SOKOLOW, NAHUM (1859-1936).

Zionist leader, Hebrew writer and editor in Poland, he came to London in 1915 to participate in the diplomatic negotiations that resulted in the issuing of the Balfour Declaration. During World War I, Sokolow traveled to Italy and the Vatican, and then to France, and secured the approval of the British, Italian, and French powers for the declaration before its publication. In 1919 he led the presentation of Zionist claims before the Peace Conference at Versailles. When the Jewish Agency for Palestine was created in 1929, Sokolow was elected its president. From 1931 to 1935 he was president of the World Zionist Organization. Sokolov was a man of vast learning, a prolific writer, and one of the great orators of the early Zionist movement.


Third king of Israel, son of David and Bathsheba, builder of the Temple, poet and man of wisdom. His reign, like his name, was one of peace, and lasted about forty years (970-931 B.C.E.). Solomon secured peace on his southern borders by marrying Pharaoh’s daughter, and kept the road to Ezion Gever with its copper mines safe and free. He used his alliance with King Hiram of Tyre, on his northwest border, to develop the arts of commerce and seafaring. Solomon was a great administrator and builder. He erected the Temple in Jerusalem and instituted its impressive services which were accompanied by singing and instrumental music. He built palaces, roads, aqueducts, and his wisdom became a byword in history and in countless legends. However, his marriages to the daughters of neighboring kings introduced into the splendor of his rule the seeds of disruption. The price of Solomon’s luxury was high taxation. His peace was earned at the cost of unrest, political conflict and the idol worship by his foreign wives. Yet Solomon’s glory and his wisdom echo through the ages in the Song of Songs, in Proverbs and in Ecclesiastes, the Scriptural works traditionally ascribed to him.


Talmudic scholars. Joseph Baer Soloveichik (1820-1892) and his son, Hayim (1853-1919), were considered the greatest rabbinical authorities in Russia. The latter served for several years as head of the famous yeshiva, or Talmudical Academy, of Volozhin. Both held the position of rabbi in the city of Brest-Litovak (Brisk), Russia. Moses Soloveichik, son of Hayim, was dean of Talmudic studies, first at the Tahkemoni school in Warsaw, Poland, and later at Yeshiva University in New York. Joseph Baer Soloveichik (1903-1992), who arrived in the U.S. in 1932, occupied the chair previously filled by his father at Yeshiva University, and was one of the leading spirits in the religious Zionist movement in the U.S. Combining Talmudic scholarship with extensive secular knowledge (he received his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Berlin), he was considered one of the most brilliant and stimulating Orthodox teachers and lecturers. Rabbi Soloveichik was head of two congregations, one in Boston and one in New York. He served as chairman of the Law Commission of the Rabbinical Council, and contributed to scholarly and rabbinical journals.


See Music.


Small Italian town in which Israel Nathan Soncino, a learned physician, set up his noted printing press in 1483. His descendants carried on his work. The name was adopted by the Soncino Gesellschaft in Berlin, 1925, and by the Soncino Press of London, publishers of the English Talmud and many other books of Jewish scholarly interest.


See Music.


The first of the five scrolls in the Bible, it is read in the synagogue service on Passover. According to tradition, King Solomon is the author of this series of beautiful love poems traditionally interpreted as describing symbolically God’s love of Israel.


The leading authority on Jewish law in his day, he was known as the Hatam Sofer because of his major six-volume work on Jewish law (mainly responsa). He bitterly opposed the Reform movement and resisted any innovation in Jewish practice.


South Africa has 88,000 Jews in a general population numbering 44 million. The first Jews arrived in 1806 from St. Helena. In 1820, they were joined by a handful of coreligionists who came with 4,000 colonists sent by the English. South Africa then consisted only of the sparsely populated province of Capetown, and a vast, unexplored wilderness stretching into the heart of the Dark Continent. Inhabited by savage Zulu tribes and containing great untapped natural resources, it offered a promise of wealth and adventure to those who could face its dangers and survive. For a century, hardy pioneers hacked at its frontiers, carving for themselves private empires in mountain and veldt. Among them were enterprising Jews such as Aaron de Pass and his son Daniel, who prospered in the country’s infant shipping, fishing and whaling industries, opened copper mines, founded sugar plantations, and established one of Natal’s first industries. Nathaniel Isaacs and Benjamin Norden were active in the “Zulu trade”; the former was the partner and right-hand man of “empire-builder” Cecil Rhodes.

The turning point in South African history came with discovery, in the 1870’s, of the world’s richest gold and diamond mines, in Kimberly and the Transvaal. Bringing unprecedented wealth to the area, it drew immigrants from all over the world. These included East European Jews who migrated via England, Holland and other West European countries. The newcomers swelled the ranks of the community, going chiefly into small trade and establishing some of the country’s earliest manufacturing plants. But it was the old-timers who exploited the mineral finds: Solomon Barnato Joel came to control huge copper fields in North Rhodesia; Barney I. Barnato, who started out as a busboy in London‘s East End, became Kimberly’s “diamond king.”

With the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899, the growing Jewish community found itself fighting with distinction in two armies. The war was fought between the English, who wished to unite the country under their flag, and Dutch farmers (known as Boers) who had trekked northward at mid-century to preserve their independence. The Boers had founded the Orange Free State and the Transvaal, where Jewish farmers and traders had settled early. As in English Capetown and Natal, Jews played an important role in the commercial and political life of the provinces.

The war ended in 1902 with an English victory. Eight years later, Capetown, Natal, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal were joined in the Union of South Africa; two years after that (1912), the Jewish communities, scattered throughout the country, joined together to form a united Board of Deputies to represent them before the central authorities. In the national life of South Africa Jews continued to play an important role in politics, law, medicine, and the arts, as well as in the economic life. South Africa’s most Popular writer of English in recent times was Sarah Millin, a Jewish woman, whose husband, Judge Philip Millin, was one of the country’s leading jurists. Jews have sat in Parliament from the outset; they have also held government positions. Jewish patrons have founded the country’s leading art museums. Artists such as Irma Stem are in the first rank of South African painters and sculptors. The country’s best writers include such Jews as Dan Jacobson and Nadine Gordimer.

The wealth and earlier security of South Africa’s Jews did not shield them from the serious threat of antisemitism during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Under the influence of Nazi propaganda, the Powerful Nationalist Party threatened to deprive Jews of economic and political rights. With the collapse of Nazism, this program was discarded, and the community has since been assured that discrimination will not be practiced.

South Africa’s Jewry maintains strong ties with Israel. There has been a Zionist movement in the country since the 1890’s, and today the Zionist Federation is the most active organization in the community. The government of the Union of South Africa has pursued a policy friendly to Zionism and Israel.

Jewish communal life is intensive. The first synagogue was founded in 1841, and during the 19th century both synagogues and Jewish schools were set up in all communities. Since 1928, a Board of Jewish Education has coordinated educational activities. Jewish education, however, is a problem with which the community is seriously concerned, as there is a shortage of both funds and adequately trained teachers. The small but flourishing Jewish press includes a number of weeklies, published mainly in Capetown and Johannesburg, the two largest communities, with a Jewish population of 25,650 and 57,500 respectively. The Hebrew Order of David, similar to B’nai B’rith in the U.S., is active in all Jewish communities.

The entire community is represented in governmental matters by the Jewish Board of Deputies. The Board is the community’s World Jewish Congress affiliate, and is also linked with the Board of Deputies of English Jewry, and the U.S. B’nai B’rith, in the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations in the UN Economic and Social Council.


See Latin America.


Most of the state’s 11,000 Jews live in Charleston (4,500), Columbia (3,500), Greenville (1,500), and Myrtle Beach (425). Jewish life dates back to the 17th century, when Sephardic Jews first arrived from Europe and the West Indies. In the late 18th century Jewish communities took hold in Charleston and in Columbia. The fortunes of the state’s Jews rose and fell. At one point, Charleston was the leading Jewish community in North America. The state’s Jews fought in the Civil War, but during Reconstruction many left. In the late 19th century an influx of Jews arrived from eastern Europe. Today, there are seven Reform and four Conservative synagogues in the state.


After the Civil War small numbers of Jews arrived in the state, mostly merchants. Others followed and tried farming, for the most part unsuccessfully. Today, there are about 300 Jews, with close to 200 living in Sioux Falls, where there is a Reform temple. Aberdeen has a Conservative congregation.


See Art.


The first Jewish settlement in Spain is veiled by the mists of time. Did they come with the Phoenicians who had established trading stations in Andalusia? This might account for an ancient Jewish tradition that Jews settled in Spain in the time of King Solomon. However, it is evident that by the 1st century C.E., there were Jews in Spain, for the Christian apostle, Paul, spoke of visiting them there. During the unsettled times of the declining Roman empire, in which commerce and travel were very difficult, many Spanish Jews became farmers. They were held in respect by their neighbors, and Christian farmers sometimes called a Jew to bless their crops, as was the custom of the time. This condition could not be pleasing to the Christian clergy, and beginning with their Council at Elvira, in 303, councils passed various resolutions designed to break such peaceful relationships with Jews.

Beginning with the 5th century, during the early Visigoth rule of Spain, there was mutual trust between the rulers and Jews, who were merchants in, the large cities and owners of large agricultural estates, as well as artisans and workmen of all kinds. In 589, when the Visigoth King Recared became a Roman Catholic, the bishops obtained power to prohibit Judaism. Jews were given the choice of becoming Catholics or of leaving the country. This edict was not strictly enforced until the ruthless reign of King Sisebut (612-621). For a century and a half, the Jewish struggle for survival continued. Some Jews escaped from the country; some were forcibly converted and practiced Judaism secretly until the welcome Muslim invasion in 711.

In the five centuries that followed, under the rule of the various Muslim dynasties, and even under some of the newly formed Christian kingdoms, Jews had a large measure of religious freedom. Many who had fled the country returned in numbers. They also grew in power and entered every major avenue of life. Discrimination and persecution were sporadic and not too severely applied. Accompanying the increasing economic opportunities and growth, was a Jewish cultural development so rich that the period became known as the Golden Age of Spain. The Moorish scholars of Spain became the leaders in the science, poetry and philosophy of the Mediterranean lands. Under their influence, Jewish scholars, physicians, and grammarians, philosophers, poets, and commentators entered a period of brilliant creativity. The storied cities of Cordova, Toledo, Granada, and others were the homes of these men and great centers of Jewish learning. Among the first of these writers was Hasdai lbn Shaprut, Jewish scholar and a patron of Jewish scholarship. Court physician to Caliph Abd-al-Rahaman in 10th-century Cordova, Hasdai was also a linguist, and served the ruler as interpreter and unofficial advisor in the conduct of affairs with foreign diplomats at the court. There were the great grammarians, from Menachem ben Saruk to Jonah Ibn Jannah, who charted the course of the Hebrew language and ordered its ways. Greatest in a galaxy of poets, Solomon Ibn Gabirol, Judah Ha-Levi, and Moses Ibn Ezra distilled new beauties from the ancient Hebrew tongue. The roster of famous names that illuminates this period includes Samuel Ibn Naghdella, the grocer who became a diplomat, and Moses Maimonides, the philosopher and commentator who went into exile because persecutions had begun to tarnish the Golden Age.

After the Christians completed their reconquest of Spain, the power of the Church in general and of some religious orders in particular grew very great. Gradually, the Inquisition closed in upon the Jews, and under its pressures, the Jewish communities suffered. Their diminished creativity resulted in the 13th-century Silver Age of Nahmanides, the scholar who inclined to mysticism, Rabbi Solomon Ibn Adret, the religious teacher of Barcelona, and the codifier Rabbi Jacob ben Asher, who died in 1340. In 1480 the Inquisition was set up as a permanent religious court in charge of discovering, judging and handing over for punishment all religious offenders. The final triumph of the Inquisition was achieved by the monk Thomas de Torquemada. Under his influence, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492.

Thereafter, the history of Jews in Spain is the history of the Marranos, those who had publicly accepted Christianity and secretly practiced Judaism. For centuries, the Marranos were the legitimate prey of the Inquisition, until, for all intents and purposes, it was dissolved at the close of the 18th century. In 1858, the Spanish edict of expulsion was dissolved, but few Jews returned to settle there. By 1904, there were enough of them in Madrid to form a congregation. Yet even then, Jews were not permitted to use a public building as a synagogue.

The Federaci


An institution of higher Jewish learning, founded in 1924 by the Chicago Board of Jewish Education. Reorganized in 1929 to suit the needs of a growing community it includes departments for advanced Hebrew studies, Hebrew teachers’ training, general Jewish studies, Sunday School teachers’ and cantors’ training, and a Women’s Institute of Jewish Study. Some courses are offered in cooperation with the University of Chicago. Graduate studies lead to degrees of Master of Hebrew Literature and Doctor of Hebrew Literature. Affiliated with the College are a Summer Camp Institute, founded in 1946, and the Leaf Library and Museum.


See Stage and Screen.

SPINOZA, BARUCH (Benedict) (1632-1677).

Philosopher. He was born in Amsterdam to a family of Marrano refugees from the Portuguese Inquisition. Spinoza received a thorough education in Bible and Talmud, and wrote a grammar of the Hebrew language. After studying the philosophy of Descartes and Giordano Bruno, he developed views for which he was excommunicated (1655) from the Jewish community. He left Amsterdam, settled in The Hague, and became an optician, grinding lenses for a living. It was dangerous for him to publish his books, since his philosophy was unacceptable to Christian dogma. To keep his freedom of thought, he lived a lonely life, refusing a professorship at the University of Heidelberg, as well as a pension from Louis XIV of France.

In his first work, A Theological Political Treatise, Spinoza held that “in a free commonwealth it shall be lawful for every man to think and to speak what he thinks.” He completed his masterpiece, The Ethics, in 1675, but it was not published until after his death. His philosophy, very important in Western thought, is based on the pantheistic idea: the idea that God is the universe, and everything in it is a manifestation of Him.


See Sports.


Jewish athletes have contributed their share to the history of sports all over the world, and have added to the legends of boxing, baseball, track and field, swimming, football, chess, and scores of other major and minor sports.

In ancient Israel, Jews did not show the kind of passion for sports which the ancient Greeks and Romans did, although some Jews were noted gladiators. Physical skills in biblical times were mainly associated with martial arts. In post-biblical times and almost until the 19th century, Jews did not have many opportunities to participate in sports. Beginning in the 19th century, however, Jews in Europe began to participate in sports and even organized such Jewish sports clubs as Ha-Koach of Vienna and the Maccabi clubs throughout Europe.

In the first Olympiad (Athens, 1896), a Hungarian Jew, Hache, won the 100 meter freestyle swimming contest. By the 1990’s, Jews won more than 300 Olympic medals.

The following are some of the better known examples of Jews excelling in specific sports:

Boxing. While few Jews box today, in the past there have been more than twenty Jewish boxing champions. In fact, in the late 1700’s, Daniel Mendoza of England was one of the greatest and earliest Jewish boxing kings, who contributed to the development of that sport. In the U.S., there have been equally outstanding Jewish prize fighters. Benny Leonard, who began to fight in 1912, was for nearly a decade the lightweight champion of the world, and ranks as perhaps the finest titleholder in the 135-pound class. There have been other notable Jewish lightweights, including Al Singer, Lew Tendler, and Jackie “Kid” Berg of England, who did much of his boxing on American shores. Barney Ross, who held both the lightweight and welterweight championships, also gained acclaim as one of boxing’s immortals. Battling Levinsky (U.S.) was light heavyweight world champion, 1916-1920. Louis “Kid” Kaplan (U.S.) was featherweight world champion in 1925-1927. Max Baer (U.S.) was heavyweight world champion in 1934. Jackie Fields, at 16, was the youngest American to win an Olympic gold medal, for boxing (welterweight). As the social status of the Jew in America improved, fewer boys participated in boxing. Yet the records show that in one of the roughest sports in the world, Jews have done as well as the best.

Baseball. Few Jews have achieved excellence in baseball. As a game played mainly in small towns, it did not produced many Jewish stars. But those Jews who have excelled at baseball are among the top names in the game. Johnny Kling, who caught at the turn of the century and was the best receiver the Chicago Cubs ever had, is considered one of the three or four best catchers in baseball history. And, of course, Hank Greenberg, who played first base and the outfield for the Detroit Tigers in the 1930’s and 1940’s, is a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame and was one of the most potent home-run hitters in the annals of the sport. He hit 58 homers in one year, a mark bettered by Babe Ruth and equaled only by one other man in the game. More recently, Al Rosen, who started at third base for the Cleveland Indians, became a baseball notable when he was voted the Most Valuable Player Award for 1953 in the American League by a unanimous vote, the first time any player had won such an accolade. One of the greatest Jewish baseball stars of contemporary times has been Sandy Koufax, a left-handed pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Koufax pitched four no-hit, no-run games in his brilliant career, which was cut short at the age of 29 by a chronic arthritic elbow. But his diamond feats won him a place in baseball’s Hall of Fame, even though he had a comparatively brief career. His four no-hitters, in consecutive seasons, was a record in itself. In 11 years on the mound, he won acclaim for his remarkable fast ball and his “unhittability.” He won the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher of the year three times and the Most Valuable National League Player Award (rarely given to a pitcher) in 1963. He also won the National League Player of the Year Award of the Sporting News in 1963-1965. He established many strikeout records and shutout marks. He was the first pitcher to fan more than 300 batters in two consecutive years. Before that he was the first to strike out 200 men in two years in succession. Koufax also was extraordinarily effective in the World Series. He gained the record of most strikeouts in a four-game Series (23) and the most in a single game (15) against the New York Yankees in 1963. That same year he won 25 games and 26 in 1965.

Other Jewish baseball players have included: Andy Cohen, a N.Y. Giant second baseman, who succeeded the famous Rogers Hornsby; Buddy Myer, who won the American League batting title once; Harry Danning and Sid Gordon of the N.Y. Giants; Ken Holtzmann, a fine left-handed pitcher who twirled a no-hitter himself; Mike Epstein, a pretty good home-run batter; and Ron Blomberg, who showed promise of stardom with the Yankees.

Football, both amateur and professional, also has produced prominent Jewish gridiron stars. The best of them were quarterbacks, the men who called the plays and pitched the passes. Thus, Benny Friedman, great quarterback of the 1920’s and later professional football player and coach at Brandeis University, Harry Newman of Michi_gan, and Sid Luckman of the Columbia Lions and the Chicago Bears, are among the football greats. Many other Jews have made All-American football teams, and are remembered by fans.

Basketball once was called “the Jewish game” because of the predominance of Jewish hoop stars. But today the players are extremely tall and no longer come exclusively from metropolitan areas. Still, the accomplishments of Jewish basketball players, in college and professional ranks, is impressive. Nat Holman, once known as “Mr. Basketball,” star of the Celtics, a famous professional team, later was the coach of CCNY and led his clubs to many victories. The Long Island University teams, loaded with Jewish players, also won national fame. New York University and St. John’s had Jewish stars and led their teams to prominence. Harry Boykoff was notable at St. John’s and Adolph Schayes at NYU. Schayes went on to a highly successful pro career. Others who won recognition include Art Heyman, Sid Tanenbaum, Max Zaslofsky and, in more recent years, Neal Walk, the professional star, and Bob Kaufmann, who has made the National Basketball League All-Star team. More notably, Red Holtzman has been a brilliant coach with the New York Knicks, and Red Auerbach was coach and general manager of the Boston Celtics.

Tennis, once a “social” sport with few Jewish players of the top rank, has undergone major changes. The professional game is now a great deal more important than the amateur sport. Nonetheless, there are not many outstanding Jews in tennis. Dick Savitt won the Wimbledon championship. Herb Flam was a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team. Tom Okker of Holland was one of the top pros in the sport. More recently, Israeli champions Shlomo Glickstein and Amos Mansdorf reached the ranks of the world’s best tennis players, and played with the best.

Swimming. Jews have produced some of the greatest swimmers of the 20th century. Johnny Weissmüller, known as the first and best Tarzan in the movies, was the first American to win five gold medals (in the 1920’s), and was elected the greatest swimmer of the half-century. Eva Szekely of Hungary set 10 world records in swimming. One of the greatest Jewish names in sports, Mark Spitz, emerged as a result of what happened in the swimming competition in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Spitz won 7 gold medals, the first time this feat has ever been accomplished in the long history of the Games. In 1968, Mark Spitz was considered to be a coming champion, but he was young and  failed to do well. By 1972, he had become battle-hard, for he already had competed in the Maccabiah Games in Israel and was ready for top competition. His first championship race was for the 200-meter butterfly. He broke his own world record in this event and immediately placed his foes on the watch for his later achievements. That same evening he won his second gold medal, the 400-meter free-style relay. He was one of a group, but his own contribution was a record time race. The next evening, he took part in the 200-meter free-style. He had to come from behind with a burst of speed to win. But he did. That made it three gold medals and Spitz had become the talk of the Olympic Games. He won 5 gold medals in three days. More were to come. In the end, he had 7, was named the Male Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press, and entered sports history.
Track and Field. Here European and Canadian Jews have produced some of the best. Fanny Rosenfeld of Canada won Olympic gold in 400-meter relay in 1928, and was elected in 1950 Canada’s best female athlete of the half-century. Harold Abraham of England won the 100 meter dash in the Paris Olympics, and became one of England’s leading sprinters. Irena Kirszenstein-Szewinska of Poland is considered the greatest female track and field athlete of all time. In the Tokyo Olympics she won gold in the 400 meter relay and silver in the 200 meter. In Mexico she won gold in the 200 meter, totaling seven Olympic medals.
Gymnastics have seen many Jewish athletes excel. Agnes Kelety of Hungary, saved by Raoul Wallenberg during the Holocaust, won 5 gold and a total of 11 Olympic medals in the 1940’s and 1950’s, in gymnastics. She settled in Israel in 1957, and became a member of the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Golf. Here not too many Jews have excelled, but one of the best female golfers of our time is Amy Alcott, who won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1980.
Bullfighting. One would hardly ever think to associate Jews with bullfighting, yet Spain did produce Jewish bullfighters, and one of the better known bullfighters of the 20th century is Brooklyn-born Sidney Franklin.
Chess, which is considered a sport, has seen scores of Jewish chess masters all over the world, as well as in the U.S. William Steinitz and Emmanuel Lasker held the world title suc­cessively for 57 years. Mikhail Botvinnik and Mikhail Tal, both Soviet chess masters, also where world champions. Samuel Reshevsky and Bobby Fischer held many American champion­ships and have ranked high on the world scene.
Sports in Israel. Israelis are avid sports fans who are primarily interested in soccer and in basketball, including American basketball. Military service, which prevents young men during the ages of 18 to 21 from training when they are in their physical prime, accounts for the fact that Israel has not produced more sports champions. However, Israel sends athletes to the Olympic and the Asian Games. Since 1932, the finest amateur Jewish athletes have been competing in Israel in the Maccabiah, a kind of Jewish Olympics.
At the Munich Olympics in August, 1972, Arab terrorists entered the Israeli quarters at the Olym­pic Village and held members of the Israeli Olym­pic team as hostages, demanding the release of fellow Arab terrorists jailed in Israel. The Israeli government refused to meet their demand, and after nightfall the German police took the ter­rorists and their hostages to a nearby airfield from where they expected to fly out of Germany. The police opened fire on the terrorists in an attempt to release the prisoners. Eleven Israeli athletes perished in the melee. The entire Olympiad came to a halt with a memorial in honor of the victims, after which the games were resumed.
In the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, a young Israeli woman, Yael Arad, finally brought an Olympic medal back to her country, when she won the silver in judo. In recent years, some of the former Soviet Union athletes and coaches have immigrated to Israel, raising expectations for more Olympic medals.
Israel won its first Olympic gold medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics, when Gal Friedman sailed into fame. Another Israeli, Arik Ze’evi,  took the bronze in 100kg judo. Other Jewish gold medalists were Scott Goldblatt, USA in swimming 4X200 freestyle relay; Lenny Krayzelburg, USA in swimming 4×100 medley relay; Jason Lezak, USA in swimming, 4×100 medley relay; Nicolas Massu, Chile, in tennis, singles and doubles. Adriana Behar, Brazil, took the silver in beach volleyball, and Gavin Fingleson, Australia, in baseball. Other Jewish bronze medalists were Robert Dover, USA, in riding, team dressage; Sada Jacobson, USA, in fencing, individual saber; Deena Kastor, USA, in marathon; Jason Lezak, USA, in swimming, 4×100 freestyle relay; Sarah Poewe, Germany, in swimming, 4×100 medley relay; and Sergei Sharikov, Russia, in fencing, team saber.


Jews have made a vast contribution to the American and the world’s entertainment industry, encompassing such areas as vaudeville, comedy, singing, drama, musical stage, radio, motion pictures, and television. Historically, Jews did not cultivate drama and other forms of audiovisual entertainment to the same extent such cultures as the Greek or Roman did. Nevertheless, there is great drama in the Bible and in Jewish culture in general, and the emotional aspect in Judaism is well developed. Beginning in the 19th century, Jews in Europe began to take an active part in the theater, both as playwrights, producers, and actors. Rachel Felix and Sarah Bernhardt dominated the French stage during the 19th century. Sir Arthur Wing Pinero played a major role in shaping British drama. Many Jews wrote for the stage in Germany, including Arthur Schnitzler and Hugo von Hoffmannsthal. Max Reinhardt achieved prominence as theatrical producer and director.

At the start of the 20th century, as large waves of Jewish immigrants arrived in the U.S., Yiddish theater, which had started to develop in Europe, found a home in New York, under the direction of playwrights like Abraham Goldfaden and actors like Maurice Schwartz. During the first half of the century, the American Yiddish theater was not only a major source of culture and entertainment for Yiddish-speaking Jews, but also a major source of talent for the American entertainment industry as a whole. Many highly talented performers who got their professional start on the Yiddish stage or in the Yiddish-speaking environment, made the transition to Broadway and to Hollywood, as well as to radio and later television. Early examples were Paul Muni, Al Jolson, Eddie Kantor, Sophie Tucker, Molly Picon, and Fanny Brice. Those were followed by screen greats like Edward G. Robinson, Danny Kaye, Lauren Bacall, Shelly Winters, Esther Williams, Johnny Weissm

STEIN, GERTRUDE (1874-1946).

See Magen David.

American writer who lived in Paris, where she interacted with and influenced American expatriate writers like Hemingway. She wrote in a highly individualized and idiosyncratic style, and is still considered a key figure in the development of 20th century American literature.

STEINBERG, MILTON (1903-1950).

American Conservative rabbi who served Park Synagogue in Manhattan from 1933 until his untimely death. Steinberg’s insights into modern Jewish life are reflected in his widely read book Basic Judaism. He also wrote a historical novel about Elisha ben Abuyah, As a Driven Leaf.


Israeli Talmudic scholar and writer on traditional Jewish subjects. He has issued a new edition of the Babylonian Talmud, with a Hebrew translation. His other books include The Essential Talmud, and retelling of Hasidic stories.


See Yeshiva University.


Also known as LEHI, Hebrew acronym for Fighters for the Freedom of Israel. Extremist splinter faction which split off from the Irgun Z’vai L’umi in 1940. It was formed by Abraham (Yair) Stern, who was killed by the British in 1942. Believing that the Irgun was not sufficiently aggressive in its fight against British rule in Palestine, the Stern Group resorted to terror tactics, including assassinations, to drive the British out of the country. It dissolved after the establish_ment of the Jewish state. Some of its leaders have become prominent in Menachem Begin‘s Herut party (See Revisionist Zionism). One of them. Yitzhak Shamir, was speaker of the Knesset during the period of Israel’s peace negotiations with Egypt, and served as Prime Minister of Israel.


See Music, Jews in.

STRAUS, NATHAN (1848-1931).

Merchant and philanthropist. Born in Germany, Straus served as president of the New York City Board of Health in 1898. He came to hold this office out of a deep interest in public health. In 1890, he had established a system for the sterilization and distribution of milk to the poor of New York. He installed his own laboratory and distributed pasteurized milk in many cities in the U.S. and abroad. During the panic of 1893-1894, he started a chain of groceries to distribute coal and groceries to the needy. Straus retired from R.H. Macy and Co. in 1914; during World War I, he became a one-man society to relieve the suffering of people all over the world. Deeply interested in Palestine, he joined the Zionist movement, repeatedly visited Palestine, and founded the Nathan and Lina Straus Health Centers of Hadassah, in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. His self-sacrifice and generosity won him the love and respect of millions.

STRAUS, OSCAR (1870-1954).

Composer. Oscar Straus studied music in his native Vienna and Berlin, and began his musical career as a conduc_tor in theaters and cabarets. Although he wrote serious music as well, Straus made his mark as a master of light opera. He composed the music for over fifty operettas, including the much-produced Waltz Dream (1907) and Chocolate Soldier. Fleeing Nazism, he settled first in France and then in the U.S. in 1940.


Diplomat and philanthropist. A brother of Nathan Straus he became active in the business enterprises run by his family. He served as U.S. Minister (later Ambassador) to Turkey from 1887 to 1890, 1898 to 1900, and again from 1909 to 1910. From 1906 to 1909 he served as U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Labor, the first Jew to hold a position in the U.S. Cabinet. He was active also in Jewish communal affairs and had contacts with Zionist leaders.


See Stage and Screen.


The Feast of Booths. Five days after Yom Kippur, Jews observe Sukkot, the Feast of Booths, or Tabernacles. This holiday is celebrated for seven days in Palestine and eight days in the Diaspora. During the festival the family gathers for meals in booths erected for the occasion. Beautifully decorated and covered with greenery which permits the stars to shine through, the booths recall the times when Israel wandered in the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt. Sukkot is also the Harvest Festival, recalling the days when Israelite farmers went to the fields and lived in lean-tos until the harvest was in. Also associated with the harvest are the lulav, a palm branch flanked with sprigs of willow and myrtle and the etrog, or citron. Together, these are the biblical four species, over which a blessing is recited daily during the holiday. They are also carried during Hakafot, a ceremonial march around the synagogue.

Sukkot is one of the shalosh regalim, the three Pilgrimage festivals observed in ancient times with Pilgrimages to Jerusalem. (The other two are Passover and Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, which, like Sukkot, were also harvest festivals.) In olden days, in the Temple, the high point of the Sukkot festivities was simhat bet ha-Shoevah (the ceremony of water drawings). The importance of this ceremony was seasonal, for Sukkot comes in the fall, after the long dry summer and just before the rainy season in Israel. Therefore, prayers of thanksgiving were offered for the rains that had made the year’s crops grow.

On Shemini Atzeret, which immediately follows Sukkot, prayers for rain during the coming season are chanted. The preceding day is known as Hoshana Rabba, after the prayers beginning with Hoshana, which means “Save us.” Many such prayers are said, because it is believed that on Hoshana Rabba the Books of Judgment, sealed on Yom Kippur, are put away until the following year. During the Hoshana Rabba service, willow branches are beaten until all the leaves have< /span> fallen off. This is associated both with the rituals of penitence and the seasonal festivities. The beaten willows symbolize the suffering man inflicts upon himself in the search for forgiveness. They also represent the hope that after the trees and plants lose their greenery God will provide new warmth and moisture for the renewal of nature, as well as for man’s strength and his trust in God.

Shemini Atzeret and Simhat Torah are associated with Sukkot, but are not properly part of that festival. The former dates from biblical times. Because it was the occasion of the crucial prayers for rain, it was marked with great solemnity. Simhat Torah (The Rejoicing of the Law) is a joyous holiday. It arose after the Rabbis instituted the practice of reading through the entire Torah (Five Books of Moses) in the synagogue each year. On Simhat Torah the last portion of one year’s cycle is read, and a new cycle is begun with the reading of the first portion of Genesis. Hakafot, an “encircling” procession with Torah scrolls, is the special mark of the day. Special attention is paid to children, who join in the Hakafot with flags and singing.


Distinguished American Jewish family, originating in Salzburg in southern Germany. Four branches of the family emigrate to the U.S. in the 19th century.

Mayer Sulzberger (1843-1923), brought to Philadelphia in 1849, became one of that city’s leading judges. He was a scholar of Jewish history, publishing studies on the legal and political institutions of ancient Judea. Cyrus Leo Sulzberger (1858-1932), his cousin, settled in New York and prospered in the textile trade. Entering municipal politics as a liberal, he maintained a life_long interest in Jewish communal affairs, serving as president of the Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Aid Society and of the United Hebrew Charities. Although opposed to Jewish nationalism, he was vice-president of the Federation of American Zionists. Cyrus’s son, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, studied at Columbia University, and joined The New York Times in 1919. He became its publisher in 1935. A supporter of the New Deal, he campaigned for active U.S. participation in world affairs. Other well-known Sulzbergers include Cyrus L., foreign correspondent, and Marion B., leading dermatologist.


See Babylonia.


Dutch possession on the northeastern coast of South America. Surinam is the home of the Jewish community with the longest continuous history in the Western Hemisphere. Established in 1630, it was augmented in the 1650’s and 1660’s by Jews from Brazil and England. In 1665, the English, who held the territory for a time, granted full religious freedom to “the Hebrew Nation” residing there. The Dutch confirmed this freedom when Surinam was returned to them two years later. In 1682, the Brazilian Jews, who had prospered in the cultivation of sugar, founded a colony at Woden Savanne (Savannah of the Jews). This community survived until 1832, when fire destroyed the village. Most if its inhabitants moved to Paramaribo, where German Jews had settled in the 18th century. The present Jewish community, numbering about 200, is concentrated in the capital. Some of its members are refugees who arrived from Europe during World War II. The community is organized in Sephardic and Ashkenazic congregations, both of which are represented in the Central Committee for Jewish Affairs.


One of the Scandinavian countries. Few Jews lived there until the late 18th century. Jews have since played an important part in the life of the country, especially in the arts, and the old residents are well integrated in Swedish life. The rate of intermarriage is probably higher in Sweden than in any other country in Europe. Sweden received a large number of refugees from the Holocaust. In 2006, the Jewish population of 18,000 was more than double that of 1933. About 7,000 live in Stockholm and vicinity, 2,500 each in Goteborg and Malmo, 350 in Boras, and 250 in Narrkoping. There is a central Council of Mosaic Communities. The Jewish community as a whole, including the “Vikings,” as the old families are called, are keenly interested in Israel.


Located between Germany, Italy, and France. It had some Jewish inhabitants during the Middle Ages. At the time of the Black Death, Jews were viciously massacred, and 1622 the Swiss Diet expelled all Jews. There was a gradual return, beginning in the late 17th century. The federal constitution of 1874 finally abolished Jewish disabilities.

During World War II, Switzerland gave shelter to a limited number of refugees, some of whom have remained. In 2006 there were about 15,000 Jews in Switzerland of whom about 6,800 were in Zurich, 4,400 in Geneva and 2600 in Basle, with the rest scattered in other communities.


From Greek, meaning assembly. In Hebrew, Bet Knesset, or House of Meeting. The synagogue can be traced back to the period following the destruction of the First Temple in 586 B.C.E. The exiled Jews in Babylonia gathered at first in private homes, later in special buildings, to read from the Scriptures and to observe holidays. Even when the Temple was rebuilt in 537 B.C.E., the number of houses of worship continued to increase. Following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., the synagogue assumed a central place in Jewish religious and communal life. Wherever Jews settled, they established a place of worship and study. During the Middle Ages, the synagogue was the hub from which the religious, educational, social and charitable spokes of community life radiated. Wherever the Jewish communities moved, the synagogue moved with them and flourished.

The structure and magnificence of the synagogue varied depending upon the degree of religious freedom. In countries where Jews were oppressed their building was often restricted. But where Jews were permitted some measure of freedom, especially in the ancient East, beautiful structures were erected. Excavations in Dura Europos (Syria), Capernaum, and Bet Alpha in Palestine have uncovered the remains of highly ornate houses of prayer.

Traditionally, the worshipers in the synagogue face east, toward Jerusalem. Into the eastern wall of the structure is built the Holy Ark, where the Torah Scrolls are kept. This Ark is often lavishly decorated and ornamented with symbolic paintings of lions, eagles, and ceremonial objects such as the ram’s horn, Menorah, and musical instruments. The two tablets of the covenant inscribed with the Ten Commandments and surmounted by the Torah crown are generally placed above the Ark. A richly embroidered velvet or satin curtain is draped before the Ark. Suspended from the ceiling nearby hangs the Ner Tamid, the eternal light, which, as the name suggests, must never be extinguished. Traditionally, the Bimah, or pulpit, is located in the center of the house of prayer. The Amud, or reader’s stand, which is directly in front of the Ark, is decorated by a tall seven-branched candelabrum. In Orthodox synagogues, a separate seating section is provided for the women.


The Aram of the Old Testament, called Syria in the Septuagint. It became a free Arab republic in 1946, and, with Lebanon, covers most of the northwest horn of the Fertile Crescent. During the Hellenistic period, particularly in the time of Herod the Great (36-4 B.C.E.), a considerable Jewish community gathered in Syria. Jews were accorded equal rights, but in the course of the wars in Israel many were massacred. With the advance of Christianity many Jews were forcibly baptized. The invasion of the Arabs in the 7th century brought Jews greater religious tolerance but placed them in an inferior status. Jews congregated mainly in the large cities, Damascus, the capital, Aleppo, and Tripoli, largely as traders and craftsmen. They numbered about 18,000 but never became a strong cultural community. In 1840, the Syrian Jews suffered the effects of the Damascus blood libel. World Jewry intervened, and rescued the Damascus Jews from mob violence.

Since the Six-Day War, Syrian Jews have suffered constant harassment and persecution officially sponsored by the government and carried out by the police, as a result of which a worldwide movement has been established to help reduce the number of Syrian Jews and bring them out of Syria. As of 1998, hopes that Syria would enter into peace negotiations with Israel have not materialized. In 1982, Israel’s Operation Peace for Galilee sought to challenge and defeat Syria’s pro-PLO military base in Lebanon. Despite a resounding defeat, the Syrians were rearmed by the USSR and were influential in forcing the abrogation of the Israel-Lebanese peace treaty concluded in 1983. In 1984, an unprecedented exchange of Syrian and Israeli prisoners of war occurred when 291 Syrian soldiers and officers were exchanged for six Israelis (three soldiers and three civilians). In 1992 the Syrian government allowed some Jews to leave. By 2006, only 100 Jews remained in Syria.

SYRKIN, NACHMAN (1867-1924).

Labor Zionist leader. As a boy in Russia, he was active in the Hibbat Zion movement. He saw Socialist Zionism as a modern expression of the Hebrew prophets’ teachings of justice for all men. Syrkin became one of the earliest founders of the Labor Zionist party (See Labor Zionism). Returning to Russia, he took part in the 1905 revolution against the oppressive, corrupt Tsarist govern_ment. He came to America in 1908, where he continued his Zionist work, and also became active in the American Jewish Congress. After World War I, he helped organize the Jewish delegation to the Versailles Peace Conference, and served as one of its delegates. A biography of Syrkin was published in 1960 by his daughter Marie Syrkin, a noted Zionist writer.


See Sports.


See Music, Jews in.

SZOLD, HENRIETTA (1860-1945).

Founder of Hadassah. She was born in Baltimore, the eldest of Rabbi Benjamin Szold, a scholar and leader of Conservative Judaism. Rabbi Szold guided his daughter’s education, and from early youth, Henrietta Szold became a companion and an assistant to her father in his complex tasks. Broad sympathy and understanding for all manner of human beings were a part of her environment. In her home she became acquainted with work for the liberation of the former slaves. When the flood of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe poured into America, the Szold home gave shelter, aid, and guidance to all within its reach. Henrietta Szold, teaching at the time at a fashionable girls’ school, founded, managed, and taught in one of the first night schools for immigrants in the United States.

Henrietta Szold had shared in her father’s scholarly interests and had written articles for periodicals since she was 17. When the Jewish Publication Society of America (JPS) was organized in 1888, she became a volunteer member of its publication committee, and from 1893 to 1916 was its paid literary secretary. In this capacity, her translation labors included editing a five-volume translation of Graetz‘s History of the Jews. She also translated and edited the seven-volume Legends of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg. In addition, she edited, together with Cyrus Adler, the American Jewish Year Book.

Szold’s Zionism was a natural development. It grew out of the home atmosphere, and was nourished by her scholarly preoccupation with Jewish history and literature. In 1895 Szold made her first Zionist speech before the Baltimore section of the National Council of Jewish Women. In 1909, she went to Europe with her mother. The trip included a visit to Palestine from where she wrote: “If not Zionism, then nothing,” and, “there are heroic men and women here doing valiant work. If only they could be more intelligently supported by the European and American Jews.” What she saw of disease and suffering in Palestine, and her own dislike of holding theories without translating them into action, bore fruit in 1912. The Hadassah Study Circle, to which Henrietta Szold had belonged since 1907, was transformed into a national women’s organization that undertook the practical task of fund raising for health work in Palestine. Its first goal, a system of visiting began modestly in 1913 with the arrival of two American-trained nurses who set up a small welfare station in Jerusalem.

That same year, Szold began a series of tours of the United States for Hadassah; Hadassah grew in strength and membership. During World War I, Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, head of the Provisional Zionist Committee, entrusted Henrietta Szold with the responsibility for organizing the American Zionist Medical Unit for Palestine. In the autumn of 1918, equipment for a 50-bed hospital and a group of 44 doctors, nurses, dentists, sanitary engineers and administrators arrived in Palestine. Szold joined them in 1920, and from then until 1927, she divided her time between Hadassah’s work in Palestine and in the U.S. Even after she had settled permanently in Palestine and undertook other major responsibilities, she remained dedicated to Hadassah’s work. She was elected honorary president of Hadassah in 1926. In 1933, Szold laid the foundation stone for the Rothschild Hadassah University Hospital. When World War II broke out, she served on the Hadassah Emergency Committee that was engaged in solving the problems created by the war. As a result of her survey and recommendations, Hadassah established the Alice Seligsberg Trade School for Girls in Jerusalem.

In 1927, Szold had been elected one of the three members of the Palestine Executive Committee of the World Zionist Organization, the first woman ever to serve in this capacity. Her portfolios were education and health. Since, however, the other two members of the Executive (Harry Sacher and Colonel Frederick Kisch) were frequently abroad for long periods, the task of political work and of negotiations with the Palestine government in behalf of the Yishuv fell upon her. The prevailing attitude toward women added to the delicacy of the task. The Yishuv had to learn how to accept guidance from a woman. How successful she was may be seen in her election in 1930 to serve on the Vaad Leumi, the National Council of Jews in Palestine, which entrusted her with the responsibility for socia
l welfare. She trained social workers for the whole country, and in 1941 initiated an educational and correctional system for young offenders.

At age 73, she wanted to return to America “to be coddled by my sisters,” but her deep sense of responsibility made her shoulder a new undertaking. In 1933, Nazism had come to power in Germany, and German Jews began to migrate to Palestine. The year before had seen the onset of a youth immigration into Palestine. Inevitably, Szold assumed the task of developing the Youth Aliyah movement initiated by Recha Freier. As organizer and leader of Youth Aliyah, she first worked out a program of education that would give individual attention to each child. Afterward, she guided the immigration, reeducation, and resettlement of these children, straining to establish a personal contact at some point with each child.

In 1942, her concern for the problem of Arab-Jewish relations led her to join the Ihud (Unity) movement, an organization for the promotion of good relations between Arabs and Jews and for the formation of a binational Arab-Jewish state in Palestine. Henrietta Szold received many honors from Jews and non-Jews alike. Not the least of these was the enduring deep regard of her close associates and coworkers for the astonishing variety of her endeavors to help humanity.

SZYK, ARTHUR (1894-1951).

Artist. Born in Poland, he studied in Paris and came to America in 1940. Noted for his book illuminations, including the Passover Haggadah and the U.S. and Israel Declarations of Independence.