Wednesday, August 31, 2016

An Electrifying Beethoven's 9th: Sir Georg Solti, Jessye Norman

An Electrifying Beethoven's 9th: Sir Georg Solti, Jessye Norman

The first movement is regular wonderfulness but after that it just soars.

(Tznius note: from 1986 so basically the women are tznius. Ms. Norman could do a bit better.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Saturday, August 27, 2016

From Quora: What are some things from history that people have got completely wrong?

From Quora:  What are some things from history that people have got completely wrong?

Nikolaj Antonovhistory buff

The ancestors of many of today's Britons, Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders are Scandinavians.
The main population of modern Britain are Anglo-Saxons.
During the Pre-Roman Iron Age (from the 4th to the 1st century BC), the climate in Denmark and southern Scandinavia became cooler and wetter, limiting agriculture and setting the stage for local groups to migrate southward into Germania. History of Denmark
Archaeological and linguistic evidence from a period known as the Nordic Bronze Age indicates that a common material culture existed between the Germanic tribes that inherited the southern regions of Scandinavia, along with the Schleswig-Holstein area and the area of what is now Hamburg, Germany. Germanic peoples 
In the wake of the breakdown of Roman rule in Britain from the middle of the fourth century, present day England was progressively settled by Germanic groups. Collectively known as the "Anglo-Saxons", these were Angles and Saxons from what is now the Danish/German border area and Jutes from the Jutland peninsula. History of England 
The Anglo-Saxons also emigrated to North America, Australia, New Zealand. Anglo-Saxon (nation, culture, mentality and so on), it is Scandinavian - perhaps Swedish.

And I saw this too:

While in the English language the country is named for the Angles, that is not true in the languages of the people nearby. For instance England is still known in Irish and Scottish Gaelic as Sasana and an English person is called a Sasanach. And in Welsh an English person is called a Saesneg. All from the word Saxon.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

HABINYAN Archives from

"HABINYAN was a bimonthly publication published by the Special Building and Finance Committees of KAJ and Yeshiva Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch during the construction of the Shul building at 85-93 Bennett."

KAJ in the Heights has redesigned its site and loaded it with some wonderful historical material like these archives. So here for example we learn about the architect of my favorite building on the planet earth - the synagogue of KAJ

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Classes of Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer

Classes of Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer  at

including this gem

Talmud Yerushalmi
The entire Yerushalmi in 750 MP3s - from
Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Lutz Long

So I'm reading a fascinating book called Daily Life in Hitler's Germany which tells the tale with lots of photos of the intense propaganda, social control, economic control, intimidation and general fascism of the rasha's - yemach shemo - rule over Germany. It talks about the incredible rise of the Nazis from being an insignificant, joke party to the terror of humanity in a very short time. It's quite a read.

I bought the book at a terrific used book shop in Jerusalem, off Yafo. I haven't found many used book shops here so this was a great surprise. Sorry, but I cannot recall the name of the shop.

Anyway, this post isn't even about that. It's about a story of a nice German of that era Luz Long. Long was a track athlete who competed against Jesse Owens and gave him a tip on how not to foul on the long jump, to which Owens was a newcomer. I'll let Wiki tell the rest of the story:

"Speaking to Long's son, Owens said in 1964 that Long went to him and told him to try to jump from a spot several inches behind the take-off board. Since Owens routinely made distances far greater than the minimum of 7.15m required to advance, Long surmised that Owens would be able to advance safely to the next round without risking a foul trying to push for a greater distance. On his third qualifying jump, Owens was calm and jumped with at least four inches (10 centimeters) to spare, easily qualifying for the finals. In the finals competition later that day, the jumpers exceeded the old Olympic record five times. Owens went on to win the gold medal in the long jump with 8.06m while besting Long's own record of 7.87m. Long won the silver medal for second place and was the first to congratulate Owens: they posed together for photos and walked arm-in-arm to the dressing room. Owens said, "It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler... You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be a plating on the twenty-four karat friendship that I felt for Luz Long at that moment"."

"Long and Owens corresponded after 1936. In his last letter, Long wrote to Owens and asked him to contact his son after the war and tell him about his father and "what times were like when we not separated by war. I am saying—tell him how things can be between men on this earth". After the war, Owens traveled to Germany to meet Karl Long who is seen with Owens in the documentary Jesse Owens Returns To Berlin where he is in conversation with Owens in the Berlin Olympic Stadium. Owens later served as Karl Long's best man at his wedding."

Here's the tale on video.

And here is the tale of Owens meeting Long's son.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Guest Post - Personal Description of RSRH by Dr. Yizchok Levine

by Dr. Yizchok Levine

Recently I became aware of three articles that deal with the topic of "The Secession From the Frankfurt Jewish Community Under Samson Raphael Hirsch". They appeared in the publication Historia Judaica, 10,  2, October 1948.  (These articles may be read at

The name  Israelitische Gemeinde zu Frankfurt a.M., (Gemeinde for short) refers to the historical Jewish communal organization in Frankfurt.  During the first part of the 19th century reformers took control of this organization and eventually hired a reform rabbi .  Throughout all of this there remained a core of observant Jews in Frankfurt.  "Further fresh activities of the reformers now spurred the orthodox  on to resistance; they closed their ranks and after long and protracted preliminaries,  they formed in 1851 the "Israelitische Religionsgesellschaft," and selected as their spiritual leader Samson Raphael Hirsch."

All Jews who resided in Frankfurt were required by secular law to be members of the Gemeinde and pay taxes to support it,  since it was the officially recognized Jewish communal organization in the city.  RSRH was opposed to this,  because it meant that Orthodox Jews were supporting reform activities.  He wanted all Orthodox Jews to renounce their membership in the Gemeinde,  but this was not legal.  In 1876, largely due to the efforts of RSRH, a law was passed that allowed Jews to secede from the Gemeinde. Rav Hirsch then called upon all Orthodox Jews in Frankfurt to secede.  This caused a huge split in the Orthodox community, and most of the observant Jews in Frankfurt did not secede, much to Rav Hirsch's disappointment.

The first article about the secession issue in Frankfurt that I posted is by Saemy Japhet.  He was opposed to secession as was the father of the author of the second article posted.  Japhet's article contains a description of RSRH which is given below.   Keep in mind that he was opposed to RSRH's call for all observant Jews to secede.

As much of what interests us centers round this great
figure, it will not be out of place to say something about the
personality and character of Samson Raphael Hirsch. Born
in Hamburg, the son of cultured parents, he was brought up
as a child of the early Mendelssohn era. Haham Bernays, who
was one of the first Jewish preachers to deliver his sermons
in an advanced German, was his teacher. Samson Raphael
Hirsch received his university training at Bonn, where incidentally
Abraham Geiger was his fellow student. Hirsch
was already in his younger years a man of the world. He
made it a point to appear always in faultless apparel, almost
stylish, according to the fashion of the period. Nothing in
his manner or figure was to be strange to the crowd. This
remained so during his whole life and I can still see him as an
octogenarian, immaculately dressed in the finest black suit
and top hat, like a born aristocrat. A striking feature was
his head, so well shaped and adorned with the most beautiful
and brilliant eyes, which kept their fiery lustre up to the last
moments of his life. I think nobody could ever forget his
countenance, animated by the magnetic glance. And whilst
his outward manner was prepossessing and attractive, his
character showed a strength and earnestness u11common for
any man, almost too earnest. He did not freely make friends
and even his friends he kept at a distance; nor was he easily
approached, his serenity and dignity warded off intimacy.
Bold and fearless he upheld his convictions. Only once did
he yield to outside pressure, when-in Oldenburg-he allowed
Kol N id re to be abolished. In later years he made no
concessions, no adjustment of views was possible and, in
questions of principle, he never accepted any compromise,
nor did he permit any of his communities to interfere with
his opinions and beliefs.

All this led to frequent clashes and we saw him sever his
relations with Geiger, his fellow student, and with Graetz, his
pupil, and of course with Frankel he waged a bitter feud.
History and literature were taught in our school-the
"Realschule der Israelitischen Religionsgesellschaft," (according
to English standards a secondary school), commonly
called "The Hirsch-Schule"; I passed through the school
(1863-1872); later I became a student of the Frankfurt
Handelsschule - according to Hirsch's views. The names of
Maimonides, Spinoza, Mendelssohn and Graetz were never
even mentioned. But in his writings Hirsch branded Graetz's
History of the Jews as "a product of detestable wantonness
and frivolous superficiality"; he spoke with contempt of the
Rabbiner-Seminar in Breslau, pitying in advance the communities
which should select pupils of Breslau as their leaders.
There was never a Beth Din in the Religionsgesellschaft. To
use a commercial term, it was to all intents and purposes a
one-man business. Rabbi Hirsch laid down the law according
to his conviction. He was opposed to any form of Jewish
nationalism as well as to Zionism and one of his versions of
the translation of  "ki mi-Zion" was "from where the Tauroh
emanates, there is my Zion." He sternly rejected the order
B'nai B'rith.

As a scholar he lived his own life. His intercourse with
other scholars was scanty. He did not need them. Feared as
an antagonist, he was a born fighter and he hit hard. Mendelssohnian
tolerance was unthinkable for him. He lived in his
study amidst his books and papers, where the air was thick
with smoke clouds, issuing from his long much-loved pipe.
Needless to say, the Religionsgesellschaft was very proud
of their rabbi. His reputation as one of the greatest living
scholars was a source of the deepest satisfaction, but it was
in the first place his eloquence that thrilled their minds. He
spoke always spontaneously, without any notes; all his addresses
were presented extemporaneously. He was a marvelous
orator; his noble language, the rapid flow of his speech,
the originality of his thoughts, the force of his arguments,
together with his whole personal appearance, made his sermons
irresistible and secured him a magic influence.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Wonderful Introduction to Piano and Classical Music

There's few things more enjoyable than watching people that loves what they do. Such is the case with Robert Estrin of Living Pianos. Mr. Estrin is a classical music pianist and piano teacher who has posted scores of videos on the web. He talks about all kinds of topics related to pianos and piano playing - choosing an instrument, differences between Mozart and Beethoven, how to play with small hands and he is enthusiastic about all of it. He really is fun to watch and he opens up the world of classical music via the piano.


What is Counterpoint? Free Music Lessons

What Is A Sonata?

The Difference Between Mozart and Beethoven - Mozart Vs. Beethoven

Sunday, August 14, 2016



"Most of the synagogues in Frankfurt were severely damaged or destroyed by the Nazis on Kristallnacht. These included the synagogues at Alt Heddernheim 33,[6] Börneplatz,[7] Börnestraße,[8] Conrad-Weil-Gasse,[9] Freiherr-vom-Stein-Straße,[10] Friedberger Anlage 5-6,[11] Hermesweg 5-7,[12] Inselgasse 9,[13] Marktplatz (Ortsteil Höchst),[14] Obermainanlage 8,[15] Ostendstraße 18,[16] Rechneigrabenstraße 5 (Niederhofheim'sche Synagoge),[17] Schloßstraße 5,[18] and Unterlindau 21.[19]

"The deportation of the Jewish residents to their deaths in the East quickened in pace after Kristallnacht. Their property and valuables were stolen by the Gestapo before deportation, and they were subjected to extreme violence and sadism during transport to the stations for the cattle wagons which carried them east. Most ended up in new ghettoes established by the Nazis such as the Warsaw Ghetto before their murder in camps such as Sobibor, Belzec and Treblinka."

"Memorial to the 11,134 Frankfurt citizens killed during the Holocaust -Anne Frank's name is located in the center of the picture with a rock placed on her memorial."

Friedberger Anlage 5-6

Basic information    see more detail information in a English / German version
City: Frankfurt am Main

Street: Friedberger Anlage 5-6

Federal State: Hesse

Begin of Use: Before January 1, 1933

End of use: November 9 - 10, 1938

in the Nazi Years: November 10th. 1938 Building set on fire but exterior appearance still visible

Today's Use
of Location: Public use, see commentary

at Location: Memorial place, Memorial sculpture

External Contributions: Bilder: 0 - Zeitzeugenberichte: 0 - Kommentare: 0 - Links: 1

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Announcement of article: HARAV SHLOMO ZALMAN BREUER, ZT”L - ON HIS 90TH YAHRTZEIT by Rabbi Dr. Moshe Miller

Today the 6th of Av, 5776 is the 90th yahrzeit of Rav Shlomo Breuer. In honor of the occasion, Rabbi Dr. Moshe Y. Miller, professor of Judaic studies and Jewish history at Touro College wrote an article on R' Breuer for Hamodia which is published in this weekend's Inyan, magazine of Hamodia, pp. 12-15 .

Not many people know that Moshe Flesch gave the shirium that first inspired Sarah Schenirer and even less know that he was a talmid of R’ Shlomo Breuer. Read more all about R' Breuer and his incredible contributions in this excellent article.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Photos of old New York City by street

Washington Heights and the German community once extended down all the way to 133rd St.

"Though the neighborhood was once considered to run as far south as 133rd Street, modern usage defines the neighborhood as running north from Hamilton Heights at 155th Street to Inwood, topping out at just below Hillside Avenue or Dyckman Street, depending on the source." Wiki

Come see old photos of some of those streets here:  Old NYC

My wife's great-great-grandmother whose parents were from Germany lived on W. 146th St. Here's what it looks like today (from Google)

And here's what it looked like sometime before that (don't know exact date of photo)

The red building is the same but in the old photograph there's no building to the right. Today there is a building attached to it.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Rabbi Hayyim Ozer Grodzinski on Austritt

There is no doubt that the sage and saint Rabbi S. R. Hirsch, of blessed memory ... did a great thing in founding the admirable and outstanding Religionsgesellschaft which became an exemplary Jewish community. Had the God-fearing not separated themselves by means of a separate kehillah, due to their minority status they would have become submerged within the general community [a development] which did not occur when they separated and developed on their own. Then even the general community was forced to improve itself and to conduct the general institutions in a sacred manner.

Ahi'ezer. Kovetz lggeros 1:243 Rabbi Hayyim Ozer Grodzinski in Judith Bleich, “Rabbinic Responses to Nonobservance in the Modern Era,” In J. J. Schacter (Ed.), Jewish tradition and the nontraditional Jew (pp. 37-115), Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc. (1992), p. 89

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Mitteilungen - Fall 2008

Mitteilungen - Fall 2008

Courtesy of Dr. Y. Levine's website

This is a very candid and humble piece, very moving. From the heart, as they say.
I have had similar experiences with R’ Schwab. First time I met him I was sitting at a Shabbos table with him in Connecticut. I had no idea who he was. As I soon as I sat down he turned to me and greeted me in such an elegant and respectful manner. This was almost 30 years ago. I still feel it.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Launch of New KAJ WH Website -

KAJ in the Heights has redesigned its site and loaded it with some wonderful historical material like this invitation to the shul building inauguration in 1952. There's lots more. Come have a look.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Linked Post: More on Tour of Germany

from Torah in Motion

I hesitate to keep sharing these posts from Torah In Motion because I have heard several ideas I find objectionable, but there's some good reporting too.

"Musings from Mainz

"Askenazic Jewry begins as Jews settle along the Rhine river in the middle decades of the tenth century. While individual Jews may have arrived in earlier years it is only in the 10th century when the first communities are established.

"It is Rabbeinu Gershom of Mainz who puts Askenaz on the map. Biographically we know little of him and his fame today rests primarily with the takkanot he established, the most famous being the prohibition of polygamy. But his even greater importance lay in the Torah community that he spearheaded in Mainz and throughout Germany. It is not by chance that he is known as Rabbeinu Gershom Maor Hagolah, the light of the exile. His cherem, ban of excommunication, on reading the private letters of others has much application in the internet age.

"Takkanot are laws established for the betterment of society - Talmudic examples include a purzbul or not overpaying to redeem hostages. Adding a cherem adds a curse that one who violates the takkanah should drop dead, and if he does so under the ban of cherem burial rites were to be denied and mourning was not to be observed. What a cherem often did was take an existing law and give it additional teeth.

"It was the development of Germany as a major centre of learning that brought Rashi from France to Germany. His teachers were the students of Rabbeinu Gershom, most notably Rav Yaakov ben Yakar. One can still see the tombstones of Rav Yaakov and Rabbeinu Gershom in the ancient cemetery of Mainz."

continue reading but ignore what seems to be a criticism of Rav Chaim ben Bezalel for being one to"fear change." His fears turned out to be correct and the printing press did damage traditions. This same writer will probably be one who criticizes contemporary Jewry for its reliance on the Mishnah Brura, which is also an example of how printed text was used (not saying it was the Chofetz Chaim's intention) to change practices. It's like computers, we need them and they are destroying us. So one who fears the computer and the Internet has a reasonable concern. I have that concern with this blog. Am I bringing people to the Internet who would be better off without it? We don't necessarily have firm answers to these conundrums and in my view condescension of a person from centuries ago, particularly a great scholar, is out of order. We don't know fully what he meant and we shouldn't project contemporary cliches onto others. If you read the post, you'll see what I mean.

Monday, August 1, 2016

An Alarming Mischaracterization of Hirsch

I saw this in a blog post and email from a Modern Orthodox Torah organization based in Canada:

"In 1876 Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch was granted permission by the German government to set up a separatist community. He did not want any of his tax money used to support Reform institutions and set out to create an Orthodox-only Jewish community. His view was a minority one, especially since the Reform dominated community agreed to fully support the Orthodox institutions. Hirsch believed that nonetheless the Orthodox should have nothing to do with the general community, neither paying nor receiving money from them. Not only did most rabbis in Germany disagree with Hirsch the vast majority of his own shul members refused to heed his call to leave the general community preferring to pay double taxation so that they could be members in both communities. "

"While Hirsch was in this domain unsuccessful in his lifetime, it is his view that has become the norm in Orthodox today, even amongst many who identify as modern Orthodox. 

"Hirsch’s antagonism towards those who disagreed with him was such that he put a cherem on the communal Orthodox shul, banning his members from stepping foot in the shul."

So the portrayal here is of this intolerant man who started us all off on this environment of intolerance that the blogger, a Modern Orthodox rabbi, believes is rampant in the frum world today.

I won't get into characterizations of the present environment. But I do have to wonder why the blogger didn't wonder how Rav Hirsch, who was so tolerant in his outlook on religion and life - or how else would the Modern Orthodox world look to him so often - who had such a positive view of the role of good gentiles in the scheme of life, who made a place in Jewish religious life for the best of world culture, could so uncharacteristically be so intolerant.

The real answer of course is that Hirsch was not being 'intolerant' in his desire to separate from the general community. He was trying to save his community, to save Torah observance in Germany. 19th century Frankfurt was not 21st century Toronto where each person politely goes about doing his own thing, particularly in religious matters. As we still see in Germany today, Jews who wanted to partake of Jewish institutions or facilities had to pay a significant tax to a general Jewish community and submit to the rulings of its board. In Frankfurt, this meant that the Orthodox had to submit to the rulings of the reformers who controlled the board. Imagine taking the money that you may spend on yeshiva tuition or tutors and paying it instead to a reform Jewish organization that controls your child's education.

And imagine not post 1960s era reform Jews who don't have a clue about the workings of Torah observance and are just following along with how they were raised but imagine people who were raised Orthodox who left it and oppose it. They know what they are opposing. A typical reform Jews has never heard of shatnez. He couldn't make fun of it because he doesn't know it exists. But someone who leaves the fold - and I have known a few in my day - is another kind of person entirely. He's like a rocket ship that is trying to get enough thrust to escape earth's gravity. He is not like a satellite that passively orbits the earth. Such would be the grandchild of the one that leaves the religion. But the one that leaves has a chip on his shoulder, a cause - whatever you want to call it. He can be a major obstacle in you keeping to the commandments. He can confuse the heck out of you which would be a minor problem compared to him outright obstructing you.

Hirsch lived in a city that had once been the glory of yiddishkite. When he got to Frankfurt he saw devastation. One resident of the city claimed that as a 14 year old boy he was the "only one in my age group who still put on tefillin." (Hirsch, Artscroll Biography, p. 116) The  IRG, the community Rav Hirsch joined as leader, had only 100 members and no shul building when he arrived.  

Additionally, the general Jewish community board was not a random group of individuals, but a cohesive unit of Masons.  As Jacob Katz tells us, this problem was unique to Frankfurt. (p. 117) Due to the anti-religious activities of reformers in Frankfurt, Torah study in groups had become outlawed. (p. 116) Here are some excerpts from the Hirsch biography that tell the tale of the activities of the community board to which Hirsch was trying to extricate his community: (p. 114-7)

"Traditionally, the community had provided kosher meals to patients in the city's hospitals, but this practice was also stopped. When Rabbi Trier forbade work on the renovation of the Jewish hospital on the Sabbath, the Community Board overruled him and ordered that the work proceed, especially on Shabbos, in spite of the objections of the hospital's administration. One of the directors of the hospital volunteered to cover the added cost of the cessation of work on Shabbos out of his own pocket, but this offer was also refused."

"In 1838, the Community Board declared, in an official report to the Senate of Frankfurt, that the value of Tanach was doubtful," and the Board also decided that any Jew who still put on tefillin was ineligible to serve as a Board member.""

"In 1837, a group of about 200 Jews who had remained faithful to tradition sought permission to renovate, at their own expense, the two abandoned and dilapidated synagogues. (Reform services were held in the Philanthropin building.) Their request was denied. Similarly, permission to renovate the old mikveh was refused, and women who wished to perform ritual immersion were forced to use facilities in the nearby towns of  Bockenheim or Offenbach.  Eventually the Community Board ordered the old mikveh to be sealed up completely. "

"Already in 1812, the government reorganized the Community Board and set new regulations governing its activity and authority. Over the years, most of the board members and community officials were strong adherents of Enlightenment and Reform. As such, the Board launched a systematic campaign to eradicate the study of Torah, and endeavored to bring about the complete atrophy of all religious institutions." Not content with merely banning religious studies from the Philanihroptn, the only officially sanctioned Jewish school in the city, the Community Board refused to tolerate them anywhere in the city. Thus, from 1818 to 1838, at the Board's initiative the Frankfurt authorities made it illegal to operate a Talmud Torah, and young people who wished to study Torah were forced to do so in hiding. All teachers of religious subjects were banished from the city, and anyone who attempted to teach Torah in spite of this edict was subject to a civil fine of 50 florins. The intention of the Board was to compel all parents to send their children to the Philanthropin, and to a great measure they succeeded. In no other Jewish community in Germany did the proponents of assimilation work so diligently and for that matter so successfully, to achieve their aims."

"Thus, Rabbi Hirsch's charge that the destruction of authentic Judaism with such success in Frankfurt was the result of the single-minded efforts of the Community Board is a historical fact. Even the Reform Rabbi of Frankfurt, Leopold Stein complained, in a pamphlet explaining his resignation in 1861, of the tyranny and the total lack of tolerance of the Board." 

"Reform Judaism, of course, was hardly a phenomenon unique to Frankfurt. But as one observer put it, there was a difference. Whereas elsewhere the Reformers were, by and large, mumarim le'tayavon (sinners for pleasure), in Frankfurt they were mumarim le'hach'is (premeditated sinners)."

This is the context of Rav Hirsch's attempts to set up an independent community. If one wants to discuss history, he has to know history, he has to know the situation of the people he is criticizing. I believe what this blogger has done is project his own frustrations with the Charedi world onto Rav Hirsch and assume that life in tolerant and affluent Toronto is how life has always been for everybody everywhere. This is what's called being spoiled. That Rav Hirsch became the victim of it is an incredible irony.