Breaking news: Not until July 2021, individual tourists will be able to enter Israel subject to several criteria and Lag BaOmer (33rd day of counting the Omer) for Hebrew Year 5781 begins at sundown on Thursday, 29 April 2021 (tonight) and ends at nightfall on Friday, 30 April 2021 and A Public Apology To The Chief Rabbi Of Berlin By Rabbi Moshe David Lichtman and The Time Has Come for Anti-Lockdown Amendments by Ethan Yang and The Szyk-Bergson Connection By Saul Jay Singer and Play Ball! By Irwin Cohen -
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.
According to kabbalistic tradition, this day marks the hillula (celebration, interpreted by some as anniversary of the death) of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, "the Rashbi", a Mishnaic sage and leading disciple of Rabbi Akiva in the 2nd century, and the day on which he revealed the deepest secrets of kabbalah in the form of the Zohar (Book of Splendor, literally 'radiance'), a landmark text of Jewish mysticism. This association has spawned several well-known customs and practices on Lag BaOmer, including the lighting of bonfires, pilgrimages to the tomb of Bar Yochai in the northern Israeli town of Meron, and various customs at the tomb itself.
Another tradition that makes Lag BaOmer a day of Jewish celebration identifies it as the day on which the plague that killed Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 disciples came to an end, and for this reason the mourning period of Sefirat HaOmer concludes on Lag BaOmer for some believers.
Lag BaOmer is Hebrew for "33rd [day] in the Omer". (The Hebrew letter ל (lamed) or "L" has the numerical value of 30 and ג (gimmel) or "G" has the numerical value of 3. A vowel sound is conventionally added for pronunciation purposes.)
Some Jews call this holiday Lag LaOmer, which means "33rd [day] of the Omer", as opposed to Lag BaOmer, "33rd [day] in the Omer". Lag BaOmer is the traditional method of counting by some Ashkenazi and Hasidic Jews; Lag LaOmer is the count used by Sephardi Jews. Lag LaOmer is also the name used by Yosef Karo, who was a Sepharadi, in his Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 493:2, and cf. 489:1 where BaOmer is inserted by a glossator). (The form Lag B'Omer ["33rd day of an Omer"] is also sometimes used, though it is not grammatically correct in this setting.) The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, writes in his Likkutei Sichos that a deeper reason for the term Lag BaOmer is that the Hebrew words Lag BaOmer (ל״ג בעמר, spelled without the "vav"), have the same gematria as Moshe (משה, Moses). He writes that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, whose yahrzeit is traditionally observed on this day, was mystically a spark of the soul of Moses.
Breaking news: Not until July 2021, individual tourists will be able to enter Israel subject to several criteria
COVID-19 UPDATE-WHEN WILL TRAVEL TO ISRAEL RESUME?
The Israel travel industry experienced a record-breaking year in 2019. An astounding 4.55 million tourists flocked to the Holy Land to experience some of the world's most important sites. The tourism industry was equally optimistic about projections for 2020. However, the coronavirus pandemic brought international travel to a halt. Now industry workers and travel lovers are left wondering: when will Israel travel open? We've got your back with updates and inspiration to dream up adventures to come!
CAN TOURISTS VISIT ISRAEL NOW?
As of April 29, 2021, travel to Israel for tourists is still paused, however, plans to re-open the country for visitors have been announced. Thanks to Israel's high vaccination rate, life in the country has returned to a situation that is close to normal.
The current expected timeline for Israel's reopening to tourists is as follows:
Currently, tourists cannot enter Israel unless they are coming to visit a first-degree relative. Meanwhile, most hotels in Israel have mostly re-opened
From May 2021, a limited number of closed and pre-arranged tourist groups will be able to enter Israel
From July 2021, individual tourists will be able to enter Israel subject to several criteria (read on for more). Most Israel package tours and regular tours will resume. This is the date we have all been waiting for!
The information above is of course, subject to change.
WHO CAN VISIT? DO I NEED A VACCINE OR COVID-19 TEST TO VISIT ISRAEL?
Whilst the situation is still dynamic and subject to change, the current plan is that when Israel opens to tourists, there will be the following requirements:
A negative corona test taken before the flight
A vaccine certificate
Upon arrival in Israel at Ben Gurion Airport, visitors will be required to undergo a serological test.
It is still unclear whether a serological test will be offered free of charge or for a small fee. And how long the results will take to be provided. We will continue to update.
Due to the more complex nature of the airport experience during these times, using vip fast-track airport service can make the airport experience hassle-free and more comfortable.
IS THERE A RESTRICTION ON WHERE I CAN VISIT ISRAEL FROM?
COVID-19 Update-When Will Travel to Israel Resume?
It's expected that Israel will initially open to visitors from countries whose governments sign reciprocal agreements allowing Israelis to visit. This list is constantly developing, however is expected to include Greece, Cyprus, the UAE, Croatia, Italy, the USA, UK, with more constantly in talks.
FLIGHTS TO ISRAEL- WHO'S FLYING TO TEL AVIV?
As of April 2021 flights to Israel have resumed, with around 50 flights a day from destinations around the world. More flights are expected to begin during the coming weeks, and most airlines are expected to re-start their flights to Tel Aviv by the summer of 2021.
GOT WANDERLUST? GET INSPIRATION!
COVID-19 Update-When Will Travel to Israel Resume?
Many of us are experiencing restricted movement for the first time, and the wanderlust blues are real. Travel is symbolic of our freedom and joie de vivre. Not being able to jump on a plane or cross a border is a sobering reminder of how our reality has been impacted. One thing is certain: when travel does resume, it will taste that much sweeter and we won't take a moment for granted. As we wait with eager anticipation, fill yourself with some inspiration with our bucket-list of adventures to come!
IN ISRAEL? PLAN A STAYCATION
COVID-19 Update-When Will Travel to Israel Resume?
If you're in Israel at the moment, now is the perfect time to plan a staycation! Restrictions are slowly lifting and the country is buzzing with its vibrant energy once again. Masada National Park has re-opened, and we know that your legs are begging for a hike! Check the official government guidelines for updated information here. Then read up on the best restaurants in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the best beaches in Israel, the best national parks in Israel, the best luxury hotels in Israel, as well as spas and activities to make sure you're ready to go on the green light. Whether you're physically in Israel, or just at heart: get ready to fall in love with the Holy Land all over again.
The Three Musketeers at the Kotel
Play Ball! By Irwin Cohen
The 2021 baseball season is upon us, and Opening Day means all teams and their fans start off with hope and high expectations. In my hometown Detroit, this Opening Day will be an occasion for both celebration and mourning as "Mr. Tiger," Al Kaline – who played for the Tigers from 1953 to 1973 – died during the first week of last season.
Several generations of fans knew him. Those who never saw him play missed a five-tool player. He could hit for average, hit for power, run, and throw and field better than most right fielders. He went on to be a television commentator for the Tigers and eased into a front office position, spending close to eight decades with the Tigers organization.
Tigers fans don't have much to root for this season as the team is filled with too many below-average players. As the season wears on, attention will be focused on overpaid first baseman Miguel Cabrera who started the season 134 hits shy of 3,000 career hits and 13 home runs away from 500 career home runs.
The New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays have interesting teams and were pretty equal in last year's shortened season. The Yanks had a 33-27 record while the Jays went 32-28. Both teams were behind Tampa Bay, which led the American League with 40 victories. Tampa Bay did it with good young players that most fans never heard of and is the team to beat again this season.
The Yankees feature well-known slugging outfielders Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. And infielders Luke Voit, who led both leagues last year with 22 home runs, and T.J. LeMahieu, who led both leagues with a .364 batting average, make up part of a hefty lineup for the Bronx Bombers.
Gone are the days of the big games between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox as the BoSox are more in a rebuilding phase and have their best pitcher, Chris Sale, out for the season because of surgery. I'm rooting for Boston because of General Manager Chaim Bloom. A proud Jew who graduated from a Jewish day school, Chaim keeps a kosher home with two sets of dishes and is giving his children a Jewish education.
This will be the last season we'll see Cleveland Indians uniforms as management will phase out the name of the team because of political correctness. I've heard many possible replacement names and don't like any of them. I like my idea best – no, not the Cleveland Cohens, but the Cleveland Cougars.
Cleveland, now minus great shortstop Francisco Lindor who was traded to the Mets, are still a good team, but might be replaced by the Chicago White Sox as the best team in its division.
The new White Sox manager is old Tony LaRussa. Now 76 years old, LaRussa managed the White Sox when I was on the baseball beat as the head of a baseball monthly in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. LaRussa, who had a couple of episodes with alcohol since then, is still a great baseball mind and has a young talented team under him.
The ChiSox have finally caught up to the Cubs in talent and last year won 35 games while the Cubs won 34. The Sox have more good young players than the Cubs and one player under the radar is shortstop Tim Anderson, who had a .331 batting average over the past two seasons.
While the battle for Chicago will heat up, it will pale in comparison to the battle for New York. The Mets now have an owner in Steve Cohen willing to shell out big bucks for good players and have popular, star shortstop, Francisco Lindor.
No doubt that the best team in baseball is the Los Angeles Dodgers who won 43 games last season, best in both leagues. This year the Dodgers padded their great pitching staff with Trevor Bauer, who posted a league leading low ERA of 1.73 with the Cincinnati Reds in 2020.
The player I'll be following the closest this season will be Baltimore Orioles right fielder Trey Mancini. Now 29, Mancini missed the 2020 season because of colon cancer surgery, but in 2019 he reached superstar status as he hit .291 with 35 home runs.
Let's hope he can better those numbers this season. Even if he does, though, it's still a good bet that the Orioles will be one of the five worst teams in the major leagues this year.
Last month, The Jewish Press published an interview under the title "The Charedi Rabbi Who Changed His Mind on Zionism." It was about Rabbi Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal and the fascinating sefer he wrote in the middle of the Holocaust – Eim HaBanim Semeichah – urging every Jew to move to Eretz Yisrael to hasten the redemption.
I'm the person who was interviewed (I translated Eim HaBanim Semeichah in 2000) and I would like to publicly retract and apologize for a statement I made. In the interview, the following paragraph appears:
"As an interesting side note, one of Rav Teichtal's great-grandsons, a Chabad chassid, is the chief rabbi of Berlin, actively engaged in revitalizing the Jewish community of Germany. I can't help but wonder if he has ever studied his great-grandfather's book."
A little background on why I made this remark:
In 2003, I saw an article in Newsweek entitled "Return of the Jews." The subtitle read, "A flowering of Jewish life may be Germany's 'second chance' to atone for the horrors of its Nazi past." The article went on to describe how thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union were settling in Germany and rebuilding Jewish life there. It even mentioned how the previous year saw more Jews immigrating to Germany than to Israel.
As a staunch religious Zionist, and the translator of Eim HaBanim Semeichah, my blood began to boil. Did G-d grant us the privilege of rebuilding our homeland just to see Jews reject it and try to rebuild the place that was responsible for the death of six million of our brethren?
The article's climax came at the very end: "'What better revenge against Hitler than when we take 100 happy Jewish children from summer camp and walk them through the old streets of Berlin?' says Rabbi Yehudi Teichtal, director of Chabad Lubavitch Berlin."
Could it be, I said to myself, that a descendant of Rav Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal was doing exactly what he warned against? Rav Teichtal foresaw that some Jews would "make peace" with the galut after the Holocaust and try to rebuild their communities. He therefore implored his readers to learn the lesson of the Holocaust, leave the exile, and come home to Eretz Yisrael to hasten the redemption. According to him (and me), the greatest revenge against Hitler is for Jews to move to Eretz Yisrael and return the crown to its former glory.
I didn't bother contacting Rabbi Yehudah and asking for his side of the story. It was clear to me from that one quote in the Newsweek article that he didn't get his great-grandfather's message. Over the next 15 years, here and there, I heard about R. Teichtal's activities in Berlin and these reports just strengthened my conviction.
Fast-forward to a few weeks ago. A day or two after the interview with me appeared in The Jewish Press, I received a phone call from none other than the chief rabbi of Berlin, R. Yehudah Teichtal. He could have – rightfully – chastised me for implying that he didn't read Eim HaBanim Semeichah and for besmirching his good name. But he didn't. With an overabundance of menchlechkeit, he praised my work, gave me much more kavod than I deserve, and calmly explained the truth.
Rabbi Teichtal was sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to be his shliach in Germany, to be mekareiv the thousands of Jews who have moved there from the former Soviet Union, to teach them the basics of Yiddishkeit and, yes, eventually (if appropriate) to send them back home.
He assured me that his goal is certainly not to rebuild Jewry on the blood-stained soil of Germany, but what can he do? There are large numbers of Jews living there and someone has to try to bring them back to the fold. He also told me that he learns and teaches his great-grandfather's works – including Eim HaBanim Semeichah – to the Jews of his community. In fact, he is working on an abridged German edition of the book.
Therefore, I want to apologize profusely, and publicly, to R. Yehudah Teichtal for not judging him favorably and for spreading mistruths about him. I hope that he will forgive me, and I hope that this incident will serve as a lesson to others not to jump to conclusions and to always give others the benefit of the doubt. In that way, hopefully, Hashem will redeem us speedily and bring us all back to the place we belong, Eretz Yisrael.
The most beautiful thing about a constitution is that it establishes boundaries for those wielding power to abide by. A constitution is what establishes some semblance of legitimacy because, without guaranteed limits on power, what are politicians but egotistical thugs? Even if such powers are democratically granted, without limits on the powers of the majority it is essentially mob rule.
The text of the US Constitution lists a number of important guidelines on power and many of the later additions, or amendments, were added in response to the grievances the authors had at the time. The document itself was made with the assumption that we are endowed by virtue of our humanity with certain inalienable rights that are inherent to our humanity, amongst them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, albeit it only lists a select few of those rights. The written Constitution expresses the immediate concerns of the people who wrote it. The Declaration of Independence with its long list of grievances against the King of England inspired the restrictions on government power outlined in the US Constitution.
The text of the US Constitution and by extension state constitutions, although bulwarks against tyranny, are reactive documents that require constant updating as new problems arise. For example, the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868 after the Civil War and prevented individual states from infringing on the privileges and immunities of individual citizens granted by the US government. This was primarily made to ensure that Black Americans were treated as full and equal citizens by every state, not just the anti-slavery ones.
If you have paid attention at all to how governments have acted during the age of Covid-19 and lockdowns you should be able to guess where I am going with this. The time has come for a movement across the nation to demand constitutional restrictions on the powers that have enabled governors across the country to unleash so much havoc on society.
The Context for Anti-Lockdown Amendments
Under lockdowns, we have seen some of the most arbitrary, offensive, and ignorant exercises of power that have not only wrecked the economy but stained the notion of a free society and undermined the rule of law.
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch writes in a court opinion regarding New York Governor Cuomo's restrictions on church gatherings when he notes,
"At the same time, the Governor has chosen to impose no capacity restrictions on certain businesses he considers "essential." And it turns out the businesses the Governor considers essential include hardware stores, acupuncturists, and liquor stores. Bicycle repair shops, certain signage companies, accountants, lawyers, and insurance agents are all essential too. So, at least according to the Governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike, or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians. Who knew public health would so perfectly align with secular convenience?"
In Michigan, it was reported by Forbes that the governor imposed a ban on selling gardening equipment. The stores could remain open, they just had to rope off the sections to prevent access to things like seeds and rakes. It goes without saying that these are silly examples of what governors have done with their emergency powers and the lockdowns they unleashed.
Two weeks to flatten the curve turned into one year and a nation undone. Lives and dreams have been crushed under the boot of lockdowns, which have proven to have done little to stop the virus. According to a Yelp survey, 60 percent of polled businesses will never reopen. For young people, suicides skyrocketed and surpassed Covid-related deaths. With much of the country beginning to open up and shattering the predictions of impending Covid doomsday sayers, the time has come to enact structural change to ensure this never happens again.
What Would Anti-Lockdown Amendments Look Like?
If you were wondering how governors across the country could issue draconian policies such as stay at home orders, "nonessential" business closures, and mask mandates that seemingly violate everything in the Constitution it's because of emergency powers. Emergency powers, generally speaking, give the government the power to violate individual rights and ignore certain procedural hurdles to respond to crisis situations. They are such an important but dangerous tool that we have now personally witnessed how flawed our constitutional framework is in regulating their use.
The Maine Policy Institute has created an interactive scorecard detailing the rules governing the use of emergency powers in states across the country. Ideally, such powers should have a clear and robust framework for their use. An ideal framework should require legislative approval and not merely allow the governor to declare a state of emergency at will. The timeline to do so should have reasonable deadlines and limits on how much a governor can do given the context of the emergency. States of emergency should be brief and require ongoing legislative approval to continue with mandatory deadlines for their cancellation in the absence of legislative approval. There should also be clear restrictions on the use of these powers depending on what can be justified and efficient avenues for challenges to be brought. Sadly most states have inadequate constitutional frameworks for the use of emergency powers, which is exactly why we are where we are.
According to the Maine Policy Institute,
"Vermont, Washington, Ohio and Hawaii are among the worst-ranking states because they bestow on their governors the sole authority to determine when and where an emergency exists, and when an emergency ceases to exist. Nearly one-in-four states have this arrangement."
Nick Murray from the Maine Policy Institute writes in the Maine Wire that,
"At the time most of these state laws were constructed, few could have predicted they would be used to micromanage every interaction within society in the face of a pandemic. Indeed, most of these laws were established to help states respond to a natural disaster or terrorist attack, not a public-health matter like COVID-19."
He also references a report from the Pacific Legal Foundation that recommends that executive orders should be required to be narrowly tailored and legal challenges to those orders should receive an expedited judicial review. Such a reform would be essential in preventing governors from arbitrarily closing businesses and imposing odd restrictions on society without rigorous scientific backing. The expedited judicial review will allow citizens to get their day in court in a timely manner to challenge such orders if they feel they have been wronged.
The summary of recommendations in the report are as follows:
Require emergency orders to be narrowly tailored.
Subject emergency orders to expedited judicial review.
Only governors may issue a statewide emergency order that infringes on constitutional rights. (Pertaining to unelected public health officials issuing orders rather than elected officials)
Sunset emergency orders in seven days if the legislature is not in session or called into session.
Sunset emergency orders in 30 days if the legislature does not ratify the order.
Allow remote participation for legislators to debate and vote on emergency orders.
Prohibit governors from reissuing emergency orders that expired or the legislature rejected.
All of these reforms would make the use of emergency powers less arbitrary and prevent unhinged exercises of authority.
Fortunately, Murray notes,
"At least 16 states (Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington) have pending legislation to reform emergency executive power. Elected officials in other states, including New York, North Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia have signaled that they will submit legislation on the issue. And lawmakers in Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio are actively debating bills that deal directly with their governor's existing COVID-19-related orders."
The use of emergency powers along with the alarming ease at which they can be accessed and maintained is a problem that extends far beyond Covid-19. In their current state, they are like exposed gunpowder just waiting for a loose spark to ignite disaster.
The Founders crafted the Constitution in direct response to the injustices they faced under the King of England. Throughout the life of our republic, numerous amendments were introduced in response to pressing issues that exposed shortcomings in the framework of our government that exists to protect our freedom.
Regardless of your stance on lockdowns, they have shown us all the glaring threat to our democracy that exists in the absence of adequate constitutional restrictions on emergency powers. Covid-19 exposed what governors could do in the absence of strong reforms. Without swift and deliberate action there will be another episode of drunken power grabs under the guise of a different threat in the not-too-distant future. The time is now for universal sobriety on this matter and for freedom-loving citizens across the country to rise up and say: never again.
Ethan joined AIER in 2020 as an Editorial Assistant and is a graduate of Trinity College. He received a BA in Political Science alongside a minor in Legal Studies and Formal Organizations.
Arthur Szyk (1894-1951) was an extraordinarily meticulous craftsman, a biting political activist, an unapologetic propagandist, a skilled cartoonist, a painstaking caricaturist, and a successful commercial artist and book illustrator.
A "soldier with a paintbrush," he is perhaps best known for (a) his political caricatures during World War II when, as America's most prominent anti-fascist artist, he savaged Nazi leaders and the leading personalities of the Axis powers; and (b) for his beautiful and dramatic artistic work in support of the new State of Israel.
Szyk's sui generiswork is notable for its rejection of contemporary avant gardeartistic styles in favor of medieval painting, particularly as expressed in illuminated renaissance manuscripts. Noted for their refined draftsmanship and decorative calligraphy, his illustrations and caricature work are celebrated for their rich diversity of brilliant and wondrous color, which exhibit the luminosity of medieval Gothic stained-glass windows; for their meticulous attention to the most minute detail; for their beautifully decorative Hebrew lettering; and for their keen fidelity to Jewish tradition and legend.
Szyk was born into a prosperous middle-class Jewish family in Łódź, in Russian-occupied Poland. Though he and his family were "cultural Jews" who never observed or practiced in the Orthodox tradition, he was steeped in Jewish values; he manifested a lifelong interest in depicting biblical personalities and Torah scenes; and his art was marked by an urgent, heartfelt, and unabashed Jewishness rare for Jewish artists at the time.
In early 1914, he visited Eretz Yisrael for the first time with a group of other Polish-Jewish artists and, observing Jewish settlers working the land, became enamored with the dream of a future Jewish state and became a life-long Zionist. His devotion to Jews and Jewish causes was further amplified in the aftermath of World War I when he traveled to Ukraine and witnessed pogroms and the devastation of centuries-old Jewish communities, and he later became a close friend of Jabotinsky (he illustrated Jabotinsky's novel, Samson the Nazirite) and an ardent supporter of the Revisionist Zionists.
Szyk maintained a lifelong love for Poland, the land of his birth; for America, his adopted country of freedom and democracy; and for Israel, the land of his people – and he was honored by all three countries. His American art, which included a portrait of George Washington and an incredibly complex illuminated "Declaration of Independence," reflected his deep belief in America as a beacon of good in the world.
Szyk declared himself "a Jew praying in art," and his profound dedication to Zionism and Israel underscores much of his work, including his highly-decorated Declaration of Independence for the State of Israel (1948), designs for Israel's first stamps; and labels, advertisements, and other fundraising efforts on behalf of Israel and needy Jews around the world.
However, his humanitarianism extended to virtually anyone in need, as he raised money for the Chinese, the Czechs, displaced Poles, and the soldiers of the Commonwealth of Australia and New Zealand, among others. Later, after World War II, he became one of the first artists to criticize black segregation in the American armed forces, and he used his art to draw attention to governmental and societal racism against blacks and Native Americans.
As a result, he was investigated and questioned by the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee about his membership in human rights organizations and his alleged Communist associations.
Szyk's fusion of politics and art perhaps attained its zenith with his controversial illuminated Haggadah (executed 1932-36, published 1940), broadly acclaimed as among the most beautiful books ever produced. Seeking to draw worldwide attention to Jewish suffering in the Holocaust, he brilliantly meshed the ancient exodus story with virulent caricatures of the Nazis, including Egyptian taskmasters wearing swastika armbands and Pharaoh's snakes rendered as Goebbels and Goering.
However, European publishers refused to publish it, fearing German retribution. It did not see the light of day for many years until Beaconsfield Press, a newly formed British publisher, agreed to publish it – but only on condition that Szyk remove essentially all its anti-Nazi content. Sadly, in the final product, the only remaining anti-Nazi illustration is a depiction of the "Wicked Son" wearing distinctive German clothing and sporting an unambiguous Hitler-style mustache (see exhibit).
After the Nazis conquered Poland in September 1939, Szyk, then in London, commenced a series of illustrations in support of the anti-Nazi war propaganda campaign. Ironically, after suppressing the artist's anti-Nazi work in fear of provoking Hitler, the British government, now impressed by his work, sent him to the United States hoping that he could sway isolationist American public opinion and, ultimately, FDR – Szyk called himself "Roosevelt's soldier with a pen" – to join the European struggle against the Third Reich.
Szyk gathered his iconic anti-Fascist caricatures – which, for example, included depictions of Goebbels as a skunk, Goering as an obese Cossack, and the Japanese as vampire bats and sinister simians – into a 1941 anthology called The New Order, the first anti-Nazi book of its kind.
By 1943, he had become America's leading artistic advocate for Jewish rescue from the Shoah. He became the editorial cartoonist for the New York Post and went on to become celebrated for his anti-Nazi drawings, which were ubiquitous in Life, Time, Esquire, and other American magazines, and he designed classic military badges and "Buy War Bonds" billboards that proliferated throughout the U.S.
Eleanor Roosevelt famously remarked, "This is a personal war of Szyk against Hitler…and I do not think that Mr. Szyk will lose this war!" As he later explained, "An artist, and especially a Jewish artist, cannot be neutral in these times…. Our life is involved in a terrible tragedy, and I am resolved to serve my people with all my art, with all my talent, with all my knowledge."
Szyk's dedication to the Allied war effort extended with particularity to his concern for the Jews of Nazi-occupied Europe and, infuriated by the refusal of the Allied leaders to take seriously Nazi atrocities, he became a leading member of the "Bergson Group."
Szyk's "bread and butter" work, however, was as a book illustrator. For example, several generations of young Americans grew up on his version of Andersen's Fairy Tales, which one writer beautifully described as notable for its "detailed embroidery, angelic expressions, salamander arabesques, costumed demons, humanoid roses, monstrous toads, Egyptian outfits, sinuous poses, sly peasants, grave princesses, Oriental potentates, and grasping troll trees."
Exhibited here is a truly remarkable rarity, an original copy of Anderson'sFairy Tales that Szyk inscribed "To Peter Bergson, with all my love." Though Szyk's close relationship with Bergson is well known, this unique item demonstrates the depth of his affection for his friend unlike anything else that I have ever seen.
Szyk's Anderson's Fairy Tales, inscribed "with all my love" to Bergson.
Hillel Kook, aka Peter Bergson (1915-2001) – as a nephew of first Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook, he changed his name to protect his rabbinic family from embarrassment – was a founder of the Irgun. After organizing illegal immigration in Poland, he accompanied Jabotinsky to America (1940), where he led a group of Irgun activists under the Bergson pseudonym.
The Bergson Group originally limited its activities to fundraising for the Irgun and promoting various propaganda campaigns but in late 1942, Bergson – who proudly characterized himself a "nuisance diplomat" – became deeply involved in raising awareness about the fate of Europe's Jews. He issued pamphlets and placed full-page advertisements in leading newspapers, which represented the first time that a Jewish organization placed ads of Jewish interest in secular publications.
All the illustrations for these publications were done by Szyk, whose central role in the Bergson group may have been best summarized by Ben Hecht, a renowned playwright, two-time Academy Award winner, and Bergson activist, who characterized Szyk as "our one-man art department."
At a time when FDR was doing all he could to sweep the Jewish refugee crisis under the rug, the Bergson Group produced "We Will Never Die," a huge and historic pageant written by Hecht (first performed on March 9, 1943 in Madison Square Garden) which memorialized the two million European Jews that had been murdered up to that point. A stunning artistic and propagandistic success, the pageant played an important role in raising the consciousness of the American public about the Holocaust.
In 1943, Bergson established the Emergency Committee for the Rescue of European Jewry, which included leading American writers, public figures, and politicians who lobbied FDR and Congress to take immediate action to save what was left of Europe's Jewry and to open up American borders to greater Jewish immigration.
Bergson's singular efforts led to the creation of the War Refugee Board in 1944, which helped save an estimated 200,000 Jewish lives. He also established the Hebrew Committee for National Liberation and the American League for a Free Palestine, which lobbied the government in support of the creation of the State of Israel.
One of Bergson's most important activities was his organizing some 400 Orthodox rabbis in an October 6, 1943 "Rabbi's March and Protest" in Washington. Considered by many authorities to be the first instance of mass political lobbying, it drew substantial media attention, notwithstanding the public opposition – indeed, obstruction – by most non-Orthodox Jewish groups.
The opposition was led by the traitor Stephen Wise – FDR's "useful idiot," whom the president used as leverage to suppress his Jewish critics – and the president refused to meet with the rabbinical delegation after Wise publicly dismissed it as a fringe group of extremist rabbis "who didn't represent anyone."
Bergson represented a strong challenge to the timid and fainthearted Jewish establishment in the United States by often bypassing it and its failed conservative approaches in favor of appealing directly not only to Jews but also to the American public.
He employed "radical" methods, including aggressive lobbying of the government which, his critics argued, accomplished nothing except increase anti-Semitism. As a result, he was vociferously and publicly opposed throughout his life by American Jewish and Zionist organizations, some of whom even went so far as to urge the IRS to investigate him (it did, but found no irregularities) and to encourage the American government to deport him.
On the eve of Passover 1945, the Bergson Group issued a historic pamphlet that re-imagined the traditional narrative of "the Four Sons" in the image of contemporary Zionism. Illustrated by Szyk, the pamphlet depicts the Four Sons as reflections of the various positions of American Jews on the battle for a Jewish state.
The Wicked Son, who represents the wealthy and assimilated Jew opposed to Zionism, asks: "What is this nonsense about a Jewish nation and an independent homeland? When all this fuss blows over, let them return to the countries from whence they came…"
Modeling the question-and-answer methodology of the Haggadah, the pamphlet answers: "…because he elects to hold himself aloof from a physical concern about his brother's plight, he has disqualified himself from a voice in the life-and-death affairs of a foreign and persecuted people."
In the Bergson-Szyk version, the Simple Son – who is renamed the "Indifferent Son" and whom Szyk portrays as a hatted businessman chomping on a cigar – asks "Why don't we leave well enough alone? "Aren't we doing OK here?" He is concerned that paying undue attention to the Jews of the Holocaust might engender American anti-Semitism.
The pamphlet provides the answer: "Freedom and safety for your less fortunate kin in the death valley of Europe will create a sound moral foundation for a world order of peace and security," which would include "banishing anti-Semitism."
Szyk's rendition of the "Son Who Does Not Know How To Ask" – who is renamed as the "Uninformed Son" and who is depicted as a stereotypical Jewish workingman – announces that he cannot relate to Jewish complaints about British Mandate in Eretz Yisrael because, after all, Jews have the right to live, work, and worship as they please.
Wise Son – labels drawn by Szyk for The American League for a Free Palestine.
The Bergson answer is that Eretz Yisrael is anything but free, given British enactment of explicitly anti-Jewish laws, including bans on aliyah and land purchases and curfew and travel restrictions on Jewish residents.
Finally, Szyk depicts the Wise Son as a Jewish-American soldier, who asks how he may help his fellow Jews in Holocaust Europe and in Eretz Yisrael. The answer is an appeal to him to join in the effort to establish Jewish statehood.