Jewish History Manifesto by Dr. Henry Abramson

Imagine that, while browsing in the library, you come across one book unlike the rest, which catches your eye because on its spine is written the name of your family. Intrigued, you open it and see many pages written by different hands in many languages. You start reading it, and gradually you begin to understand what it is. It is the story each generation of your ancestors has told for the sake of the next, so that everyone born into this family can learn where they came from, what happened to them, what they lived for and why. As you turn the pages, you reach the last, which carries no entry but a heading. It bears your name.

Jonathan Sacks, A Letter in the Scroll


We believe:

  • that the study of Jewish history adds value and meaning to human existence for both Jews and non-Jews
  • that academic Jewish history lectures need not sacrifice content to be entertaining
  • that access to high-quality information on Jewish history should be free
  • that shared intellectual curiosity about Jewish history is a healthy way to build a community
  • that the study of Jewish history is one of many paths that lead to the study of Torah, and that Torah study is enriched by a fuller understanding of Jewish history

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.

Who was Salome? Jewish Biography as History lecture by Dr. Henry Abramson

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Briefly but notoriously mentioned in both Josephus and the Gospels, Salome was the granddaughter of King Herod who is best known for a salacious performance that resulted in the execution of John the Baptist. Who was Salome, and does her bit part play a significant role in the representation of Jews and Judaism in medieval Christian thought? Part of the Jewish Biography as History series by Dr. Henry Abramson at



Books by Henry Abramson

kof cover DMA_Fotor The Sea of Talmud

Rambam Cover

RTT Cover 2

Prayer for the Government cover

art of hatred cover

The Incident at Inmestar (This Week in Jewish History)

Obliterating Haman's Name, early 18th century. Public domain: Jewish Encyclopedia via Wikimedia Commons
Obliterating Haman’s Name, early 18th century. Public domain: Jewish Encyclopedia via Wikimedia Commons

Murder on Purim? That’s the charge of Socrates Scholasticus, whose lone account of an alleged Purim celebration that got out of hand in the year 415 has become part of the historical record, for good or ill.  Although the validity of the accusation is highly questionable, the incident at Inmestar had a larger impact centuries later as the myth of ritual murder gained popularity in medieval Europe.

David Reubeni: Politics and the Messiah

Signature of Solomon Molcho, Disciple of David Reubeni. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Signature of Solomon Molcho, Disciple of David Reubeni. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

David Reubeni was one of the most colorful messianic figures of Jewish history.  A little person with a shady background, he was received with dignity by Popes and Kings in the fifteenth century, regaling them with tales of the Jews of the east and promising them great military victories should they enlist his service. He gathered Jewish followers around Europe, eventually attracting the unwanted attention of the Inquisition. Part of the Jewish Biography as History lecture series by Dr. Henry Abramson.

Pope Gregory I and the Jews (This Week in Jewish History) Dr. Henry Abramson

15th century bust of Gregorius I Maximus by Hans Bilger. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
15th century bust of Gregorius I Maximus by Hans Bilger. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Pope Gregory I (“the Great”) was one of the most influential Church leaders of the medieval period. His policy on the treatment of Jews in Christian Europe, known by the Latin phrase “Sicut Judaeis,” instituted an official if ambivalent position that lasted from the sixth century to the beginnings of the modern era.


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