On This Day
1763 – Dedication of the Touro Synagogue, in Newport, Rhode Island, the first synagogue in what will become the United States.
The Touro Synagogue or Congregation Jeshuat Israel (Hebrew: קהל קדוש ישועת ישראל) is a synagogue built in 1763 in Newport, Rhode Island. It is the oldest synagogue building still standing in the United States, the only surviving synagogue building in the U.S. dating to the colonial era, and the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue building in North America. In 1946, it was declared a National Historic Site.
The first congregation was made up of Sephardic Jews, who are believed to have come via the West Indies, where they participated in the triangular trade along with Dutch and English settlements. They practiced a Spanish and Portuguese Jewish liturgy and ritual. Later some early Ashkenazim joined the congregation. In the late eighteenth century, when warfare threatened, the congregation transferred the deed and Torah scrolls to Congregation Shearith Israel in New York for safekeeping. In the late 19th century, the congregation was primarily Ashkenazim, but they continued to practice the Sephardic liturgy at the synagogue.
In 2012 the two congregations went to court to try to resolve which owned the synagogue and its contents, as the Newport congregation wanted to sell some items to raise money for restoration of the building. In 2017 the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that the New York congregation owned it; as the US Supreme Court declined to hear the case, this ruling stands.
Born On This Day
1895 – Harriet Cohen, English pianist (d. 1967)
Harriet Pearl Alice Cohen CBE (2 December 1895 – 13 November 1967) was a British pianist.
Harriet Cohen was born in London and studied piano at the Royal Academy of Music under Tobias Matthay, having won the Ada Lewis scholarship at the age of 12 followed by the Sterndale Bennett Prize in 1913. She made her debut at a Chappell’s Sunday concert at the Queen’s Hall a year later. Her first major appearance was in 1920 when she appeared at the Wigmore Hall in a joint recital with the tenor John Coates.
She was sister to the singer Myra Verney and a distant cousin of the pianist Irene Scharrer.
She became particularly associated with contemporary British music, giving the world premiere of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Piano Concerto (which was written for her) and recording Edward Elgar’s Piano Quintet with the Stratton Quartet under the composer’s supervision. A number of composers wrote music specifically for her, including John Ireland, Béla Bartók, Ernest Bloch and E. J. Moeran, and particularly Sir Arnold Bax (Cohen’s lover), who wrote most of his piano pieces for her. This includes the music for David Lean’s 1948 film version of Oliver Twist. He also composed Concertino for Left Hand for her after she lost the use of her right hand in 1948.
The last six pieces in the collection Mikrokosmos by Bartók are dedicated to her.
Harriet Cohen dedicated an important effort to the performance of the Tudor composers at a time when this was unusual, and gave recitals of works by William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons and also of Henry Purcell. She was considered one of the finest performers of J. S. Bach’s keyboard music, winning outstanding praise from the musicologist Alfred Einstein. Pablo Casals, also, invited her to play Bach with his orchestra at Barcelona, and Wilhelm Furtwängler extended a similar invitation on hearing her in Switzerland. She gave the first ‘all-Bach’ recital at the Queen’s Hall in 1925.
She also cultivated Spanish music, and gave the second performance of Manuel de Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain, a work which became especially associated with her. She was also an early exponent of music of the Soviet Union in Britain, and visited Russia in 1935 to broadcast from Moscow and Leningrad, including works by Shostakovich, Kabalevsky and Leonid Polovinkin. These composers later sent her further compositions.
Cohen’s influence went well beyond that of a musician. She became strongly associated in the 1930s with publicising the plight of German and Austrian Jews and even played a concert with the scientist Albert Einstein (Alfred’s cousin) in 1934 to raise funds to bring Jewish scientists out of Germany. She became a close friend of Eleanor Roosevelt and Ramsay MacDonald as well as the first president of Israel, Chaim Weizmann.
Cohen was also a close friend of many leading figures of the time. These included not only musicians such as Jean Sibelius, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Sir Edward Elgar and Sir William Walton, but also writers such as Arnold Bennett, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells and D. H. Lawrence as well as politicians or entrepreneurs such as Max Beaverbrook and Leslie Viscount Runciman. Cohen became one of the most talked-about and photographed musicians of her day.
She was Vice-President of the Women’s Freedom League, and was for several years associated with the Jewish National Fund and the Palestine Conservatoire of Music at Jerusalem. Cohen was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1938. The Harriet Cohen International Music Award was introduced in her honour in 1951.
She was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1959 when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC Television Theatre.
She died in London.
In January 2006, Dearest Tania, a words-and-music programme telling the story of Cohen, premiered, written by Duncan Honeybourne and performed with actress Louisa Clein.
Efforts for refugees from Nazism
Harriet Cohen met the American journalist Dorothy Thompson in 1930 on her first tour of America, a tour which took in New York, Washington and the Library of Congress and Chicago, thus finally establishing a name for herself on the International stage. It was a meeting that was to change Cohen’s life and awaken her Jewish consciousness. In 1933 Harriet Cohen travelled to Vienna to play a number of concerts, staying with Dorothy Thompson. She was profoundly moved by the plight of refugees, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who were pouring into the city from Germany. Thompson and Cohen were to correspond about the plight of Jewish refugees in Austria and Germany. Cohen was then able to pass on information from Thompson directly to the British Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, who was at this time her intimate friend. Cohen met Thompson every time she went to America thereafter. From 1933 Cohen committed herself to work in Britain and the United States on behalf of refugees. This would result in a concert in America with Albert Einstein in 1934 to raise funds to bring Jewish scientists out of Germany.
In 1935 Ramsay MacDonald warned Cohen not to travel through Germany because the British Government would not be able to provide immunity for her. Soon after, Adolf Hitler passed the Nuremberg laws totally excluding Jews from public life.
Harriet Cohen had met Albert Einstein in Germany in 1929 when she had afternoon tea at his house. At the time Einstein disclosed that he played the violin and said that one day they should play together. Cohen kept her friendship with Einstein even after he had fled Germany in 1933. Cohen would often visit him in Oxford, England where he settled for a short time. Harriet’s sister Myra studied there at Somerville College, where she gave a piano concert. In 1934, after Einstein moved to the United States, Harriet Cohen did finally play that duet concert with Einstein to raise funds to bring Jewish scientists out of Nazi Germany. Cohen and Einstein remained friends thereafter and he referred to her as “the beloved piano witch”.
It was not until 1939 when she first met Chaim Weizmann, the future first President of Israel, that she began to support the Zionist cause and a Jewish homeland. Cohen’s 1939 visit to Palestine extended her reputation there both as a concert pianist and politically. She argued with British and Jewish officials to try to get Jewish refugees admitted on ships from Nazi Germany (rather than be returned), once almost precipitating an International incident. Harriet Cohen believed passionately in a Jewish homeland but with justice to the Arab Palestinians. She survived two assassination attempts during her trip to Palestine. It was when Cohen was having dinner with Weizmann in London that Weizmann heard the news of the British Government’s 1939 white paper to limit Jewish immigration to Britain to just 15,000 people a year. Blanche Dugdale, Arthur Balfour’s niece, a fellow diner, prophetically said in an agonised voice, “What will happen to the millions fleeing from Hitler?”
By Sarah Lacy, LinkedIn: The heartbreaking loss of Tony
Why Tony Hsieh was like the Willy Wonka of shoes
The genius of Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, who died last week, was his ability to create a culture that cared for employees and customers, writes friend Sarah Lacy. She compares Hseih to Willy Wonka for his inventiveness, camaraderie and because he “lived to surprise and delight people at every turn.”
Tony Hsieh (/ˈʃeɪ/ shay; December 12, 1973 – November 27, 2020) was an American Internet entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He retired as the CEO of the online shoe and clothing company Zappos in August 2020 after 21 years. Prior to joining Zappos, Hsieh co-founded the Internet advertising network LinkExchange, which he sold to Microsoft in 1998 for $265 million.
On November 27, 2020, fifteen days before his 47th birthday, Hsieh died from complications from burns and smoke inhalation sustained in a house fire that had occurred nine days earlier.
Peter Grant (5 April 1935 – 21 November 1995) was the manager of Led Zeppelin from their creation in 1968 to their break up in 1980. With his intimidating size (6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) and 300 lb (140 kg)) (at his peak weight) and confrontational manner, combined with his knowledge and experience, he drove strong deals for his band, and is widely credited with improving pay and conditions for all musicians in dealings with concert promoters. Grant has been described as “one of the shrewdest and most ruthless managers in rock history”.
Born and largely brought up in the south London suburb of South Norwood, England by his mother, he worked variously as a stagehand, bouncer, wrestler, bit-part actor, and UK tour manager for acts such as Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent and the Animals, before getting involved briefly in band management with the Nashville Teens and the Yardbirds.
He was also a record executive for Swan Song Records.
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