In Photos: Alfred Hitchcock's Unknown Cameo Appearance in Jerusalem and The World’s Oldest Jewish Trust Just Committed $50 Billion to Israel and The Jewish Housewife Who Became a Soviet Nuclear Super-spy and Rabbi Schwartz terrible surgery jokes
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.
The Jewish Housewife Who Became a Soviet Nuclear Super-spy
Ursula Kuczynski was a full-time mother until a meeting in Shanghai transformed her into 'Sonya.' Her biographer describes the Jewish KGB spy's career, which climaxed with the theft of American atomic secrets
In 1935, the spy "Sonya," whose real name was Ursula Maria Kuczynski, found herself in an almost impossible situation. On the eve of embarking on a new mission on behalf of the Soviet Union, she discovered that she was pregnant, the result of an affair with her commander in the communist underground in China. She told her husband, who was also the father of her first child, about her pregnancy. He urged her to have an abortion, a solution seconded by the lover.
When she refused, the two – husband and lover – corresponded behind her back to figure out how they could get her to terminate the pregnancy. "Sonya" did not accede to their importuning and gave birth to a daughter, a half-sister to her firstborn. Later she had another son, the fruit of an affair with a third man.
She was a full-time mother who insisted on combining her dangerous and exceptional occupation with raising children – two seemingly clashing worlds. However, she soon discovered, as did her handlers, that what looked initially to be a disadvantage was actually the opposite. The cover story of a homemaker who takes no interest in politics helped her to conceal her true occupation and to rebuff potential suspicions. "Infants provided a good legalization," she said.
With the publication of the Hebrew translation of "Agent Sonya" (published originally in English last year), her biographer, Ben Macintyre, a historian who has written previous best sellers in the espionage field, tells Haaretz about this extraordinary figure. "There are many women spies in history, but… I know of no other woman who successfully combined the role of informant, courier and senior officer, all at the same time," he notes.
In the book you underscore that she was "mother, wife and spy." I imagine that we would be less impressed by this description if, for example, it was attached to the protagonist of your previous book, "The Spy and the Traitor," which is about Oleg Gordievsky, the senior Russian spy who worked as a double agent for the British secret service. We wouldn't talk about his being a "father, husband and spy," would we?
Macintyre: "We have to see Sonya's life in the context of the times she lived in, when the emphasis on motherhood was very different from today's approach. On the other hand, those attitudes linger, and many would still criticize her for supposedly neglecting her parental duties, in a way that would never be applied had she been a man."
While researching the book, Macintyre located Kuczynski's children. Each of them had a story that was connected to a different chapter in the tempestuous biography of the this devoted communist agent, a Jew who spied on the Axis fascists during World War II and on Britain and the United States during the Cold War. Along with the information they supplied him, he perused letters, diaries, memoirs she and other players in the drama wrote, and also probed files of the German Federal Archives, of the Stasi (the East German secret police) and of MI5 in Britain. The result is a story which, were it not supported by footnotes and photographs, might well be assumed to be fiction.
Seekers of information about Ursula Kuczynski on Google in Hebrew will have a hard time, even 21 years after her death. Besides her secret activities, this is due also to the multiple names she went by – including Ursula Hamburger, Ursula Beurton and a totally fictitious name, Ruth Werner, under which she wrote children's books later in life. Even the survey of Israel's Intelligence Heritage Center on Soviet espionage in Britain and Germany barely mentions her.
At the height of her activity, "Sonya," who reached the rank of colonel in the Red Army, ran a network of communist spies in the heart of Britain's nuclear research program and transmitted to Moscow information that helped Soviet scientists build a nuclear weapon.
Left-wing who's who
She was born in 1907, in Berlin, the second of six children in an affluent, socially connected Jewish family that was identified with left-wing circles. Her father was the acclaimed economist and demographer Robert Kuczynski, a pioneer in the use of statistical data to shape social policy. Among her parents' acquaintances were many left-wing intellectuals, such as Karl Liebknecht, among the founders of the Spartacus League, who was assassinated with his colleague, Rosa Luxemburg, in 1919; the acclaimed artist Kathe Kollwitz; painter Max Lieberman; the industrialist Walter Rathenau, who would become the only Jewish foreign minister in Germany's history; and Albert Einstein.
Did her Jewish origin exert any influence in her life?
Her sex, motherhood, pregnancy and humdrum domestic life together formed the perfect camouflage. Men simply did not believe that a housewife could be a genuine spy.
"She was not a particularly observant Jew, but the destruction of the German-Jewish community, the Holocaust, the murder of many members of her family, all played a key role in her hatred of Nazism and her determination to spy for the Soviet Union."
At the age of 16, during the fraught period of the Weimar Republic, she took part for the first time in a Communist Party demonstration. "The bruising from the policeman's truncheon eventually faded; her outrage never did," Macintyre writes. In 1926, when she was 19, she officially joined the German Communist Party. Four years later, someone pressed the gas pedal on the route of her life – which from then on moved incessantly between continents, countries and a host of cities, under assumed identities and alongside different men – and all in the service of ideology.
The first stop was China, in 1930, when she accompanied her husband, Rudolf Hamburger, a Jewish architect who was hired to design municipal-government buildings in Shanghai. While her husband was occupied at the drafting table, Kuczynski was caught up in the maelstrom involving, on one side, the nationalists, led by Chiang Kai-shek, and on the other the communists under Mao Zedong. The communists were aided by the Soviet Union, which viewed China as an important goal of the world revolution. Ursula joined the communists out of certainty in the justice of the path of the oppressed Chinese proletariat, who under the leadership of the communists, she believed, would topple the capitalist and imperialist order.
The woman who introduced her into the world of espionage was a well-known American writer living in Shanghai, Agnes Smedley, who had been recruited as a spy in the service of communism under the guise of being a German journalist. Macintyre describes her as a "bundle of contradictions," noting, among other paradoxes, that "she was bisexual, but believed homosexuality a curable perversion" and that she ostensibly disdained men and believed that women had been "enslaved by the institution of marriage – but "loved many men and was married twice."
When the two women met, introduced by a mutual acquaintance, "Smedley was already an important cog in the machinery of Soviet espionage," assisting the Chinese communists, Macintyre notes. Kuczynski found her charming, and it's possible that "their relationship may have gone beyond friendship" to become romantic and passionate.
Smedley introduced Kuczynski to her lover, Richard Sorge, the senior Soviet spy in Shanghai at the time. According to Macintyre, he was James Bond-like not only in his looks, his taste in alcoholic beverages and his skirt chasing, but also in his skills and courage. The encounter between the lover of the American writer and the enthusiastic Jewish communist paved the way for her to become a spy herself. Within a short time the women were sharing not only the lover – she too was captivated by Sorge – but also the art of espionage. In messages he sent to Moscow, he referred to her by the code name he chose for her: "Sonya."
She took part in espionage operations in China, Poland and Switzerland, and finally, the crowning glory, in Britain. She lived a double life. By day she was a young homemaker, raising her son and disinterested in politics. "None of our acquaintances would in their wildest dreams have imagined that I, as the mother of a small child, would jeopardize my family and everything we had created in China by contact with communists," she said.
"Her sex, motherhood, pregnancy and apparently humdrum domestic life together formed the perfect camouflage," Macintyre writes. "Men simply did not believe that a housewife making breakfast from powdered egg, packing her children off to school and then cycling into the countryside" could be a genuine spy.
She wasn't a particularly observant Jew, but the Holocaust, the murder of many members of her family, played a key role in her hatred of Nazism and her determination to spy for the Soviet Union.
She thrived wherever she went, blind to the crimes that were being committed in her name and under the auspices of the ideology she believed in, from which her relatives and friends suffered. One of the victims was her first husband and father of her firstborn child, Hamburger, who was arrested for no reason in Moscow in 1943, and spent a decade in the gulag.
In 1937 she was secretly awarded the Order of the Red Banner, the highest Soviet military medal of that period. "The Red Army applauded long and loud, maybe because I was the only woman," she noted long afterward. She was later awarded the medal a second time.
Five years later, in 1942, at the height of World War II, Sonya entered the hall of fame of communist espionage. The event in question took place in a café opposite a railway station in Birmingham, England, her new place of residence. Kuczynski received a thick bag containing 85 pages of classified documents related to the British nuclear project. The person who gave her the bag was Klaus Fuchs, a German physicist who had fled from the Nazis to Britain. Like her, he was an avowed communist, and like her he too spied for the Soviet Union for ideological reasons. "The USSR should also have its own bomb," he explained.
The first meeting between the two made Fuchs one of the most important sources supplying information to Ursula. "Fuchs' transfer of scientific secrets to the Soviet Union… was one of the most concentrated spy hauls in history," Macintyre writes, noting that the haul consisted of 570 pages of reports, calculations, drawings, formulae and diagrams relating to the development of nuclear weapons.
Some of the material was too technically complex to be codable and transmittable by radio. In those cases Kuczynski passed it on using a method of quick contact – a swift transmission of documents from person to person, which even a trained observer would not notice.
According to a report of Soviet military intelligence, Macintyre writes, Fuchs succeeded in making "plasticine impressions" of keys in the Birmingham nuclear research center, which enabled him to acquire many secret documents from his colleagues' safes.
Fuchs' code name in Soviet military intelligence attested to the importance that was attached to him: "Enormo[u]s." Fuchs' request that the information he was passing on should go straight to Stalin was carried out. In June 1943, for example, Stalin forwarded to Foreign Minister Molotov 12 questions about the atomic bomb project and demanded immediate replies. The Foreign Ministry passed on the list to the head of military intelligence, who transmitted it directly to Sonya. Fuchs delivered the goods again, writing a richly detailed report.
Subsequently Fuchs joined the Manhattan Project – the American effort to manufacture the world's first atomic bomb. There, across the ocean, he witnessed the first detonation of a nuclear device, on July 16, 1945, in the New Mexico desert. Four years later, the Soviets detonated an almost identical bomb, ending Washington's monopoly on nuclear weapons. Fuchs was one of those who brought this about and was accordingly termed "the greatest spy of the nuclear era."
Macintyre quotes the East German spymaster Markus Wolf as noting that Fuchs had "made the greatest single contribution to Moscow's ability to build an atom bomb [and] changed the world's balance of power by breaking America's nuclear monopoly." A number of spies worked with him, all of whom have by now been named; the last of them, Oscar Seborer, an electrical engineer who worked at Los Alamos (and a Jew), was revealed only two years ago.
Another success attributed to Ursula was the infiltration of Soviet spies into an American espionage operation in Nazi Germany. According to a plan devised by the OSS (forerunner of the CIA) in 1944, a group of anti-Nazi Germans were to be recruited in Britain, trained in and equipped with advanced communications media, and parachuted into Germany in order to send to the United States information about developments within the Reich.
Kuczynski was able to recruit some of the candidates, who harbored communist views, to whom it was explained that although they would be working for the Americans, their true masters were in Moscow, and all their activity was being done with the approval of the Soviet Union. The idea was for the parachutists to transmit to the Soviet Union information about the American technology they were using.
Macintyre relates that the technological highlight of the operation was the first use of a mobile manual radio device, which enabled ground-to-air communication. The "gizmo," which would later be known as a "walkie-talkie," was, the author writes, "a predecessor of the mobile telephone."
Sonya's career in espionage might have continued until the lifting of the Iron Curtain, had it not been aborted in 1950, when Fuchs' espionage activities were discovered by the Americans and the British. After his arrest, Sonya fled to East Germany, where she resettled in Berlin, her birthplace.
She abandoned spying and made a living as the author of children's books. She died in Berlin in 2000, aged 93. A few weeks after her death, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared her "a super-agent of military intelligence." According to Macintyre, the communist influence over her grew more temperate with time, but never completely faded.
Why did she not go on serving the Soviet Union afterward, from her safe haven in East Germany?
"She was exhausted, and I think she yearned for a different sort of life, one that was not suffused with secrecy."
The World's Oldest Jewish Trust Just Committed $50 Billion to Israel
The Sassoon Family Continuation Trust, established in 1485 during the Spanish Inquisition, has recently announced that it will commit $50 billion across three funds to "fulfill a mandate to ensure the economic growth and market impact for Israel."
$100 billion of financial assets are currently being relocated to the U.S from Switzerland, half of which will end up in Israel.
"There's a vacuum here, and someone needs to fill it," David Sassoon told CTech. As a direct descendant of Sassoon trust and its sole beneficiary, he is now the executive chairman of J. Sassoon Group, a Washington, DC-based private equity and investment banking firm and oversees its ventures across the world.
Ahead of making 'Aliyah' (moving to Israel) later this year, he shared the plans for the trust and its hopes for investment that can help support the longevity of the country.
Over the next 15 years, the Trust will invest $50 billion dollars into three funds.
The first, The Israel Hellenic Fund, will focus on the relationship between Israel and Greece, ensuring it goes beyond a military and security collaboration to an economic, tech, life science, and real estate partnership between the nations.
The second fund, called The Patriot Fund, will be joint between the U.S and Israel and concentrate on technology pertaining to the national security sector.
The final fund is called the Zion Fund and will focus on Israel's startup scene, with an emphasis on renewable energy, telecommunication, transportation, and infrastructure.
The Sassoon family has seen its share of injustice which explains some of its concerns about the safety and security of Jews and Jewish-friendly nations. Extraordinarily, the family has records going back to the 1400s that can demonstrate the family's journey following expulsions from Spain and Portugal and can point to milestones over 500 years.
And yet, the family has seen overwhelming success against adversity through its work in trade and geopolitical partnerships. Following expulsions in Europe, the family settled in Greece and then moved to the U.S, where Sassoon was born.
"We're a patriotic family, we owe a lot of the achievements that we were able to achieve at least in the last 200 years or so to the U.S, as most Jews who are Jewish Americans have benefitted from that," he told CTech. "And so moving the financial assets to the U.S is also helping Israel. The U.S still remains, thank God, a free market to a large extent."
Today, as threats of anti-Semitism and political extremism on both sides bubble to a boil, Sassoon is dedicated to helping fix the local security levels of both countries, but especially the U.S which he described as being in "peril."
Sassoon isn't shy about why he thinks this. He believes that the Far Left has "confiscated the truth and kidnapped the narrative", particularly among university campuses that are currently experiencing a spike in anti-Israel sentiments. He also cited President Joe Biden's recent handling of Afghanistan as an example of his administration's "inefficiency and ineptness."
To help achieve some of its ambitious economic, security, and cultural goals, the fund has employed Bruce Fein as its CEO. Fein was a former associate deputy attorney general in the U.S. He served in the White House during President Nixon and served as general counsel for the FCC through President Regan, as well as the advisor and senior investigator for the Senate during the Iran-Contra scandal.
One of its board members, Paul Becker, is a retired U.S navy admiral and former director of Intelligence at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
"We're very conservative in our thinking, however, we're not exclusive," he said. "We are inclusive. We want to work with everyone to maintain the Jewish values that maintain their identity as Jews and the Jewish state."
Between ensuring Israel's longevity through technology and economic security, fighting against anti-Israel bias in U.S institutions, and tackling antisemitism around the world, the Trust will have its hands full. With the three funds launching by 2022, the money and investment pumping in hopes to counter some of the threats posing Jews today.
"We have to remember the phrase our grandparents use: Never Again," Sassoon concluded. "It's Never Again for antisemitism around the world, period."
RABBI SCHWARTZ'S TERRIBLE SURGERY JOKES OF THE WEEK
Why do all the patients love the surgeon who is also a stand-up comic? He leaves them in stitches.
Where did the British surgeon safeguard the organs from his donors? He kept them in Liverpool.
Why does everyone look up to surgeons who successfully help people lose weight? What they do takes guts.
Why does everyone love cardiac surgeons? They touch so many people's hearts.
How do most surgeons get so wealthy? They take a cut after every successful surgery!
How did a junior surgeon get entry into a prestigious medical conference? He made the cut.
Where do plastic surgeons source all of the new noses from? They buy them from the olfactory.
What did the nurse tell the surgeon when he asked her how the girl who swallowed some coins was doing? We haven't seen any change yet.
Why was one patient so relieved after his brain surgery? He had said that he wasn't sure about getting brain surgery, but then the doctor helped him change his mind.
Why was the surgeon screaming "Typhoid, Measles, Tetanus!" in the hospital hallway? He liked to call the shots.
What would a surgeon say if a patient demanded that he close his own wound? Fine, suture self
Doctor Greenberg was checking his schedule two hours before his shift was over to see how many operations he had left. "Five done, tumor to go", muttered the doctor when he saw the sheet on site!
A mechanic was removing a cylinder-head from the motor of a Harley motorcycle when he spotted his cardiologist – Dr. Simon Goldstein in his shop. Dr. Goldstein was there waiting for the service manager to come take a look at his bike when the mechanic shouted across the garage "Hey Doc, want to take a look at this?"Goldstein, a bit surprised, walked over to where the mechanic was working on the motorcycle. The mechanic straightened up, wiped his hands on a rag and asked, "So Doc, look at this engine. I open its heart, take the valves out, repair any damage, and then put them back in, and when I finish, it works just like new.""So how come I make such a small salary – and you get the really big bucks? You and I are doing basically the same work!"Dr. Goldstein paused, smiled and leaned over, then whispered to the mechanic, ''Try doing it with the engine running."
It's 10pm when the phone rings in Dr. Minkofsky's house. "It's Dr. Gold," says his wife, passing him the phone, "I do hope it's not another emergency."Dr. Minkofsky takes the phone and says, "Hi, what's up?""Don't worry, everything's OK," replies Dr. Gold. "It's just that I'm at home with Dr. Lewis and Dr. Kosiner. We're having a little game of poker and we're short of one hand so we thought you might like to come over and join us?""Sure .... yes, of course," replies Dr. Minkofsky, putting on a serious voice, "I'm leaving right now." And he puts down the phone."What's happened?" his wife asks, with a worried look."It's very serious," Dr. Minkofsky replies. "They've already called three doctors."
In Photos: Alfred Hitchcock's Unknown Cameo Appearance in Jerusalem
Quentin Tarantino isn't the only cinema genius to walk among us: Hitch came to Jerusalem several months before the Six-Day War. His visit was revealed in a trove of photos by Israeli Jachin Hirsch
I remember Jachin Hirsch as a prolific director of documentaries and as a cinematographer who collaborated with Israel's top directors. He died about a decade ago. In the late 1950s, before he went to New York to study filmmaking, Hirsch worked on the Geva film studio's newsreels, which were shown at movie theaters in Israel in the '50s and '60s. When he returned from the United States, Hirsch worked as a cinematographer on feature films and documentaries.
On my most recent visit to the Israel Architecture Archive, the archive's founder, Zvi Elhayani, showed me a sampling of the thousands of photographs that Hirsch had left behind and that were deposited in the archive. Also on file was a collection from his wife, the artist and designer Siona Shimshi.
It was on that visit to the archive that I realized what a wonderful still photographer Hirsch was and how well he managed to bring his cinematic sensibilities to still images too. Only later did I discover that his photography had been widely exhibited and that he had taken photos all over the world.
I got a sense from the photos that they were taken by a photographer who was also a cinematographer. This is particularly notable in the 1967 series of photos that Hirsch dubbed "A Day in Jerusalem with Alfred Hitchcock." (That's what he wrote on the envelope containing the negatives). Hitchcock can be seen visiting the Knesset and the Israel Museum, which had just been built, and also wandering around older sites, such as Mea She'arim, the city's markets and the Dormition Abbey above the Valley of Hinnom, which at the time overlooked the abandoned stone buildings that would later become the Jerusalem Cinematheque. I saw a different Jerusalem in the photographs from the one that I know – without the Old City and with a wall in its midst.
Hitchcock came to Israel in 1967, several months before the Six-Day War, as part of Israel's attempt to improve its image in the world. He was in Jerusalem for just 24 hours. At the time, his power as a filmmaker had begun to wane, but in Israel there were high hopes that, in addition to the publicity generated by the visit, he would fall in love with the Jerusalem's landscapes and want to shoot his next film there.
Two young filmmakers, Micha Shagrir and Jachin Hirsch, were hired to record the brief visit. Their assignment was to prepare a short movie for the Israel Film Service. Hirsch took along a still camera in addition to his movie camera.
There are too many pictures for me to copy so here is the link for your to enjoy