Irving Berlin and the Creation of Popular American Culture (This Week in Jewish History)

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At this time of year it’s impossible to escape the ubiquitous holiday music that assults us whenever we turn on the radio or walk through a shopping mall. Few listeners are aware, however, that the syrupy, commercialized versions of holiday cheer have their origins in the musical genius of a Jewish immigrant from Siberia, the phenomenal Irving Berlin. Whatever we may think of the 21st century interpretations of his work, it is undeniable that Berlin had the amazing ability to express the core values of American culture in a way that transcended religious ideology.


Here’s some additional useful comments from Dr. Carl Singer:

His actions were acknowledged with such accolades as the Army’s Medal of Merit from President Truman in 1945; a Congressional Gold Medal for “God Bless America” and other patriotic songs from President Eisenhower in 1954; and the Freedom Medal from President Ford in 1977. In 2002, the U.S. Army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, named the Army Entertainment Division (AED) World Headquarters “The Irving Berlin Center” in his honor. Also that year he was commemorated on a U.S. postage stamp.
Irving Berlin “God Bless America” – The Ed Sullivan Show   God Bless America     Irving Berlin on Ed Sullivan May 5, 1968
Irving Berlin – ‘Oh, How I Hate to get up in the Morning’   Oh how I hate to get up in the morning  1943  “this is the Army”
Kate Smith, God Bless America        Kate Smith – God Bless America  introducing “a new song”
I believe there was a slight error towards the end of the presentation:  “Congressional Medal of Honor” — is likely a misnomer.  To the best of my knowledge there is no such medal.
There is the Congressional Gold Medal.   The “Medal of Honor” (no “Congressional“) is the nation’s highest military award.

Rabbi Dr. Yosef Baer (J.D.) Soloveitchik (The Rav) Jewish Biography as History

Rabbi Dr. Soloveitchik via Wikipedia.
Rabbi Dr. Soloveitchik via Wikipedia.

Known as simply “The Rav,” Rabbi Dr. Yosef Baer (J.D.) Soloveitchik was arguably the most influential figure shaping the Orthodox Rabbinate in the United States in the 20th century. From his position at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Rabbinical Seminary at Yeshiva University, he ordained some 2,000 Rabbis over four decades.

To view the Prezi associated with this lecture, please click here.

Albert Einstein: Time, Space and the Jewish People

Albert Einstein, 1947 (Source: Wikipedia Commons)
Albert Einstein, 1947 (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

A presentation on Albert Einstein (1879-1955), one of the best-known Jews of the twentieth century.  Although he had a complicated relationship with Judaism, he maintained a distinct pride in his Jewish identity, and once said “A Jew who abandons his Judaism is like a snail that abandons its shell.  It’s still a snail.”  The lecture was delivered at the Young Israel of Bal Harbour  on May 22, 2013.


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