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What’s in a Name?

If you ever meet someone named Skip, Chip or Kirk, chances are he’s an airline pilot. Tony, Sal, Vic, Jack or Dom might be a car mechanic or perhaps your barber. What about if you met someone named Mendel? You might assume he was either a tailor or perhaps a Biblical sage.  You would probably never think that he was a world hero.

On March 12th, 99 years ago, a 14 year old boy was murdered in the city of Kiev. He was stabbed 47 times and drained of his blood. His corpse was dumped in a cave near the home of Mendel Beilis. Thus began a 3 year saga of torture and torment for a man who was to spare Russian Jewry from the most grievous pogrom in their 400 year history.

Russian archives have revealed that the Czar himself authorized the public trial of this innocent Jew to showcase the famous blood libel accusation that has been leveled against our nation for centuries. His hope was to cause a widespread pogrom against the 5 million Jews trapped in Mother Russia by the cruel edicts of a corrupt government. Even though local officials knew the identity of the actual murderers for months, Beilis was forced to spend over two years in a Russion prison; humiliated, starved, belittled and tormented. Had he succumbed to the mental anguish and committed suicide, he would have been judged guilty by the Russian masses and death and slaughter would have followed. Despite untold horror and hardship, he survived to stand trial.

Before the eyes of the world, Mendel Beilis declared “I am a Jew.” Through 34 days of testimony, his fate was in the hands of 12 backward, uneducated peasants. Testimony clearly led to the guilty parties, but this was not a typical murder trial. It was a trial of the Jewish people.

It was due to his strength of character, his impeccable reputation and his lifetime of kindness to his Russian neighbors that resulted in the unanimous vote, “Not Guilty.”

Our forefather Jacob fought with the angel and prevailed. His name was changed from Jacob to Israel. We are called by the name, Children of Israel, “Bnei Yisroel”. It was his strength of character that has enabled people like Mendel Beilis to triumph throughout the generations.

So whether you call yourself Mendel, Mordechai, Mark or Marvin, we are all Children of Israel.

Wear your names with pride.

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Comments icon March 8, 2010


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