Review: Chant of Ages; Cry of Cotton

Chant of Ages; Cry of Cotton: The Biography of a South Georgia Jewish Community's Beginnings 1865-1908Chant of Ages; Cry of Cotton: The Biography of a South Georgia Jewish Community’s Beginnings 1865-1908 by Louis Schmier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

NOTE: I have known the author since I was maybe 5 years old? His son and I were friends in elementary school. We worked in the same building for several years.

Some time last week I heard an interview about the Diaspora becoming uncomfortable and leaving Europe. I think it was with Ari Shavit and his book My Promised Land The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. This was about the Zionists going to restore the nation of Israel. Similar tensions were in effect even decades earlier resulting in people of the same faith coming to the United States and a few of those settling in south Georgia.

Hearing about the people of south Georgia accepting others culturally very different from them restores my faith in humanity.

As a Baha’i, I am empathetic to the challenges of not being a Christian in the rural Southeastern United States. The temptation is to keep the head down low and act just like everyone else so no one can you are obviously different.

View all my reviews

Invented Peoples

Apparently former House Speaker and current President candidate Newt Gingrich, made an offensive statement that Palestinians are an invented people.

Remember, there was no Palestine as a state — (it was) part of the Ottoman Empire. I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and historically part of the Arab community and they had the chance to go many places.

His point is that Palestine as a state was created in the aftermath of the First World War by the British and French carving up the remains of the Ottoman Empire. Modern Iraq, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia mostly exist today where the British Arab Mandates established them. Lebanon and Syria were the French Mandates though more highly re-arranged. If Mr. Gingrich questions the legitimacy of the former state of Palestine, why not Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Syria? Also, maybe he forgot Israel as a state was created in the aftermath of the Second World War also by the British? The creation was just as artificial or invented, if you will.

Americans, as we in the United States call ourselves, are also an invented people. If Palestinians should give up their claim on the land because Israelis have a stronger historical claim despite modern treaties, then it seems to me as President Newt Gingrich should push through Congress giving up United States territory to Native American tribes who claim those lands despite modern treaties. (Yes, I know this is a Straw Man.)

There is one other thing. The Palestine Mandate established protections specifically for the Jewish people to give them a home. So it is not like Palestine was created in opposition to Jewish interests. Further, Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike were all called Palestinians. The same as Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike are called Israelis. The modern anger stems from expansionist policies by force of arms.

Mr. Gingrich had another point that it is difficult to negotiate when being attacked. The United States government would have a hard time being nice to Mexico if rockets were lobbed at our cities. The example would be more accurate to say the rockets were lobbed at our cities in response to U.S. bombs dropped and tanks invading.

These are complicated issues for which simple analogies are apt to offend someone.


Unusual names intrigue me. Whenever I encounter a name I don’t know, I find myself curious about the origin. Probably this comes somewhat from researching my own names which both my first and last (see the last post Legacy of a Name). Both were for obscure authors and painters people almost never know. Which lets me explain who they are.

Asked a waitress named Sabra if she knew the origins of her name. She had never looked it up, but multiple bank tellers told her it was the name of a desert flower in Arabic. She found it interesting bank tellers are the only people who volunteer that they know about something non-monetary. Told her about my recent discovery Ezra was an anti-miscegenist so my pro-miscegenist parents ironically named me for him. We both laughed about the story.

So I looked up sabra….

The Akkadians used a word sibaru for aloe. Arabic picked it up as sabr. Hebrew picked up the word for cactus in with the introduction of the prickly pear as tzabar. In 1931, Sabra was adopted to mean those Hebrew born in Palestine and distinguish them from those born in Germany or Russia. Ezra would have been much in favor of Sabras, I think.

Didn’t expect it to go in that direction. At least the exercise made me laugh.

Read more

Legacy of A Name

There is a legacy of my name most people may not be aware.

Ezra the Scribe made all the men of Israel send their foreign wives back to Persia. See, the people had been living in Babylon in Persia (now Iraq). Cyrus, founder of the Persian Empire, allowed them to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (the same one whose current ruins form the basis of the animosity of Islam vs Israel) following a dream. His grandson, Darius, allowed the Israelites to return. One of the better known repercussions of reconnecting the people with the Word was to make the men give up any foreign wives to send back to Persia.

10 And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. 11 Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.

This is definitely about separating different races, seeking to accomplish the same thing as what Loving vs. Virginia overturned. So there is a certain amount of irony being indirectly named for an anti-miscegenationist when just a couple years prior my parents found difficulty getting married over them being of two different races. Of course, my mother was proud of making John C. Calhoun roll over in his grave by having me… So….