Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Somewhere Over The Rainbow (Author Unknown)

Who Knew?

At the 2014 Oscars, they celebrated the 75th anniversary of the release of the “Wizard of Oz” by having Pink sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, with highlights from the film in the background. But what few people realized, while listening to that incredible performer singing that unforgettable song is that the music is deeply embedded in the Jewish experience.

It is no accident, for example, that the greatest Christmas songs of all time were written by Jews. For example, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was written by Johnny Marks and “White Christmas” was penned by a Jewish liturgical singer’s (cantor) son, Irving Berlin.

But perhaps the most poignant song emerging out of the mass exodus from Europe was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. The lyrics were written by Yip Harburg.

He was the youngest of four children born to Russian Jewish immigrants. His real name was Isidore Hochberg and he grew up in a Yiddish speaking, Orthodox Jewish home in New York. The music was written by Harold Arlen, a cantor’s son. His real name was Hyman Arluck and his parents were from Lithuania. Together, Hochberg and Arluck wrote “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, which was voted the 20th century’s number one song by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

In writing it, the two men reached deep into their immigrant Jewish consciousness - framed by the pogroms of the past and the Holocaust about to happen - and wrote an unforgettable melody set to near prophetic words. Read the lyrics in their Jewish context and suddenly the words are no longer about wizards and Oz, but about Jewish survival:
Somewhere over the rainbow Way up high, There’s a land that I heard of Once in a lullaby. Somewhere over the rainbow Skies are blue, And the dreams that you dare to dream Really do come true. Someday I’ll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far Behind me. Where troubles melt like lemon drops Away above the chimney tops that’s where you’ll find me. Somewhere over the rainbow Bluebirds fly. Birds fly over the rainbow. Why then, oh why can’t I? If happy little bluebirds fly Beyond the rainbow Why, oh why can’t I?

The Jews of Europe could not fly. They could not escape beyond the rainbow. Harburg was almost prescient when he talked about wanting to fly like a bluebird away from the “chimney tops”. In the post-Auschwitz era, chimney tops have taken on a whole different meaning than the one they had at the beginning of 1939.

Pink’s mom is Judith Kugel. She’s Jewish of Lithuanian background. As Pink was belting the Harburg/Arlen song from the stage at the Academy Awards, I wasn’t thinking about the movie. I was thinking about Europe’s lost Jews and the immigrants to America.

I was then struck by the irony that for two thousand years the land that the Jews heard of “once in a lullaby” was not America, but Israel. The remarkable thing would be that less than ten years after “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was first published, the exile was over and the State of Israel was reborn. Perhaps the “dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Who was the first president of the United States?

Who Was The First President?

I suspect George Washington was your first guess.

After all, who else comes to mind?

But think back to your history books - The United States declared its
independence in 1776, yet George Washington did not take Office until
April 30, 1789.

So who was running the country during these initial years of our young
country? It was the first eight U. S. Presidents. In fact, the first
President of the United States was one John Hanson. I can hear you now -
John who? John Hanson, was the first President of the United States.

John Hanson, first President of the United States.

Check Google for more detailed information. There was also a U.S. stamp
made in his honor.

The new country was actually formed on March 1, 1781 with the adoption
of The Articles of Confederation. This document was actually proposed on
June 11, 1776, but not agreed upon by Congress until November 15, 1777.
Maryland refused to sign this document until Virginia and New York ceded
their western lands (Maryland was afraid that these states would gain too

much power in the new government from such large amounts of land).

Once the signing took place in 1781, a President was needed to run the
country. John Hanson was chosen unanimously by Congress (which included
George Washington). In fact, all the other potential candidates refused
to run against him, as he was a major player in the revolution and an
extremely influential member of Congress.

As the first President, Hanson had quite the shoes to fill. No one had
ever been President and the role was poorly defined. His actions in
office would set precedent for all future Presidents. He took office
just as the Revolutionary War ended. Almost immediately, the troops
demanded to be paid. As would be expected after any long war, there were
no funds to meet the salaries. As a result, the soldiers threatened to
overthrow the new government and put Washington on the throne as a monarch.

All the members of Congress ran for their lives, leaving Hanson as the
only guy left running the government. He somehow managed to calm the
troops down and hold the country together. If he had failed, the
government would have fallen almost immediately and everyone would have
been bowing to King Washington.

Hanson, as President, ordered all foreign troops off American soil, as
well as the removal of all foreign flags. This was quite the feat,
considering the fact that so many European countries had a stake in the
United States since the days following Columbus.

Hanson established the Great Seal of the United States, which all
Presidents have since been required to use on all official documents.
President Hanson also established the first Treasury Department, the
first Secretary of War, and the first Foreign Affairs Department.

Lastly, he declared that the fourth Thursday of every November was to be
Thanksgiving Day, which is still true today.

The Articles of Confederation only allowed a President to serve a one
year term during any three year period, so Hanson actually accomplished
quite a bit in such little time. Seven other presidents were elected
after him:

1. John Hanson
2. Elias Boudinot (1782-83),
3. Thomas Mifflin (1783-84),
4. Richard Henry Lee (1784-85),
5. John Hancock (1785-86),

6. Nathan Gorman (1786-87),
7. Arthur St. Clair (1787-88), and
8. Cyrus Griffin (1788-89),

...all prior to George Washington taking office.

So what happened? Why don't we hear about the first eight presidents?
It's quite simple - The Articles of Confederation didn't work well. The
individual states had too much power and nothing could be agreed upon. A
new doctrine needed to be written - something we know as the> Constitution.

And that leads us to the end of our story.
George Washington definitely was not the first President of the United
States. He was the first President of the United States under the
Constitution we follow today.

And the first eight Presidents have been forgotten in history.