Six Friends, One Immortal Bond

On the eve of World War I, a group of Polish yeshiva students signed a pact to make their friendship everlasting...

"We open our hearts completely to each other... there are no secrets between us" (Image: Colorized photo of young men in Będzin / The Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi Archive, part of the National Library of Israel Digital Collection)

On February 5, 1914, mere months before the shadow of World War I settled over Europe, six young men gathered to discuss friendship and love. These passionate yeshiva students in Będzin, Poland, aimed to immortalize their friendship by establishing the “Beloved and Gracious” association.

Title page of the association’s “Golden Book,” which includes its purpose and rules

Joining was a lifetime commitment, and according to rule 26, opting out was not an option:

“Each and every one, once he signs in his handwriting […] he is thereby considered a member of the association, and he cannot remove himself from it […] and even if he fails to follow some or all of the rules, he is considered to be only rebelling from the great idea of the association, yet to be considered liberated from the association is impossible.”

In order to cement their bond and establish their association, the friends composed “The Golden Book of the Association”, a large notebook containing objectives and 31 rules, written in Hebrew and intended to make sure that the association would endure and realize its purpose. The innocence and optimism conveyed within its pages, on the eve of one of the darkest periods in modern history, is striking.

The young men, whose ages ranged from 18-23, saw the darkness waiting for them outside the walls of the study hall, and searched for a way to make the transition to the real world more bearable through love and friendship. They rejected the cynicism and loneliness that they saw around them, and wished to offer an alternative, in which all group members would be vulnerable and mutually committed.

They saw the current reality as one in which:

“Each and every one carries on his shoulders his burden of desires and goes about his way. No one enters the mind of the other […] no one desires to enter his friend’s threshold, to see, to look, and to participate in his joy and sadness.”

The future only seemed to them dimmer:

“We will now paint our foreseeable future […] we are Torah-learning young men, what will our future be […] our lives flow in a simple and predictable path. After getting married, each of us becomes a different person. Life, sometimes sad and usually full of worries, begins to change him […] the years pass […] and all the hopes and dreams that he had hoped and dreamed in his youth […] the wind has carried away, and they are gone.”

According to the association’s founders, when life becomes harder to bear, the adult sadly remember the peaceful days of youth:

“…days in which he was most joyful, in which he was surrounded by a wide world of hopes and dreams… And he then says to himself, this friend who was close to me like a brother, attached like a wick to a candle, is now so far away. Now he does not participate neither in my joy nor in my sorrow […] anyone with a heart will feel his chest tighten and his soul fill with gloom, when he looks back on the days of his youth and remembers his friends […] with whom he had grown up, learned, and dreamed.”

Thus, to prepare for the future and prevent that loneliness and grief, the six friends decided to officially seal their commitment to each other:

“Before we part from each other, before we go out into the world […] now, as the spark of our friendship has not yet burnt out […] now we wish to establish and perfect the “Beloved and Gracious” association […] one association which will bind and connect us for the rest of our lives […] we open our hearts completely to each other […] there are no secrets between us […] this association concerns mostly the future rather than the present. To take part in [each other’s] joy and sorrow, and in all affairs, including finances and advice.”


“Declaration of intent” appearing in “The Golden Book of the Association”

The rules included commitments to help each other; to be bonded closely just like brothers; to take interest in each other’s situations; to write letters to each other, and at least once every three months to send a letter to the chairman detailing one’s life affairs; to take part in family celebrations; to visit each other as much as possible; to gather when one of the friends requires special assistance; and in conclusion: “to be beloved and gracious to each other with the love of David and Jonathan, independent of all else, for the rest of our days. A true love which rises from the depths of the soul and the breadth of the heart”.

The rules of the “Beloved and Gracious” association
The association’s rationale and objectives, along with the signatures of the association members

“The Golden Book of the Association” was signed by all six members, with some of them offering a few personal details as well. The members were: Ze’ev Yaakov son of Moshe Watinsky (born 1891), Yeshaya Yona son of Shimon Yehuda Pszenica (born 1896), Chaim Yitzchak son of Alter Shmuel Welner (born 1896), Asher Arye Langfus, Yom Tov Lipa Rotenberg, and Moshe Betzalel Zeidman.

What became of the association and its members?

Did they keep their bonds of love?

We know at least a bit about two of the friends. Yeshaya Yona Pszenica took part in establishing a branch of the Noar Mizrachi religious Zionist youth movement in his town after World War I, and a few years later he took a position as the principal of Yavne, a school in Działoszyce, a town near Będzin.

As a principal, he was described as “very devoted to developing the school. The school was spotlessly clean and organized. The lessons were run punctually, in accordance with the schedule” (Yizkor book of the Jewish community in Dzialoszyce and surroundings, p. 116).

Yavneh School picture, ca. 1930s (Ghetto Fighters House Archive / Public domain)

Yeshaya Yona, his wife Chana, and his daughters Esther and Shifra, were all murdered at the Belzec extermination camp.

Chaim Yitzchak Welner met a different fate. He died in old age, in Tel Aviv in 1980. According to the Encyclopedia of Religious Zionism, Welner was also involved in establishing a branch of Noar Mizrachi in Będzin in 1918, and was also chosen for the central committee of the movement in Poland.

In 1925, he moved to the Land of Israel but had difficulty settling in, and decided to move back to Poland. Ten years later he made Aliya again and settled in Tel Aviv. Though he was a learned and knowledgeable Torah scholar, he refused to make his living from being a rabbi, and worked instead as a clerk.

Chaim Yitzchak Welner

Interestingly, there is a difference of more than one year with regard to Welner’s date of birth in the book and what appears on his gravestone.  In the book, it appears as the 23rd of Tammuz, 5656 (July 4, 1896), whereas on his gravestone it appears as the 2nd of Tammuz 5655 (June 24, 1895). The latter seems to be more reliable, as it was written when Welner was young.

Welner’s date of birth as it appears in “The Golden Book”
Welner’s gravestone

Welner’s two sons became quite prominent figures in Israel: Alter (1923-2020), who was a journalist and one of the founders of the “HaTsofeh” newspaper, and Simcha (1931-2011), who was a nuclear physicist and taught in the department of mathematics at Bar-Ilan University.


The Golden Book of the Association” was recently acquired by the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem. It provides a glimpse into the group’s touching and optimistic innocence in early 20th century Poland.

This article has been published as part of Gesher L’Europa, the National Library of Israel’s initiative to connect with people, institutions and communities across Europe and beyond, through storytelling, knowledge sharing and community engagement.

Girls’ Day: Celebrating Girl Power During Hanukkah!

This is the story of a holiday that originated in the Jewish communities of North Africa and the Middle East and its revival here in Israel

For more than a decade, Eid al-Banat—Girls’ Day, also known as Rosh Hodesh L’Banot—has been observed across Israel, in a variety of settings and usually in large gatherings. The holiday is celebrated on the seventh night of Hanukkah, which falls on the eve of the first of the Hebrew month of Tevet. For this reason, the festival is customarily linked to the crowning of Queen Esther which, according to tradition, took place on the first of Tevet. But Girls’ Day is actually associated with not one, but several different Jewish heroines, including Esther, Judith and Hannah, who each saved their people from danger. (Queen Esther, who saved the Jews of Persia; Judith, who slew Holofernes, Nebuchadnezzar’s general; and Hannah, daughter of Mattathias, who encouraged her brothers to rebel against the Greeks, sparking the Maccabean Revolt.)

Celebrating Girls’ Day in Israel. Photos courtesy of Esther Dagan Kaniel

Although the holiday’s origins are commonly (and perhaps retroactively) attributed to the Bible and the Jewish Apocrypha, the modern observance of Girls’ Day was preserved in the communities of North Africa and the Middle East: Tunisia and Libya, Djerba and Morocco, Algeria and Turkey and Salonika (Thessaloniki). The number of communities that celebrate the festival attests to the rich and varied traditions that surround its observance. At first, the holiday’s traditions were something of a secret, shared only by women of the observant communities, but soon enough the celebrations caught on and women and their families began marking the occasion openly and publicly.

Writer and storyteller Esther Dagan Kaniel shared with us her childhood memories of Girls’ Day celebrations in Tunisia, which she remembers by its French name la fête des filles:

According to lore, the exiled priests from the First and Second Temples came to the island of Djerba, bringing their ancient traditions with them, among them the celebration of Eid al-Banat. This is what is beautiful about Tunisian Jewry’s traditions; traditions like the Girls’ Day rituals didn’t develop in the Diaspora, but date back to the time of the Temple.

On Girls’ Day, mother would recount the heroism of Judith, who saved the people of Israel, and Yael and Queen Esther, who was crowned queen on this day. It was no different from other holidays, for mother associated each holiday with a different character. For example, she said that the person who fasted on the Fast of Esther was able to “taste” some of what Esther experienced.

When I long for Tunisia, I long for the Land of Israel. For me, it is the longing for our synagogue, for our community. When I came to Israel, I wanted to be a sabra. At some point, I realized that I had an advantage—the two worlds live within me in perfect harmony.

In an article by scholar Yael Levine, we learn of how each North African Jewish community celebrated female empowerment: in Tunisia, Jewish girls would exchange gifts and food and refrain from work on this day. In Libya, the young girls would visit each other and throw a joyous party. On the island of Djerba in Tunisia, unmarried women also celebrated the holiday, which was thought to bring good luck for a successful match. In addition, a special celebration was held for couples engaged to be married: In the afternoon, the bride-to-be’s family would bring the groom’s family a tray of sweets, and in the evening, the groom would reciprocate by bringing gifts such as perfume and jewelry to his bride’s home. Later, his relatives would join and the two families would conclude the evening with a shared festive meal. It was also customary in Tunisia to celebrate joint bat mitzvah parties on Girls’ Day. Some would even feast on meals of milk and dairy products, presumably to commemorate the heroism of the biblical heroine Yael, who slew the Canaanite general Sisra after sedating him with milk.

Storyteller Shoshana Krebsy told us about the holiday’s significance in Morocco. According to her, Girls’ Day celebrations on the first of Tevet were less common in Moroccan communities for the simple reason that a similar celebration was held on the first day of each and every month of the Hebrew calendar. According to Shoshana: “In patriarchal societies and families, women needed to be able to express their feelings, and female circles formed as support groups for women, and especially for young brides. Thinking about this ceremony, it’s really a kind of contract among women—a sisterhood.”

On the first of the new month, the women would to meet in the hamam (bath-house). There, they would ask forgiveness in unconventional ways:

Either the midwife or the healer would lead a ceremony in which two friends who have quarreled must recreate the argument right there in the hamam. Then the arbitrator, the same midwife or healer, decides who of the two needs to apologize. The reason for the ceremony is that the beginning of a new month is considered a kind of “little Yom Kippur”, on which Moroccan women celebrate their own holiday and create support groups. Women would plan the monthly agenda and assign tasks—who is responsible each day for helping the new mothers who have given birth, who brings refreshments, and who visits the families in mourning, among other things.  The forgiveness ceremony is meant to resolve tensions so that the community of women can help each other.

The holiday is bigger than you think: on the first of every month, the ladies would meet at the home of the wise woman where they would learn the secret of a special dish, such as couscous made from medicinal plants and beef bone marrow. Part of the ceremony was the initiation of young brides. The ceremony included songs of desire—bawdy, salacious compositions dedicated to love and sexuality. Whoever didn’t share her troubles wasn’t invited to the next gathering…

The descriptions above indicate that Girls’ Day is a celebration of mutual support and peacemaking. The historical record corroborates this: songs documented in the Thessaloniki community preserved to this day also share the theme of celebrating peace and reconciliation. The girls would sing in Ladino: “Peace, peace, on the life of [= I swear on] the Father’s locks [the Christian-Orthodox priest who refrains from cutting his hair], may we not quarrel until [next]Hanukkah!”


Thanks to Yael Baruch, Heli Tabibi Barkat, Yael Levine, Esther Kaniel Dagan and Shoshana Krebsi for their help in preparing  this article.

Our Exodus from Egypt

“When we left Egypt we could only take one suitcase and twenty Egyptian lira. That was all,” my grandmother said. “It was forbidden to take more than that, and we were very worried how we would manage in a new land without anything.”

Grandfather Yitzhak and Grandmother Tony, shortly before their exodus from Egypt. Alexandria, 1953.

My grandfather was the first to leave. He had been deported, handcuffed, on a ship sailing for Italy. Both my grandparents were members of a Zionist underground that operated in Egypt. They taught children to speak Hebrew, organized activities that encouraged Zionist thinking among the youth and even wrote a Zionist newsletter, which they distributed among members of the movement.

Until one day, secret lists containing the names of all the members of the underground group fell into the wrong hands, and soon enough they found themselves in an Egyptian prison. Anyone who had foreign citizenship, like my grandfather, was expelled. Others remained behind bars for a long time. But there was one name on the list that the Egyptian police could not find. One member of the underground that remained at large – Tony. Tony was the missing member of the underground. My grandfather said that even when they tried to force him to reveal Tony’s hiding place, he didn’t tell. The Egyptians were looking for a man. They did not know that Tony was actually a woman. Tony is my grandmother.

Grandmother Tony

This article is based on an article that originally appeared in Hebrew on “The Readeress”

She took her money and went to a jeweler. She asked him to make her a heavy gold bracelet. You couldn’t take money, but you could take what was on your person. And so, with the gold bracelet on her wrist, she left Egypt and began her journey to Israel and the reunion with my grandfather. She has the bracelet to this day—silent testimony to her life’s journey and to what was she left behind.

In 2014, new legislation was passed in the Knesset marking November 30 as the day commemorating the exodus of Jews from Arab countries and Iran. The date was deliberately chosen, for it immediately follows the famous date of November 29, on which the UN voted to establish a Jewish state. Some might say it stands in its shadow. This was the moment that the stability of the Jewish communities in the various Arab countries began to falter. With the official declaration of an independent State of Israel now on the horizon, the Arab states changed their viewpoint regarding the Jews living among them. In an instant, these Jews had their world turned upside-down, and the communities began to collapse one after another, some at all once, others more slowly, over an extended period.

The vast majority of the Arab world’s Jews were forced to leave the countries of their birth, where their ancestors had lived for generations. This process, which began around the time of the establishment of the State of Israel, continued into the 1950s and 1960s, and communities with a history of hundreds and thousands of years ceased to exist.

What took place in Aleppo, Syria, immediately after the UN adopted the Partition Plan is just one example. As Hakham Tawil, the chief rabbi of the Aleppo community, described it: “The proclamation of the partition was on Friday. On Sunday . . . they [the Arabs] declared the whole city closed and went on strike. The Jews decided to remain in their homes . . . in the afternoon many gathered near the synagogue and began shouting ‘Falistin biladna v’yahud kalbana’ (‘Palestine is our land and the Jews are our dogs’), while the army remained silent. In the afternoon, the mob attacked the synagogue, destroying it with the army’s help . . . within half an hour everything was burned to the ground. They removed 40 Torah scrolls and used kerosene and oil to set them on fire. . .” Even in Egypt in 1948 the streets burned. Bombs exploded in the Jewish Quarter of Cairo, many Jews were arrested, synagogues were vandalized.

The Great Synagogue in Alexandria had been a bustling community center, even running its own school. Rabbi Ventura taught there. “If I met him today,” my grandmother told to me, “I would thank him. Thanks to him, we came to Israel.” He taught in Alexandria for eleven years until he was expelled for his Zionist activities. During those years, he ignited the spirit of the community’s younger members, including my grandparents, and awakened in them the dream of coming to Israel.

A family wedding in the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria

“He was different from the other teachers,” she said. “He excited us young people, he talked to us about Zionism, about Israel, without fear. And he not only spoke, he also acted. His way was by setting a personal example.”

Rabbi Moshe Ventura was born in Izmir in 1892 and served as a rabbi in Baghdad and Beirut. In 1937, he was called to be the chief rabbi of Alexandria. He educated generations of students at the Jewish high school he founded, including Eli Cohen, who would become famous for his service with Israel’s Mossad. He instituted a national Zionist consciousness among the Jewish community. In his view, the Jewish national revival, Zionism, was an integral part of the overall national awakening of the peoples of the Middle East, and consequently he frequently spoke publicly about the need for cooperation between the various Semitic peoples and in particular between “the Children of Israel and the Children of Ishmael.” In 1948, he was expelled from Egypt because of his Zionist activities.

As a child, I had mixed feelings about my family’s story. On the one hand, my grandparents were heroes. They were members of the underground in Egypt and did everything they could to reach Israel. On the other hand, they were Mizrahim (lit. “easterners”) and being a Mizrahi Jew was always some kind of uncomfortable, middle of the road existence. Sometimes when I would ask my grandfather about Egypt he would say “How long must I be judged by where my grandfather was born?” For him, he was an Israeli, a Zionist, an enthusiastic kibbutznik. He had left Egypt behind. His goal had always been the Land of Israel.

They worked hard to erase every trace of this Mizrahi identity, never speaking Arabic, only Hebrew. I had no idea how much Arabic they knew; it never dawned on me that it was the language they grew up with. Only the occasional French passed their lips.

Now, I look back to that time, for the stories in the shadows. The ones hidden by the strong glare of the sun. I look at this picture of the synagogue in Alexandria, within whose walls so many family memories were inscribed. I was never there. But I imagine my grandmother Tony standing on those steps in a white dress and reciting the Ten Commandments at her Bat Mitzvah and my late grandmother Suzy marching down them in her bridesmaid dress. Both of them in their festive dresses smiling at me, with smiles of childhood from a different world. A world that was and is no more. With only the stories left to preserve its existence. I try to collect all the hidden treasures from these stories before they disappear into the abyss.


I recently published my Hebrew book, Habaytah Haloch VeChazor (“Back and Again”), a historical novel that moves between the Egypt of those days and today’s Israel. It features a journey that sheds light on events that took place within Alexandria’s Jewish community during that time, as well as an attempt to go back and discover those treasures hidden in the shadows.

Kirk Douglas: Star of David and Hollywood

He starred in the first Hollywood feature filmed in Israel, but the legendary actor's connection to the Jewish state and people certainly didn't start or stop there...

Kirk Douglas in Jerusalem, 1999 (Stylized photo based on one published in the ⁨⁨February 1, 2002 edition of The Australian Jewish News⁩⁩; part of the National Library of Israel Digital Collection)

Like many Jews of his generation, Kirk Douglas had changed his name to avoid revealing that he was born Issur Danielovitch, the son of poor Jewish immigrants who lived in Amsterdam, New York.  Even before that, he adopted the Americanized surname of his uncle Avram Demsky and preferred Isadore over Issur.

A photo of Kirk Douglas as a young man with his mother, appearing in his autobiography, The Ragman’s Son.

Douglas always was acutely aware that he was Jewish. His childhood temple offered to subsidize his education at a Yeshiva so he could become a rabbi, but he had fallen in love with acting and declined the offer.  Though he had a bar mitzvah and celebrated Jewish holidays in his home, he did not share the piety of his parents.  The anti-Semitism he encountered in his hometown, however, never let him forget his Jewish origins.  As he recalled in his autobiography, The Ragman’s Son:

“After school each day, I’d have to walk about twelve blocks to Hebrew school.  I had to run the gauntlet, because every other street had a gang, and they would always be waiting to catch the Jew boy.”

He could not escape this prejudice when he attended St. Lawrence University, a Liberal Arts college located in an isolated rural area of northern New York. Though athletic and handsome, he was not rushed by the fraternities whose national charters banned pledging Jews. Instead, Douglas left his imprint on the campus as an actor, champion wrestler, and the first non-fraternity member and Jew to be elected student president in 1938.  The alumni protested over a “Jew boy president of the student body” and threatened to stop donating to the school.

A photo of Douglas on the wrestling team at St. Lawrence University, appearing in The Ragman’s Son.
A photo of Kirk Douglas, “Jew boy president of the student body” at St. Lawrence University, appearing in The Ragman’s Son.

Douglas served in the navy during World War Two.  He married his first of two gentile wives in 1943 (the second converted when they renewed their vows in 2004) in a ceremony conducted by a navy chaplain.  A rabbi agreed to officiate at a subsequent wedding in return for the couple promising to raise their children as Jews.

Douglas subsequently admitted that he never intended to honor this pledge.

He landed his first leading role opposite Barbara Stanwyck in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers in 1946, though he would not be cast as a Jewish character for another seven years. Privately during this period, his attachment to Judaism expressed itself by fasting on Yom Kippur out of a sense of solidarity towards the Jews of the past and the present.

This connection was reinforced when Douglas played Holocaust survivor Hans Mueller in Edward Dmytryk’s The Juggler, the first Hollywood motion picture to be filmed in Israel.

Douglas receiving a gift to present to Moshe Sharett, prior to filming “The Juggler” in Israel. From ⁨⁨the October 3, 1952 edition of The B’nai B’rith Messenger⁩⁩; part of the National Library of Israel Digital Collection
This double-spread feature on the filming of “The Juggler” was published in the newspaper Davar on October 31, 1952; a part of the National Library of Israel Digital Collection

At the registration center for new immigrants, Hans, a former juggler and clown, hallucinates that his deceased wife and children are peering at him from a window.  Chafing from confinement, he escapes from the facility and beats up an Israeli police officer whose check of his identification papers stirs up memories of Nazi interrogations. Roaming the countryside, Hans is befriended by a boy and woman who belong to a kibbutz and invite him to stay there.

When the police track him down, Hans barricades himself in a room, though he eventually surrenders and acknowledges he is sick and needs help.  Throughout the film Hans repeatedly remarks that “home is a place you lose,” but slowly discerns that Israel is a homeland for Jews fleeing oppression.  In real life, Douglas admired Israel for fighting for Jewish statehood in the shadow of the systematic slaughter of European Jewry.

Kirk Douglas in Tel Aviv, 1952. Photo by Rudi Weissenstein, all rights reserved to Pri-Or PhotoHouse; part of the National Library of Israel Digital Collection

His next Jewish character, Mickey Marcus, in Melville Shavelson’s Cast a Giant Shadow (1966) was based on an American Jewish soldier recruited by the Haganah as a military advisor to Israeli troops during the War of Independence.

David “Mickey” Marcus. From the Abraham Schwadron Portrait Collection at the National Library of Israel

Until he tours Dachau after its liberation, Marcus feels little sympathy for Zionism.  Later, catapulted into the fray in Israel, he trains soldiers and organizes the clandestine route to smuggle arms, food, and medical supplies into besieged Jerusalem. Marcus is eventually killed in a “friendly-fire” incident – an Israeli sentry who does not understand English shoots the American, who does not speak Hebrew and cannot respond to orders to prove he is not an enemy combatant.

“Mickey” Marcus during Israel’s War of Independence, 1948 (Government Press Office / Public domain)

Douglas identified with Marcus who “in helping the Israelis, discovered his Jewishness, came to grips with it, and acknowledged that he was a Jew.”

Kirk Douglas and Yul Brynner on the set of “Cast a Giant Shadow” (Photo: Boris Carmi). From the Meitar Collection at the National Library of Israel
Kirk Douglas and Yul Brynner on the set of “Cast a Giant Shadow” (Photo: Boris Carmi). From the Meitar Collection at the National Library of Israel

The actor returned to the topics of the Holocaust and Israel in films like Victory at Entebbe (1976) and Remembrance of Love (1982).  As Holocaust survivor Joe Rabin in the latter, he travels to a gathering of survivors in Israel searching for his long-lost lover and the baby she was carrying before the two were deported to concentration camps.  Douglas’ indignation over the Shoah and pride in Israel as a Jewish state are evident in many of the books he authored, as well.

In 1991, Douglas nearly died in a collision between his helicopter and a stunt plane. Confined to a hospital bed with spinal injuries, he reevaluated his relationship to Judaism:

“I came to believe that I was spared because I had never come to grips with what it means to be Jewish.”

This quest spurred him to study Torah and have his second bar mitzvah at the age of 83. He valued the morality promoted by religions in general, “I studied Judaism a lot. I studied religion in general, and I have never imposed my Judaism on my kids.”

Kirk’s son, the actor Michael Douglas, also began to further explore his Jewish roots after the helicopter incident. In subsequent years he became very active in Jewish causes and visited Israel numerous times, including in 2015 to receive the second annual Genesis Prize, known as the “Jewish Nobel”, which “recognizes and celebrates Jewish talent and achievement, honoring individuals for their accomplishments and commitment to Jewish values.”

Kirk Douglas, wearing his original Bar Mitzvah tallis, speaks at his second Bar Mitzvah to his son, Michael Douglas, and soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Catherine Zeta-Jones. From the ⁨⁨January 7, 2000 edition of The Australian Jewish News⁩⁩; part of the National Library of Israel Digital Collection

In 1996, the elder Douglas suffered a severe stroke.  Intensive speech therapy enabled him to regain his ability to talk.  Rather than letting his halting speech deter him from acting, he appeared in three more feature films and one television movie.  In It Runs in the Family (2003), he plays the patriarch of a Jewish family coping with the aftermath of his stroke. In the film, Douglas quips:

“So what if my stroke left me with a speech impediment? Moses had one, and he did all right.”

Over the years, the actor donated over $100 million to American and Israeli charities, funding hundreds of playgrounds in poor sections of Los Angeles and Jerusalem, an Alzheimer’s hospital unit, and a theater near the Western Wall.

Eighty-five year-old Kirk Douglas tries out a slide at a playground he donated. Published in the ⁨⁨February 1, 2002 edition of The Australian Jewish News⁩⁩; part of the National Library of Israel Digital Collection

Over the course of his career, Kirk Douglas evolved from an actor who originally minimized his Jewish roots into a proud Jew who recovered his ethnic and religious identity by dramatizing it and immersing himself in Judaism and Jewish history.

A version of this article was originally published by the San Diego Jewish World.