Foreign viewers will definitely be absorbed, and to some extent informed. But it is a historically incomplete movie, and cinematically unimpressive, failing to ascend the sum of the six interviews it comprises.

Posted in: Cinema

A Hebrew Book Travelling from Berlin To Baghdad

January 12, 2013

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A Hebrew book printed in Warsaw, kept in a library in Berlin, probably immigrated to Mandate Palestine, shipped to Baghdad, and returned back to Israel.

Posted in: Uncategorized

A Mother’s Obituary for Her Fallen Son: The Pogrom of Orsha 1905

December 4, 2012

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For fourteen years I had been a childless Jewess, I prayed God for a son, and he gave him to me in the fifteenth year of my marriage. It was my long-awaited yearned son. God has blessed me, for I had a pure and noble son, full with love for his family and passion for his people. He was only seventeen years old, but he dedicated himself entirely to the service of his brethren.

Posted in: Uncategorized

Who-is-a-Jew Algorithm

November 24, 2012

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I present an algorithm that I developed to identify who was Jewish and who was not from among a population of immigrants who arrived in Ellis Island from the Russian Empire during the pre-WWI Age of Mass Migration. The algorithm has two main steps: Determine how “Jewish” were each first name and last name Determine whether each immigrant was Jewish or not based on his first and last names I explain how this algorithm works and show evidence indicating that this identification process works well.

Occupations of Jews in the Pale of Settlement

September 30, 2012

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What were the occupations and trades the Jews were holding in the old country? The 1897 census of the Russian Empire tells us a lot about that, and in great detail. The summary data have been studied in the past, and the major facts are well known by historians. Based on my work on this census I present here the basics, for those who are less familiar with the case, and I also add a few of the interesting insights that come out of studying the more detailed data that I have recently coded from the census. The purpose is to expose the data and some of the patterns that it shows, and thus the discussion is more descriptive rather than interpretative.