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Dates in Jewish History - August

Last updated: 2007-08-01

American Jewess

August 1899: American Jewess ends its five-year run as the first English-language periodical intended for American Jewish women.. The monthly magazine heralded the newly emerging public identities for Jewish women, offering health, household, and fashion tips; discussion of women's demands for synagogue membership; early expressions of American Zionism; short fiction; and reflections on the propriety of women riding bicycles. Rosa Sonneschein, the creator and editor of the American Jewess, was a Hungarian immigrant who divorced her rabbi husband in St. Louis. Through her magazine, Sonneschein offered first sustained critique, by a Jewish woman, of gender inequities in Jewish worship and organizational life. In addition, by publishing a veritable portrait gallery of locally prominent Jewish women, she altered expectations of what American Jewish leaders should look like.

August 1939: The German Jewish family of Alfred Gottschalk immigrated to the United States, weeks prior to the onset of World War II. Rising from poverty in Brooklyn, Gottschalk was ordained a Reform rabbi and became a leading Jewish academic. He was appointed president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1971. Deeply sensitive to good fortune to be a refugee from Nazi Germany and thus to escape the Holocaust, Gottschalk was appointed in 1979 to the President's Commission on the Holocaust and then in 1980 to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. After his retirement from Hebrew Union College in 1996, he served for a time as president of New York's Museum of Jewish Heritage.
August 1959: Hawaii becomes the fiftieth U.S. state. Jewish beginnings in Hawaii are shrouded in myth. Ebenezer Townsend, Jr., a sailor on the whaling ship Neptune, wrote in the ship's log on Aug. 19, 1798, that the king came aboard ship and brought "a Jew cook with him." This may or may not be true, but it is the first mention of Jews in connection with Hawaii.

August 1961: Debut of Sovetish Heymland ("Soviet Homeland"), the only Yiddish literary journal in the post-Stalinist Soviet Union, published as an organ of the Soviet Writers' Union. The magazine was a concession to mostly external demands that Soviet authorities reverse of obliterating all manifestations of Jewish cultural life, a process that had led to the execution of important Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union on August 12, 1952. The magazine was illustrated and well edited and earned the reputation of being one of the most attractive Yiddish journals published at the time. Its material fully reflected the ideology of Soviet patriotism prevailing in publications in other languages in the USSR.

August 21, 1940: Jean-Marie Aron Lustiger, aged 14, was baptized in Orleans, France, after converting from Judaism to Roman Catholicism. Ordained as a priest in 1954, Lustiger headed the Paroisse universitaire in Paris, a parish aimed at the student population, and from 1959 to 1969 the Centre Richelieu, which trained the chaplains working with students. In charge of a Parisian parish until 1969, he was then promoted by Pope John Paul II to bishop of Orléans and, in 1981, to archbishop of Paris, the highest position in the French Church, a position that he held until 2005. Nominated a cardinal in 1983, he was considered for many years to be a serious candidate for the papal succession despite his controversial statement that he considered himself both a Jew and a Christian. Lustiger is known as one of the outstanding promoters of better understanding and dialogue between the two religions.

August 26, 1652: Jean Bourgeois, son of a Parisian merchant, was murdered by members of the secondhand dealers guild, which he had insulted by calling it "the synagogue." Parisian newspapers presented the event as if the dealers were Jews guilty of ritual murder. They demanded the expulsion of the Jews from France, although there were then no professing Jews in the country. Prosecution of the accomplices in the crime was stopped in June 1653, by royal writ which expressly noted that all the accused "professed the Catholic religion."

August 30, 1861: Inaugural issue of Die Neuzeit ("Modern Times"), a liberal Austrian Jewish weekly in German language “for political, religious and cultural interests.” The paper’s founders, Bohemian writer Leopold Kompert (1822–1886) and the Hungarian rabbi and educator Simon Szántó (1819–1882), expressed in their first editorial that the publication would not only fill a gap in the Austrian Jewish press, but also serve as a mirror for general society in a modern age, reflecting any progress or disruption. By spreading information on a scientific basis, the paper was to serve an outward function as an organ for emancipation and apologetics, and an inward function by mediating between East and West, religious stagnation and radical reform.

August 30, 1908: Opening of the Czernowitz Yiddish Language Conference in what is now western Ukraine. Endorsed by the two leading Yiddish authors, S.Y. Abramovitsh and Shalom Aleichem, the conference included representatives of all shades of Jewish opinion, from Zionist Hebraists to militant Bundists. agenda included problems of orthography, grammar, literature, theater, press, translation of the Bible into Yiddish, and, above all, recognition of Yiddish as a national language of the Jewish people. Controversy raged between delegates who espoused Hebrew as the only Jewish national language and who looked upon Yiddish as a Diaspora language to be discarded. While controversial, the outcome heightened the prestige of Yiddish, stimulating new literary creativity, research, and publication.

Reproduced with permission and taken from:
Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd Edition, © 2007

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