History Buzz Special: President’s Day 2011

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT’S DAY

  • Americans Say Reagan Is Greatest President, Poll Finds: Number 40 is No. 1. Just in time for Presidents Day, Ronald Reagan tops a list of the nation’s greatest chief executives, ahead of Abraham Lincoln, according to a new survey out Friday.
    The Gallup Poll puts Reagan, with 19 percent, in the top spot for the third time. Reagan also occupied the position in 2001 and 2005 — and he has been in the top three eight times since Gallup started asking the “greatest president” question 12 years ago.
    Lincoln garnered 14 percent, followed very closely by Bill Clinton, with 13 percent.
    John F. Kennedy, who was on top in 2000 and tied with Lincoln in 2003, came in fourth this year.
    The country’s first president, George Washington, is fifth on the list.
    Gallup said respondents are more likely to mention recent office-holders because “the average American constantly hears about and from presidents in office during their lifetime, and comparatively little about historical presidents long dead.”…. – Politics Daily, 2-18-11
  • Top 10 presidents: In 2010, Siena College asked 238 presidential scholars to rank the 43 commanders in chief:
    1. Franklin Roosevelt
    2. Teddy Roosevelt
    3. Abraham Lincoln
    4. George Washington
    5. Thomas Jefferson
    6. James Madison
    7. James Monroe
    8. Woodrow Wilson
    9. Harry Truman
    10. Dwight Eisenhower
  • Presidents Day history, facts and info: Presidents Day officially falls on the third Monday in February. It was borne out of a combination of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday Feb. 12 and George Washington’s birthday Feb. 22. The federal holiday is officially dubbed “Washington’s Birthday,” but is more commonly known as Presidents Day.
    Washington’s Birthday: Washington’s birthday was originally Feb. 11, 1731, by the Julian calendar. When Britain and its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar the date was changed to Feb. 22, 1732. Celebrating the birthday America’s first president goes back to when he was still in office.
    Observing Washington’s Birthday: After Washington’s death in 1799, Congress chose to honor our first president in many ways. In 1832, Congress adjourned Feb. 22 to observe the centennial of Washington’s birth. In 1862, Washington’s farewell address to the nation was read aloud on the floor of the House and Senate on the day of his birth. The tradition still holds in the U.S. Senate today.
    Official Holiday: In the late 1870s, Washington’s Birthday joined New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day as the five observed holidays by banks and by federal employees in Washington, D.C. In 1885, Washington’s birthday was extended to all federal employees.
    Uniform Monday Holiday Law: In 1968, Congress considered the Uniform Monday Holiday Law in order to standardize days (not dates) of certain holidays on calendars. Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day and Veterans Day all became holidays observed on a Monday. Columbus Day was created with the same legislation and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was added in 1983.
    Third Monday in February: The third Monday in February was chosen as the day for Presidents Day because it falls on neither Washington’s nor Lincoln’s actual birthday. The third Monday in February occurs from Feb. 15 to Feb. 21 in any given year.
    Lincoln’s Birthday: Lincoln’s birthday was never an official federal holiday although many northern states observed Feb. 12 as a holiday. In 2011, only three states officially close their offices to observe Lincoln’s birthday–Connecticut, Illinois and Missouri. California and New Jersey used to close state offices, but in 2011 employees are reporting for work in both of those states.
    Presidents Day Celebrations: In the official Public Law, the third Monday of February is designated “Washington’s Birthday” even though Congress set the date in order to honor Lincoln as well. The name morphed into Presidents Day when businesses wanted to market big sales during the three-day weekend. Mount Vernon, Virginia, the historic home of George Washington on the Potomac River, celebrates the third Monday in February with free admission to the site along with other celebrations. – Yahoo News, 2-17-11
  • Presidents Day — Listing the best and worst: Presidents Day is a combined holiday fusing what were once the separate observations of Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays (fused by Richard Nixon and set on the third Monday in February) They are generally regarded as our best presidents and are two of the four faces on Mount Rushmore. How do the ones who are implied by the holiday of Presidents Day (if not specifically mentioned) come out?
    Listing presidents from best to worst can be problematic when dealing with arguably the most polarizing tenants of the White House as well as with the most recent ones (as their administrations haven’t receded far enough into the past to be completely called history). Both aspects of that came to the fore in 2006 when historian Sean Wilentz held George W. Bush to be the worst U.S. President in history, citing a 2004 survey in which a sizable majority reached the same verdict. The potential problems with such a judgment being made in the middle of Bush’s term in office should be obvious….
    There have been a great many polls with Siena’s 2010 survey being its fifth. Lincoln, Washington, and FDR generally occupy the top three slots (with Jefferson and T. Roosevelt occasionally stepping in) and Buchanan, Pierce, and Harding generally occupy the bottom three slot (with a couple of entries by Andrew Johnson and William Henry Harrison — but see my cavil about the latter)…. – Gather, 2-21-11
  • President’s Day History: February 21st marks the celebration of both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays, more commonly known as President’s Day.
    Washington, known as “The father of our country” is remembered for playing a significant role in drafting the Declaration of Independence.
    Lincoln, or “Honest Abe” was known as the “Great Emancipator” for signing into law the Emanciption Proclamation that freed the slaves… – Newsmax, 2-18-11
  • Presidents Day: A Time to Remember the Greats: Presidents Day is ostensibly a time to celebrate the great men who helped shape the nation. It’s an oddly named holiday, if for no other reason than few would hold the presidents with equal reverence. Once upon a time, we celebrated the birthdays of Washington and Lincoln separately, an honor befitting their outsized legacies. It’s universally accepted that their accomplishments merit unequal treatment in that regard.
    It was Richard Nixon, of all people, who decided to replace Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays for the more generic Presidents Day, which takes place on the third Monday in February. The intent was to pay respect to all the previous office holders, though the unintended consequence has been just the opposite. For younger generations, the holiday represents little more than a chance to score some deals at the local mall; it’s doubtful that shoppers are giving thought to our greatest presidents as they troll the discount bins.
    And that’s a shame. Presidents Day should be a chance for Americans to reconnect with the past — both distant and near — and the giants of the office who transformed the country. There’s certainly no shortage of men and moments to appreciate…. – Fox News, 2-21-11
  • Presidents Day 2011 – Remembering Ronald Reagan: While Presidents Day has traditionally been a day to remember two of America’s greatest presidents—George Washington and Abraham Lincoln; in recent years it has become a day to reflect upon all of the great presidents of the United States and their accomplishments. In that spirit, this Presidents Day seems to be the perfect occasion to reflect upon the presidency of Ronald Reagan, who would have turned 100 on February 6.
    While Ronald Reagan has certainly become an icon among conservative Americans, he was also quite popular among most independent voters and even a good number of “Reagan-democrats.”
    The tribute video linked to this page does a good job of celebrating the life and presidency of Ronald Reagan. It is worth watching for anyone who is a Reagan fan. Though I certainly do consider Ronald Reagan one of our greatest presidents, I do not mean to suggest that I would rank him above the likes of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. Our nation’s history has been marked by many great presidents (and many not so great presidents)…. – Examiner, 2-21-11
  • Presidents Day: Scandals that created celebrities: In honor of Presidents Day, we take a look at a few folks who’ve achieved fame — or at least notoriety — by having their names linked to the leader of the free world…. – LAT
  • Presidents Day: Celebrating Monica Lewinsky, Judith Exner and other man-made celebs: On Presidents Day we should, in theory, spend some time thinking about what our presidents have done to give us the country we have today, right? And yes, we thought about it. And then we decided that we were less interested in presidential achievements than we were in regular folks who achieved fame, or infamy, thanks to an association with a leader of the free world. In that spirit, the Ministry has compiled a Presidents Day photo gallery of average Joes — or, more often, average Janes — whose names we know thanks to high-level improprieties. CIA agent Valerie Plame, (whose relationship, admittedly, was more with the White House in general than with a president in particular) and take a trip down memory lane with the likes of Monica Lewinsky, Judith Exner, Sally Hemings and more…. – LAT, 2-21-11
  • Harold Holzer: Five myths about Abraham Lincoln: No American hero, with the possible exception of George “I Cannot Tell a Lie” Washington, has been more encrusted with myth than Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln did boast virtues that required little embellishment. He rose from obscurity through hard work, self-education and honesty. He endured venomous criticism to save the Union and end slavery. He died shortly after his greatest triumph at the hands of an assassin. But tall-tale-tellers have never hesitated to rewrite Lincoln’s biography. On Presidents’ Day, it’s well worth dispelling some perennial misconceptions about the man on the $5 bill….
    1. Lincoln was a simple country lawyer….
    2. Lincoln was gay….
    3. Lincoln was depressed…
    4. Lincoln was too compassionate…
    5. Lincoln was mortally ill… –
    WaPo, 2-17-11
  • Another President’s Day — for Jefferson Davis: While a few Yankees will nationally celebrate Presidents’ Day Monday as the combined birthdays of notorious good guy George Washington and an early Illinois president named Abraham Lincoln. But a real celebration occurs Saturday.
    That’s actually a day late for the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of Jefferson Davis as head of the Confederate States of America. The celebratory day has fallen into considerable disuse since roughly Appomattox Court House.
    Born in Kentucky, Davis was a U.S. Senator from Mississippi both before and after he was, appropriately enough, Secretary of War in the Democratic administration of New Hampshire’s only native-born president, Franklin Pierce (1853-57). Pierce, a lifelong alcoholic, is widely considered one of the worst presidents in American history.
    Davis actually argued against secession, though he never questioned a state’s right to depart the Union.
    On Feb. 18, 1861, Davis began a six-year term as president of the Confederate States. Like Jimmy Carter from Georgia some years later, Davis was a one-termer; actually, a less-than-one-termer, as he was arrested for treason by Union troops on May 10, 1865, a day that passes now without notice…. – LAT, 2-18-11
  • Presidential party Madame Tussauds’ wax exhibit features all of America’s leaders, from Washington to Obama: What better way to celebrate Presidents Day weekend than getting up close and personal with all 43 presidents — well, their lifelike wax figures, that is.
    The Presidents Gallery at Madame Tussauds Washington opens this week with an unveiling of the museum’s new $2 million exhibit featuring wax figures of the U.S. leaders, from No. 1, George Washington, to No. 44, Barack Obama. (Grover Cleveland, for those counting, was No. 22 and No. 24.)
    “This is the only place in the world where you are able to stand next to them, put your arms around them and interact with all 44 presidents in three-dimensional fashion,” said Dan Rogoski, general manager of Madame Tussauds Washington…. – Baltimore Sun, 2-17-11
  • President’s Day in New Jersey: Remembering the Roosevelts: February has morphed into Presidents’ Month. First there were Lincoln’s Birthday and Washington’s Birthday. Then came President’s Day, which provided for a three-day weekend. Before long, stores and advertisers expanded the three-day weekend to a week, and now it has become a full month’s merchandising affair.
    Similarly, the focus on Presidents, to the extent that there is one, has expanded to Presidents beyond Washington and Lincoln. Over time, the month has come to consider things “Presidential”, including our more obscure Presidents. In this spirit, our Presidential story for this month involves the name Roosevelt. Of course, we have had two Presidents Roosevelt — fifth cousins we are told.
    One was a Republican, the other a Democrat. One presided over the nation in the early part of the 20th century in the midst of rapidly changing times marked by an era attempting to reign in corporate power. The other led the nation in the later part of the 20th century, and faced daunting, monumental challenges — the Great Depression and World War II.
    Both Roosevelts were popular, but with very different constituencies. Both have had their names honored and memorialized — but in different ways with very interesting stories behind these honors…. – New Jersey Newsroom, 2-21-11
  • Remember Your Other 5 Black Presidents: It has been said that this year was the first time a major political party in the United States nominated a woman or a Black person as its presidential candidate. For women, that is true, but some historians say Barack Obama will not be the nation’s first Black president. They say he certainly won’t be the first president with Black ancestors–just the first to acknowledge his Blackness.
    Which other presidents hid their African ancestry? Well, it’s not Bill Clinton, even though the Congressional Black Caucus honored him as the nation’s “first Black president” at its 2001 annual awards dinner. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge all had Black ancestors they kept in their genealogical closets, according to historians…. – 2-15-08
  • Virtual president’s desk enlivens JFK’s 1800s desk: A new online feature called The President’s Desk is giving people a chance to learn more about John F. Kennedy’s life and administration. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library is introducing its latest project on Monday morning at the library’s museum in Boston…. – AP, 2-22-11
  • WHITE HOUSE RECIPES FOR President’s Day: In honor of President’s Day I share some presidential recipes I rustled up. Apparently the Obama’s don’t cook their chili for hours and hours. The Fords liked blueberries in their banana bread. Lyndon Johnson preferred his barbeque sauce just so. Jackie Kennedy was not above opening a can. And Franklin Roosevelt had a favorite chicken dish with a nebulous history. Hometown Focus, 2-18-11
  • This Presidents Day, A Lesson In Greatness: Presidents Day is a good time to reflect both on the accomplishments of presidents past and on the lessons of history.
    It’s also a time to honor our truly great presidents: George Washington, the father of our country; Abraham Lincoln, the great emancipator; and Ronald Reagan, the great communicator.
    Reagan, the greatest president of modern times, provides all of us a lesson in presidential leadership. True, it was his oratorical skill that made Reagan such a potent force. But it was his ideas and his unwavering belief in America’s greatness that made him great…. – Investors, 2-18-11
  • ‘Today’ features long-lost Thomas Jefferson books on President’s Day ’11 (video): ‘Today’ features long-lost Thomas Jefferson books on President’s Day ’11 (video) — Appropriate for President’s Day, NBC’s Today Show featured a story Monday morning about a group of recently discovered books once thought lost from the library of Thomas Jefferson. The books have been determined to be authentically Jefferson’s, and the specific titles and notes associated with them will aid scholars and historians in filling in gaps in the history of the nation’s third president.
    Ann Lucas from the International Center for Jefferson Studies appeared on Today along with Shirley Baker, Dean of Libraries at Washington University of St. Louis. Ms. Lucas explained her scholarly search that set her on the trail of the books…. – Examiner, 2-21-11
  • ‘A Great and Mighty President’ Three historians discuss the “splendid misery” that is the presidency: Patrick Henry opposed the Constitution as vehemently as he opposed tyranny. Indeed, at the Virginia ratifying convention in June 1788, he argued they were the same thing. “Besides the expenses of maintaining the Senate and other house in as much splendor as they please,” he railed, “there is to be a great and mighty president, with very extensive powers — the powers of a king.”
    Three months before, Alexander Hamilton, writing as “Publius” in the New York Packet, had defended the proposed presidency. “The executive authority, with few exceptions, is to be vested in a single magistrate,” he wrote. “If, in this particular, there be a resemblance to the king of Great Britain, there is not less a resemblance to the Grand Seignior, to the khan of Tartary, to the Man of the Seven Mountains, or to the governor of New York.”
    Both men were right. The president assumed very extensive powers. But even with them, no occupant of the office has yet resembled a king — at least not considerably. For this good fortune, we owe a large debt to the men who have held the office.
    No man had a greater influence on the presidency than its original occupant. “The office of the presidency was not only forged by George Washington,” says historian Ron Chernow, who recently published a one-volume biography of the first president. “One can make the argument that the office was forged for George Washington.” At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, most delegates assumed he would be the first executive, and they outlined the president’s responsibilities in the Constitution with him in mind — that is to say, rather vaguely. Unlike the lengthy Article I, which enumerates the legislature’s tasks, Article II is short and vague.
    “That was extremely important,” Chernow adds, “because we had just fought a war against the abuse of executive power. Washington’s presence at the Constitutional Convention and this assumption emboldened the delegates to create a very powerful office, one so powerful that Thomas Jefferson and others were alarmed by its scope.”
    Washington wielded that power effectively: creating a national bank, negotiating an unpopular treaty with Great Britain, and extinguishing the Whisky Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. But he also answered a fundamental question — one whose answer we take for granted today: How is a president supposed to act? “Washington decides that, basically, the president won’t stop by your house for dinner,” Chernow quips. “The office would have a certain dignity and detachment.” Americans still afford their presidents that dignity. Notice last year’s kerfuffle over comedian Jon Stewart’s calling President Obama “dude.”… – NRO Online, 2-19-11Download
  • Jimmy Carter recounts his presidency: The 39th U.S. president celebrates Presidents Day before a large crowd in his hometown. Former President Jimmy Carter gave a standing-room-only crowd the ultimate civics lesson Monday at the Plains High School Museum. What better way to celebrate Presidents Day than hearing from a former American president? With the auditorium packed full of students from across the state of Georgia and tourists from Florida, Alabama and South Carolina, the nation’s 39th president recalled the highs and lows of his four-year administration….
    “I know this might sound strange, but this is the first time since 1981 that we’ve been back home that the park services has allowed me to speak from this stage,” Carter said. “Presidents Day has always been special to me because I proposed to Rosalynn on Presidents Day 65 years ago.”
    “I said then that the days of racial division of America were over, that no black child would ever again be denied the opportunity to succeed and thrive in America,” Carter said. “I’ve always said Harry Truman was my role model, and when he ended racial discrimination in the military you have to remember that was eight years before anyone had ever heard of Rosa Parks.” “That decision took a great deal of courage, and I am convinced that if it were not for Harry Truman and Martin Luther King Jr., I would have never been president.”
    “Foreign policy was always my favorite part of the job because I did not need permission to invite (Egyptian President) Anwar Sadat and (Israeli Prime Minister) Menachem Begin to Camp David,” he said. “It was a difficult time. Israel had already been in four recent wars with its neighbors, and all four were led by Egypt.” “Anwar Sadat is my favorite foreign leader of all-time,” said Carter.
    “Those 444 days were the biggest burden ever placed on me,” Carter said. “From Nov. 3, 1979 until the moment I left office, it was with me. Some said I should have bombed Iran, but that would have resulted in the loss of hundreds of innocent lives, and they would have executed our people. I wouldn’t risk that. “At 10 a.m. the day I was to leave office, I was told that our people were sitting in a plane on a runway waiting to take off, but (Ayatollah Ruhollah) Khomeini would not authorize it to leave as long as I was in office. The plane took off five minutes after (Ronald) Reagan was sworn in.”
    “Being President of the greatest country in the world was a wonderful honor and a public and private privilege,” Carter said. “I’d like to say thank you to the American people for giving me this wonderful honor.” – Albany Herald, 2-22-11

    QUOTES

  • “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.” – George Washington
  • “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know.” – John Adams
  • “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. ” – Thomas Jefferson
  • “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” – James Madison
  • “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. ” – Abraham Lincoln
  • “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.” – John F Kennedy
  • “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” – Ronald Reagan 

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 25th MLK Day

HISTORY FEATURES:

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

IN FOCUS:

https://i2.wp.com/backseatcuddler.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/aahd064_8x10rev-dr-martin-luther-king-jr-posters.jpg

IN FOCUS

  • Martin Luther King Jr., Jan. 15, 1929 to April 4, 1968: “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!” With these words, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. built a crescendo to his final speech on April 3, 1968. The next day, the civil rights leader was shot and killed on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn…. – NYT
  • Obama, nation commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. DayChicago Times-Union
  • The King Center: The official, living memorial dedicated to the advancement of the legacy of King. Founded by Coretta Scott King. – www.thekingcenter.org/
  • “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
    I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.
    I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”
  • “I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land! I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.”
  • “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
  • “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
  • “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
  • “As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
  • “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

THE HEADLINES….

Michelle Obama's 'Embarrassing' 47th Birthday Serenade

  • Obama Honors Martin Luther King Jr: U.S. President Barack Obama has honored slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. by taking part in a service project at a local school. Mr. Obama, his wife Michelle and their two children participated in a painting project Monday, the federal holiday that honors King. Members of the president’s Cabinet are attending memorial events and taking part in community service projects across the nation.
    At the school, President Obama said King’s dream was for equality and justice, as well as service to the country. The King Center in Atlanta caps more than a week of events Monday with commemorative ceremonies, volunteer activities and community programs…. – VOA, 1-17-11
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at 25: The message remains powerful: That question is the backdrop as the United States on Monday marks the 25th federal observance of Martin Luther King Day (see below for a timeline). Illinois became the first state, in 1973, to sign into law a King holiday, thanks to representative, and future Chicago mayor, Harold Washington…. – THE SPRINGFIELD STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER, 1-15-11
  • Clarence B. Jones: On Martin Luther King Day, remembering the first draft of ‘I Have a Dream’: It was the late spring of 1963, and my friend Martin was exhausted. The campaign to integrate the public facilities in Birmingham had been successful but also tremendously taxing. In its aftermath, he wanted nothing more than to take Coretta and the children away for a vacation and forget – forget the looming book deadline, the office politics of his ever-growing Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the constant need to raise funds.
    But a date for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom had been nailed down – Aug. 28 – and Martin realized he couldn’t plan such a massive undertaking with the usual endless interruptions. No, if this march were going to come together in time, he would have to escape all the distractions. (This was a man, after all, whose best writing was done inside a jail cell.) He needed to get away to a place where very few people could reach him…. – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • Martin Luther King Day: “I have a dream”: In his historic speech from the Lincoln Memorial on August 23, 1963, Martin Luther King called for racial equality and an end to discrimination.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Why are you thankful?: On April 5, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a day of national mourning, saying in part: “Men of all races, all religions, all regions must join together in this hour to deny violence its victory — and to fulfill the vision of brotherhood that gave purpose to Martin Luther King’s life and work. … In our churches, in our homes, and in our private hearts, let us resolve before God to stand against divisiveness in our country and all its consequences.”
    On Monday, for the 43rd year, the country will pause in remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr. This year will mark an even bigger tribute with the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, slated to open in August in Washington… – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • About a third of Americans say Obama’s presidency has improved race relations: Despite high public expectations that Barack Obama’s presidency would improve race relations in the country, barely more than a third of all Americans now say his tenure has made things better in this area, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Overall, 35 percent say Obama has helped race relations; down from 58 percent who, in January 2009, expected them to improve as a result of the country’s having its first black president. And blacks and whites continue to have starkly different assessments about how African Americans are faring in America today when it comes to the racial equality championed by Martin Luther King, Jr. WaPo, 1-17-11Full Story
  • For the Obamas, a Day of Service: President Obama took his family to a local middle school to participate in a painting project to help celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, calling attention to service projects around the nation in honor of the slain civil rights leader. Mr. Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia and Sasha, went to Stuart Hobson Middle School in Washington where they met mentors and the young people they were helping with different projects. It is Mrs. Obama’s 47th birthday, and she was greeted with a lively rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
    “Michelle and I and the girls are extraordinarily proud that each year on Martin Luther King’s birthday this is how we celebrate is making sure we’re giving back to the community,” Mr. Obama said. Referring indirectly to the shootings in Tucson on Jan. 8, he said: “After a painful week where so many of us were focused on tragedy, it’s good for us to remind ourselves what this country is all about. This kind of service project is what’s best in us.” The Obamas helped paint apple characters in the cafeteria to encourage healthy eating…. – NYT, 1-17-11
  • President Barack Obama: “This is just an outstanding program, an example of what Martin Luther King’s birthday should be all about … Dr. King obviously had a dream of justice and equality in our society but he also had a dream of service, that you could be a drum major for service, that you could lead by giving back to our communities. That’s what this program is all about.” “Michelle and I and the girls are extraordinarily proud that each year on Martin Luther King’s birthday this is how we celebrate is making sure we’re giving back to the community.” –
  • On his day, Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of peace lauded in wake of Arizona shootings: The nation observed the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on Monday with thousands volunteering for service projects and more reflecting on his lessons of nonviolence and civility in the week following the shootings in Arizona.
    Six people were killed in Tucson and Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is fighting for her life. The violent outburst was a reminder to many gathered at King’s former church in Atlanta that the Baptist preacher’s message remained relevant nearly four decades after his own untimely death at the hands of an assassin.
    Attorney General Eric Holder praised him as “our nation’s greatest drum major of peace” and said the Jan. 8 bloodshed was a call to recommit to King’s values of nonviolence, tolerance, compassion and justice. “Last week a senseless rampage in Tucson reminded us that more than 40 years after Dr. King’s own tragic death, our struggle to eradicate violence and to promote peace goes on,” Holder said.
    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle volunteered to paint for a service project at a middle school in Washington’s Capitol Hill. He urged Americans to get out into their communities — a step he suggested would have special meaning following the shootings. “After a painful week where so many of us were focused on the tragedy, it’s good for us to remind ourselves of what this country is all about,” he said…. – Chicago Tribune, 1-17-11
  • Obama recalls MLK’s Challenge of a New Age in holiday sermon: President Barack Obama spent his Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church in Washington DC today…. Obama’s speech at Vermont Avenue Baptist ended four minutes shy of 30 minutes. He ended the sermon stating “it’s faith that gives me peace. The same faith that leads a single mother to work two jobs to put a roof over her head when she has doubts. The same faith that keeps an unemployed father to keep on submitting job applications even after he’s been rejected a hundred times. The same faith that says to a teacher even if the first nine children she’s teaching she can’t reach, that the 10th one she’s going to be able to reach.”
    He asked the congregation to “hold fast to that faith, as Joshua held fast to the faith of his fathers, and together, we shall overcome the challenges of a new age. Together we shall seize the promise of this moment. Together, we shall make a way through winter, and we’re going to welcome the spring. Through God all things are possible.”
    Obama exited in hopes that the “memory of Dr. Martin Luther King continue to inspire us and ennoble our world and all who inhabit it.”
    President Obama is the first Democratic president in contemporary memory to freely call upon God, faith and religion without reservation to party politics or liberal ideologies…. – HULIQ, 1-17-11
  • On holiday, Massachusetts honors Martin Luther King Jr.: Some 1,000 people honored Martin Luther King Jr. this morning at the city’s annual holiday breakfast in his name, remembering the slain civil rights leader as a transformative force for good and pledging to build upon his legacy.
    “He showed us the path,” said Martha Coakley, the state’s attorney general, who paid tribute to King as an inspiring figure who “fought for the dignity of every human being.”
    In a well-received speech at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, keynote speaker Melissa Harris-Perry drew parallels between today’s divisive political climate and 1967, the year of King’s final book “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”… – Boston Globe, 1-17-11
  • NY leaders gather to mark King day: New York’s civic leaders are gathering with the Rev. Al Sharpton to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are among those scheduled to participate in Sharpton’s annual event at held at his National Action Network headquarters in Harlem. There were several other city leaders slated to speak at the forum. Sharpton held a breakfast event earlier Monday in Washington…. – WSJ, 1-17-11
  • Obama attends church services in D.C. on Sunday: Metroplian AME was filled with people who are waiting to see the Obama family. “We have been waiting to see this for two years,” said one church member as he passed through a line of metal detectors. President Obama and the first family will join D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray to worship at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Northwest during a service that will reflect on the spiritual fervor of Martin Luther King Jr.
    Last year the president delivered a major address the Sunday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Districts Vermont Avenue Baptist Church where King spoke when he was alive. White House sources say this year the president has chosen to sit quietly in the pews with members of the historic church and listen along with his family and other White House officials. The Rev. Ronald E. Braxton, pastor of the historic congregation founded in 1838, will deliver the sermon from a church designated as the “national cathedral” of the African Methodist Episcopal Church that has more than 7,000 churches and 3 million members around the world…. – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • For Some Students in the South, a King Day Lacking That ‘Holiday’ Feature: …By state law, the only holiday he cannot cancel is Veterans Day. His solution? Make children go to school on Monday, the day when most of the nation’s schools are closed to observe Martin Luther King’s Birthday.
    In the South, where establishing an official holiday for Dr. King was long in coming, that kind of move can be particularly controversial. But administrators in a handful of districts in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina say they have no choice after this past week of unusually brutal ice and snow in the South put the district behind schedule.
    That is not going over well with some parents and politicians.
    “It always seems like Martin Luther King day is the first one they are willing to give up,” said Dot Scott, president of the Charleston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
    The Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton have also weighed in. “We’re urging people to keep their kids home,” Mr. Sharpton said. “It’s un-American not to observe the holiday.”… – NYT, 1-14-11
  • Rochelle Riley: What would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Dream’ be today?: His life has become part of our history texts — the Baptist minister who led the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., who four years before his death became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the man who gave the Speech. For this year’s celebration of King’s dream, I interviewed metro Detroiters about King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivered in Detroit and then in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1963….
    As America debates what hate speech can ignite and whether vicious political rhetoric can be a match, I wonder whether one who dared to dream now might be drowned out by a million YouTube dismissals or the catcalls of boorish ideologues who see only the America they want? Had King lived to be 82, what would he write now? What would you say if you were giving the Speech?… – Detroit FREEP, 1-15-11
  • Taking to roads to find Martin Luther King’s legacy: It started as a series of high school road trips, chances to venture out of the District with the loose intention of picking apart a well-worn Chris Rock joke about the violence on streets named after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
    Eight teenagers from five D.C. high schools criss-crossed the country with two mentors and video cameras, visiting more than a dozen “MLK streets.” Their driving tours in 2008 coincided with the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, putting the students between a history they barely knew and history in the making.
    The documentary they produced is still in rough cut, though it was aired at Anacostia Library as a run-up to the Martin Luther King holiday. But the images they now carry with them, they said, have reshaped how they think about themselves and their world…. – WaPo, 1-17-11
  • CPS students honor King by lending a helping hand: Chicago Public Schools students and faculty volunteered today to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a day of service.
    Students from Bogan High School filled bag after bag with food in the basement of Epiphany Catholic Church in Little Village, helping the regular volunteers prepare for a Monday food pantry.
    “It’s good to give the kids an opportunity to help out and do something good for the community,” said Rozella Garrett, who has volunteered with the food pantry every Monday for 40 years. “They’re a great help.”… – Chicago Tribune, 1-17-11
  • King Day presents opportunity for celebration, teaching Educators, historians discuss challenges of teaching his life, legacy: All of the elements were in place at Leith Walk Elementary School for a proper Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday celebration. Students at the Northeast Baltimore school were prepped with songs from the civil rights movement; Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” was on deck. They’d completed assignments detailing their own dreams earlier in the week and listened in awe as Tony Marshall, who works for the school system, recited the “I Have a Dream” speech, excerpts from the work that he had learned decades earlier as a fourth-grader at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School.
    For many schoolchildren, this kind of celebration has been a hallmark of King Day ever since the holiday, which is marked around the nation today, was established 25 years ago. But some experts and educators say that students need to know more about King’s life and legacy to place him in historical context. “There was a long legacy of heroes and ‘she-roes’ that led to Dr. King,” said Raymond A. Winbush, director of the Institute of Urban Research at Morgan State University. “As educators, we’ve got to contextualize Dr. King in the struggle for human rights, and we just don’t do that.”… – Baltimore Sun, 1-16-11
  • Dr. King and New York City: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is identified mostly with Washington and the South, but he was officially an honorary New Yorker and the city plays a not insignificant role in his biography. In 1958, 10 years before he was assassinated in Memphis, Dr. King was autographing copies of his book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” in a Harlem department store when a deranged women stabbed him with a letter opener. He was taken to Harlem Hospital for surgery.
    In the summer of 1964, after the shooting of a 15-year-old by an off-duty police officer touched off riots in Harlem, Mayor Robert F. Wagner invited Dr. King to New York on a peace mission (one made slightly more complicated by the fact that some black leaders resented that the mayor had invited Dr. King without consulting them). Later that year, one week after he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway, Dr. King was proclaimed an honorary New Yorker by the mayor who presented him with the Medallion of Honor at City Hall…. – NYT, 1-16-11
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day shares holiday with Gen. Robert E. Lee Day: In Arkansas, it’s not only Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it’s also the state holiday Gen. Robert E. Lee Day. That’s causing some heated discussion. Lee was a commander in the confederate army. His birthday is Wednesday. State lawmakers voted to make it a legal holiday back in 1947. On the State of Arkansas Facebook page, they wished everyone a happy holiday for both holidays and it spawned several comments both negative and positive. Alabama and Mississippi have the duel holiday as well…. – Todays THV AK, 1-17-11

QUOTES

President Barack Obama Helps Paint Pictures of Fruit During a Service Project on Martin Luther King Day

  • “An Example of What Martin Luther King’s Birthday Should Be All About”: THE PRESIDENT: This is just an outstanding program, an example of what Martin Luther King’s birthday should be all about. I want to thank all the mentees and mentors who are participating.
    Dr. King obviously had a dream of justice and equality in our society, but he also had a dream of service, that you could be a drum major for service, that you could lead by giving back to our communities. And that’s what this program is all about and that’s what these participants are all about.
    Michelle and I the girls are extraordinarily proud that each year on Martin Luther King’s birthday this is how we celebrate, is making sure that we’re giving a little something back to the community. And I hope that all the projects that are taking place all across the country on this day are getting similar attention, because this is part of what America is all about. And after a painful week where so many of us were focused on tragedy, it’s good for us to remind ourselves what this country is all about. This kind of service project is what’s best in us and we’re thrilled with everybody who is participating. – WH, 1-17-11
  • Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King’s Life and Legacy: Secretary Salazar reports on the progress underway at the memorial being constructed on the National Mall in Dr. Martin Luther King’s honor…. – WH, 1-17-11
  • John McCain: Commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy today. He was a true American hero who stood up to adversity and will continue to impact our country for generations to come.
  • Sarah Palin: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Today is a day to reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King dedicated himself to justice and the struggles of an imperfect world. In the face of fierce opposition, he stood up for the oppressed, and he ultimately sacrificed all for equality and freedom. His was a remarkable life of love and service for all mankind. His work must continue.
    With Dr. King’s faith in God and his unwavering hope in a brighter, stronger future, let us recommit today to continuing his work for a more peaceful and just nation…. – Fox News, 1-17-11
  • Giffords’ husband urges volunteer service: The husband of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is urging Americans to volunteer in their communities on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “Many of you have asked how you can help and how you can honor the memory of those who were wounded or lost their lives. What united the victims of the tragedy on Saturday was service – they volunteered in church or at soup kitchens, worked in government, and tended to their communities. On behalf of Gabby and our family, I ask that you consider honoring their commitment to service by dedicating a few hours on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, this Monday, January 17th, to volunteer in your community,” Mark Kelly said in a statement distributed by the Giffords for Congress campaign.
    Kelly also said in the statement that “The prayers and good wishes from the people of Southern Arizona and the country are deeply appreciated by our family. Your continued outpouring of support is powerful. As Gabby continues her recovery, I know she will be inspired and motivated by the heartfelt messages you have sent. Keep sending them.” – JTA, 1-16-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Dana Goldstein: American schools more segregated today than when Martin Luther King Jr. was killed: American schools are more segregated by race and class today than they were on the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, 43 years ago. The average white child in America attends a school that is 77 percent white, and where just 32 percent of the student body lives in poverty. The average black child attends a school that is 59 percent poor but only 29 percent white. The typical Latino kid is similarly segregated; his school is 57 percent poor and 27 percent white.
    Overall, a third of all black and Latino children sit every day in classrooms that are 90 to 100 percent black and Latino…. – WaPo, 1-17-11
  • Imani Perry, an African-American studies professor at Princeton University: Nation ponders King in wake of Arizona shootings: “Dr. King’s message was about inclusion and the recognition of human dignity, of human rights and making sure that all of our voices are heard,” said Imani Perry, an African-American studies professor at Princeton University. “I hope people in Arizona, in particular, embrace that part of his message. The politics in Arizona recently have often seemed to revolve around excluding people.” – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • Morgan State University professor Jared Ball: Nation ponders King in wake of Arizona shootings: “So little of his real politics show up in these annual commemorations,” said Morgan State University professor Jared Ball. “Instead of actually reading what he wrote or listening to what he said, we pick catchphrases and throw his name around. We all feel for the tragic incident that took place in Arizona, but this is happening to people all over the world every day in one form or another.” – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • Rice University history professor Douglas Brinkley: Nation ponders King in wake of Arizona shootings: A national remembrance of the civil rights icon is an opportunity for the country to renew its commitment to King’s cause. Absent that, it’s unclear how his legacy would be remembered, said Rice University history professor Douglas Brinkley. “The holiday brought the freedom struggle into the main narrative,” Brinkley said. “The day is meant to be a moment of reflection against racism, poverty and war. It’s not just an African-American holiday. The idea of that day is to try to understand the experience of people who had to overcome racism but in the end are part and parcel of the American quilt.” “The struggle that the holiday itself has is to not just be a day off,” Brinkley said. “We have trouble with that. We have to constantly be vigilant not to let that happen.” – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • Martin Luther King’s legacy will be celebrated at forum: Martin Luther King Jr. will be celebrated at the annual “With Liberty and Justice for All” symposium Monday at 10 a.m. in Anderson Theatre, inside The Henry Ford. This year’s program will feature professor Martha S. Jones, a legal scholar and University of Michigan historian. Following her presentation will be a dramatic reading of an excerpt from the well-known 1978 Howard University address by Thurgood Marshall, who became the first African-American member of the U.S. Supreme Court, and a panel discussion with high school students from throughout Metro Detroit. This event is free; however, reservations are required. The Henry Ford is at 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn. For more information, call (313) 982-6001 or to reserve a seat, visit thehenryford.org. – The Detroit News, 1-16-11

JBuzz: Hanukkah Special, Party at the Obama White House

JBuzz

http://jbuzz.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/jbuzzheader.jpg?w=500

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of JBuzz. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Judaic Studies at Concordia University.

Menorah Lighting

Ben Retik lights the Menorah as President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama take part in the Hanukkah Candle Lighting ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Dec. 2, 2010 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

HANUKKAH 2010

IN FOCUS

  • The first night of Chanukah at the National Menorah Washington, DCLubavitch.com
  • The Festival of Lights: Hanukkah Stories From Across the Nation – PBS Newshour, 12-3-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • White House hosts Hanukkah party: President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden hosted a party Thursday marking the second day of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Obama offered condolences to those who have died in a forest fire in northern Israel before recounting the story of the Maccabees fighting in the Temple in Jersualem watching a day’s worth of oil burn for eight.
    “That miracle gave hope to all those who had been struggling in despair,” Obama said. “As the Talmud teaches us, so long as a person has life, he should not abandon faith.”
    Among those attending was Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew, who replied, “we’re still talking,” when asked about the status of tax-cut legislation. When asked what night of Hanukkah a deal would be reached, Lew replied: “Aren’t we lucky to have a whole week?”
    The party featured a menorah from Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans, which was found caked in dirt and mold after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Obama said. Its candles were lit by Susan Retik, whose husband died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and her family…. – Politico, 12-3-10
  • President Obama’s Hanukkah Celebration: The President and First Lady hosted a little gathering Thursday night in the East Room to celebrate Hanukkah. Included on the list of 500 guests, one-third of the Supreme Court justices- Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan. Several Jewish members of Congress and other elected officials and members of the military were there too. The menorah for the event was loaned to the White House by New Orleans’s Congregation Beth Israel. It was one of very few items to survive Hurricane Katrina. It was found by cleanup crews in horrible condition but was restored and re-lit for the first time three years ago…. – CNN, 12-3-10
  • Menorah retrieved from Hurricane Katrina muck in Lakeview is part of White House Hanukkah celebration: Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of Jewish survival, and on Thursday, President Barack Obama and some 500 notables, mostly Jewish, celebrated the second of the holiday’s eight nights by lighting a menorah fished from the muck of Congregation Beth Israel’s flooded synagogue in Lakeview after Hurricane Katrina.
    Describing the Hanukkah candles as tiny reminders of “the importance of faith and perseverance,” the president told the festive assemblage in the East Room that “the menorah we’re using tonight, and the family who is going to help us light it, both stand as powerful symbols of that faith.” “This beautiful menorah has been generously loaned to us by Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans,” Obama said. “Five years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the synagogue was covered in eight feet of water. Later, as the cleanup crew dug through the rubble, they discovered this menorah, caked in dirt and mold. And today it stands as a reminder of the tragedy and a source of inspiration for the future.”… – The candles were lit by Susan Retik and her family…. – Times-Picayune, 12-2-10
  • White House Hanukkah ceremony features menorah salvaged from Lakeview: President Barack Obama and dozens of guests tonight will celebrate the second night of Hanukkah by lighting a menorah fished from the muck of Congregation Beth Israel’s flooded synagogue in Lakeview. But for a few bits of ornamental silver that once decorated its ruined Torahs, the blackened menorah was the only sacred object in ritual use the congregation was able to save, said Rabbi Uri Topolosky, who will attend the ceremony with his wife, Dahlia.
    At Beth Israel, the restored menorah has become precious — the sign of their own ordeal and recovery, Topolosky said. The congregation also saved a display menorah, now at the Presbytere, Topolosky said. But the 53-year-old restored menorah at the White House — technically, it is a nine-branched “hanukiah” — is the one the congregation uses to commemorate ancient Jews’ recovery and reconsecration of their temple in Jerusalem…. – NOLA, 12-2-10
  • Gov. Schwarzenegger Joins Chanukah Celebration at Capitol Menorah Lighting Ceremony: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and local leaders of the Jewish community today joined Chabad of Sacramento to celebrate Chanukah at the 17th Annual Capitol Menorah Lighting Ceremony.
    “The message of Chanukah is ‘light’ and is about optimism and hope, even in the face of darkness and crisis. That is especially meaningful to me because I am a big believer in the spirit of optimism and hope,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “We all know there is darkness in the world, especially in these challenging times, but one tiny candle can light a room, and one act of kindness can change a life. It is so important that we reach out and help each other through these tough times.”
    This year, guests at the Capitol Menorah Lighting Ceremony participated in a “reverse toy drive.” The Governor joined West Coast Chabad Director Rabbi Shlomo Cunin in passing the gifts out for the toy drive during today’s ceremony. Chabad has asked guests of the ceremony to present these gifts to children in need…. – Lubavitch, 12-3-10

QUOTES

  • President Obama Hosts A Hanukkah Celebration at the White House: Remarks by the President at a Hanukkah Reception:
    Now, tonight, we gather to celebrate a story as simple as it is timeless. It’s a story of ancient Israel, suffering under the yoke of empire, where Jews were forbidden to practice their religion openly, and the Holy Temple — including the holy of holies — had been desecrated.
    It was then that a small band of believers, led by Judah Maccabee, rose up to take back their city and free their people. And when the Maccabees entered the temple, the oil that should have lasted for a single night ended up burning for eight.
    That miracle gave hope to all those who had been struggling in despair. And in the 2,000 years since, in every corner of the world, the tiny candles of Hanukkah have reminded us of the importance of faith and perseverance. They have illuminated a path for us when the way forward was shrouded in darkness.
    And as we prepare to light another candle on the menorah, let us remember the sacrifices that others have made so that we may all be free. Let us pray for the members of our military who guard that freedom every day, and who may be spending this holiday far away from home.
    Let us also think of those for whom these candles represent not just a triumph of the past, but also hope for the future — the men, women and children of all faiths who still suffer under tyranny and oppression.
    That’s why families everywhere are taught to place the menorah in public view, so the entire world can see its light. Because, as the Talmud teaches us, “So long as a person still has life, they should never abandon faith.”
    This beautiful menorah has been generously loaned to us by Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans. Five years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the synagogue was covered in eight feet of water. Later, as the cleanup crew dug through the rubble, they discovered this menorah, caked in dirt and mold. And today it stands as a reminder of the tragedy and a source of inspiration for the future.
    And that feeling is shared by Susan Retik. It’s a feeling they know all too well. After her husband, David, was killed on September 11th, Susan could have easily lost herself in feelings of hopelessness and grief. But instead, she turned her personal loss into a humanitarian mission — co-founding “Beyond the 11th,” a group that reaches out to Afghan widows facing their own struggles.
    So on this second night of Hanukkah, let us give thanks to the blessings that all of us enjoy. Let us be mindful of those who need our prayers. And let us draw strength from the words of a great philosopher, who said that a miracle is “a confirmation of what is possible.” –
    WH, 12-2-10WH, 12-2-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Gil Troy: This Hanukka let’s celebrate Liberalism and Zionism: Let’s face it. Although Hanukka’s basic plot has not changed for 2,000 years, the Hanukka we know and love is a twentieth-century invention. Hanukka’s themes of heroism and power, both physical and spiritual, were Zionist ideas; traditionally, the Rabbis thanked God for the eight-day oil miracle. When the Zionist revolution reevaluated Judaism a century ago, the Maccabees’ story proved that Jewish history was not just about anti-Semites oppressing us and rabbis teaching us but our own warriors defending us. The Maccabees were hometown heroes, rooted in Israel’s ancient soil, willing to fight, if necessary, for their homeland, their beliefs, their freedom. At the same time, our festival of lights became our popular response to the seasonal malady of Christmas envy. Boasting eight nights, meaning eight gift-giving opportunities, Hanukka helped Jews trump their Christian neighbors.
    Considering that pedigree, this Hanukka we should celebrate the happy marriage of liberalism and Zionism. We can fight the trendy claim that liberalism and Zionism are increasingly incompatible without doing violence to the Maccabean story. Emphasizing a liberal-Zionist rift, in a world fighting the dark clouds of Islamic totalitarianism, ignores the shared enlightenment past of both Zionism and liberalism, as well as the light liberal Zionism can generate today….
    There is yet another added bonus that can result from rededicating our commitment to both liberalism and Zionism this Hanukka. Both modern liberalism and modern Zionism struggle with the tension between materialism and altruism, the selfishness of the “I” and the self-sacrifice of the “us,” the desire to take and the need to give. As Hanukka, like its seasonal partner Christmas, has degenerated into what the historian Daniel Boorstin called “festivals of consumption,” the question “what did you get” has eclipsed the more important holiday questions “what does this mean?” and “did you grow?”
    Traditionally, during Hanukka Jewish communities rededicated themselves to Jewish education. In that spirit, parents gave children “gelt” or coins to sweeten the experience of Torah study. In the early 1900s, many Jews used Hanukka as an opportunity to donate the modern equivalent of the “shekel,” the Biblical coin representing the power of responsibility, the importance of being counted, to the Zionist cause. This Hanukka let’s remember the best of both the liberal and Zionist traditions. This Hanukka, let’s look for opportunities to give not just get. This Hanukka, by doing that, we can redeem not just these two noble movements, but ourselves. – Jerusalem Post, 12-3-10
  • HOWARD JACOBSON: Hanukkah, Rekindled: TONIGHT, Hanukkah begins. The word — Hanukkah — is lovely, but what’s the festival itself for? What does it do? But Hanukkah?
    Everyone knows the bare bones of the story. At Hanukkah we celebrate the Maccabees, also known as the Hasmoneans, who defeated the might of the Syrian-Greek army in 165 B.C., recapturing the desecrated Temple and reconsecrating it with oil that ought to have run out in a day but lasted eight. Indeed, Hanukkah means “consecration,” and when we light those candles we are remembering the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
    But how many Jews truly feel this narrative as their own? I’m not asking for contemporary relevance. History is history: whatever happens to a people is important to them. But Hanukkah — at least the way it’s told — struggles to find a path to Jewish hearts.
    Those Hasmoneans, for example …. The Maccabees are fair enough: they sound Jewish. Scottish Jewish but still Jewish. There was a sports and social club called the Maccabi round the corner from where I was brought up in North Manchester, and as a boy I imagined the Maccabees as stocky, short-legged, hairy men like the all-conquering Maccabi table tennis team. But “Hasmoneans” rang and rings no bells.
    Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Hanukkah doesn’t draw on events described in the Hebrew Bible. The Book of Maccabees, from which the story comes, is in the Apocrypha, the non-canonical, more esoteric books of sacred scripture. There’s a reason it never made it out of there: I won’t say it’s spurious, but it doesn’t quite feel authentic…. – NYT, 12-1-10
  • Latke vs. Hamantaschen: An Age-Old Debate: It’s a debate that’s spanned the centuries – at least about half of one – and brought professors, writers and philosophers to the table to argue their cases on one of the most essential questions in modern scholarly discourse. Which one is better: the latke or the hamantaschen?
    The famed latke-hamantash debate first launched at the University of Chicago in 1946, and since then it’s been argued at such esteemed academic institutions as Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins. First conceived as a way to shore up a sense of Jewish community, nowadays the debate is as a way for scholars to blow off some steam, poke fun at academia and support their favorite potato- or flour-based foodstuff…. – Patch.com, 12-3-10
  • Hanukkah in public spaces: Although many people have come to identify public menorahs with Hanukkah itself, a recently published book argues that the holiday’s celebration today has been largely defined by just one slice of the Jewish population.
    “Whatever people associate with Hanukkah in the public space is Chabad,” says Maya Balakirsky Katz, associate professor of art history at Touro College in New York and author of The Visual Culture of Chabad. “In the last few decades, Chabad has provided the public image of Hanukkah in America, possibly in the world.” According to Katz, many Jews balk at Chabad’s conspicuous display of religion in the diaspora and consider it “embarrassing, if not also dangerous.” “They pushed religion into the public space and presented it as the Jewish image,” Katz says. “Before Jews even had a chance to react, it became the Jewish holiday image. I think the only people really invested in challenging Chabad’s right to light are other Jews.”
    “Chabad emissaries take comparisons between their giant menorahs and Christmas trees in stride,” Katz says. “Comparisons between their menorahs and the Israeli national symbol make them more nervous.” Katz’s book devotes an entire chapter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s decision to promote menorahs with diagonal branches in sharp contrast to the arced, half-moon branches of the menorah on the Israeli national emblem. The Rebbe claimed his inspiration was an argument by the medieval theologian and physician Maimonides that the original Temple menorah had diagonal branches.
    “For Houston Jews and Jews everywhere, I think the Rebbe initiated a rebirth to diasporist culture; you can proudly be a diaspora Jew and have a whole other material culture that’s not only connected to Israel,” Katz says. “That is definitely going to be part of his legacy. He gave birth to a very proud religious diaspora material culture.”
    Whereas Katz’s book addresses Chabad’s appropriation of Hanukkah as a means to forge an American-Jewish religious material culture, Zaklikofsky focuses on the mitzvah, commandment, of lighting the menorah as a testimony to what he considers a historically documented miracle…. – Houston Chronicle, 12-2-10
  • Southern Jews Put Their Spin On Soul Food: The eight-day Jewish holiday of Hannukah began earlier this week and with it comes culinary traditions of the season. A new book describes how Jews in the American south have blended traditional Jewish fare enjoyed around the holidays with southern cuisine. Host Michel Martin speaks with Marci Cohen Ferris, author of “Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South”…. – NPR, 12-3-10 Download MP3
  • Dianne Ashton: American Hanukkah Traditions Focus on Children: Newswise — Hanukkah isn’t a hugely important holiday on the Jewish calendar, but modern day celebrations of the Festival of Lights do work to get today’s children–and adults–excited about Judaism, according to Dianne Ashton, a professor of religion studies at Rowan University. Author of a book on Hanukkah in America to be released next year by New York University Press, Ashton says two Cincinnati rabbis led a movement to “Americanize” Judaism in the 1860s. That movement included promoting the idea of a fun holiday festival for Jewish children.
    “One of the rabbis said Jewish children shall have a grand and glorious Hanukkah, a festival as nice as any Christmas, with songs, dramatics, candle lighting, ice cream and candy,” says Ashton, whose book examines Hanukkah from 1860-2000. “This really shifted Hanukkah from primarily an observance of Jewish adults to a festival seen as particularly important for Jewish children, a way to keep them interested in Judaism.”… – Newswise, 11-30-10
  • Rethinking the “Jewish Christmas”: Hanuka is back! Perhaps some wonder when it ever was gone. According to Jenna Weissman Joselit, the Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies and professor of history at George Washington University, “Well into the 1880s, Chanukah fared poorly in America, a victim of neglect.” She quotes the despairing voices of 19th century American rabbis, in an article for Reform Judaism magazine (Winter 2008): “‘The customary candles disappear more and more from Jewish homes,’ lamented Rabbi Gustav Gottheil in 1884. ‘Kindle the Chanukah lights anew, modern Israelite!’ declared Rabbi Kaufmann Kohler just a few years later. ‘Make the festival more than ever before radiant with the brightness and beauty of love and charity.’” Instead of kindling Hanuka candles, Americans “were adorning their homes with greenery and parlor illuminations and eagerly exchanging gifts in the spirit of Christmas. The purchase of Christmas gifts, commented the Jewish Daily Forward in 1904, ‘is one of the first things that proves one is no longer a greenhorn,’” the Jewish studies professor writes….
    The historian continues her survey of the festival’s rise, noting that in the 1950s, “American Jews no longer had to dread the ‘cruel month’ of December. Chanukah’s accoutrements had grown to include paper decorations, greeting cards, napkins, wrapping paper, ribbons, and phonograph records. And in the years following World War II, the outside world increasingly freighted Chanukah with the same cultural and social significance as Christmas, yoking the two together in demonstration of America’s ‘cultural oneness.’ Public school educators in particular convened a ‘holiday assembly’ on a ‘compromise date’ in December in which a Christmas tree and a ‘Menorah candle’ as well as the singing of Chanukah hymns and Christmas carols figured prominently.”… – American Jewish World, 11-26-10
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