Shabbat service at Buchenwald

Shabbat service at Buchenwald

“I walked into the Kinohalle (Cinema Hall) on Friday evening and there were at least 1000 people packed to the rafters. I got up on a small platform. I had a little G.I. prayer shawl and started with ‘Shalom Aleichem’ and slowly but steadily we were singing and praying. I had no prayer book. I had nothing other than my voice (without a microphone). Yes, I did have one very interesting something which I carried with me throughout my military career. I had a little chupah; sometimes the chaplain was called upon to officiate at a marriage ceremony. So I brought this little canopy, embroidered ‘mazal tov’ in Hebrew lettering, and put it on my little table serving as my ‘lectern.’ In a paper cup I poured some grape juice from the mess hall, and recited Kiddush. I led the service and after it was over, many many people gathered around me and I’ll never forget those moments! Everyone spoke Yiddish; the lingua franca was Yiddish. ‘Do you know where is . . .?’ ‘I have an uncle who lives in Chicago.’ ‘I have a niece who lives somewhere in . . .’ And on and on it went. They remained with me until late in the evening.”

– Rabbi Herschel Schacter

Note: The photo is of a Shabbat service at Buchenwald shortly after the camp was liberated. Rabbi Schacter, from the VIII Corps of the U.S. Army, led the services at the camp, though the quote may not be describing this specific service pictured.


Amelia Earhart learns to fly

Amelia Earhart

“By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground, I knew I had to fly,” said Amelia Earhart of her first flying experience.

But flying wasn’t a passion for Amelia until her teenage years. Her first experience with aviation came shortly after high school, when during WWI she went to work in a Canadian military hospital where she met aviators.

Soon Amelia was a college student at Columbia intending to go to medical school. Despite doing well in her classes, she spent a lot of her time adventuring, “I was familiar with all the forbidden underground passageways which connected the different buildings of the University. I think I explored every nook and cranny possible. I have sat in the lap of the gilded statue which decorates the library steps, and I was probably the most frequent visitor on the top of the library dome. I mean the top.”

She didn’t stay long at Columbia. Shortly after, she dropped out to join her parents who had moved to California.

Later that year came the day when Amelia got her first taste of flying. At an airfield in Long Beach, with her father providing the $10 fee (about $127 today), Amelia climbed into the airplane for a ten minute flight that would change the course of her life.

She was now determined to become a pilot. She cropped her hair short, bought a leather jacket, that she then slept in for three days to make it look more worn out, and she took a bus, only to then walk four more miles to get to the flight school.

The flight school was run by Anita “Neta” Snook, a pioneer female aviator who was the first woman to run her own aviation business. When Amelia arrived for her first flying lesson, she had just one question for Neta, “I want to fly. Will you teach me?”

Amelia and Neta

Neta took Amelia on as a student. “I’ll never forget the day she and her father came to the field. I liked her on sight,” Neta would later say of her first time meeting Amelia.

Amelia purchased her first plane six months after her first lesson. And within a couple years she set the world altitude record for women at 14,000 feet.


Annette Kellermann, the first woman to wear a one-piece swimsuit

Annette Kellerman

“My early physical misfortune has turned out to be the greatest blessing that could have come to me. Without it I should have missed all the grim struggle upward and the reward that waited at the end of it all.”

Annette Kellermann was just six years old when she developed weakness in her legs, which required her to wear painful steel braces. To further help recovery, her parents enrolled Annette in swim classes.

As a teen, her legs recovered, and she became a champion swimmer, a record holder in the 100 yard and mile races in her native Australia.

She then got into long-distance swimming, swimming over 13 miles of the Thames river in under 4 hours. And she made three attempts to swim the English channel, never completing the entire journey, but once staying in the water for more than 10 hours.

But more than just swimming, she became famous for advocating for women’s rights.

“I can’t swim wearing more stuff than you hang on a clothesline,” she once said about swimming.

In a time when women were expected to wear dress and pantaloons to swim, she wore a one-piece suit. Such behavior led to her arrest on Revere Beach in Massachusetts in 1907 for indecency. But doing so also helped change the social norms. Her one-piece suit, known as the Annette Kellermann, became a popular swimsuit for women.

“Annette Kellermann, the first woman to wear a one-piece swimsuit” source: How to Swim by Annette Kellermann

Elizabeth Taylor quote about first marriage

“I left home as soon as I could, when I was 18. I thought I was in love and got married—the press called it Prince Charming and Cinderella. He was a Hilton so I was the poor little Cinderella. And when I got a divorce nine months later I never told the court why, but he was cruel. When he drank it all came out, and I hadn’t seen that before because he was on the wagon the eight months we were engaged. I didn’t have a clue. But I thought, This isn’t why God put me on Earth. We were married in a Catholic church. I had studied Catholicism for almost a year. But when I had to swear in front of the archbishop to be a good wife and all that stuff, I had my fingers crossed behind my back because I didn’t know if I could be a good wife; I knew I was still a child.”

– Elizabeth Taylor


The love of Oscar Wilde and Bosie

Oscar Wilde and Bosie

In 1891, Oscar Wilde fell in love with 21-year-old Oxford undergraduate Lord Alfred Douglas, or as friends affectionately called him, “Bosie.” Their love blossomed. Wilde wrote Bosie in one letter, “You are so dear, so wonderful. I think of you all day long, and miss your grace, your boyish beauty, the bright sword-play of your wit, the delicate fancy of your genius, so surprising always in its sudden swallow-flights towards north and south, towards sun and moon — and, above all, yourself.”

But when Bosie’s father learned of the relationship, he accused Oscar of sodomy. Oscar countered with a suit of libel. The lawsuit revealed gay relations in Oscar’s personal life, leading to a criminal case against him. 

In May of 1895, Oscar received a prison sentence of two years. His crime was gross indecency. His punishment, while severe, was less than what the judge wanted. “It is the worst case I have ever tried. In my judgement it is totally inadequate for such a case as this. The sentence of the Court is that you be imprisoned and kept to hard labor for two years,” said the judge.

Upon his release, when others recommended he forget his time and the reasons for his imprisonment, Oscar wrote that “To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life.”

“The love of Oscar Wilde and Bosie” notes and sources:

  1. Photograph of Oscar Wilde and Bosie was taken in 1893. 
  2. Story updated on June 4th, 2021.
  3. British Museum Shelfmark MS 81783 A / Wikimedia Commons

The legend that was Mary Fields

Mary Fields

She drank whiskey, swore often, and smoked handmade cigars. She wore pants under her skirt and a gun under her apron. At six feet tall and two hundred pounds, Mary Fields was an intimidating woman.

Mary lived in Montana, in a town called Cascade. She was a special member of the community there. All schools would close on her birthday, and though women were not allowed entry into saloons, she was given special permission by the mayor to come in anytime and to any saloon she liked.

But Mary wasn’t from Montana. She was born into enslavement in Tennessee sometime in the early 1830s, and lived enslaved for more than thirty years until slavery was abolished. As a free woman, life led her first to Florida to work for a family and then Ohio when part of the family moved.

When Mary was 52, her close friend who lived in Montana became ill with pneumonia. Upon hearing the news, Mary dropped everything and came to nurse her friend back to health. Her friend soon recovered and Mary decided to stay in Montana settling in Cascade.

Her beginning in Cascade wasn’t smooth. To make ends meet, she first tried her hand at the restaurant business. She opened a restaurant, but she wasn’t much of a chef. And she was also too generous, never refusing to serve a customer who couldn’t pay. So the restaurant failed within a year.

But then in 1895, when in her sixties, Mary, or as “Stagecoach Mary” as she was sometimes called because she never missed a day of work, became the second woman and first African American to work as a mail carrier in the U.S. She got the job because she was the fastest applicant to hitch six horses.

Eventually she retired to a life of running a laundry business. And babysitting all the kids in town. And going to baseball games. And being friends with much of the townsfolk.

This was Mary Fields. A rebel, a legend.

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Happy birthday, Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony

“We shall someday be heeded, and when we shall have our amendment to the Constitution of the United States, everybody will think it was always so, just exactly as many young people think that all the privileges, all the freedom, all the enjoyments which woman now possesses always were hers. They have no idea of how every single inch of ground that she stands upon today has been gained by the hard work of some little handful of women of the past.”

– Susan B. Anthony

Susan dedicated much of her life to fighting for equality. Born in 1820 to a father who was an abolitionist, who cared deeply for social reform and who encouraged all of his seven children to be self supporting. Susan became active in social reform by her late teens when she collected anti-slavery petitions.

This was just the beginning of fighting against slavery, taking part in the underground railroad and fighting for equal rights for women, especially for the right to vote.

Susan dedicated herself fully to the causes, traveling around the U.S., around the world. And she would face backlash. In one speech in Syracuse shortly before the start of the Civil War, “rotten eggs were thrown, benches broken, and knives and pistols gleamed in every direction.”

But still she pushed on.

She didn’t get to live to see women vote. She passed away fourteen years before the amendment passed. Her work, her ability to organize and drive the movement however was instrumental in change taking place.

Today we celebrate her birthday, we celebrate Susan B. Anthony day, and we celebrate women’s suffrage in the U.S.

Dr. Rogozov performs surgery on himself

Antarctica, 1961.

Dr. Leonid Rogozov is there as part of a small team of Russian researchers. One day he feels weak, nauseous, and pain in his abdomen. He diagnoses himself with acute appendicitis.

Surgery is necessary for him to get better. But the nearest surgical centers are too far away given time and transportation constraints.

So he decides to have surgery in the research facility.

Under local anesthesia and with assistance from a surgical team of a driver and a meteorologist and a man who serves as backup just in case one of the first two pass out, the doc proceeds to remove his own appendix.

He takes short breaks during the surgery to deal with nausea and vomiting and stress. But after an hour and forty five minutes, he’s done. His close to bursting appendix is out.

He recovers well and goes on to live a long, healthy life.