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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Thank you Harry Truman!

While I was delivering Mishloach Manos today, I heard a great story that appears in a book called "Bimchitzatam" (In their Shadows), which was written in Hebrew by former ultra-Orthodox MK Shlomo Lorenz about his encounters with great personages over the course of his political career. Part of the story appears here, but not all of it.

It is well known that one of the first countries to recognize the State of Israel in 1948 was the United States and that the decision to do so was made personally by then President Harry S. Truman. Lorenz met Truman sometime in the 1950's. According to Lorenz, Truman told him that the reason he decided to recognize the State of Israel was because as a boy in Missouri, Truman met two Orthodox Rabbis for whom he acted as the "Shabbos goy" - the non-Jew who does things like turn on lights or heat, which Jews are not allowed to do on the Sabbath. Truman was very impressed with these men's principles and moral values.

At the same time, Truman would study the Old Testament with his grandfather on Sundays and read the story of Cyrus, the Persian emperor who helped build the Second Temple in the sixth century before the Common Era. Truman vowed that if he were ever in the position to do so, he would take whatever action he could to help the Jews rebuild their Temple. When the State of Israel declared its independence, Truman insisted on recognizing the new state against the advice of his advisers. Truman was castigated for this in the mainstream media - he was even called a traitor. But according to Lorenz, Truman went ahead anyway, because he wished to emulate Cyrus and because he was so impressed with the principles and morality of those two rabbis for whom he served as the Shabbos goy.

4 Comments:

At 10:49 PM, Blogger ngbranitsky said...

Harry S Truman, not Harry S. Truman. The "S" was not short for anything.
Harry added it to make his name look more impressive.

 
At 9:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia: "His parents chose "S" as his middle name, in attempt to please both of Harry's grandfathers, Anderson Shippe Truman and Solomon Young, but it didn't stand for anything, as was a common practice among Scots-Irish."

 
At 12:39 AM, Blogger JudyTurner said...

Truman did not have a middle name, only a middle initial. It was a common practice in southern states, including Missouri, to use initials rather than names. In Truman's autobiography, he stated, "I was named for...Harrison Young. I was given the diminutive Harry and, so that I could have two initials in my given name, the letter S. was added. My Grandfather Truman's name was Anderson Shippe Truman and my Grandfather Young's name was Solomon Young, so I received the S for both of them." (Anderson's name was also spelled Shipp.) He once joked that the S was a name, not an initial, and it should not have a period, but official documents and his presidential library all use a period. Furthermore, the Harry S. Truman Library has numerous examples of the signature written at various times throughout Truman's lifetime where his own use of a period after the "S" is conspicuous.
Judy Turner, Truman Library Institute

 
At 12:40 AM, Blogger JudyTurner said...

Truman did not have a middle name, only a middle initial. It was a common practice in southern states, including Missouri, to use initials rather than names. In Truman's autobiography, he stated, "I was named for...Harrison Young. I was given the diminutive Harry and, so that I could have two initials in my given name, the letter S. was added. My Grandfather Truman's name was Anderson Shippe Truman and my Grandfather Young's name was Solomon Young, so I received the S for both of them." (Anderson's name was also spelled Shipp.) He once joked that the S was a name, not an initial, and it should not have a period, but official documents and his presidential library all use a period. Furthermore, the Harry S. Truman Library has numerous examples of the signature written at various times throughout Truman's lifetime where his own use of a period after the "S" is conspicuous.

 

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