Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement
Focus On Those You Can Help
Focus on the people you can help, and don't be obsessed with those you cannot help. You are a mortal. You, like everyone else, are limited. Obsessing about what you can't do prevents you from accomplishing what you can do.
Love Yehuda Lave
Ice Cream: 6 Jewish Facts ewish Facts by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Fun Jewish facts in time for National Ice Cream Day.
Ice cream, the quintessential summer treat, has some surprising Jewish connections. Here are six facts about Jews and this delicious treat.
There are ancient references to eating cold sweet treats. Roman emperors are said to have ordered slaves to climb mountains and bring back snow from the tops: the ice was flavored and enjoyed as a refreshing snack. China's ancient King Tang of Shang recorded employing 94 "ice men" who prepared a recipe made of buffalo milk, flour and camphor which was eaten chilled.
This rich-sounding dish is similar to a childhood favorite that Jewish cookbook writer Claudia Roden recalls from her own childhood growing up in a Jewish quarter of Cairo called dondurma kaimak. For 40 years since she left Egypt, Roden was "searching for this mythical ice cream made with buffalo's milk thickened with sahlab (the ground root a type of orchid…) and flavored with rose water and mastic" that she remembered from her youth. The closest dish she encountered was a chilled custard she ate in Israel, prepared by a Jew whose family had origins in Turkey. (Quoted in The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York by Claudia Roden. Alfred A. Knopf: 1996.)
Ice cream as we know it was probably in Italy during the Renaissance, and for generations it was considered an Italian food. Italian vendors served ice cream in cafes across Europe and sold the treat from specially-made vans. By the mid-1800s, ice cream was a popular dessert. Though Italians still largely controlled the ice cream trade, in Britain Jews were sometimes baselessly accused of bringing in immigrant ice cream vendors from Italy and corrupting children with this delicious sweet treat.
Early 20th Century ice cream seller
By the early 1900s ice cream was so popular that immigrants to the United States were fed it in Ellis Island, along with other popular American foods such as bananas and sandwiches. For thousands of Jewish immigrants, ice cream was one of their first tastes of America, the new country they would call home.
Baskin Robbins, Häagen-Dazs, Ben and Jerry's
Some of the most iconic ice cream brands in America were started by Jewish immigrants. Irv Robbins, born in 1917 in Winnipeg, used his bar mitzvah money to launch the Snowbird Ice Cream parlor in 1945 in Glendale, California. Irv was a master ice cream maker, having learned the trade as a kid in his father's ice cream store. When he served as a lieutenant in the US Navy during World War II, he'd spent his spare time making ice cream for his fellow soldiers.
Snowbird Ice Cream featured a new innovation: 21 different flavors, a dazzlingly large selection at the time. A year later, Irv's brother-in-law Bert Baskin opened his own cafe, Burton's Ice Cream Shop in Pasadena, California. The two joined forces in 1948, combining their know-how and their stores, and introducing the high quality ice cream that made Baskin-Robbins ice cream a beloved brand for generations. (In 1994, Baskin-Robbins merged with Dunkin' Donuts, which was also founded by a Jewish entrepreneur, William Rosenberg, in 1950.)
In 1961, Häagen-Dazs came on the scene, offering American consumers a delicious new, high-quality ice cream. It was the invention of Jewish immigrants Reuben and Rose Mattus. Reuben moved from Poland to the US with his mother when he was a young child, and the pair immediately started working for a relative in the Italian ice trade. Reuben learned the ropes of ice and ice-cream making, but he realized something was missing.
The only country which saved the Jews during World War II was Denmark. So I put together a totally fictitious Danish name and had it registered.
Mattus experimented with making heavier ice cream that was richer and used natural ingredients. Soon, they had a delicious product on their hand. The only problem was what to call it. The couple wanted an upscale-sounding name, so they invented the vaguely Danish-sounding name Häagen-Dazs. "The only country which saved the Jews during World War II was Denmark," Reuben Mattus later recalled; "so I put together a totally fictitious Danish name and had it registered."
It was important to Reuben and Rose that Haagen Dazs was kosher. "If I made good ice cream, I wanted my people to get it, so I made it kosher" Reuben explained.
Haagen-Dazs was sold to Pillsbury in 1983, and continues to make delicious – and kosher – flavors of ice cream.
Ben and Jerry
Ben and Jerry's ground-breaking ice cream company was founded in 1978 in Burlington, Vermont, by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. The pair tried to establish a socially conscious firm, using recycled materials to build their first cafe and using hormone-free milk in their products. They also delighted consumers with their amusing names for ice cream flavors, such as Chunky Monkey and Chubby Hubby. Though Ben and Jerry's has been owned by the multinational corporation Unilever since 2000, it still produces amusing new flavors and names for its ice cream. In 2017, the company even distributed a special kosher for Passover flavor in Israel: haroset, echoing the popular wine, apple and nut dish served as part of the Passover seder.
Inventing New Trends in Ice Cream
Some of the most innovative ideas in ice cream making have come from Jewish inventors and chefs. In 1973, Steve Herrell opened Steve's, a wildly popular ice cream parlor in Davis Square in Somerville, Massachusetts near Boston. Herrell pioneered a new way of making rich, dense ice cream – and served his delicious ice cream with a new twist. Rolling out slabs of ice cream, he'd mix in treats like crushed candy bars and cookies. Ice cream "mix ins" soon became a national trend.
A new Israeli company, Solo Gelato, is set to shake up the ice cream world even more: they have invented a machine that uses containers that are the same size and look similar to coffee pods to make individual servings of rich ice cream right in people's kitchens. Their 24 options include no-sugar ice cream pods, organic, alcoholic and other ice cream variations.
Non-Dairy Ice Cream
Millions of people are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk products – yet they can still enjoy ice cream thanks to David Mintz, who spent years experimenting with non-dairy versions of ice cream in the 1970s. Mintz himself is lactose intolerant, but as an observant Jew, he recognized another market for non-dairy ice cream as well. Many observant Jews would love to eat ice cream for dessert after Shabbat and holiday meals, yet the rules of keeping kosher meant that ice cream couldn't be served after a meal that contained meat.
Mintz worked in the fur business, but his father had been a baker, and he knew about food and the catering industry. With encouragement from his wife Rachel, Mintz spent nine years experimenting with different recipes. Finally, a tofu-based recipe gave him the delicious taste and texture he was looking for. Mintz asked family and friends to taste his new non-dairy ice cream – then in 1981 set up his company making Tofutti – non-dairy (parve in Hebrew) ice cream for the mass market.
In addition to non-dairy ice cream, Tofutti Brands today also manufactures non-dairy cream cheese, cheese, sour cream and other products.
Israel is an ice cream powerhouse. Over a quarter of all ice cream sold in the entire Middle East and African market is consumed in Israel, according to one market research firm. Israelis eat an average of 8-10 liters of ice cream each year (less than Americans, who lead the world in ice cream consumption) – and produce some unusual and delicious new flavors.
Ice cream is so ubiquitous in Israel that a common Hebrew saying when people bump into each other is pa'am shlishit glida – the third time we meet, we'll go out for ice cream together. It's an apt expression, conveying the deliciousness and popularity of Israeli ice cream.
WHATEVER HITS THE FAN WILL NOT BE DISTRIBUTED EVENLY.
I have kleptomania, but when it gets bad, I take something for it.
FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS! Except that one where you're naked in church.
Sometimes too much to drink isn't enough.
Kinky is using a feather. Perverted is using the whole chicken.
Heaven is Where: The Police are British, The Chefs are Italian, The Mechanics are German, The Lovers are French and It's all organized by the Swiss.
Hell is Where: The Police are German, The Chefs are British, The Mechanics are French, The Lovers are Swiss and It's all organized by the Italians.
Suicidal twin kills sister by mistake!
My short-term memory is not as sharp as it used to be. Also, my short-term memory's not as sharp as it used to be.
Welcome to Utah Set your watch back 20 years.
A bartender is just a pharmacist with a limited inventory.
I may be schizophrenic, but at least I have each other.
I am a Nobody. Nobody is Perfect. Therefore I am Perfect.
KENTUCKY: Five million people, Fifteen last names.
Dyslexics Have More Nuf.
In Memorium With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person, which almost went unnoticed last week. Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote "The Hokey Pokey", died peacefully at age 93. The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin. They put his left leg in. And then the trouble started.
Money isn't everything, but it sure keeps the kids in touch.
Reality is only an illusion that occurs due to a lack of alcohol.
Red meat is not bad for you Fuzzy green meat is bad for you.
I am having an out-of-money experience.
Don't sweat the petty things. Don't pet the sweaty things.
Corduroy pillows are making headlines!
I want to die in my sleep like my grandfather, not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car.
I LOVE COOKING WITH WINE Sometimes I even put it in the food.
Trump Doubles Down on Tweets 'If You're Not Happy Here, You Can Leave!'
At an event at the White House this morning, President Trump took questions from reporters about his recent remarks on Twitter that appeared to be targeted at some of the more vocal progressive Democrats. Trump doubled down on his tweets and said, "If you're not happy here, you can leave!"
Fires Mean War
by Shmuel Sackett
During this past week, over 100 different fires were started in Jewish communities near the Gaza border. Please read these 3 quotes – from 3 different media sources – on 3 different days – from last week: Fox News; "Balloon bombs launched from the Gaza Strip started 19 fires in southern Israel on Wednesday…" YNET; "On Thursday, 19 fires broke out on the Gaza border due to incendiary balloons sent from the Gaza Strip. Most of the fires broke out in the Sha'ar Ha'Negev and Eshkol regional councils…" Jewish Press; "Hamas terrorists started 14 fires in southern Israel on Friday with the launch of more incendiary balloons…"
Those quotes are from Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week when 52 fires were started! These are in addition to the hundreds of fires started each week for the last several months!! Can you imagine the pain and suffering of those poor Jews living there? Can you imagine the damage caused to fields, homes and daily lives to our brethren? Unfortunately, many people will ask; "Well, what are they doing there? Tell those Jews to move to Netanya or Ramat Bet Shemesh…" My answer to that question is very simple: You get rid of the people starting the fires, not the people suffering the damage!
What makes matters even worse, however, is that the fuel used to start these fires are sent through the State of Israel into Gaza! A little less than a year ago the United Nations worked out a one-sided truce where Israel allows the delivery of fuel into Gaza. The Gulf state, Qatar, pays for this fuel and it was meant to help the residents of Gaza with their electricity. Up until the one-sided truce, electricity was supplied to Gaza residents just 6 hours a day and now, there is electricity for 12 hours a day. The reason I keep writing "one-sided truce" is because the deal included a total ceasefire between the IDF and Hamas. Since the time of this deal, Israel has not shot one bullet into Gaza but Hamas has fired over 500 rockets and sent in close to 1,000 balloon bombs. Yes, the truce is "one-sided" and we keep allowing the transfer of this fuel into the Gaza Strip.
A recent interview on Israeli TV of the residents of the Jewish communities living in these areas was hard for me to watch. The people spoke of difficulty breathing, itchy eyes and scared children. Farmers literally cried as they spoke of watching their fields burn before their eyes. Firefighters said that they cannot keep up with the workload and that they are collapsing due to the conditions and extreme summer heat.
What do our Torah sources say about this? After all, these balloons are designed to cause property damage, not kill people, so what should our response be? The Talmud in Eruvin 45a is very clear; "In the case of an attack on a city close to the border of a Jewish area, even if they (the enemy) did not come over a matter of lives but only over a matter of straw and stubble – which are not worth much money – we may go out against them with our weapons and violate the Shabbat" (Translation and commentary by ArtScroll).
It must be noted that as an initial example, the Talmud states that "Babylon is like a city close by the border – and it may be defended on Shabbat even against a raid to seize money" because it is near the Jewish city of Nehardea. So, dearest friends, if the Talmud was worried about what would happen to the Jews of Nehardea, if the enemy seized property in Babylon, how much more must we be concerned about cities in Israel such as Beersheba and Ashklelon if the heroic Jews in Sha'ar Ha'Negev move away and abandon their homes and fields. Therefore, don't shame yourselves by asking "why don't they just move elsewhere?" Rather, we must help these Yidden in every way possible and the Israeli government must send in the holy IDF soldiers to permanently end the threat of terror to these communities.
Fox News is 100% right when they call these "balloon bombs" and therefore every one of them is an act of war. International law allows for a country to properly defend itself against an act of war and the Torah permits it as well, as we have seen above. The amazing and heroic Jews who live in these communities must know that the IDF will unleash all of its G-d given power against the enemy. We cannot and we will not tolerate these acts of terror.
Let's all pray that Hashem sends us people who will lead the State of Israel with these values. New elections are coming to Israel in mid-September and it is my hope that the Zehut party – whose position is to re-conquer Gaza and make it an integral part of the State of Israel – will be elected to the Knesset. I promise you that when that happens, we will do everything we can to make sure that Jews no longer live in fear. On the contrary! We will build, grow, and expand Eretz Yisrael and make it as easy as possible for every Jew in the world to come home. And one more thing… the only fires in the country will be the ones cooking delicious burgers and steaks on the grill! Jewish lives and Jewish property must never be in danger again!
Am Yisrael Chai!
The mosques of war By Victor Sharpe
July 1, 2019
"Islamic hatred for Jews and Christians alike dates from Mohammed, is expressed in many passages of the Koran and repeated daily in mosques in every corner of the world."
Of the three monotheistic religions, Judaism may be considered the mother faith and the other two, Christianity and Islam, her daughters.
The first daughter, Christianity, under the influence of the early church fathers, rejected the mother and distanced herself from Judaism, even to the extent of changing the Sabbath from the seventh day, Saturday, to Sunday and renaming it the Lord's Day. Seventh-Day Adventists still retain Saturday as the Sabbath.
The youngest daughter, Islam, under Muhammad, turned on both the Jewish and Christian tribes of Arabia, who declined to accept Muhammad claim that he ushered in God's final revelation.
After Rome embraced Christianity under Constantine, the Church fathers increasingly used temporal powers to discriminate against the Jews and proscribe the practice of their faith. For Jews this tragically led to the horrors of the Crusades, the Catholic inquisition, forced conversions, pogroms, and ultimately, the Holocaust.
Islam's followers barely tolerated those they called the "People of the Book," the Jews and Christians, whose faith was based on the Bible. But Islam, too, practiced forced conversions, pogroms, massacres, and the discrimination of Jews and Christians through the practice of dhimmitude, whereby the "infidels" were forced into second-class status and forced to pay a tax, the jizzya, as a penalty for remaining outside Islam while under Muslim occupation.
Like Christendom, Islam often forced the Jews to live in ghettos. These were called, mellahs. Islamic authorities were the first to coerce Jews into wearing distinctive and often humiliating clothing, preceding the German Nazis by centuries. The Nazis and their European allies forced the Jews into wearing a yellow Star of David, thus marking them for death.
But history is replete with accounts of both daughter religions fighting each other for centuries over territory and religious domination. When not slaughtering each other, they often turned upon the hapless and stateless Jews, who, for the most part, had no allies and were unable to defend themselves.
The mother has ample reason to weep at the ferocious degradation and scorn her daughters have heaped upon her with such violence and ingratitude. But many Christians – not all – have come to the realization that Biblical Jewish roots are inextricable from their own and that their faith is fatefully incomplete without an acknowledgment of those roots. That is why many Christians now call the Jewish faith their elder brother.
Islam, too, should be immensely indebted to Judaism. According to Abraham I. Katsh, author of Judaism and the Koran,
... like the Jew, the Moslem affirms the unity of God, that He is one, eternal, merciful, compassionate, beneficent, almighty, all-knowing, just, loving and forgiving.
Like Judaism, Islam does not recognize saints serving as mediators between the individual and his Creator and both faiths believe that each individual is to follow a righteous path and secure atonement by improving his or her conduct and by practicing sincere repentance.
But there is another essential and integral part of Islam not shared with Judaism: Jihad. Here we see that ideology becomes supreme, which is why Winston Churchill famously described Islam as, "an ideology wrapped in a religion.
As Katsh points out in his book, originally written as far back as 1954,
...the duty of Jihad, the waging of Holy War, has been raised to the dignity of a sixth canonical obligation, especially by the descendants of the Kharijites. [...]
To the Muslim, the world is divided into regions under Islamic control, the dar al-Islam, (the House of Islam) and regions not subjected as yet, the dar al-harb (the House of War).
Between this 'area of warfare' and the Muslim dominated part of the world there can be no peace. Practical considerations may induce the Muslim leaders to conclude an armistice, but the obligation to conquer and, if possible, convert non-Muslims never lapses. Nor can territory once under Muslim rule be lawfully yielded to the unbeliever. Islamic legal theory has gone so far as to define dar al-Islam as any area where at least one Muslim custom is still observed.
Thanks to this concept, the Muslim is required to subdue the infidel, and he who dies in the path of Allah is considered a martyr and assured of Paradise and of unique privileges there.
Here one can understand clearly that peace – true and lasting peace – between Islam and nations that adhere still to Judeo-Christian civilization, or to Hinduism, Buddhism, or all other faiths, is a forlorn and baseless hope.
The "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, for example, is thus a grand illusion, endlessly fostered by Western politicians and diplomats, along with some self-deluded Israeli leaders, who refuse to see a doleful reality that has existed since Islam's creation in the 7th century. In short, there will never be peace so long as Islam controls the minds and hearts of its adherents.
And it is in one abiding respect that this endless spiritual and temporal conflict is seen in its most practical and historical context – the conversion of places of non-Muslim worship into mosques.
The result has been that since the time of Muhammad, synagogues, churches, Hindu and Buddhist temples, Zoroastrian temples, along with pagan shrines have all been violently converted into mosques.
After the conquest of Mecca in the year 630, Muhammad transformed the Black Stone in the Ka'aba, where early pagan Arabs had worshiped, into the paramount Islamic holy place. It became known as the Masjid al-Haram, or Sacred Mosque.
During the Arab invasions of neighboring lands in the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond, under the new banner of Islam, numerous synagogues and churches were converted into mosques. In Damascus, Syria, the church of St. John is now known as the Umayyad Mosque. Also in Syria, the mosque of Job was originally a church.
The Islamic tide swept into Egypt, and many Christian Coptic churches were converted into mosques. From North Africa, the conquests continued into Spain and Portugal, where again churches were converted into mosques. Interestingly, many churches had been built upon the sites of earlier Roman temples. But during the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula by Christian armies – the Reconquista – these same mosques were reconverted back into churches.
In Gaza, the Great Mosque of Gaza was originally a Christian church. In Turkey, the Hagia Sophia Church was converted in 1453 into a mosque and remained so until 1935, when it became a museum. Under Turkey's Recip Tayit Erdogan, he and his Islamist party are calling for it to once again become a mosque. Indeed, the Ottoman Turks converted into mosques practically all churches and monasteries in the territories they conquered.
The most well-known mosques are the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, built upon the site of the two Biblical Jewish Temples.
There are four holy cities of Judaism: Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed, and Tiberias. Hebron is the second-holiest city, and in it is the burial place of the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs, known as the Cave of Machpela, where Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah are buried.
Herod the Great constructed an enclosure for the burial site. During the later Christian Byzantine period, a church was built upon the site, but this was destroyed in 614 by the Persians. Later, the Arab-Muslim invaders built a mosque in its place.
Jews were not permitted to worship at their ancient holy place by the Muslim Arabs. They could only ascend to the seventh step leading to the tombs. Indeed, they were refused this right as a place of worship from the 7th century until 1967, when Israel liberated the ancient Jewish territory from the Jordanian Muslim occupiers. Before the Israeli liberation, a horrifying massacre of Jewish residents in Hebron had been perpetrated by their Muslim neighbors in 1929. This was while Hebron was under the British Mandate of the geographical territory known as Palestine.
Prior to the present-day Palestinian Authority foolishly given control of the city of Nablus, it was the ancient Biblical Jewish city of Shechem in which is the Tomb of the Biblical figure, Joseph, and a place of Jewish pilgrimage. When it was handed over to the PA, as one of the seemingly endless Israeli concessions in the futile hope for peace, the tomb was immediately desecrated by a Muslim mob, which proceeded to convert it into a mosque.
On the Indian subcontinent, Hindu temples were similarly converted into mosques. In so many other parts of the world, considerable hostility – often barely concealed – exists by Muslims towards members of other faiths or those of no faith.
Mosques now occupy vast numbers of places of previous worship by other faiths. In Algeria, the Great Synagogue of Oran is now a mosque after the Jewish population was driven from Algeria. Many other synagogues throughout the Arab world are now mosques after some 850,000 Jews were driven out in 1948 and shortly thereafter.
Islamic hatred for Jews and Christians alike dates from Mohammed and is expressed in many passages of the Koran and repeated daily in mosques in every corner of the world.
In the 1974 invasion of Cyprus by Turkey, many Greek Orthodox churches in northern Cyprus were converted into mosques. Cyprus remains divided with the northern half still illegally occupied by Turkey.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar (pronounced gutter) invest endless billions of petro-dollars to build mosques throughout the world. The international blanketing of cities with mosques is just another expression of jihad. In western Europe, most famously renamed Eurabia by the writer, Bat Yeor, there may soon come a time when there will be more minarets than steeples.
Perhaps the most egregious and blatant example of Islamic triumphalism was the planned construction of a giant mosque in New York City, almost upon the very site where the horrific destruction of the Twin Towers by Muslim terrorists acting in the name of Allah occured.
The proposed mosque was to be opened in 2011 on the very anniversary of the September 11, 2001 atrocity – a flagrant insult to the memory of the thousands of innocents who died at the hands of Muslim fanatics and a grisly paean to a belief in Islamic supremacy.
But this, after all, is what jihad is all about. Subdue the "infidel" at all costs. For Muslims, the Islamic obligation to conquer and convert the unbeliever must never lapse. Its tangible manifestation can be characterized as the "Mosques of War."
Moe Berg became a major league ball player and a major league spy.
He was a Renaissance man, a combination of brain and brawn, the ultimate Jewish athlete. For 15 years in the 1920s-1930s, Morris ("Moe") Berg played for five major league teams: the Brooklyn Robins (later the Dodgers), Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Washington Senators, and the Boston Red Sox.
Yet he notched his most memorable plays not on the baseball diamond but in the high-stakes arena of intelligence gathering, both before and during World War II.
Handsome, brilliant, and daring, Berg was such a riveting and colorful figure that, as one commentator noted in the new documentary "The Spy Behind Home Plate," directed by Aviva Kempner, if Moe Berg hadn't existed, someone would have had to make him up.
Born in 1902 in New York to Bernard and Rose Berg, Moe grew up in an apartment above his father's pharmacy in Newark, New Jersey. Going undercover even in childhood, Berg used an alias to join a boys' baseball team at a local church, an act that infuriated his father, who considered baseball "nareishkeit" – foolishness. Bernard Berg, who had shoveled coal on a ship to pay his fare to America and who ran a laundry by day while studying pharmacy at night, couldn't abide the thought that his son would throw away better career opportunities in America. He never attended a single game his son played, even in the major leagues.
Kempner also directed "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg," and jumped at the chance to make a film about this underrecognized Jewish hero. Businessman William Levine had suggested she make the film and offered to support the effort.
"The Spy Behind Home Plate" includes 18 archival interviews conducted from 1987 to 1991 by filmmakers Jerry Feldman and Neil Goldstein, whose film about Moe Berg was never completed. Interviewees include Moe's brother, Dr. Sam Berg; fellow players including Dom DiMaggio, fellow members of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and prominent biographers and sports writers.
Moe flouted expectations for what Jewish boys could achieve in the early years of the 20th century. He gained acceptance at Princeton University, which admitted very few Jews at the time, and played shortstop for their baseball team. He was invited to join one of the university's prestigious eating clubs, but when he was told he couldn't recruit other Jews to the club, he refused the invitation.
Sanskrit, Sorbonne, and Spying
He graduated Magna Cum Laude in languages (he eventually learned ten of them), and despite a mediocre batting average, Berg was still signed by the Brooklyn Robins – the Empire State's sizeable Jewish population assured his popularity. During the offseason, Moe loved to travel. In Paris, he studied Sanskrit at the Sorbonne, and, based on letters and photographs, also enjoyed an active nightlife in restaurants and clubs.
Berg also earned a law degree from Columbia, sometimes ditching baseball practice to attend class, but his law career was extremely short-lived. While playing catcher for the Chicago White Sox, he had a cartilage tear, a catastrophic injury at the time. He ran very slowly, but he could still hit.
A turning point in Berg's life came in 1934 when the U.S. sent an A-list line-up of ballplayers to play in Japan. Tensions were already high between the two countries, and the trip was meant as a goodwill gesture. The team included Lou Gehrig, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmy Fox, Babe Ruth, and Earl Averill. Moe Berg was a last-minute replacement for catcher Rick Ferrell. Berg not only spoke fluent Japanese but had also recently completed 117 consecutive games without an error.
Was Berg already involved in covert operations for the U.S.? Nobody knows for sure, but it is curious that Berg had a letter in hand from Secretary of State Cordell Hull asking that Japan give Berg "diplomatic courtesies" while in the country. During the trip, Berg also gave a radio address in Japanese, offering the hope that this trip would bring the two nations closer together.
Despite the highly militarized atmosphere and ubiquitous "no photography" signs, Berg took pictures everywhere with his state-of-the-art Bell & Howell camera. In Tokyo, this big, swarthy American Jew walked the streets with his hair parted in the middle and wearing a kimono and slippers. He arrived at St. Luke's Hospital with flowers, asking to visit the daughter of the American ambassador, who had just given birth. Inside the hospital, Berg dumped the flowers and climbed the stairs to the rooftop, taking photographs of the city's skyline in every direction.
When World War II broke out, Berg knew that FDR could not keep the U.S. out of the war. Berg had spent time in Berlin as well as Tokyo and had observed the militaristic and nationalistic tone in both countries. He knew that fascism could not be allowed to win out.
The U.S. was woefully behind Germany in intelligence gathering capabilities. This failure had catastrophic consequences, as proven by the attack on Pearl Harbor. Based on Berg's voracious reading of books and international newspapers, as well as his own travels, he wrote a memo outlining what he felt would be essential in an American intelligence gathering agency and sent it to Bill Donovan, who became the first director of the OSS.
Berg served the OSS throughout the war, and his stealth photographs of the Tokyo skyline taken years earlier proved invaluable. Like all other OSS operatives, Berg had to be tested for loyalty, emotional stability, and intelligence before being sent abroad. Agents had to know how to blend in and not appear American, even by their dining habits. They also had to know how to pick locks, handle explosives, put a charge on a railroad track and be prepared to kill.
Berg's most remarkable achievements including tracking down Italian scientist Antonio Ferri, who was reputed to know everything that Germany was doing to prepare to make a nuclear bomb. Wanted by the Germans, Ferri buried a suitcase filled with secret information and then went into hiding in the mountains, behind German lines, and joined the resistance. Moe Berg found him before the Germans could and arranged for his rapid immigration to the U.S.
"I see that Moe is still catching very well," President Roosevelt said upon hearing the news.
A loaded pistol and a cyanide pill in his pocket
Berg was also sent to Zurich to attend a lecture by renowned German scientist Werner Heisenberg. This had to have been one of the most dangerous jobs anyone – particularly a Jew – could undertake. Wearing American-made shoes designed to copy German styles, but which were too tight and too narrow, Berg attended the lecture carrying both a loaded pistol and cyanide tablet. If Berg had understood Heisenberg to report that Germany was nearing completion of work on a nuclear bomb, he would have shot him and swallowed the cyanide. Berg couldn't fully understand the complex German lecture, but his reading of the room led him to believe Germany wasn't ready to detonate a nuclear bomb.
Berg even walked Heisenberg back to his hotel, where the scientist admitted that Germany was sure to lose the war. Among his other exploits were going into South America, ostensibly to give away baseball gear, but really to look for signs of Nazi infiltration. Some claim that Berg also parachuted into Yugoslavia and met with partisan leader Tito during the war, but Kempner said no hard evidence exists. "Unfortunately, this story is featured in several museums and exhibits," she said.
Berg remained in Europe after the war, recruiting additional European scientists to come and work in America. He once had tea with Albert Einstein, who said, "Mr. Berg, if you teach me baseball, I will teach you the theory of relativity. Ach, never mind. I'm sure you'll learn the theory of relativity faster than I'll learn baseball."
In his later years, Moe Berg became a familiar presence in the press boxes of major league baseball games, never losing his love of the sport. Reportedly, his last words to his nurse before he died at 70 were, "How did the Mets do today?"