Though Ann Newman and Joel Tauber might seem like typical Jewish grandparents, there is nothing conventional about the extraordinary lives they have led. Their stories may not be directly related; however, Derech Emunah invited them recently to speak to students via Zoom conferencing as part of Derech Emunah’s, Jewish History Project-based Learning Program.
This innovative program provides our students with the opportunity to research decisive moments in the founding of the State of Israel and its ongoing accomplishments and challenges.
In the crucial years right before the establishment of the State of Israel, Mrs. Newman moved from Poland to "Palestine.’" Mrs. Newman joined the underground Lechi movement to help evict the British authorities from Palestine. She also fought in the 1948 War for Independence.
A year after the war, she married an American Air Force WWII pilot who had volunteered to fly arms transport missions for the new Jewish nation. While Mrs. Newman had no intention of leaving Israel, her husband Rudy, eventually brought her to America on a tourist visa, and they never moved back. Mrs. Newman continued her strong support of Israel from afar.
Her story spans life in Poland, Israel, and the U.S., where she becomes the part-owner of an NBA team, the Detroit Pistons and President of Frank W. Kerr Co., once, one of the country’s largest independent pharmaceutical wholesalers.
An honest and modest woman, Mrs. Newman always believed that her success in business was merely an opportunity to do more Chesed in the world — what a powerful message for our girls.
In another Zoom session, students visited a later portion in Israel’s history in 1991, when the soon to be toppled Ethiopian government agreed to give Israel less than two days to airlift more than 14,000 Jews from Addis Ababa to save them from being killed by the rebels.
Now known as Operation Solomon, during that window, they secretly flew non-stop flights of 35 Israeli aircraft, including Israeli Air Force C-130s and El Al Boeing 747s, and transported 14,325 Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 36 hours. (The operation currently holds the world record for the most passengers on an aircraft when on May 24, 1991, an El Al 747 carried 1,122 passengers to Israel.)
Few people were as integrally involved with the operation as Mr. Joel Tauber, when, as Chairman of the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), he was able to quickly raise $35 million for the UJA to support thie evacuation.
Mr. Tauber recounted his first-hand involvement in the swift evacuation of thousands of Ethiopian Jews.. He said it was the first time black Africans were ever taken from their land to escape persecution and relocated to another country to be free citizens.
The sincerity of the girls and the quality of their questions deeply moved Mr. Tauber. He impressed upon the girls that the most important thing he ever did in life was to raise a nice Jewish family — another hugely accomplished person with endless modesty and insight.
How did the girls feel about the Zoom programs? Miriam Klitzner, class of ’21, said, “not only was it fun, but it was also very meaningful to be able to speak with someone and ask questions to a person who fought for the right of the Jewish state to exist. Mrs. Newman is a very special person, and she never thinks about herself. [She] is a very strong woman to be able to live through such hard times and still share that story with people like us.”
Hearing the stories of real Jewish heroes in their own words is a constant reminder that we, just like Mrs. Newman and Mr. Tauber, can have very different and “ordinary” backgrounds, but still choose to make an everlasting impact in our community.
To see a short video about Mrs. Ann Newman's life, click here.
To see a short video about Mr. Joel Tauber and Operation Solomon, click here. (Mr. Tauber's story starts at minute 2:37)