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The Schmooze

Of Golda Meir, Laverne and Shirley and 8 Other Facts About (Jewish) Wisconsin

1) Wisconsin has only 50,000 Jews in a state with about 5.9 million people. Sixty percent, 30,000, of them live in Metro Milwaukee and only 4.500 live in the city of Milwaukee itself (out of 600,000) or less than one percent in the city and less than one percent in the entire state.

2) Wisconsin’s first Jews came in the early 1790s and were most likely fur traders.

3) Wisconsin is the only state in the USA to have contributed a prime minister to Israel — Golda Meir (nee Mabowitz).

4) Wisconsin is the only state that had two male Jewish U.S. Senators serving at the same time — Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold.

Laverne and Shirley, Circa 1976 Image by Wikimedia Commons

5) One of the world’s greatest connoisseurs of the Old Master’s school of Rembrandt and his students is Alfred Bader of Milwaukee, co-founder of Sigma-Aldrich Chemical Corporation, the 80th largest chemical company in the U.S.

6) Charlotte Rae (nee Lubotsky), famous for her role in the TV show “The Facts of Life,” hails from Milwaukee. In fact, several TV shows have their origins in Milwaukee including “Laverne and Shirley” and “Happy Days.”

7) Milwaukee’s Washington High School has produced such graduates as Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, actor Gene Wilder (formerly Jerry Silberman) and the author of this essay.

8) The quintessential New Yorker Jackie Mason was actually born Yankel Maza in Sheboygan, Wisconsin in 1932. Both his father Eli Maza and his brother Bernie Maza were ordained rabbis.

9) Harry Houdini, the great magician and escape artist, was born Erich Weiss in Budapest, hailed from Appleton, Wisconsin, and his father was also a rabbi.

10) The Wisconsin-born Zucker Brothers (David and Jerry) and Jim Abraham, Hollywood producers and directors, produced O.J. Simpson’s last film “The Naked Gun,” which also starred Leslie Nielsen and Elvis Presley’s former wife Priscilla Presley. Charlotte Zucker, their mother, appears in nearly every one of their pictures.


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