Latest Breaking News: Who can travel to Israel and how, as country reopens to visitors on Sunday and UN General Assembly Condemned Israel 14 Times in 2021, Only 5 Times for the Rest of World Combined and That time ‘I Love Lucy’ confronted antisemitism in front of millions of Americans by Victoria Myers and Kibbutz honors IDU for foiling terrorist attacks and In a secret operation: the Israelis who came to Iraq on a secret mission and traveling the St. Lawrence Seaway and Sidney Poitier dies at 94 and Meretz MK blasted for calling Homesh residents ‘subhuman’; Netanyahu calls for his dismissal
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.
Meretz MK blasted for calling Homesh residents 'subhuman'; Netanyahu calls for his dismissal
Irael Hayom via JNS By Ariel Kahana and Hanan Greenwood
Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan's remarks were "taken directly from Nazi terminology against the Jewish people," says Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan came under fire on Thursday for referring to the residents of Homesh in Samaria as "subhuman," "despicable" and "a disgrace."
"These people keep resettling a place that has been legally evicted … they shouldn't be there," said Golan in a Knesset Channel interview. "Let's not even mention the fact that the people who live there riot in [the nearby Palestinian village of] Burka, demolish headstones and stage pogroms," continued the former IDF deputy chief of staff.
"We, the Jewish people, who have been tormented by pogroms throughout history—do the same to others? These are not people, they are subhuman, despicable people. A disgrace to the Jewish people. They should receive no [government] backing. We should forcibly remove them from the area and restore law and order," he added.
Golan's remarks drew immediate backlash from politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called Golan's remarks "appalling."
"Yair Golan's remarks about the settlers in Homesh are appalling, [a generalization] and border on a blood libel. The settlers in Judea and Samaria are today's pioneers," he tweeted.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud Party went further, calling on Bennett to fire Golan.
"The settlers in Judea and Samaria are not 'subhumans,' [but] rather pioneering Zionists who settle our ancestral land," said Netanyahu. "After this shameful statement, taken directly from Nazi terminology against the Jewish people, Bennett must fire Yair Golan."
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked called Golan's remarks "disgraceful," adding that "he can keep talking. These wonderful pioneers will continue to settle the land."
Culture and Sports Minister Yehiel Tropper said he was "ashamed" as a fellow coalition member by Golan's statements.
"The settlers in Homesh are not 'subhuman,' but rather Israeli citizens who hold different views, with which he profoundly disagrees. Sinking to this level of discourse won't advance dialogue—it will only tear us apart from the inside," said Tropper.
Gush Etzion Regional Council Head Shlomo Ne'eman said, "It looks like the deputy minister, who is well versed in history, has become hysterical. His hysteria stems from the success of the communities in Judea and Samaria. He should remember the dark times when the terms coming out of his mouth were directed against the Jewish people. We will continue to succeed in working towards pioneering in the Land of Israel."
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
Who can travel to Israel and how, as country reopens to visitors on Sunday
As surging virus rates make impact of travel restrictions negligible, Israel to allow vaccinated and some recovered foreign travelers to arrive
Israel is set to reopen its borders to vaccinated and some recovered foreign tourists starting Sunday, January 9, as coronavirus rates in the country spike to record levels, making the impact of travel bans negligible.
The new rules enter into effect at midnight Saturday-Sunday.
On Friday, Israel shut down its list of "red" countries with high COVID-19 morbidity, ostensibly making travel possible to and from all nations.
Having kept its borders closed for most of the pandemic, Israel began to allow vaccinated tourists in at the start of last November, but by the end of that month had again banned the entry of foreign nationals in an attempt to hold off the Omicron variant, a ban that ends January 9.
Despite the shift in policy, health officials still recommend avoiding any non-essential travel as the virus continues to surge.
Following is a guide to travel to Israel for foreigners as of January 9:
Travelers must have been vaccinated (with at least two shots in most cases) or recovered from the virus within the last 180 days. Vaccination must take place at least 14 days before departure.
Vaccines recognized are Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sinovak, Sinopharm, Johnson & Johnson (single shot), Covishield, and Sputnik V (must get a serological test in Israel). Travelers must present a vaccination certificate.
Currently Israel only recognizes recovery certificates from the European Union, based on a positive NAAT test. Recovered, non-vaccinated individuals from other countries can not enter at this time.
Travelers must present a negative PCR test result from within 72 hours of their flight. They must also submit an online entry form.
A second PCR test will be administered at Ben Gurion Airport upon arrival. Travelers must proceed to quarantine until a negative result is received or until 24 hours have elapsed, whichever comes first.
For borderline cases and questions, travelers are encouraged to contact the Health Ministry hotline at +972-8-624-1010 (English menu is available).
The Three Musketeers at the Kotel
Kibbutz honors IDU for foiling terrorist attacks
Kibutz Migdal Oz delivered a certificate of appreciation to the Israel Dog Unit for its work in foiling terrorist activity.
Award ceremony for the IDU at Migdal Oz IDU Public Relations
In light of the recent spate of terrorist activity, the Israel Dog Unit (IDU), a nonprofit that trains and deploys service dogs in a variety of emergency applications, is emphasizing its security training and stepping up its deployment of security dogs throughout Israel, with particular focus on Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan valley.
In a modest ceremony held today (Sunday) at Kibbutz Migdal Oz in Gush Etzion, the kibbutz presented certificates of appreciation to the IDU.
The IDU stationed the security dog Tzayid in Migdal Oz a few years ago, and he has since been critical in preventing multiple acts of terrorism. A puppy named Tim is presently completing his basic training with the IDU and will soon join Tzayid on guard in Migdal Oz Tzayid operates with IDF soldiers near Migdal Oz (IDU Public Relations).
Kibbutz Migdal Oz, located in the Gush Etzion region and a perennial target for terrorism, has proven repeatedly that a well-trained working dog is an ideal complement to local security forces, and can dependably foil terrorist activity and increase the residents' sense of security
UN General Assembly Condemned Israel 14 Times in 2021, Only 5 Times for the Rest of World Combined
Photo Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
The UN General Assembly condemned Israel on Friday in two separate resolutions, concluding the world body's 2021 legislation with a total of 14 resolutions that single out the Jewish state, and five for the rest of the world combined.
There was one resolution each adopted Thursday for the regimes of North Korea, Iran, and Myanmar, one on Crimea, while a draft resolution on Syria was deferred.
"The UN's assault on Israel with a torrent of one-sided resolutions is surreal," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental watchdog organization.
"It's absurd that in the year 2021, out of some 20 UN General Assembly resolutions that criticize countries, 14 of them, 70%, were focused on one single country: Israel. Make no mistake: the purpose of the lopsided condemnations is to demonize the Jewish state," said Neuer.
Friday's resolutions against Israel included one entitled "Oil slick on Lebanese shores" and singled out Israel as the only country to be censured under the "Sustainable Development" agenda item, and refers to an alleged incident from the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.
The second resolution condemned Israel for allegedly exploiting the natural resources of the Palestinians, and Syria's in the Golan Heights.
UN Watch noted that the text made no mention of Hamas' commandeering of international aid money to fund the construction of terror tunnels rather than to rebuild destroyed infrastructure; environmental pollution caused by Palestinian tire burning; destruction of flora and fauna with arson balloons and kites; and refusal to develop their own water resources and deal with their own sewage as required by the Oslo Accords.
"The UN's disproportionate assault against the Jewish state undermines the credibility of what is supposed to be an impartial international body. When the General Assembly gives in to politicization and selectivity by discriminating against Israel, it violates the UN Charter's guarantee of equal treatment to all nations, large and small," Neuer warned.
"We note that while France, Germany, Sweden and other EU states have supported nearly all of the 14 resolutions adopted against Israel during this General Assembly session, the same European nations have failed to introduce a single UNGA resolution on the human rights situation in China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Turkey, Pakistan, Vietnam, Algeria, or on 170 other countries," said Neuer. "Where's the supposed EU concern for international law and human rights?"
"Today's farce at the General Assembly underscores a simple fact: the UN's automatic majority has no interest in truly helping Palestinians, nor in protecting anyone's human rights; the goal of these ritual, one-sided condemnations is to scapegoat Israel," said Neuer.
That time 'I Love Lucy' confronted antisemitism in front of millions of Americans
A nice thing about being alive in this current moment in history is that one can say things like, "television is the great American art form" and people will actually take you seriously. And if television is the great American art form, Lucille Ball is one of its most important founders. If you haven't seen "I Love Lucy," please, watch more TV.
"I Love Lucy" was groundbreaking for narrative television. It was the first television show shot with three cameras (hats off to Desi Arnaz for that). It was the first television show to feature a person of color in a lead role. One of its three main writers was a woman. Its success led to Lucille Ball being the first woman to own a major studio. And it brought into millions of homes a woman who was not only a funny physical comedian, but who, to this day, remains one of the most ambitious and confident women to appear on screen (even if she usually got thwarted).
The first time I saw "I Love Lucy," I was three years old and my mother, in desperate need of a way to keep me distracted, put me in front of the television. It was there that I saw the greatest thing I had ever seen in the entirety of my three-year-old life: the black-and-white image of Lucille Ball as Lucy Ricardo locked in a meat freezer.
This was both the start of my obsession with Lucille Ball and of the television becoming my primary caretaker. Over the years, I watched every "I Love Lucy" episode I could find on VHS. One of my favorite episodes was "Pioneer Women." This episode is most commonly known as the one where Lucy bakes a 20-foot loaf of bread, but it's really about discrimination and antisemitism.
"Pioneer Women" aired in the spring of 1952 as part of the first season of "I Love Lucy." In the episode, Lucy and Ethel bet Ricky and Fred to see who can last longer living like it's 1900. This means giving up all modern conveniences, fashions and technology. Over the course of the episode, Ricky commutes to work via horse and buggy, Ethel churns butter, and Lucy bakes that famous loaf of bread. As a kid, I loved all of this and would re-enact it with my favorite American Girl Doll, Kirsten, herself a pioneer, and think about the great future that lay ahead of us in vaudeville.
But the episode's secondary story is where things really get interesting. Lucy and Ethel have applied for membership to an exclusive women's club, The Society Matrons' League. At the end of the episode, two representatives from the club show up for a surprise home inspection in order to "look them over." They arrive to find the Ricardos and Mertzes dressed in their 1900's garb complete with a butter churn in the living room. Lucy and Ethel are distraught thinking this will ruin their chance of acceptance, but Ricky comes to the rescue by saying that the reason they're dressed so strangely is because they are rehearsing an act for his club.
This backfires. To the Society Matrons' League the one thing worse than having eccentric taste is being a "show person." The representatives admit that a few seasons ago they did start allowing one or two "show people" — because they needed money — so they might be willing to "make allowances." Lucy questions why, exactly, they feel the need to "make allowances" for show people. The women double down. The episode ends with Lucy telling the women that they can go back and report that she has looked them over and has no desire to be part of their club. Ricky, Fred and Ethel cheer her on, and then the four of them celebrate by eating some bread.
I grew up in Ohio in a town with a country club that, up until the early '90s, did not admit Jews; where I was not allowed to visit some of my kindergarten classmates because I was Jewish; and where "Jews control Hollywood" was a common refrain (and something I interpreted as career advice). When the women from the Society Matrons' League wanted to keep out "show people," I knew exactly who that was code for: Jews.
There were no Jewish characters on "I Love Lucy" (although the first iteration of Lucy's maiden name was Teitelbaum — it was changed after it was deemed too Jewish), but there were Jews behind the scenes. Jess Oppenheimer was the creator, producer and head writer of "I Love Lucy." Lucille Ball was the one who asked CBS to hire Oppenheimer after she'd worked with him on "My Favorite Husband," the radio program that was the antecedent to "I Love Lucy."
The person Ball really had to fight for CBS to hire though was Desi Arnaz, who would be appearing in front of the camera. Executives thought Americans wouldn't believe that "Lucy" was married to someone who was Cuban-American. And Lucille Ball herself, although white and Protestant, had grown up in a small town where the combination of a family tragedy and liberal outlook, made her an outsider and gave her a window onto alienation from American middle class morality.
During the period when "I Love Lucy" was being produced, there were a number of Jews working in Hollywood. But no matter how well they had done, there were neighborhoods they couldn't buy houses in, clubs they couldn't join, and people who wouldn't have them over. Because of this discrimination, most overt Jewishness did not make it onto the screen (a notable exception was "The Goldbergs," a radio and later TV program), but was instead coded into seemingly non-Jewish material.
Jewish viewers could often pick out the Jewish references and gestalt — and also pick out who involved was Jewish — while non-Jews remained oblivious. Though Hollywood was in many ways created by Jews, there were lots of reminders that the ideal audience they were creating for were non-Jews, those non-"show people," "real Americans" out there in the Midwest.
Something I only came to appreciate later was exactly how clever the structure of "Pioneer Women" was in its combining of the Society Matrons League and the pioneer days storylines. Lucy Ricardo got up to a lot of mishegas. There was no shortage of things the writers could have had her do that would have made her a Society Matrons' League reject, but out of all of them they chose to have a set-up that not only led to Ricky saying they were in show business, but that also had the cast dressed as a piece of Americana.
As the club representatives stand there and evaluate them, it's a reminder of how many institutions have tried to evaluate who gets to be a real American (even my American Girl doll, who had a similar costume to Lucy's in the episode, didn't have a Jewish counterpart until 2009). Having Lucy give her rebuke dressed as an American pioneer, highlights the notion that the concept of "real American" is as phony as a theatrical costume and that, in reality, the American story is multivariate and made up of all sorts of people.
I've never been able to find anything that confirms that this was the intent of "Pioneer Women." Oppenheimer, like a lot of Jews of his generation, never spoke much publicly about antisemitism he faced, but he did have a history of adapting family history into "Lucy" episodes (an episode where Lucy can't get a passport was based on his American-born mother's citizenship being challenged). Still, for me, who first saw "Pioneer Women" 40 years after it originally aired, it was perfectly clear what it was really about.
And even if the creators never commented on the true undercurrent of the episode, Lucy Ricardo's boundless confidence in herself — whether that she could be a star or that she could tell bigots exactly what she thought of them — rubbed off on at least one viewer (me, and maybe you, too) and is another reason why "I Love Lucy" has more than earned its place in the hall of fame of the great American art form. In this next year, may "Pioneer Women" finally be made available to stream, and may we all have Lucy Ricardo's confidence in telling antisemites to go to hell.
Victoria Myers is a New York based writer who loves television and would very much like her own television show. She was born in Akron, Ohio, which is known for rubber manufacturing.
The tomb complex after restoration Photo: Adam Tipan
Two Israeli engineers, Yaakov Sheffer and Meir Ronen, entered northern Iraq a few years ago with Israeli passports, where they visited the tomb of the Prophet Nahum Balkush near Mosul, in order to examine ways to rehabilitate the tomb complex. In an interview with Channel 7, Meir Ronen talks about the complex and secure operation.
Ronen talks about the request he received and his partner as experts in the restoration of historic and ancient sites from a voluntary international organization called ARCH ( Alliance for the Restoration of Cultural Heritage that deals with the restoration of historic buildings and monuments.) Collapse of various parts of the structure.
In his remarks, Ronen points out that ISIS members did not reach the compound itself but a few kilometers away from it, since if they had arrived they would have destroyed it as they did to other buildings and historical sites throughout Iraq.
For about six months, Ronen and Sheffer debated whether to take the risk and enter the place itself, "there are consequences and there are fears. I have children and my partner also has grandchildren ...", he says, but at the end of the day the decision was to come to the place.
Ronen does not elaborate on the details of the journey on the way to the tomb complex, nor does he volunteer details. Were these American soldiers securing them? Maybe Kurdish fighters? Maybe other factors? Ronen prefers to leave a fog around the question, but tells of arriving at a building in northern Iraq. "We take a tour inside the building and study the materials, the construction technology, see a Hebrew inscription on the stones. It looks like a very magnificent synagogue with titles, stone carvings. You see it and get excited as a Jew and then comes the professional section," he says.
Ronen and Sheffer surveyed the tomb complex and its contents, from which the two began to analyze the engineering condition of the place. The understanding was that in order to save the place one had to get into activity as soon as possible. The two returned to Israel from the meeting with ARCH personnel and began preparing guidelines and plans for the temporary stabilization of the building, which consists of a large compound with ancient stone walls, vaults, arches and more. A contracting company from the Czech Republic, GEMA, was hired to carry out the urgent work and began the task.
For centuries the building has been preserved by the inhabitants of the Christian town of Elkosh. A Jewish community was not present. Ronen does not know the exact date of the building, but he says that it is a building that was built over different periods and that 12th- and 13th-century construction can be identified in it.
After returning to Israel, the two forwarded their recommendations for the restoration of the building and the entire complex, and since then their monitoring of the restoration process has begun. When we ask about the fear that probably accompanies arriving at such a site, Ronen says that such fear and anxiety does exist and it actually accompanies the entire journey back and forth, although after arriving in northern Iraq the fear fades. "The stories before me are more stressful than the visit itself. This is a very beautiful country. I was very impressed with the place. These are simple people who are less familiar with the political conflict and want to live in peace and quiet."
The two will tell the full story of the trip to Iraq at a special conference to be held at the Babylonian Jewish Heritage Center this coming Friday.
Photo: Meir Ronen and Yaakov Sheffer
Photo: Adam Tipan
Niagara Falls is bypassed by the Welland Canal, which has been around in one form or another since 1829. It's a 43km waterway that runs from Port Weller (near St. Catharines) on Lake Ontario to Port Colbourne on Lake Erie
The current canal, the fourth on the route, was completed in 1923 and can handle ships up to 740 feet long, 78 feet wide and 26 feet of draft.
In fact, Niagara Falls was not the major hurdle to be overcome in the route from the Atlantic to Lake Superior. That would be the rapids in Montreal, Quebec and Cornwall, Ontario. There were two barge canals that bypassed those rapids, but they couldn't handle lake freighters or ocean going ships. The route was finally completed in 1959 when the St. Lawrence Seaway was completed.
One of the reasons this section was upgraded last is that it required several dams that resulted in much higher water levels along the river, displacing several communities and requiring the re-routing of major highways.
Oscar winner and groundbreaking star Sidney Poitier dies
Poitier transformed how Black people were portrayed on screen, becoming the first Black actor to win an Academy Award for best lead performance
By HILLEL ITALIE
Jan. 7, 2022 7:11 PM PT
NEW YORK —
Sidney Poitier, the groundbreaking actor and enduring inspiration who transformed how Black people were portrayed on screen, and became the first Black actor to win an Academy Award for best lead performance and the first to be a top box-office draw, has died. He was 94.
Poitier, winner of the best actor Oscar in 1964 for "Lilies of the Field," died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles, according to Latrae Rahming, the director of communications for the Prime Minister of Bahamas. His close friend and great contemporary Harry Belafonte issued a statement Friday, remembering their extraordinary times together.
"For over 80 years, Sidney and I laughed, cried and made as much mischief as we could," he wrote. "He was truly my brother and partner in trying to make this world a little better. He certainly made mine a whole lot better."
Few movie stars, Black or white, had such an influence both on and off the screen. Before Poitier, the son of Bahamian tomato farmers, no Black actor had a sustained career as a lead performer or could get a film produced based on his own star power. Before Poitier, few Black actors were permitted a break from the stereotypes of bug-eyed servants and grinning entertainers. Before Poitier, Hollywood filmmakers rarely even attempted to tell a Black person's story.
Messages honoring and mourning Poitier flooded social media, with Oscar winner Morgan Freeman calling him "my inspiration, my guiding light, my friend" and Oprah Winfrey praising him as a "Friend. Brother. Confidant. Wisdom teacher." Former President Barack Obama cited his achievements and how he revealed "the power of movies to bring us closer together."
Poitier's rise mirrored profound changes in the country in the 1950s and 1960s. As racial attitudes evolved during the civil rights era and segregation laws were challenged and fell, Poitier was the performer to whom a cautious industry turned for stories of progress.
He was the escaped Black convict who befriends a racist white prisoner (Tony Curtis) in "The Defiant Ones." He was the courtly office worker who falls in love with a blind white girl in "A Patch of Blue." He was the handyman in "Lilies of the Field" who builds a church for a group of nuns. In one of the great roles of the stage and screen, he was the ambitious young father whose dreams clashed with those of other family members in Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun."
Debates about diversity in Hollywood inevitably turn to the story of Poitier. With his handsome, flawless face; intense stare and disciplined style, he was for years not just the most popular Black movie star, but the only one.
"I made films when the only other Black on the lot was the shoeshine boy," he recalled in a 1988 Newsweek interview. "I was kind of the lone guy in town."
Poitier peaked in 1967 with three of the year's most notable movies: "To Sir, With Love," in which he starred as a school teacher who wins over his unruly students at a London secondary school; "In the Heat of the Night," as the determined police detective Virgil Tibbs; and in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," as the prominent doctor who wishes to marry a young white woman he only recently met, her parents played by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in their final film together.
Theater owners named Poitier the No. 1 star of 1967, the first time a Black actor topped the list. In 2009 President Barack Obama, whose own steady bearing was sometimes compared to Poitier's, awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, saying that the actor "not only entertained but enlightened... revealing the power of the silver screen to bring us closer together."
His appeal brought him burdens not unlike such other historical figures as Jackie Robinson and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He was subjected to bigotry from whites and accusations of compromise from the Black community. Poitier was held, and held himself, to standards well above his white peers. He refused to play cowards and took on characters, especially in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," of almost divine goodness. He developed a steady, but resolved and occasionally humorous persona crystallized in his most famous line — "They call me Mr. Tibbs!" — from "In the Heat of the Night."
"All those who see unworthiness when they look at me and are given thereby to denying me value — to you I say, 'I'm not talking about being as good as you. I hereby declare myself better than you,'" he wrote in his memoir, "The Measure of a Man," published in 2000.
But even in his prime he was criticized for being out of touch. He was called an Uncle Tom and a "million-dollar shoeshine boy." In 1967, The New York Times published Black playwright Clifford Mason's essay, "Why Does White America Love Sidney Poitier So?" Mason dismissed Poitier's films as "a schizophrenic flight from historical fact" and the actor as a pawn for the "white man's sense of what's wrong with the world."
Stardom didn't shield Poitier from racism and condescension. He had a hard time finding housing in Los Angeles and was followed by the Ku Klux Klan when he visited Mississippi in 1964, not long after three civil rights workers had been murdered there. In interviews, journalists often ignored his work and asked him instead about race and current events.
"I am an artist, man, American, contemporary," he snapped during a 1967 press conference. "I am an awful lot of things, so I wish you would pay me the respect due."
Poitier was not as engaged politically as Belafonte, leading to occasional conflicts between them. But he was active in the 1963 March on Washington and other civil rights events, and as an actor defended himself and risked his career. He refused to sign loyalty oaths during the 1950s, when Hollywood was barring suspected Communists, and turned down roles he found offensive.
"Almost all the job opportunities were reflective of the stereotypical perception of Blacks that had infected the whole consciousness of the country," he recalled. "I came with an inability to do those things. It just wasn't in me. I had chosen to use my work as a reflection of my values."
Poitier's films were usually about personal triumphs rather than broad political themes, but the classic Poitier role, from "In the Heat of the Night" to "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," was as a Black man of such decency and composure — Poitier became synonymous with the word "dignified" — that he wins over the whites opposed to him.
"Sidney Poitier epitomized dignity and grace," Obama tweeted Friday.
His screen career faded in the late 1960s as political movements, Black and white, became more radical and movies more explicit. He acted less often, gave fewer interviews and began directing, his credits including the Richard Pryor-Gene Wilder farce "Stir Crazy," "Buck and the Preacher" (co-starring Poitier and Belafonte) and the Bill Cosby comedies "Uptown Saturday Night" and "Let's Do It Again."
In the 1980s and '90s, he appeared in the feature films "Sneakers" and "The Jackal" and several television movies, receiving an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination as future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in "Separate But Equal" and an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Nelson Mandela in "Mandela and De Klerk." Theatergoers were reminded of the actor through an acclaimed play that featured him in name only: John Guare's "Six Degrees of Separation," about a con artist claiming to be Poitier's son.
In recent years, a new generation learned of him through Oprah Winfrey, who chose "The Measure of a Man" for her book club. Meanwhile, he welcomed the rise of such Black stars as Denzel Washington, Will Smith and Danny Glover: "It's like the cavalry coming to relieve the troops! You have no idea how pleased I am," he said.
Poitier received numerous honorary prizes, including a lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute and a special Academy Award in 2002, on the same night that Black performers won both best acting awards, Washington for "Training Day" and Halle Berry for "Monster's Ball."
"I'll always be chasing you, Sidney," Washington, who had earlier presented the honorary award to Poitier, said during his acceptance speech. "I'll always be following in your footsteps. There's nothing I would rather do, sir, nothing I would rather do."
Poitier had four daughters with his first wife, Juanita Hardy, and two with his second wife, actress Joanna Shimkus, who starred with him in his 1969 film "The Lost Man." Daughter Sydney Tamaii Poitier appeared on such television series as "Veronica Mars" and "Mr. Knight." Daughter Gina Poitier-Gouraige died in 2018.
"He is our guiding light who lit up our lives with infinite love and wonder. His smile was healing, his hugs the warmest refuge, and his laughter was infectious. We could always turn to him for wisdom and solace and his absence feels like a giant hole in our family and our hearts," his family said in a statement. "Although he is no longer here with us in this realm, his beautiful soul will continue to guide and inspire us."
His life ended in adulation, but it began in hardship. Poitier was born prematurely, weighing just 3 pounds, in Miami, where his parents had gone to deliver tomatoes from their farm on tiny Cat Island in the Bahamas. He spent his early years on the remote island, which had a population of 1,500 and no electricity, and he quit school at 12 1/2 to help support the family. Three years later, he was sent to live with a brother in Miami; his father was concerned that the street life of Nassau was a bad influence. With $3 in his pocket, Sidney traveled steerage on a mail-cargo ship.
"The smell in that portion of the boat was so horrendous that I spent a goodly part of the crossing heaving over the side," he told The Associated Press in 1999, adding that Miami soon educated him about racism. "I learned quite quickly that there were places I couldn't go, that I would be questioned if I wandered into various neighborhoods."
Poitier moved to Harlem and was so overwhelmed by his first winter there he enlisted in the Army, cheating on his age and swearing he was 18 when he had yet to turn 17. Assigned to a mental hospital on Long Island, Poitier was appalled at how cruelly the doctors and nurses treated the soldier patients. In his 1980 autobiography, "This Life," he related how he escaped the Army by feigning insanity.
Back in Harlem, he was looking in the Amsterdam News for a dishwasher job when he noticed an ad seeking actors at the American Negro Theater. He went there and was handed a script and told to go on the stage. Poitier had never seen a play in his life and could barely read. He stumbled through his lines in a thick Caribbean accent and the director marched him to the door.
"As I walked to the bus, what humiliated me was the suggestion that all he could see in me was a dishwasher. If I submitted to him, I would be aiding him in making that perception a prophetic one," Poitier later told the AP.
"I got so pissed, I said, 'I'm going to become an actor — whatever that is. I don't want to be an actor, but I've got to become one to go back there and show him that I could be more than a dishwasher.' That became my goal."
The process took months as he sounded out words from the newspaper. Poitier returned to the American Negro Theater and was again rejected. Then he made a deal: He would act as janitor for the theater in return for acting lessons. When he was released again, his fellow students urged the teachers to let him be in the class play. Another Caribbean, Belafonte, was cast in the lead. When Belafonte couldn't make a preview performance because it conflicted with his own janitorial duties, his understudy, Poitier, went on.
The audience included a Broadway producer who cast him in an all-Black version of "Lysistrata." The play lasted four nights, but rave reviews for Poitier won him an understudy job in "Anna Lucasta," and later he played the lead in the road company. In 1950, he broke through on screen in "No Way Out," playing a doctor whose patient, a white man, dies and is then harassed by the patient's bigoted brother, played by Richard Widmark.
Key early films included "Blackboard Jungle," featuring Poitier as a tough high school student (the actor was well into his 20s at the time) in a violent school; and "The Defiant Ones," which brought Poitier his first best actor nomination, and the first one for any Black male. The theme of cultural differences turned lighthearted in "Lilies of the Field," in which Poitier played a Baptist handyman who builds a chapel for a group of Roman Catholic nuns, refugees from Germany. In one memorable scene, he gives them an English lesson.
The only Black actor before Poitier to win a competitive Oscar was Hattie McDaniel, the 1939 best supporting actress for "Gone With the Wind." No one, including Poitier, thought "Lilies of the Field" his best film, but the times were right (Congress would soon pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for which Poitier had lobbied) and the actor was favored even against such competitors as Paul Newman for "Hud" and Albert Finney for "Tom Jones." Newman was among those rooting for Poitier.
When presenter Anne Bancroft announced his victory, the audience cheered for so long that Poitier momentarily forgot his speech. "It has been a long journey to this moment," he declared.
Poitier never pretended that his Oscar was "a magic wand" for Black performers, as he observed after his victory, and he shared his critics' frustration with some of the roles he took on, confiding that his characters were sometimes so unsexual they became kind of "neuter." But he also believed himself fortunate and encouraged those who followed him.
"To the young African American filmmakers who have arrived on the playing field, I am filled with pride you are here. I am sure, like me, you have discovered it was never impossible, it was just harder," he said in 1992 as he received a lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute. "
"Welcome, young Blacks. Those of us who go before you glance back with satisfaction and leave you with a simple trust: Be true to yourselves and be useful to the journey."
AP writer Robert Gillies in Toronto and AP Film Writer Jake Coyle and former Associated Press Writer Polly Anderson in New York contributed to this report.