Mighty Atom memories
I read “The Mighty Atom” by Curt Schleier in the November 24 issue with great interest.
When I was a boy of 9, 10, or 11 years of age during World War II, my family lived in Paterson’s Fourth Ward. Due to the war we did not have a car, so we walked most of the time, especially to downtown Paterson to shop. On one particular occasion, walking to the fruit and vegetable markets on Washington Street we passed a crowd in a small lot on the corner of Washington and Fair streets. As we got closer my father said, “It’s the Mighty Atom.” (I had always thought it was Adam.) I asked my father who was the Might Atom, and he said, “He’s the Jewish strongman.”
Being shorter than the adults standing there, I was able to work my way to the front of the group and watch the “Mighty Atom” perform his feats of strength. I was impressed as I saw him bend steel bars and horseshoes. There were other things that he did that escape my memory and I do remember him hawking his cure-all elixirs. I saw him a few times during those years. (Coincidentally, my paternal grandfather also came from Suwalki, circa 1883, as did “The Might Atom.”)
Martin S. Rittenberg
Humanitarianism and anti-Semitism
I was always aware that the Jewish religion was noted for its humanitarian strength, which has become a part of Israel, our nation. Rather than seeing this as a strength by the world, going back in history, the Jews were always hated for one reason or another, for an imaginary flaw or something else fictitious. In time, there have been all too many strikes at the Jewish people, both biblically and universally.
The Nazis hated the Jews with a desperation previously unknown, needing to annihilate all of us from the face of the earth as quickly as possible. Our dead came to a mere six million human lives, which to their minds was not enough. Yet the Jewish people were always the most successful, the most literate, and the most the most humane of the population. Anti-Semitism has emerged again and again, sometimes virulently, sometimes sneakily. We have had more than our share of terrorism in Israel, which is just more hatred on a larger scale, and it grows more and more rather than disappearing with each renewed return attack. Is it about land allegedly taken or about who we are as a people?
The State of Israel has been at the front lines to help an enormous number of nations worldwide in times of crisis. In Haiti, Puerto Rico, in Turkey, in the U.S. and on and on. Recently, on the border of Iran and Iraq, where earthquakes were causing much loss of life and shelter, Israel offered aid, which was rejected. In Syria, an old enemy of Israel, many injured have been transferred to Israel, particularly children, to get life-giving medical assistance in our hospitals. Years ago, boat people were absorbed into Israel who had no link at all with Judaism, and later, refugees from Africa made their way into Israeli cities.
Not all Holocaust survivors, nor later, all Russians who were absorbed into Israel were Jews; not all Ethiopians who claimed to be of a tribe of Jews were so, but Israel in its inimitable way, and for its size, has absorbed a huge number of non-Jews and refugees who needed homes. In medicine and technology, Israel has put itself on the frontline of development of new and better technological devices and in the field of medicine, revolutionary drugs and treatments have been created.
Going back to my initial statement about humanitarianism, Israel really is a light unto nations. Unfortunately, the Jew is still hated and reviled through groundless anti-Semitism, some of it emerging from those nations we have actually helped, and the nature of the beast is the pure and simple dislike of the Jewish people who seem to emerge from the ashes again and again. What is most disturbing of all are the anti-Zionists, who are often times our fellow Jews, seeking to diminish their connection with anything Jewish, let alone a nation of people risen from the Holocaust.
It is a unique factor to take into account in looking at Israel. Not just is it a superpower in its military strength, but it is extremely developed for a new nation in so very many sectors of life. I see the humanitarianism of the Jewish state, superior to all else, in some very vital and non-negotiable way. It is a superiority that other relatively new countries do not seem to have.
Sandra Steuer Cohen