Flood Relief Fund Launched by United Israel World Union Vice President Ross Nichols


United Israel’s Vice President, Ross Nichols, director of our outreach arm “Roots of Faith,” lives in St Francisville, LA right in the heart of the recent Louisiana flooding in Baton Rouge and environs. Ross and his colleagues in the area has spend the last week personally working in flood relief. The damage is massive and the amount of work to be done is staggering. Please donate to our “Roots of Faith” Flood Relief Fund by clicking on the highlighted link. Unlike many such relief efforts 100% of funds collected go to direct relief of those in crisis with no overhead costs removed.

Ross Nichols and Dave Cole take a water break
Ross Nichols and Dave Cole take a water break

Southern Louisiana is reeling from the storm that struck the state in the recent days. Rivers surpassed record level flood stages producing unprecedented flooding, which displaced thousands, destroying homes and vehicles across the state. An estimated 20,000 people and their pets have been rescued from flooded areas, and yet some have not yet been reached. Some 10,000 are currently in shelters, and these numbers do not reflect the many who have been taken in by family and friends. Several parishes have been declared National Disasters and more are pending. The damage and suffering is inestimable and this is not going to end anytime soon. State and Federal authorities are working tirelessly to mobilize resources, but much of the help is coming from caring resources, neighbors, church and synagogue groups.
There are many reputable organizations through which one can give. We encourage giving in any way that one feels led. A simple Internet search will yield thousands of options to contribute towards helping the victims. The Roots of Faith Storm Relief Fund is one such effort among the many. It was set up to directly assist the family and friends of this organization primarily. Over the past few days, many of our online friends have asked how they can help.

100% of all contributions will go directly to those affected by the storm. The congregation is already deploying to the area, working to bring relief to those in need. Within our own congregation, we have family members who have lost their homes and who fled with only the clothes on their backs. There is need for food, clothing, diapers, baby formula, toiletries, water and many other basic necessities. In the coming weeks and months there will be needs that arise for home repairs that simply cannot wait until Federal Relief monies are made available. Your prompt assistance is the only way to meet these needs. Please give generously and help us share this Roots of Faith Relief Fund via social media links. Thank you in advance for your generosity!

Remembering David Horowitz (18): Among Jethro’s People


In January 1965, David Horowitz was elected First Vice President of the Foreign Press Association, a 48-year-old organization of over 300 correspondents representing every region of the world. Mr. Horowitz also moderates the UN Correspondents Round Table bi-weekly radio program heard over station WEVD in New York. Prior to his election to this new post, he served as General Secretary of the association for the past three years.

On March 8, some 3,500 United States Marines arrive in South Vietnam, becoming the first American combat troops in Vietnam.

Also in early March, David Horowitz left New York bound for Sweden and Israel. It would become an extended trip lasting over six weeks. Landing in Stockholm, this was an exciting and much anticipated time for Horowitz. It was his native country and having been born in Malmo, this was his first return since his family left Malmo at the outbreak of World War I in October 1914.

During his stay, “Arbetet,” the leading daily newspaper in Malmo, ran a long article in its March 19th issue with a headline calling Horowitz a “Malmo-born World-Citizen.” The article by noted Swedish writer Nils Anderson featured a three-column photo showing Mr. Horowitz standing by the house at Parkgatan number 21, where he had lived as a young boy.

The Malmö Synagogue where Aaron Horowitz, David's father served as Cantor and David attended as a young boy
The Malmö Synagogue where Aaron Horowitz, David’s father served as Cantor and David attended as a young boy

“Dagens Nyheter,” Stockholm’s leading daily, which is circulated throughout Sweden and whose U.S. and UN correspondent is Sven Ahman, also carried two stories on Horowitz’s visit.

While in South Sweden, Mr. Horowitz also visited Backakra, the farmstead of the late Secretary General of the UN, Dag Hammarskjold. The mutual friendship between the two and the strange, tragic death of Hammarskjold was recounted in a previous episode titled US and UN: Under New Management.

Following two weeks in Sweden, it was on to Israel where David would spend another four weeks, from March 21 to April 20. This was his seventh visit to the land of Israel. It would be a busy and agenda-driven schedule with his days filled with interviews, meetings, talks and visits in various parts of the State.

One of the scheduled events, however, stood out as special and something David Horowitz had waited a long time to experience.

For many years, David had looked forward to finding some way of coming into closer contact with the heroic Druze communities of Israel who had played such a vital role in aiding the outnumbered Palestinian Jews to win their life and death struggle during the 1948 War of Independence. Druze soldiers also fought side by side with Israeli troops during the Sinai campaign against Egypt.

The Druze are an Arabic speaking religious minority rooted in Ismailism, a branch of Shia Islam. Jethro of Midian is considered an ancestor of all Druze and revered as their spiritual founder as well as chief prophet. In the book of Exodus, Jethro is called a priest of Midian and became father-in-law of Moses after he gave his daughter, Zipporah, in marriage to Moses, thus making the Druze related to the Jews through marriage.

This view has been used to represent an element of the special relationship between Israeli Jews and Druze.

The opportunity for Horowitz finally arose thanks to a colleague in the Foreign Press Association of New York, Salman Falah, the son of a Druze Sheikh. Falah agreed to write several letters of introduction for David, among which was one to his father, Sheikh Hammoud Falah of Kfar Samia in Galilee, and another to Sheikh Lavib Abu Rukum of Isfiyah, a former member of the Knesset.

Salman Falah was a correspondent in the U.S. and the UN for the Israeli Arabic daily “Al Yam” while at the same time, a student at Princeton University majoring in Oriental studies. He was the first in Israeli Druze history to go abroad to complete his studies. Salman received his M. A. at Hebrew University.

In addition to the letters of introduction, Salman had also written to his family and friends regarding Horowitz’s visit. One of the letters was sent to his brother Faris, a well-known Druze attorney with headquarters in the historic city of Acre.

Druze Scouts March to Jetho's Tomb Showing Loyalty to Israel
Druze March to Jetho’s Tomb

David Horowitz spent two eventful days with the chieftains of the remarkable Druze communities and left us with the following first-hand account of his meetings in his own words:

Salman had thus opened the door for me to visit those people in Israel’s midst whom I had so long yearned to meet and commune with. The very people whose noble modes of life and mighty exploits I had previously only read and heard about. The people whose prophet of veneration, Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, was a true partner of the “great legislator” in both deed and word. He had given both succor and haven to the youthful son of Amram and Yocheved (Moses) during his most trying years as a “refugee” from Egypt and who later, after the exodus in the wilderness, also acted as the wise counselor to the over-burdened Hebraic leader.

These were the people of Jethro, whose faithfulness to Moses’ people to this very day had remained steadfast and unshaken, as was evidenced by the pro-Jewish stand they had taken when the children of Esau and Ishmael sought once again to destroy Jacob’s seed.

And now, at last, I was to find myself the honored guest of an entire Druze village, Kfar Samia, situated on the heights of the Western Galilean Mountains.”

Horowitz continued,

Upon my arrival, I was met by Faris in Acre and driven to the village where all the village fathers, headed by Sheikh Falah were congregated at the Falah homestead waiting to greet me. The royal welcome took me by complete surprise. No head of state could have received a warmer reception. The dramatic scene was reminiscent of Bible days. In spirit, in demeanor, even in attire, these Druze had not changed, and this is what fascinated me. Despite this, they all possessed a keen perception of modern life.

Sheikh Falah, the epitome of nobility and kindness, escorted me into the spacious living room as the village fathers followed, taking seats around the room. After having conveyed the greetings of the village’s favorite son, that of my friend Salman, and after reporting on his fine progress in America, Sheikh Falah, in a prayerful mood, said: “when I beheld you as you arrived at the threshold of our home, it was like seeing my own son coming back, praised be Allah.

There was continuous serving of the famous Druze coffee, possibly the best in the world, during the ensuing hour preceding the feast, which had been prepared in my honor.

As I sat here in the presence of these people, all highly intelligent, fiercely righteous appearing, with sharply penetrating glances, proud, yet imbued with a spirit of humility and exuding warmth of love and affection, I had the absolute feeling of kindred affinity.

I expressed my heartfelt gratitude: “I am greatly honored to find myself in your midst as one of you, and I thank the Almighty for having blessed me with this visit and for your acceptance of me as a brother in the Family. I am familiar with your great history, your veneration of Jethro, and the valiant part you played in aiding the descendants of Moses in their most critical moment in modern times. I bless Allah-YHVH for this privilege.”

One of the schoolteachers translated. There were happy nods of approval all around and expressions of thanks to God.

Following this “communion,” Sheikh Falah escorted me into the dining room where a huge table was fabulously set up to a king’s delight. Before seating ourselves, mother Falah came out to greet me heartily along with other members of the family.

The sumptuous meal was followed by a tour through the village. There were signs of prosperous activity all around. A new school was being erected and the road to the village was being widened and paved. All signs pointed to the fact that the emergence of the State of Israel was to the Druze as happy an occasion as it had been to their Jewish brethren, both of whom had suffered a similar bitter fate under the British and the Arabs.

My next meeting with the Druze took place about a week later in the autonomous Druze Religious Court in Haifa where Faris Falah had set a date for me with the three chiefs (Judges), Sheikhs Salman Tarif, Labib Abu Rukun, and Hussian Elayan. Here too, I was received royally. A later visit to the Isfiyah village on the Carmel left me once again, feeling perfectly at home.”

Mr. Horowitz summarized his thoughts about his experience by saying:

“My meeting with the Druze was indeed a highlight of this my seventh visit to the Holy Land. I took leave of these, Jethro’s beloved people with the feeling of profound peace and contentment, a feeling of having been reunited with brothers and sisters long separated from the Family. Surely, Moses and Jethro must be smiling in their places of holy repose in the face of the 20th century reunion of their offspring.”

2015 Meeting of Israeli Prime Minister with Druze Leaders
2015 Meeting of Israeli Prime Minister with Druze Leaders

The number of Druze people today exceeds over one million worldwide. They reside primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan. Other communities, however, live outside the Middle East, in Australia, Canada, Europe, Latin America and the United States.

In Israel today, the Druze form a religious minority of about 140,000. They are Arabic-speaking citizens of Israel and serve in the Israel Defense Forces just as most citizens do. Members of the community also serve in leadership roles in the military, law enforcement and medicine.

Just last November 2015, a Druze delegation toured the United States to promote Israel, speaking at schools, organizations, and with various media outlets to spread understanding and awareness of their community’s place in Israel’s multicultural society.

Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

This post is the eighteenth in the ongoing series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.

























Politics and Religion

With both Republican and Democratic conventions concluding this month and three months to go until the Presidential elections here are some thoughts from United Israel VP Ross Nichols on the perennial challenge of dealing with “religion and politics” in our free and open society. Visit Ross at rootsoffaith.org.

On Politics and Religion

400px-Mark_Twain,_Brady-Handy_photo_portrait,_Feb_7,_1871,_croppedMark Twain once said, “In religion and politics, people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.” I tend to agree.

Somewhere along the way I was instructed that one should avoid discussing Politics and Religion in polite company. Since I have chosen to openly speak my mind on Religious matters, I choose to remain out of political discussions. I often joke that I make enough enemies with my religious views, and don’t need any more as a result of my political views. I have purposely stayed away from political commentary for many reasons. People within the “religious community” have so much that already divides us that this seems to me to be just one more point that can and will cause people of faith to lose focus on things of great importance. I sense that it will only get worse in the coming weeks and months. For this reason I have felt led to focus people not on the political scene but on the clear and pure message found within the Hebrew Scriptures. A message that does not change regardless of who holds or will hold political office.

ConventionPopular media personalities will have you believe that our world is headed to hell and that this course is being charted by our politicians. They further suggest that placing other more capable people at the helm will remedy the dire straights we find ourselves in. And this has been the view preceding every election in our history. Will religious folk be able to fix their world at the polls? Will we finally vote in the long awaited herald of good tidings who will bring peace, harmony, justice and righteousness to our burdened land? Is there now or will there ever be such a candidate from which to choose? Does an elected official who does not meet this criteria prevent us from working on the things that promote decent society? How will our land be healed? What must we do to fix our world? Is it in the hands of present or future politicians? God, I hope not!

The answer to the question of what we must do to “heal our land” in my opinion is clearly communicated in II Chronicles 7:14.

2Chr. 7:14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Notice the steps involved:

  1. Humble themselves
  2. Pray
  3. Seek My face
  4. Turn from their wicked ways

God says that if “My people who are called by My name” do this, He will (1) hear from heaven, (2) forgive their sin and (3) heal their land. No one seems to want to go through the trouble of following the biblical pattern. It is much easier to point the finger and shake the head at those “in charge.” If history is any indicator of the future, the next group of politicians will be blamed for whatever problems the world faces under their watch. But at what point do religious people ever take responsibility for fixing the world? Is this something that we believe is the job of politicians?

If religious people are waiting on any government system to repair the world, I say that they have not understood the servant mission to which the Bible calls them. It is, and always has been the task of “Holy” people to fix their world. Very few are up for the challenge of fixing the world. The task seems too daunting. But what if people actually began to work on fixing themselves and then on helping their neighbors? If enough people actually did this, we would make good progress towards making the world a better place.

I do not want to join a secular choir that sings a song of blame. A choir whose members are not directing people to the faith defined by the Hebrew Scriptures, but who place their hope in a particular person or political party. In many ways they are distracting us from what we should focus on. Some would argue that leadership is affecting our ability to live according to Scriptures by their actions. Here, I would have to disagree. Even if laws are imposed that attempt to prevent our freedom of worship, perhaps we should read Daniel, or the story of the Maccabees. How did they deal with it? Did they stop praying to their God when ordered to and cry about the “current administration?” Did they violate the commandments because the law of the land forbade their religious practices? Do we find them whining about the fact that their rulers are from a different denomination or religion? I think that the answers to these questions are obvious.

As for me, I want to focus my teachings on the Scriptures. I pray that the words I speak will lead people to take a hard look at their own lives and cause them to make corrections when they discover fault or failure in their own walk. Our message must remain unique. We need to consider that the responsibility to choose God’s ways are inalienable. This does not mean that following God will always be easy, or that it will always be legal.

If we ever begin to truly believe that God is in control we might just take to heart the message of the Scriptures. We might just appreciate a place where we are free to worship according to our beliefs, regardless of the beliefs of the past or future leaders of our land.

If people want to speak or hear political arguments for one or the other side of any election there are plenty of places to go. If people are interested in what the Bible says about fixing the world in which they live, they should shake the dust off of their Bible, turn off the television and begin to thumb through the pages. I also recommend keeping a mirror handy as you might be looking harder at yourself than you have in the past. Put the binoculars away. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.

Pray that current and future political leaders do nothing which opposes our freedom of religion. I am here reminded of a scene from my favorite movie, “Fiddler on a Roof.” The rabbi is asked if there is a blessing for the Czar. The rabbi responds, “A blessing for the Czar…..May the Lord bless and keep the Czar….far away from us!” This might seem funny but while searching for the quote for this article I discovered that there actually is a blessing for the Czar. It is contained within a Jewish prayer book for the High Holy Days from Lithuania in 1914. The blessing reads as follows:

May He Who grants salvation to kings and dominion to rulers,
Whose kingdom is a kingdom spanning all eternity,

Who releases David, his servant, from the evil sword,

Who places a road in the sea and a path in the mighty waters –

May He bless, protect, guard, assist, elevate, exalt, and lift upwards


With his wife, the honorable CZARINA ALEXANDRA FEODOROVNA

Their son, the crown prince ALEXI NIKOLAIOVICH

And his mother, the honorable CZARINA MARIA FEODORAVNA

And the entire house of our king, may their glory be exalted.

May the King of kings in His mercy give him life, and protect him,

And save him from every trouble, woe and injury.

May nations submit under his feet, and may his enemies fall before him,

And may he succeed in whatever he endeavors.

May the King of kings, in His mercy, grant compassion in his heart

and the heart of all his advisors

To do favors for us and for all Israel, our brethren.

In his days and in our days, may Judah be saved, and may Israel dwell securely,

And may the Redeemer come to Zion.
So may it be His will – and we say:  AMEN.

Regardless of your political views, don’t lose sight of your religious responsibility. How about praying for those in positions of leadership, if not for their well being, for your own.

RossNicholsRoss is a student and teacher of the Bible – ordained through United Israel World Union. He is the founder of Roots of Faith and the Synagogue Without Walls in Saint Francisville, Louisiana. His teachings advocate a return to the Core Biblical Faith (Abrahamic Faith) and seek to promote Biblical literacy for all humankind.

Remembering David Horowitz (17): The Change in Spain–An Extraordinary Connection

Around 12:30 p.m. as President John F. Kennedy’s uncovered 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible limousine entered Dealey Plaza, Nellie Connally, then the first lady of Texas, turned around to President Kennedy, who was sitting behind her, and commented “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you,” which President Kennedy acknowledged by saying “No, you certainly can’t.” Those were the last words ever spoken by John F. Kennedy.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. CST on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas. He was fatally shot by Lee Harvey Oswald while traveling with his wife Jacqueline, Texas Governor John Connally, and Connally’s wife Nellie, in a presidential motorcade.

Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in as our 36th President on the Air Force One plane in Dallas just 2 hours and 8 minutes after the assassination took place. He took the oath of office administered by U.S. District Judge Sarah T. Hughes, with Jacqueline Kennedy at his side.

LBJ Swearing In

The new President quickly inherited pressing problems including the War in Vietnam and the Middle East juggling act. Kennedy’s effort to balance conflicting interests in the Middle East, already faltering by late 1963, collapsed altogether under Lyndon Johnson. Johnson gave up on even attempting a balanced approach. He instead, assumed a frankly partisan stance. He sided openly with the Shah of Iran against his internal opposition, with the conservative Arab regimes against Nasser’s Egypt, and with Israel against the Arab states as a whole.

With the dawn of 1964, United Israel World Union, established two years before the rise of the United Nations in 1945 and five years before the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, entered its twenty-first year of global activities. Links on behalf of a universal Torah faith had been established on five continents and a sure foundation had been laid in re-born Israel.

UIWU held its 21st Annual meeting on Sunday, April 26. The highlight of the meeting was the announcement by Rabbi Irving J. Block, spiritual leader of The Brotherhood Synagogue in Greenwich Village, New York, of the gift of an antique Indian (Calcutta) Torah scroll to the West Olive, Michigan unit of United Israel.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded on May 28, 1964 with the purpose of the ”liberation of Palestine” through armed struggle. The Arab League had found a way to introduce a new weapon in its war against Israel.

In early February 1965, a most unusual and little-known story began to unfold.

An article written by Shlomo Nakdimon entitled “Sequence of events favoring Jewry marks change in Spain” appeared in the February 1965 issue of the UI Bulletin. In the article, Nakdimon indicated that reports from Spain during the past six months all indicate that the nation of the infamous Inquisition was moving quickly ahead to rectify the great wrongs inflicted upon the Jews on the eve of Columbus’ discovery of the New World. Wrongs which up to our own modern times have still led to restrictions against their descendants.

Nakdimon went on to mention an article recently written by the noted Yiddish writer and radio commentator, Shelomo ben-Israel earlier in the month. The featured article appeared in The Jewish Daily Forward on February 1, 1965. Nakdimon called it “an unusual and intriguing development which may well have led to a reawakening and a stirring of Generalissimo Francisco Franco’s “Jewish spirit” and to the realization of a true universal faith applicable to all mankind.”

In his article, Mr. Shelomo ben-Israel recounted how a Spanish correspondent at the United Nations one day last summer discussed Franco with his colleague, David Horowitz, editor of the Bulletin and World Union Press, and stressed the fact that the Generalissimo was most probably a descendant of the Marranos, and thus a Jew by origin. Moreover, he reiterated the fact, already widely known, that Franco aided hundreds of Jews fleeing from Hitler’s pursuit during World War II.

A thought immediately flashed through David Horowitz’s mind: Why not try to stir the dormant little “Jewish spark” resident deep in Franco’s bosom by sending him a copy of the book “Thirty-Three Candles,” an autobiography Horowitz had first published in 1949, covering the first thirty years of his life from 1914 to 1944.

Original Cover of the Horowitz biography, Thirty Three Candles
Original Cover of the Horowitz biography, Thirty Three Candles

The decision made, David autographed the volume and dispatched it in May of 1964 to Madrid. The autograph, in effect, read: “Your Excellency, Generalissimo Francisco Franco, in appreciation of what I have learned from a Spanish colleague here at the UN, namely, of the great aid you gave many fleeing Jewish refugees entering Spain from Nazi persecution during World War II, and in the knowledge that we may share a common heritage, I am happy to send you this, my book, which I trust will bring you many hours of pleasant and contemplative reading.”

Some six weeks after the book was mailed, Mr. ben-Israel points out, Mr. Horowitz received a telephone call from the office of the Spanish delegation to the UN informing him that an official letter had arrived for him from Madrid. Would he please come and pick it up.

Believing possibly that some secretary or official may have formally acknowledged the book, Mr. Horowitz went to pick up the letter. When he opened it, he noted to his amazement that Franco himself had signed the letter. The Generalissimo expressed his gratitude for the volume and especially for the sympathetic autograph.

When the Spanish correspondent at the UN was shown the letter he, too, thought it incredible that Franco himself should have found it important enough personally to acknowledge receipt of “Thirty-Three Candles.”

“Franco’s letter was dated July 4, 1964,” ben-Israel notes. “And two months later, in September, the Spanish Cortes (Parliament) suddenly took up a bill which called for the elimination of a law which had restricted the religious rights of both Jews and Protestants in Spain.”

“The news of this development,” ben-Israel continues, “created a great sensation. But, as it happened, the influence of the Catholic Church in Spain being so deeply rooted, that, despite all efforts of some liberals, the proposed bill was relegated to the sidelines.”

However, on the eve of the New Year, when Franco delivered his “State of the Union” message, “the Generalissimo dropped a small bombshell,” as the New York Times commented on the event editorially. “He came out in favor of the exercise of freedom of conscience. But in clearer language, this could only mean that he favors passage of the bill, which has been stalled in the Cortes since September. Since the Spanish Cortes is like a rubber stamp for General Franco, it must be presumed that a statute on religious rights will be enacted this year.”


But this was not to mark the end of the new turn of events in Spain under the new Franco.

“Last month,” ben-Israel observes, “something happened in Spain that has not occurred since the Inquisition. Namely, no Spanish head of state had received Spanish Jewish representatives in 473 years.”

But in January 1965, Franco broke the precedent. He received in a friendly audience the heads of the Jewish communities of Madrid and Barcelona, Max Mazin and Alberto Levi, discussing with them the status of the Jews.

The only previous meeting recorded in history took place between King Ferdinand and the great Jewish sage Isaac de Abravanel, who served as the King’s aide. Abravanel had vainly tried to have the King and Queen Isabelle rescind the decree expelling Jews from Spain.

Concluding his article, Shelomo ben-Israel asks: “Does Franco in truth feel proud of his Marrano descent? Did a mystic book bearing the title “Thirty-Three Candles” really influence him? Did the foregoing acts and reforms and new bills come about as a result of this influence? Possibly. One day, perhaps, a historian will come forth and give us the answers…”

Generalissimo Francisco Franco died just after midnight on November 20, 1975 at the age of 82, just two weeks before his 83rd birthday. In Spain and abroad, the legacy of Franco remains controversial. The length of his rule, the suppression of opposition, and the effective propaganda sustained through the years has made a detached evaluation almost impossible.

The reasons behind Franco’s late actions that moved to rectify wrongs of the Inquisition remain somewhat mystifying and unknown. We are indeed left to speculate but one of the forgotten pieces of the story might well be these efforts of our late President, David Horowitz.

Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

This post is the seventeenth in the ongoing series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.

Remembering David Horowitz (16): Remember Amalak–Justice in Ramala

On the 15th of December, as the turbulent year of 1961 moved to a close, an Israeli war crimes tribunal sentenced Adolf Eichmann to die after being found guilty on all counts of crimes against humanity during the holocaust.


U Thant, a Burmese diplomat, was appointed new Secretary-General of the United Nations after his predecessor, Dag Hammarskjold died in a tragic plane crash.

In January 1962, the Foreign Press Association, consisting of some 200 foreign correspondents from all regions in the world, unanimously elected David Horowitz as General Secretary succeeding Zivko Milic of Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Horowitz at the time represented a number of foreign papers in Canada, Italy, South Africa and Israel and had been an active member and officer of the association for the past eight years.

Also in January, Horowitz delivered two lectures; one before a Manhattan branch of the American Jewish Congress, and another at Congregation Beth Sholom in Teaneck, New Jersey, on the universality of the Hebraic faith.

Professor Abraham S. Kotsuji, head of the Institute of Hebrew Culture in Japan arrived in the United States during the month of April and attended the 19th Annual Meeting of United Israel as an honored guest. He spoke to the group briefly about his work in Japan. Also attending were noted Israeli educator, Dr. Israel Ben Zeev and internationally renowned artist and sculptor, Dr. Rene Shapshak. It was Dr. Shapshak who designed the iconic United Israel emblem as previously covered in this series, ”

A few minutes past midnight on June 1, 1962, Otto Adolf Eichmann was executed by hanging at a prison in Ramla, Israel. The German Nazi SS lieutenant colonel was one of the major organizers of the Holocaust. He personally facilitated and managed the logistics of mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps in German- occupied Eastern Europe during World War II.

Eichmann Trial

In his last hours, Eichmann remained defiant and unrepentant. Refusing a last meal (asking instead for a glass of red wine) and the traditional black hood, he was hanged.

The historical irony in this demonstration of poetic justice was not lost. The engineer and supervisor of Hitler’s “final solution” resulting in the systematic murder of six million Jews had met his fate at the hands of a Jewish tribunal. He stood before Jewish judges in a nation established by Jews. Within 4 hours of his death, Eichmann’s body had been cremated at a secret location, and his ashes scattered in the Mediterranean Sea, outside of Israeli territorial waters, by an Israeli Navy patrol boat.

July provided another first in the changing policy with Israel. President Kennedy agreed to the sale of HAWK anti-aircraft missiles, the first major weapons system to be supplied by the United States.

The main source of Israel’s weapons was France, whose support was critical in enabling Israel to meet its defense needs. The HAWK sale was significant not only because it was the first major direct arms transfer from the United States to Israel, but also because that system required that Israeli soldiers be given extensive training in the United States and that spare parts be supplied to Israel.

On October 22, President Kennedy delivered a nationwide televised address on all of the major networks announcing the discovery of Soviet medium range ballistic missiles in Cuba and the administration’s plan to implement a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba.

Cuba Missle Crisis NYTimes

The tense 13-day (October 16-28) political and military stand-off between the United States and the Soviet Union played out on television worldwide and was the closest the cold war ever came to escalating into a full-scale nuclear war. The situation eased on October 28 when it was announced that Kennedy and Khrushchev had reached an agreement. Results of the agreement were the complete withdrawal of Soviet missiles from Cuba, withdrawal of American nuclear missiles from Turkey (a secret part of the agreement at the time) and an agreement that the U.S. would never invade Cuba without direct provocation.

The naval blockade of Cuba was lifted on November 20th. The Cuban Missile Crisis confrontation that had brought the world to the brink of nuclear disaster had ended.

In November, the first Annual Dinner of the Tarbuth Foundation, created by Dr. Emanuel Neumann with the view to advance Hebrew culture, was held at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan. Some 300 of America’s outstanding Jewish leaders and educators attended the unique event. The keynote speakers were former French Ambassador to Israel, Monsieur Pierre E. Gilbert, and former Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Abba Eban, who at the time was serving as Israel’s Minister of Education.

Former Ambassador Gilbert, who did more perhaps than any other person to cement Israel-French friendship during one of the most critical moments in the history of the Jewish State, the 1956 Suez crisis, was a Catholic who had been educated in a Jesuit school. It would be what the Catholic Monsieur said in his address that would hold the audience spellbound.

Declaring that the Hebrew language alone “can bring out the true meaning of the Bible,” Ambassador Gilbert remarked that the Jewish peoples “had been chosen by God to bring Monotheism to the whole world.” Mr. Gilbert further revealed that through the study of Hebrew “a new world gradually opened up before my eyes.”

“At first, as a linguist and a philologist” he told the distinguished audience, “I discovered the beauty of the Bible. In addition to its religious, historical and philosophical interest is a colossal literary monument. Now that I have read it in the Hebrew text, which is the only one able to bring out all its values, I find it to be the most captivating book I’ve ever read.”

The surprise of the evening came when Gilbert began to speak in a fluent Hebrew to the amazement of even the scholars in the audience, including Harry Orlinsky, the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation of the Torah.

The message delivered by Ambassador Gilbert was one that David Horowitz, in the audience at the time, would have heartily endorsed.

As 1962 drew to a close, it marked seven long years of U.S. entanglement in the Vietnam War. Sadly, it was to last over another decade.

On March 6, 1963, David Horowitz departed for his sixth visit to the Holy Land. His first two visits: 1924-1927 and 1932-1934 were sojourns while Britain held the Mandate over Palestine. The other three: 1951, 1953 and 1955 were pilgrimages to the re-born Third Hebrew Commonwealth.

Following a three-week visit in Israel, David was off to Turkey. It was a special occasion.

The Turkish Government had invited the United Nations correspondent to be its guest for a week. The Turkish Press Association, representing reporters of all the leading Turkish dailies and agencies, paid special tribute to David Horowitz at a reception given in his honor at the press club in Izmir, Turkey. The Association officers presented David with a certificate making him an honorary member of the Association.

Following the reception, a press conference was held at which David answered questions relating to the basic issues facing the United Nations. Among these were Vietnam, Cyprus, and the Middle East.

In Ankara, the capital of Turkey, David was feted at a special dinner given by the heads of the Ministry of Information and Press. Mr. Ben Yitzchak Yaakov, the Israeli Charge d’Affairs, was among the invited guests.

During his stay, David met with other officials, including the Governor of Istanbul State, Niyazi Aki and its Mayor, Necdet Ugur. He also visited the Jewish community leaders who spoke very highly of the Turkish Government, which has close and friendly relations with the State of Israel.

After four weeks of intense activity, that included some well-deserved recognition, both in Israel and Turkey, a tired, yet inspired David Horowitz was finally back home.

During this commemoration year of UIWU’s 20th anniversary, David Horowitz received a personal letter from an old friend. It was a friendly letter, hand-written in English, addressed to David. The envelope was also hand-written with the back flap containing only two letters: B.G. It was from David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, and the one who had declared the independence of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948.

The former Prime Minister concluded his letter to David by quoting a passage from Isaiah 62, writing it in Biblical Hebrew.

The personal hand-written letter from David Ben Gurion, dated July 27, 1963, remains on display today in the David Horowitz Memorial Library archives located at United Israel World Union’s headquarters.

David Horowitz had experienced a remarkable year. There would be yet another award as The Deadline Club, New York City Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, and America’s most outstanding professional journalism fraternity, selected him for “distinguished journalistic achievement” for United Nations reporting.

As 1963 drew to a close, a November event would shock our nation and the world. It would leave a lasting impression on many Americans who will always remember where they were when the tragedy struck.


Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

This post is the sixteenth in the ongoing series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.




















































Remembering David Horowitz (15): US and UN “Under New Management”

The new decade was well underway.

1960 had frightened us all with the release of the shocking psychological, thriller-horror film “Psycho”, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, alarmed us by placing over 900 “military advisors” in South Vietnam and had given us a new President after eight years of the Eisenhower administration. The times, they were a-changin’

The 1960 Presidential election was the closest election since 1916. Democrat John Fitzgerald Kennedy narrowly defeated Republican Vice President Richard M. Nixon to become the 35th President. In doing so, Kennedy became the first Catholic and at 43, the youngest person ever elected President. Kennedy won by a mere 113,000 votes. Almost 69 million people voted.

When Kennedy came to power, he became the next man up in the juggling act of Middle Eastern politics. He made a remarkably serious effort to reach an accommodation with the forces of indigenous Arab nationalism. He believed that the best way to deal with Arab nationalists was to treat them with respect, allow them to make their own foreign policy decisions, and offer them generous assistance in developing their countries internally. He also downplayed Cold War themes, stressing local concerns instead.

Concerning Israel, Kennedy also tried to strike a balance between ensuring Israel’s security and pressuring Israel to make concessions to its Arab neighbors. Whereas Eisenhower had kept Israel at arm’s length, Kennedy established much friendlier relations with Israel.

Before becoming President, John Kennedy had made two visits to Israel. He had these observations regarding his trips: “In 1939 I first saw Palestine, then a barren and unhappy land under alien rule. In 1951, I traveled again to the land of the River Jordan, to see first-hand, the new State of Israel. The transformation that had taken place was hard to believe. For in these twelve years a land had been born, a desert had been reclaimed, and the most tragic victims of World War II had found a home.”

A Significant Meeting, New York City, 1961
A Significant Meeting, 1961

In the words of British author Israel Zangwill: “The land without a people waited for the people without a land.”

Following the 18th Annual Meeting of United Israel World Union on April 2, 1961, it was announced that Harry Leventhal, noted philanthropist and co-publisher of the United Israel Bulletin had been named a vice-chairman for the committee supporting the “Salute to General Omar N. Bradley Dinner.” It was announced that the dinner affair, sponsored by the Eleanor Roosevelt Cancer Foundation, would be held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on the evening of May 30. President John F. Kennedy would attend as the main speaker and Bob Hope would serve as Master of Ceremonies.

On April 11th, the trial of Adolf Eichmann as a World War II war criminal began in Jerusalem, Israel.

In early July, Dr. Rene Shapshak, noted sculptor and United Israel Bulletin Art Editor was back in the news. It was announced that Shapshak, whose works of art are exhibited in some of the world’s most famous museums, had been commissioned by the Eliezer Ben Yehudah Museum authorities to execute a large scale monument dedicated to the renaissance of the Hebrew language as inspired by the late Ben Yehudah. The monument was to be erected in the museum in Jerusalem.

It was Dr. Rene Shapshak who designed the special seal of United Israel World Union as covered in a previous installment of this series.

On September 18, 1961 tragedy struck. A Douglas DC-6 airliner crashed near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold and fifteen others perished in the crash. Hammarskjold was en route to Ndola to negotiate a cease-fire between “non-combatant” UN forces and troops of President Moise Tshombe of Katanga.

An Extraordinary Leader, a Tragic Loss

The circumstances of the incident were never clear. A British-run commission of inquiry blamed the crash on pilot error and a later UN investigation largely rubber-stamped its findings. Later evidence would suggest otherwise.

David Horowitz and Dag Hammarskjold first met in 1953 when Hammarskjold, a Swedish diplomat and economist, was elected the new Secretary-General of the UN after Trygve Lie’s resignation. Horowitz and Hammarskjold were both Swedes. They became good friends and the fact that they shared the same birthplace gave them great chemistry.

One of the first acts by Horowitz was to present a gift to the new Secretary-General. It was an Aztec stone head that Horowitz himself had brought back from Mexico some years ago. It would make a colorful and unique paperweight for the new desk.

Dag Hammarskjold was a true statesman and diplomat in every respect and became personally and actively engaged in the world problems facing the United Nations. In a 1955 visit to China, Hammarskjold negotiated the release of 11 captured U.S. pilots who had served in the Korean War. He was involved in struggles on three of the world’s continents and approached them through what he liked to call “preventive diplomacy.”

Horowitz would often communicate with Hammarskjold before he would leave on diplomatic missions. One such case was the intervention in the 1956 Suez Crisis.

Horowitz made a personal written appeal to the Secretary-General before he left to meet with Egyptian President Nasser in Cairo and Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion in Tel Aviv. The content of the appeal and exchange between the two appeared in a previous episode entitled: Back to the Desert-The War over Suez.”

The friendship and respectful working relationship would continue up until Hammarskjold’s tragic death. Horowitz remarked, “that Hammarskjold was able to understand people, psychologically. He could almost read their minds. He was very, very clever. He had an intuitive quality that is rare in individuals.”

In 1960 when Hammarskjold was working to defuse the Congo Crisis, he came under intense pressure to resign from elements within the United Nations, led by the Soviet Union. They demanded his resignation and the replacement of the office of Secretary-General by a three-man directorate with a built-in veto, known as the “troika.” Horowitz, knowing Hammarskjold’s sensitivities well, sent the Secretary-General a letter to his apartment in New York, to comfort him. In the letter, he cited a quotation from the Bible. He recalls that Hammarskjold responded immediately to the letter, with “a beautiful note.”

For more than half a century, three separate inquiries have been unable to come to a definitive conclusion about what happened on that fateful night. Conspiracy theorists have remained in overdrive, possibly with good cause.

As recent as March 16, 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed members to an Independent Panel of Experts, which would examine new information relating to the tragic event. The panel’s 99-page report, released on July 6, 2015, assigned “moderate” value to nine new eyewitness accounts and transcripts of radio transmissions. Those accounts suggested that Hammarskjold’s plane was already on fire as it went down and that other jet aircraft and intelligence agents were nearby. Additional new evidence may exist which, for national security reasons, was and remains classified by several governments more than 50 years after the fact.

The circumstances of the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjold remain shrouded in mystery.

Four years after the tragic plane crash, David Horowitz visited Sweden, returning home to see his own birthplace, and to see Uppsala, where Hammarskjold had grown up. He decided to visit Backakra, the farm Hammarskjold had bought with the hope that it would one day be his retirement home.

When Horowitz entered the farmhouse, he saw books, paintings, and sculptures, either collected by Hammarskjold, or gifts he had received. What Horowitz saw next caught his attention. On the desk in the library, which was a replica of Mr. Hammarskjold’s Park Avenue study, there was a family crest he used as his seal. Mounted above it was an Aztec stone head-the one given to the Secretary-General by Horowitz shortly after they met in 1953. David Horowitz remarked that he left Backakra that day “with a heavy heart and a mood of sadness.”

Dag Hammarskjold was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously in 1961, having been nominated before his death.

In 2011, The Financial Times wrote that Hammarskjold “has remained the benchmark against which later UN Secretaries-General have been judged.” Historian Paul Kennedy hailed Hammarskjold as “perhaps the greatest UN Secretary-General we’ve ever had.”

U.S. President John F. Kennedy regretted that he opposed the UN policy in the Congo and speaking of Hammarskjold, said: “I realize now that in comparison to him, I am a small man. He was the greatest statesman of our century.”

The turbulent year had ended. The US and the UN would continue to face complex and difficult world issues, but would now, however, face those uncertainties under the guidance of new leadership

 Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

This post is the fifteenth in the ongoing series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.







































Remembering David Horowitz (14): Bringing the Torah to Harlem

The decade of the 1960s had arrived and the United Nations had a new occupant.

A huge bronze sculpture with the inscription “Let Us Beat Our Swords into Plowshares,” created by Soviet artist Evgeny Vuchetich, had been presented to the United Nations on December 4, 1959 by the Government of the USSR. The sculpture, depicting the figure of a man holding a hammer aloft in one hand and a sword in the other, which he is making into a plowshare, is meant to symbolize the human wish to end all wars by converting the weapons of death and destruction into peaceful tools that are more beneficial to mankind.

UN Isaiah Image

The phrase originates from the Biblical book of Isaiah (2:3-4) and it’s theme repeated in the books of Joel (3:10) and Micah (4:3).

The impressive statue is located in the North Garden of the United Nations Headquarters and remains today as much an inspirational ideal as it is an elusive reality.

Sammy Davis Jr., the famous entertainer legend, finally told the whole story of why he had chosen to convert to Judaism and share the fate of the people of Abraham. The lengthy feature story appeared in the February issue of Ebony Magazine.

From his modest beginnings in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City and an itinerant lifestyle to his incredible success as an actor, comedian, singer and dancer, Davis’s story is riveting and extraordinary.

Contending with the prevailing racism of that period, Davis refused to appear in any clubs that practiced racial segregation. The action led to the integration of several venues in Miami Beach and Las Vegas. In 1954, he lost his left eye in an automobile accident. One day on a golf course with Jack Benny, following his conversion to Judaism, Davis was asked what his handicap was. “Handicap?” he replied. “Listen, talk about handicap-I’m a one-eyed Negro Jew.” This became a signature comment, recounted in his autobiography, and in countless articles.

Sammy Davis Jr., the convert, was a regular reader of the United Israel World Union Bulletin and included in our UIWU archives today, are copies of letters exchanged between Davis and David Horowitz.

The United Nations Correspondents Circle, an experiment in seeking better understanding and fellowship among reporters from politically antagonistic regions in all parts of the globe, marked the occasion of its third anniversary. The fellowship of UN correspondents had managed to bring together some 90 highly opinionated, and sometimes rather emotional correspondents, who represented newspapers, wire services, magazines, radio, and television media of nearly 30 nations.

The background story of the group’s beginning is worth mentioning.

David Horowitz conceived the idea for an informal fellowship of UN news representatives in 1957. At the time, David served as a special correspondent in the U.S. for the American Association of English-Jewish Newspapers and the Israeli papers Heruth and Ha’Olam Ha’Zeh of Tel Aviv. His column, “Behind the Scenes at the United Nations,” regularly appeared in 35 newspapers in the U.S., Canada, Italy, South Africa and Israel.

Horowitz felt the need to stress the common interests of correspondents, rather than frictions, and the need for a mutual effort to learn more about the attitudes of various UN delegations and regional blocs. The organization was also needed to dispel the atmosphere of isolation and unfriendliness in which many correspondents felt they were working.

Thinking in international terms came easily for Horowitz. After all, of Jewish descent, he was born in Sweden, naturalized in America, married an Irish girl and maintained close professional connections with Israel. Clearly, tolerance and goodwill were the basic aims of his effort.

Appearing as the guest at the celebration luncheon of the UN Correspondents Association, former President Harry Truman was asked by correspondent David Horowitz about his historic decision to recognize Israel at the moment of its birth and how he felt about it as the young State celebrates its 12th birthday. Never hesitating, Truman replied that he would do it all over again today. He added that the prophets and judges of ancient Israel had laid the foundation for the American form of government and that the heirs of those great people are not doing so badly themselves today.

It was vintage Harry Truman.

On May 11, 1960, German war criminal Otto Adolf Eichmann was captured in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Eichmann was a former German Nazi SS lieutenant colonel and one of the major organizers of the Holocaust. In 1959, David Ben Gurion learned that the notorious Nazi war criminal was likely living in hiding in Argentina and ordered the Israel foreign intelligence service, the Mossad, to capture the international fugitive alive for trial in Israel.

The covert operation succeeded and Eichmann was smuggled out of Argentina aboard the same El Al Bristol Britannia aircraft that had a few days earlier carried Israel’s delegation to the official 150th anniversary celebration of Argentina’s independence from Spain.

As we shall learn later, David Horowitz, who also suffered personal family loss in the holocaust, would also play an important and key role in exposing and bringing to justice Nazi war criminals residing in the United States.

The 17th Annual Meeting of United Israel World Union took place on Sunday, April 17th with the majority of the International Board members present. Special greetings were conveyed from those as far away as Israel, Germany and Ghana. A highlight of the affair was the presentation of a Torah Scroll to the Wilber, West Virginia Mid-Western headquarters of UIWU, followed by an inspiring ceremony. The scroll was a gift from Dr. and Mrs. Howard L. Werner of Glencoe, Illinois. Dr. Werner, a noted psychiatrist and philanthropist, was an officer of the Chicago Information Society for the Propagation of Judaism. This Torah scroll is now preserved at the United Israel World Union offices in Charlotte, NC and is used regularly at UIWU gatherings.

The young black Rabbi who first learned of United Israel World Union when he met UIWU officer Avraham Fuhrman while traveling to Israel in the summer of 1957 had began attending various UIWU functions and held similar views to those of David Horowitz. He had become the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth B’nai Israel in Harlem. Befriended and encouraged by Horowitz, it soon became evident that this youthful Rabbi was born an intellectual. Even the simplest question elicited a detailed, fact-heavy answer. The destiny of this gifted teacher had an unusual and most remarkable beginning.

Hailu Moshe Paris was born an orphan in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on October 17, 1933 and adopted by Eudora Paris from the orphanage when she migrated to Ethiopia in 1935.

Following Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia as a prelude to World War II, they were forced to flee the violence of Mussolini and the fascist invaders. On board a ship bound for America, Eudora Paris carried with her a carefully wrapped bundle and an adopted Ethiopian two-year-old named Hailu.

When the ship pulled into the port of Bremen, Germany late in 1935, Nazis boarded looking for Jews. The bundle was wrapped in a blanket, which also covered her young son’s shoulders. “They rounded up everyone sitting nearby” she would later say. They looked at Eudora and her child, but because of the color of their skin, the Nazis never suspected they were Jewish. “They ignored us because they never thought black people could be Jews” said Eudora. It would later be expressed “that it was the one time racial prejudice about what a “real Jew” looked like worked in their favor.”


The carefully wrapped bundle that Eudora Paris was carrying to America was a Torah Scroll destined for a synagogue in Harlem.

In his twenties, Hailu Paris attended Yeshiva University in New York, earning a degree in Hebrew literature and a Masters in education. He later taught Talmudic courses at the Israelite Rabbinical Academy in Queens and was an assistant and later head rabbi at the black Temple of Mt. Horeb in the Bronx.

Rabbi Paris became a vocal advocate for African Jewry. He became a bridge between the African-American community and Ethiopian community. Teaching that the descendants of the biblical Israelites had spread across the continent of Africa was a history which at that time was considered radical and controversial.

This gifted teacher would spend decades campaigning on behalf of Ethiopian Jews. He made trips to Ethiopia where he worked with the Beta Israel and the Falash Mura, a related group of Ethiopians with Jewish family connections. He also served on the board of the American Association of Ethiopian Jews and was an early activist on behalf of their immigration to Israel.

In 1977, the State of Israel recognized the Beta Israel community of Ethiopia as Jewish. More recent cultural and genetic studies suggest that the Lemba of South Africa and the Igbo of Nigeria may also have Jewish roots.

Alongside his central role in the black Jewish world, Rabbi Hailu Moshe Paris also made crucial connections to mainstream Jewry, working to foster interaction between black and white Jewish communities. He remained a lifelong friend of David Horowitz and strong advocate of United Israel World Union where he also served as a member of its board of directors.

As the dog days of summer 1960 wound down, there remained an air of uneasiness and uncertainty in America regarding possible Vietnam entanglement. There was also the question of who would be our next leader as the U.S. presidential election drew near. Plenty of time left for a few surprises, as we shall see.

Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

This post is the fourteenth in the series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.






























Did the Khazars Convert to Judaism? New Research Says No

The popular notion that the Khazars converted to Judaism in the 9th century CE is a widespread common assumption. Various writers, some of them of an anti-Semitic bent, have made much of this idea, claiming that modern eastern European Jewry primarily traces back to these Asiatic peoples rather than to a Semitic/Abrahamic lineage. It turns out the whole idea is without historical foundation as this new research from Prof. Shaul Stampfer of Hebrew University demonstrates.


Here is a summary of his work as reported on the Hebrew University website with links to his academic article.

Did the Khazars Convert to Judaism? New Research Says ‘No’
Hebrew University professor cites lack of reliable source for conversion story

Did the Khazars convert to Judaism? The view that some or all Khazars, a central Asian people, became Jews during the ninth or tenth century is widely accepted. But following an exhaustive analysis of the evidence, Hebrew University of Jerusalem researcher Prof. Shaul Stampfer has concluded that such a conversion, “while a splendid story,” never took place.

Prof. Shaul Stampfer is the Rabbi Edward Sandrow Professor of Soviet and East European Jewry, in the department of the History of the Jewish People at the Hebrew University’s Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies. The research has just been published in the Jewish Social Studies journal, Vol. 19, No. 3 (online at http://bit.ly/khazars).

From roughly the seventh to tenth centuries, the Khazars ruled an empire spanning the steppes between the Caspian and Black Seas. Not much is known about Khazar culture and society: they did not leave a literary heritage and the archaeological finds have been meager. The Khazar Empire was overrun by Svyatoslav of Kiev around the year 969, and little was heard from the Khazars after. Yet a widely held belief that the Khazars or their leaders at some point converted to Judaism persists.

Reports about the Jewishness of the Khazars first appeared in Muslim works in the late ninth century and in two Hebrew accounts in the tenth century. The story reached a wider audience when the Jewish thinker and poet Yehudah Halevi used it as a frame for his book The Kuzari. Little attention was given to the issue in subsequent centuries, but a key collection of Hebrew sources on the Khazars appeared in 1932 followed by a little-known six-volume history of the Khazars written by the Ukrainian scholar Ahatanhel Krymskyi. Henri Gregoire published skeptical critiques of the sources, but in 1954 Douglas Morton Dunlop brought the topic into the mainstream of accepted historical scholarship with The History of the Jewish Khazars. Arthur Koestler’s best-selling The Thirteenth Tribe (1976) brought the tale to the attention of wider Western audiences, arguing that East European Ashkenazi Jewry was largely of Khazar origin. Many studies have followed, and the story has also garnered considerable non-academic attention; for example, Shlomo Sand’s 2009 bestseller, The Invention of the Jewish People, advanced the thesis that the Khazars became Jews and much of East European Jewry was descended from the Khazars. But despite all the interest, there was no systematic critique of the evidence for the conversion claim other than a stimulating but very brief and limited paper by Moshe Gil of Tel Aviv University.

Stampfer notes that scholars who have contributed to the subject based their arguments on a limited corpus of textual and numismatic evidence. Physical evidence is lacking: archaeologists excavating in Khazar lands have found almost no artifacts or grave stones displaying distinctly Jewish symbols. He also reviews various key pieces of evidence that have been cited in relation to the conversion story, including historical and geographical accounts, as well as documentary evidence. Among the key artifacts are an apparent exchange of letters between the Spanish Jewish leader Hasdai ibn Shaprut and Joseph, king of the Khazars; an apparent historical account of the Khazars, often called the Cambridge Document or the Schechter Document; various descriptions by historians writing in Arabic; and many others.

Taken together, Stampfer says, these sources offer a cacophony of distortions, contradictions, vested interests, and anomalies in some areas, and nothing but silence in others. A careful examination of the sources shows that some are falsely attributed to their alleged authors, and others are of questionable reliability and not convincing. Many of the most reliable contemporary texts, such as the detailed report of Sallam the Interpreter, who was sent by Caliph al-Wathiq in 842 to search for the mythical Alexander’s wall; and a letter of the patriarch of Constantinople, Nicholas, written around 914 that mentions the Khazars, say nothing about their conversion.

Citing the lack of any reliable source for the conversion story, and the lack of credible explanations for sources that suggest otherwise or are inexplicably silent, Stampfer concludes that the simplest and most convincing answer is that the Khazar conversion is a legend with no factual basis. There never was a conversion of a Khazar king or of the Khazar elite, he says.

Years of research went into this paper, and Stampfer ruefully noted that “Most of my research until now has been to discover and clarify what happened in the past. I had no idea how difficult and challenging it would be to prove that something did not happen.”

In terms of its historical implications, Stampfer says the lack of a credible basis for the conversion story means that many pages of Jewish, Russian and Khazar history have to be rewritten. If there never was a conversion, issues such as Jewish influence on early Russia and ethnic contact must be reconsidered.

Stampfer describes the persistence of the Khazar conversion legend as a fascinating application of Thomas Kuhn’s thesis on scientific revolution to historical research. Kuhn points out the reluctance of researchers to abandon familiar paradigms even in the face of anomalies, instead coming up with explanations that, though contrived, do not require abandoning familiar thought structures. It is only when “too many” anomalies accumulate that it is possible to develop a totally different paradigm—such as a claim that the Khazar conversion never took place.

Stampfer concludes, “We must admit that sober studies by historians do not always make for great reading, and that the story of a Khazar king who became a pious and believing Jew was a splendid story.” However, in his opinion, “There are many reasons why it is useful and necessary to distinguish between fact and fiction – and this is one more such case.”

Meaningful Passover Season

Wishing all of our friends an insightful and meaningful Passover season. May the observance of this ancient “festival of freedom,” for ancient Israel contribute to the true liberation of all humans as well as the unfortunate beasts whom we enslave and torture so the vision of the Prophet might be fulfilled.

And they will neither hurt nor destroy in all my holy Mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Creator as the waters cover the seas.



Remembering David Horowitz (13): United Israel–An Iconic Symbol

  On New Year’s Day 1959, Cuban President Fulgencio Batista resigns and flees to the Dominican Republic, clearing the way for Fidel Castro to seize power in February. Cuba would become the first Communist state in the West.

In another first, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev tours parts of the United States and meets with President Dwight Eisenhower at Camp David.

It was announced in Jerusalem that the Government Statistical Office reported that the population of Israel had reached the 2,022,500 mark. Of this number, 1,801,806 are Jews.

The purpose and message of United Israel World Union continued to gain popularity and widespread approval both here and abroad, attracting many leading professionals in various fields.

A number of noted surgeons, authors and other distinguished leaders attended a January 18 meeting of UIWU held at the Dr. M. J. McDonald Reception Studio adjacent to the Union’s headquarters at 507 Fifth Avenue. Among those present were the famous physicians Dr. Harry Cohen and Dr. Sholom Shakin, both active in numerous humanitarian endeavors and brotherhood activities. Present also, was author Shlomo Dov London, executive director of Keren Or. All joined in hailing the universal brotherhood program of UIWU and called for greater support to the movement’s worldwide activities.

The meeting opened with an invocation by Falasha Rabbi Hailu Moshe Paris, the spiritual head of the Congregation Beth B’nai Israel located at 204 Lenox Avenue, New York. Rabbi Paris had spent a year studying in a Jerusalem Yeshiva, arriving in the Holy Land aboard the same Israeli ship as UIWU’s officer Avraham Fuhrman in the summer of 1957.

Born in Ethiopia, Rabbi Paris himself is a remarkable story. He became a close and lifelong friend of David Horowitz, supporting the mission and work of United Israel World Union for many years. He also served as a member of UIWU’s Board of Directors. His amazing story and contribution to UIWU will be featured in a future article.

Rabbi Paris at his Beth Shalom Synagogue
Rabbi Paris at his Beth Shalom Synagogue

On April 19, a treaty of friendship between Israel and Liberia was signed in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. Joining other African states such as Ghana and Nigeria, they sought the opportunity to acquire the advanced technologies that the State of Israel had to offer. They viewed the Jewish State as their solution to the problem of securing modern techniques in agriculture, science, industry and medicine without pawning their future to the departing colonial powers.

The Arab states in Africa; Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and the UAR, whose influence kept Israel out of the Bandung Conference, moved to block the new friendship. They would fail to do so.

During the 16th Annual Meeting of UIWU on April 26, the national board unanimously approved a new United Israel World Union emblem. The new insignia holds special significance because of its unique design and the little-known story behind it.

Five years earlier, noted artist and sculptor, Dr. Rene Shapshak and his wife Eugenie, moved from Johannesburg, South Africa into the famous Chelsea Hotel on 7th Avenue located in downtown Manhattan. Born and educated in Paris, Shapshak was an alumnus of the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris that produced such giants as Claude Monet and Pierre Renoir.

Dr. Shapshak had become a world-renowned artist and sculptor, bringing his artistic and cultural contributions to many countries. His art is represented in Buckingham Palace, in the Rothschilde, Schiff and Schonegevel Collections in England and Athens, Greece and in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. He did sculptures of Mahatma Ghandi and John Cecil Rhodes of Great Britain. His Rhodes sculpture is in the Rhodes Museum at Bishops Stotford, England. Among his sculptures in New York City are those of Cardinal Francis Spellman, Dr. Leo B. Mayer and Playwright Arthur Miller.

In 1956, Dr. Shapshak had the privilege of sculpting a bronze bust of former President Harry S. Truman. The sculpture was placed in the Hall of Fame at the Ben Yehuda National Museum in Jerusalem, Israel. It was unveiled in Israel on Truman’s 73rd birthday.


Now, about that new UIWU emblem; Dr. Rene Shapshak was a close friend of David Horowitz and an active member of the United Israel organization. It was Dr. Shapshak who personally designed the new insignia. Brilliantly conceived, the Seal itself represents a dynamic activating Wheel with a spinning Star of David in which the Earth revolves and on which is the Levitical escutcheon with the Ten Commandments. It honors YHVH as the true Savior as indicated in the ancient Hebrew script YHVH Hu Go’alenu. On the periphery of the spinning wheel are the symbols of the twelve tribes of Israel.


The special seal crafted by internationally renowned Dr. Rene Shapshak remains today our official logo appearing on all organizational documents and stationery.

In the summer of ’59, David Horowitz began a multi-part series entitled “An Answer to Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason.” Paine (1739-1809), author of Common Sense, The Rights of Man, The Crisis, and The Age of Reason, was an English and American political activist, philosopher and revolutionary. His Common Sense became the clarion call that led to the independence of the thirteen American colonies and freed the States from the tyranny of monarchial rule. The insightful series of expositions written by Horowitz received high praise from noted scholars, rabbis and scientists, including Professor Robert H. Pfeiffer of Harvard and Luxembourg’s Chief Rabbi Dr. Charles Lehrman.

From Tel Aviv came a strong endorsement and a call to action. Reuven Ben Arje-Lev, author of Halicha Ladror, a history of the great liberation movements and the Jewish spirit that inspired them, appealed to United Israel World Union for the creation of a Torah Center in Israel. Calling UIWU “the right association for such a center,” Ben Arje-Lev declared “United Israel has proven its faithfulness in this very task for many years. Its message is already being heard in many parts of the world, and those whom it brings to the Torah have become members of the Hebraic community.” Referring to such a center as the building of the Gate to Zion, he stated “Israel awaits UIWU in action!”

On October 7 in Baghdad, a group of Baath Party gunman try to assassinate, but only wound, Iraq’s ruler, General Abed al-Karim Qasim. One of the gunmen, 22-year-old Saddam Hussein, is forced into hiding.

October brought another surprising international story.

The heir to the ancient Irish Throne, H. R. H. Raymond Moulton Nathan Seaghan Donogh VI, of the House of O’Brien of Thomond, officially identified himself with Israel and Jewry on the strength of his family genealogy that traces his line to ancient Israel. Both Donogh VI, his wife Sarah Loreta Santos, as also their two children, Prince Turlogh and Princess Grania, consider themselves Israelites in the full sense of the term. They announced they would be seeking affiliation with an established Hebraic Temple of worship.

Having been informed of United Israel World Union, Donogh VI- himself a 33 degree Mason-immediately contacted UIWU and submitted official documents (duly notarized by the Lord Mayor of Dublin and Magistrate Benjamin Shaw, P. C., a past President of the United Hebrew Congregation of Dublin), testifying to the true genealogy of the Royal and Imperial House of O’Brien of Thomond. The principality of Thomond, (which includes Shannon) at the time had a population of over 90,000, most of which were Roman Catholic.

David Horowitz described the revelation as “living proof of Ireland’s Hebraic ancestry.”

In December, United Israel also played a major role in hosting an important and influential foreign guest. Outstanding leaders within the three branches of the American Jewish Rabbinical world joined hands with United Israel World Union in organizing a reception committee to greet the arrival of the noted Japanese convert to Judaism, Professor Abram Setsuzau Kotsuji, a descendant of Shinto priests. Professor Kotsuji, 60 years of age and acknowledged as Japan’s top Hebraist and author of a Hebrew grammar, was the former tutor of Emperor Hirohito’s brother, Prince Mikasa.

Rabbi Setsuzo Kotsuji, 2nd from left, with other Rabbis, in Japan

A special reception was held for Professor Kotsuji at the Plaza Hotel. Among those who honored the newcomer in Israel’s ranks were officials of UIWU, the Jewish Information Society, officials of the Histadruth Ivrit and some of New York’s outstanding Rabbis and business leaders.

In his address, Professor Kotsuji related the story of his early life as a boy in Japan and how he had turned to the Jewish peoples and Judaism. He told of later being interrogated by Nazi-inspired Japanese army officers for befriending the Jews, and in the face of death, his miraculous escape to safety through an incident he felt was the providential hand of God in his life.

Prior to his arrival in America, Professor Kotsuji was in Israel where he delivered several lectures and was officially brought into the Abrahamic covenant in Jerusalem in the presence of Rabbis and Israeli officials.

Fittingly, Dr. Rene Shapshak also designed the new emblem for the Institute of Hebrew Culture that Professor Kotsuji had established in Japan. Dr. Shapshak presented the new design to Mr. Kotsuji on behalf of UIWU before his return home.

In 1959, the United States added their last two states. The territories of Alaska and Hawaii were ratified as the 49th and 50th states respectively.

The decade of the 50s had drawn to a close. By its end, the world had largely recovered from World War II, but a new cold war between the rival super-powers of the Soviet Union and the United States had grown hot.

Like special chapters in a grand story, a new decade was about to be written.

Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

This post is the thirteenth in the series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.