Lloyd George, 1863 – 1945

January 17, 1863:  Birthdate of David Lloyd George.  Lloyd George was the British Prime Minister from 1916 through 1922.  This meant that he led Britain to victory during World War I and was the leader of the peace negotiations.  In this latter role he signed the Treaty of San Remo that officially ended the war with Turkey.  Under the terms of the treaty “Palestine was declared a mandated territory” to be administered by Great Britain under the terms of the Balfour Declaration.  Lloyd George agreed to this despite a great deal of anti-Zionist pressure some of which was generated by American missionary educators with interests in the Middle East.  (from “This Day … In Jewish History”, Mitch Levin)

The Royal Mail issued a stamp in 2013 honoring Prime Minister George as one of many Great Britons in the series by the same name:




Benny Goodman plays Carnegie Hall – 1938

January 16, 1938 – Benny Goodman and his band performed in concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Goodman was an American jazz and swing musician, clarinetist and bandleader, known as the “King of Swing”.

In the mid-1930s, Goodman led one of the most popular musical groups in America. His concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City on January 16, 1938, is described by the critic Bruce Eder as “the single most important jazz or popular music concert in history: jazz’s ‘coming out’ party to the world of ‘respectable’ music.”

Goodman’s bands launched the careers of many major jazz artists. During an era of racial segregation he led one of the first well-known integrated jazz groups. Goodman performed nearly to the end of his life, while exploring an interest in classical music.

Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east side of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park.

Designed by architect William Burnet Tuthill and built by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1891, it is one of the most prestigious venues in the world for both classical music and popular music. Carnegie Hall has its own artistic programming, development, and marketing departments, and presents about 250 performances each season. It is also rented out to performing groups.  (from Wikipedia)

The U.S. Postal Service has issued philatelic material commemorating both Goodman and Carnegie Hall.  In 1996, a 32-cent stamp was released commemorating Goodman (Scott No. 3099) as part of its Big Band Leaders series.  And, in 1991 a 19-cent postal card was printed which commemorated Carnegie Hall (Scott No. UX154):



The Harold Arlen Songbook

January 14, 1961: Ella Fitzgerald completed the recording of the “Harold Arlen Songbook” today which included such Broadway classics as “That Old Black Magic,” “It’s Only a Paper Moon” and “Over the Rainbow” which is popularly known as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  (from This Day … In Jewish History, Mitch Levin)

The U.S. has issued postage stamps honoring both Fitzgerald and Arlen.  In January 2007, Ella was portrayed on a 39-cent stamp (Scott No. 4120) as a part of the U.S.P.S.’s ongoing Black Heritage series and Arlen was portrayed on a 32-cent stamp (Scott No. 3100) issued in September 1996 as part of its Legends of American Music series.




Johnny Cash at Folsom State Prison

January 13, 1968 – Johnny Cash performs live at Folsom State Prison.

Folsom State Prison is a California State Prison located in the city of Folsom, approximately 20 miles (30 km) northeast of the state capital of Sacramento. It is one of 33 prisons operated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Opened 137 years ago in 1880, Folsom is the second-oldest prison in the state, after San Quentin, and was the first in the United States to have electricity.  Folsom was also one of the first maximum security prisons, and as such witnessed the execution of 93 condemned prisoners over a 42-year period.

Folsom is probably best known in popular culture for concerts performed at the facility by musician Johnny Cash, particularly in 1968, when the two shows of January 13 were made into a live album.  He had written and recorded the song “Folsom Prison Blues” over a decade earlier.

The U.S. Postal Service issued a forever stamp in 2013 commemorating Johnny Cash:



Abba Eban, 1915 – 2002

January 12, 1966: Abba Eban completes his service as Deputy Prime Minister of Israel.

Abba Eban born Aubrey Solomon Meir Eban; later adopted Abba Solomon Meir Eban, was an Israeli diplomat and politician, and a scholar of the Arabic and Hebrew languages.

In his career he was Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister, Education Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and ambassador to the United States and to the United Nations. He was also Vice President of the United Nations General Assembly and President of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Born in Cape Town, South Africa, on February 2, 1915 to Lithuanian Jewish parents, Eban moved to the United Kingdom at an early age. As a child, he recalled being sent to his grandfather’s house every weekend to study the Hebrew language, Talmud and Biblical literature.  He lived for a period of time in Belfast.

He was educated at St Olave’s Grammar School, then in Southwark, before studying Classics and Oriental languages at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he achieved a triple first. During his time at University and afterwards, Eban was highly involved in the Federation of Zionist Youth and was editor of its ideological journal, The Young Zionist.

After graduating with high honors, he researched Arabic and Hebrew as a Fellow of Pembroke College from 1938–39. At the outbreak of World War II, he went to work for Chaim Weizmann at the World Zionist Organization in London from December 1939.

He served in the British Army in Egypt and Mandate Palestine, becoming an intelligence officer in Jerusalem, where he coordinated and trained volunteers for resistance in the event of a German invasion, serving as a liaison officer for the Allies to the Jewish Yishuv.

From 1966 to 1974, Eban served as Israel’s foreign minister.  He defended the country’s reputation after the Six-Day War by asserting, in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, that Israel acted in response to an imminent threat: “So on the fateful morning of June 5th, when Egyptian forces moved by air and land against Israel’s western coast and southern territory, our country’s choice was plain”.  Nonetheless, he was a strong supporter of trading parts of the territories occupied in the war in exchange for peace. He played an important part in the shaping of UN Security Council Resolution 242 in 1967, as well as Resolution 338 in 1973. Among his other high level contacts, Eban was received by Pope Paul VI in 1969.

Eban was at times criticized for not voicing his opinions in Israel’s internal debate. However, he was generally known to be on the “dovish” side of Israeli politics and was increasingly outspoken after leaving the cabinet. In 1977 and 1981, it was widely understood that Shimon Peres intended to name Eban Foreign Minister, had the Labor Party won those elections. Eban was offered the chance to serve as minister without portfolio in the 1984 national unity government, but chose to serve instead as Chair of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee from 1984 to 1988.

His comment that Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” (i.e., for peace), made after the Geneva peace talks in December 1973, is often quoted. (from Wikipedia)

Israel Post issued a stamp in September 2006 honoring Abba Eban:


Alexander Hamilton, 1757 – 1804

January 11, 1757 – Birthdate of Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton was an American statesman and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was an influential interpreter and promoter of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the founder of the nation’s financial system, the Federalist Party, the United States Coast Guard, and The New York Post newspaper. As the first Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton was the main author of the economic policies of the George Washington administration. He took the lead in the funding of the states’ debts by the Federal government, as well as the establishment of a national park, a system of tariffs, and friendly trade relations with Britain. His vision included a strong central government led by a vigorous executive branch, a strong commercial economy, with a national bank and support for manufacturing, plus a strong military. This was challenged by Virginia agrarians Thomas Jefferson and James Madison who formed a rival party. They favored strong states based in rural America and protected by state militias as opposed to a strong national army and navy. They denounced Hamilton as too friendly toward Britain and toward monarchy in general, and too oriented toward cities, business and banking.

Hamilton was born out of wedlock in Charlestown, British West Indies, to a mother of French Huguenot and British ancestry, and a Scots father, James A. Hamilton, the fourth son of Scottish laird Alexander Hamilton of Grange, Ayrshire. Orphaned as a child by his mother’s death and his father’s abandonment, he was taken in by an older cousin, and later by a prosperous merchant family. He was recognized for his intelligence and talent, and sponsored by a group of wealthy local men to travel to New York City and pursue his education. Hamilton attended King’s College (now Columbia University), choosing to stay in the Thirteen Colonies to seek his fortune.

After graduation, Hamilton played a major role in the American Revolutionary War. At the start of the war in 1775, he joined a militia company. In early 1776, he raised a provincial artillery company, to which he was appointed captain. He soon became the senior aide to General Washington, the American forces’ commander-in-chief. Hamilton was dispatched by Washington on numerous missions to convey plans to his generals. After the war, Hamilton was elected as a representative to the Congress of the Confederation from New York. He resigned to practice law, and founded the Bank of New York.

Hamilton was among those dissatisfied with the weak national government. He led the Annapolis Convention, which successfully influenced Congress to issue a call for the Philadelphia Convention in order to create a new constitution. He was an active participant at Philadelphia, and he helped achieve ratification by writing 51 of the 85 installments of The Federalist Papers which, to this day, are the single most important reference for Constitutional interpretation.

Hamilton became the leading cabinet member in the new government under President Washington. He was a nationalist who emphasized strong central government and successfully argued that the implied powers of the Constitution provided the legal authority to fund the national debt, assume states’ debts, and create the government-backed Bank of the United States. These programs were funded primarily by a tariff on imports, and later also by a highly controversial tax on whiskey. To overcome localism Hamilton mobilized a nationwide network of friends of the government, especially bankers and businessmen, which became the Federalist Party. A major issue in the emergence of the American two-party system was the Jay Treaty, largely designed by Hamilton in 1794. It established friendly trade relations with Britain, to the chagrin of France and the supporters of the French Revolution. Hamilton played a central role in the Federalist party, which dominated national and state politics until it lost the election of 1800 to Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party.  (from Wikipedia)

Two stamps are presented here for your enjoyment.  The first is a U.S. 30-cent stamp with a bust of Hamilton issued in 1881 (Scott No. 190).  The second is a 24-cent stamp from St. Kitts & Nevis issued in 1957 commemorating the bicentenary of Hamilton’s birth (SG119).




Memel, Lithuania or Memel, Germany?

January 10, 1923: Lithuania seizes and annexes Memel. Memel had been part of the German Empire before WWI. The Germans lost control under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The Jews of Memel who would number 9,000 by the start of World War II, were trapped between the Lithuanians, who ran the city’s government, and the Germans, who were a majority. After Hitler rose to national power in Germany in 1933, the Nazis began campaigning for the city’s return to Germany. This campaign included anti-Jewish riots and other anti-Semitic actions. In October 1938, the local Nazis called for the implementation of the Nuremberg Laws in Memel; at the end of that year the Nazis won 26 of 29 seats in the city’s parliament, effectively making Memel part of Germany. German troops entered Memel in March 1939. Many of the Lithuanians and almost all of the city’s Jews had managed to escape to Kovno and other nearby towns before the invasion. However, after the Nazis took over Lithuania in mid-1941, they destroyed those Jews along with the rest of Lithuanian Jewry. When Memel was liberated by the Soviet army in January 1945, not one Jew remained.  (from This Day … In Jewish History, Mitch Levin)

Three years prior in 1920, the German post office issued a set of stamps overprinted with the word “Memelgebiet” or “Memelland”, of which the 5-mark blue (Scott No. 16) is pictured here.  The bottom of the stamp is indicative of the country’s use of postage stamps as political propaganda.  The words on the lower margin of the stamp read, “Seid Einig, Einig, Einig!” or literally translated, “We are United, United, United!”


Simone de Beauvoir, 1908 – 1986

January 9, 1908 – Birthdate of Simone de Beauvoir, French philosopher and author.

Simone Lucie Ernestine Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir was a French writer, intellectual, existential philosopher, political activist, feminist and social theorist. Though she did not consider herself a philosopher, she had a significant influence on both feminist existentialism and feminist theory.

De Beauvoir wrote novels, essays, biographies, autobiography and monograph on philosophy, politics and social issues. She was known for her 1949 treatise The Second Sex, a detailed analysis of women’s oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism; and for her novels, including She Came to Stay and The Mandarins. She was also known for her lifelong open relationship with French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.  (from Wikipedia)

Belgium issued a postage stamp in 2001 (Michel No. 3087) commemorating Women’s Studies (Etudes feministes) with an impressionistic portrait of de Beauvoir:


Jews and Racial Justice in the U.S.

January 7, 1923 (19th of Tevet, 5683): Emil Gustav Hirsch “a major Reform movement rabbi in the United States” passed away. Born on May 22, 1852 in Luxembourg, he was “a son of the rabbi and philosopher Samuel Hirsch. He later married the daughter of Rabbi David Einhorn. For forty-two years (1880-1922), Hirsch served as the rabbi of Chicago Sinai Congregation, one of the oldest synagogues in the midwest. At this post, he became well-known for an emphasis on social justice. From Chicago Sinai’s pulpit, he delivered rousing sermons on the social ills of the day and many Chicagoans, Jew and gentile alike, were in attendance. Appointed professor of rabbinical literature and philosophy at the University of Chicago in 1892, Hirsch also served on the Chicago Public Library board from 1885 to 1897. He was an influential exponent of advanced thought and Reform Judaism. He edited Der Zeitgeist (Milwaukee) (1880–82) and the Reform Advocate (1891–1923). He also edited the Department of the Bible of the Jewish Encyclopedia. Hirsch is the namesake of the Emil G. Hirsch Metropolitan High School of Communications (Hirsch Metro), located in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago. In keeping with his interest in education, Hirsch advised a wealthy congregant, Julius Rosenwald of Sears, Roebuck & Co., to use part of his wealth to help build public schools which black students could attend in the segregated south. The school building program was one of the largest programs, but not the only, administered by the Rosenwald Fund.

Later in U.S. history, the segregation of public schools would become illegal on the basis of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court ruling.  The United States Postal Service issued a stamp on August 30, 2005 honoring this landmark court case.  It can be stated with a good measure of confidence that the Jews of the United States played a part in ameliorating the harms caused by racial segregation.


Alexander Scriabin, 1872 – 1915

January 6, 1872 – Birthdate of Alexander Scriabin, Russian pianist and composer.

Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin was influenced early in his life by the work of Frederic Chopin and composed works that are characterized by a highly tonal idiom (these works are associated with his “first stage” of compositional output). Later in his career, independently of Arnold Schoenberg, Scriabin developed a substantially atonal and much more dissonant musical system, which accorded with his personal brand of mysticism, Scriabin was influenced by synesthesia, and associated colors with the various harmonic tones of his atonal scale, while his color-coded circle of fifths was also influenced by theosophy. He is considered by some to be the main Russian Symbolist composer.

Scriabin was one of the most innovative and most controversial of early modern composers. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia said of Scriabin that, “No composer has had more scorn heaped on him or greater love bestowed.” Leo Tolstoy described Scriabin’s music as “a sincere expression of genius.”  Scriabin had a major impact on the music world over time, and influenced composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev and Nikolai Roslavets. However Scriabin’s importance in the Soviet musical scene, and internationally, drastically declined after his passing. According to his biographer Bowers, “No one was more famous during their lifetime, and few were more quickly ignored after death.”  Nevertheless, his musical aesthetics have been reevaluated, and his ten published sonatas for piano, which arguably provided the most consistent contribution to the genre since the time of Beethoven’s set, have been increasingly championed.  (from Wikepedia)

Russia issued a 4-kopek stamp in 1972 honoring Scriabin: