Who remembers Alfred Hajos-Guttman? He was the Mark Spitz of his day — 1896.
At the first modern Olympic Games, in Athens, the Hungarian swimmer won two gold medals, in 100-meter and 1,500-meter freestyle.
Jewish athletes won eight more medals at the inaugural Games, starting a sporting tradition that continues until today.
Sofia, Bulgaria — The Jewish women who formed a mutual aid group here three years ago to give self-esteem and a little income to its elderly members during a time of near poverty called their organization Bendichos Manos, Ladino for “blessed hands.”
Zafira Levi’s probably are the most blessed of all.
Sofia, Bulgaria — Lili Vrangova and Richard Kanter invited only their closest friends to their wedding here the other day. But Sofian Jewry showed up. Some 500 members of the city’s Jewish community, about one-sixth of the Jews who live in the capital, came to the synagogue one Sunday morning. Uninvited but welcomed, they crowded into the sanctuary of the 91-year-old building, listened to the ceremony on loudspeakers in the courtyard and danced in the aisles.
Plovdiv, Bulgaria — Albert Alkalai put on his raincoat, the one with the small yellow Jewish star on the lapel, left his family’s house and walked to work a quarter-mile away in the central square at 8 a.m. on March 10, 1943.
The morning was sunny. “A little bit chilly, as in March,” Alkalai remembers.
The plaintiff is British, a historian of World War II who has asserted that Jewish claims of genocide by the Nazis are exaggerated, that the Auschwitz gas chambers were built after the war by the Polish government as a tourist attraction, that Adolf Hitler did not become aware of the full extent of the Final Solution until 1943.
The defendant is American, a scholar and leading authority on Holocaust denial.
Warsaw — At the podium was the prime minister of Poland, who began his speech with a quote from the Talmud.
In the crowd were several hundred Polish Jews — parents and grandparents of children enrolled in Warsaw’s only Jewish day school.
In the front rows sat some of the most prominent leaders of American Jewish organizations and a few hand-picked American philanthropists.
Vienna — For Isaac Rabinowitz, the surge in support for far-right candidate Joerg Haider in last week’s national elections is not an international issue.
It’s the policeman who guards his synagogue.
A rotating group of police officers have stood outside Rabinowitz’s shul in the center of the capital since a terrorist incident here in 1983. Most are polite. When one is rude, Rabinowitz says he offers a warning: the Jewish community has political connections.
Elbasan, Albania — For a year during World War II, a teenage Nijazi Bicaku helped his father protect 26 Jews from the Nazis.
He led the Jews to a clearing in the forest an hour away from the family home, made a simple hut for them, brought them food every day. And he told nobody what he was doing.
“No one else knew,” says Bicaku, now 77, a one-time shepherd. “It was our secret.”
Elbasan, Albania — Maybe I should have picked another city or a different group of students.
I was teaching English to a classroom of Kosovar refugees at a refugee camp in Albania a couple of weeks ago. Introductory stuff. “Hello.” “My name is …” “How are you?”
For one’s day unit — a pretentious description for a seat-of-the-pants curriculum — I had my score of students perform drills asking and answering “Where are you from?”
Elbasan, Albania — Visar Hyseni shares space with three members of his immediate family, 22 distant relatives and displaced residents of Kosovo, as well as piles of pots, pans and blankets, in a room here the size of a modest college dorm.
Each morning he walks around the garden outside the former Albanian army officers club. In the afternoon, a little volley ball, at an impromptu net on the front lawn.