Entrepreneurially Nimble Amish Pivot to Make Face Masks

(p. A9) SUGARCREEK, Ohio — On April 1, John Miller, a manufacturer here with deep connections to the close-knit Amish community of Central Ohio, got a call from Cleveland Clinic. The hospital system was struggling to find protective face masks for its 55,000 employees, plus visitors. Could his team sew 12,000 masks in two days?

He appealed to Abe Troyer with Keim, a local lumber mill and home goods business and a leader in the Amish community: “Abe, make a sewing frolic.” A frolic, Mr. Miller explained, “is a colloquial term here that means, ‘Get a bunch of people. Throw a bunch of people at this.’”

A day later, Mr. Troyer had signed up 60 Amish home seamstresses, and the Cleveland Clinic sewing frolic was on.

. . .

Almost overnight, a group of local industry, community and church leaders has mobilized to sustain Amish households by pivoting to work crafting thousands of face masks and shields, surgical gowns and protective garments from medical-grade materials. When those run scarce, they switch to using gaily printed quilting fabric and waterproof Tyvek house wrap.

For the full story, see:

Elizabeth Williamson. “In Ohio, Amish Families Pivot to Make Medical Gear.” The New York Times (Friday, April 10, 2020): A9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated April 16, 2020, and has the title “In Ohio, the Amish Take On the Coronavirus.”)

Armed Parishoners Avert Massacre

(p. A1) WHITE SETTLEMENT, Texas — A gunman opened fire at a church in Texas on Sunday morning [December 29, 2019], killing two people with a shotgun before a member of the church’s volunteer security team fatally shot him, the authorities said.

About 250 people were inside the auditorium of the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, near Fort Worth, when the gunman began shooting just before communion, said Jack Cummings, a minister at the church.

Mr. Cummings said the gunman was “acting suspiciously” before the shooting and drew the attention of the church’s security team. The team, he said, has existed for at least 10 years and is made up of members of the church’s congregation who are licensed to carry firearms and practice shooting regularly.

“They saved a lot of lives today,” Mr. Cummings said. “Because this thing would have been a massacre otherwise.”

For the full story, see:

Patrick McGee and Mihir Zaveri. “‘This Would Have Been a Massacre’ if Not for Church Security.” The New York Times (Monday, December 30, 2019): A9.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was last updated on December 31, 2019, and has the title “Shooting at Texas Church Leaves 2 Parishioners Dead, Officials Say.”)

Amazon Enables Flourishing of Small Diverse Entrepreneurs

(p. A24) They are a religious community known for clinging to 18th-century fashions and mores — strict rules that keep men and women apart and constraints on attire, with men favoring black suits and formal hats and women in long sleeves and long skirts.

But when it comes to doing business, Hasidic Jews have become enamored with a distinctly 21st-century company: Amazon.

The ability to sell merchandise easily and relatively anonymously on Amazon has transformed the economies of Hasidic enclaves in Brooklyn, suburban New York and central New Jersey, communities where members prefer to keep to themselves and typically do not go to college, let alone graduate from business programs.

But Amazon allows Hasidim to start selling without much experience and without making the investments required by a brick-and-mortar store. It permits Hasidic sellers to deal with the public invisibly — almost entirely by mail, by email or through package-delivery firms.

“Amazon doesn’t ask for your résumé,” said Sam Friedman, a marketer who designs trade show exhibits and works with many Amazon sellers. “And your picture is not on your business. The investment is minimal. You can work out of your bedroom.”

. . .

If Amazon is fulfilling orders, the business may effectively be running on Sabbath and Jewish holidays, though how that is carried out is the subject of vigorous debate. With a Talmudic twist of logic, some Hasidic entrepreneurs take on a non-Jew as a presumptive partner, attributing profits made on the Sabbath to that person.

. . .

Mr. Friedman is . . . organizing a business, advertising and marketing expo in Brooklyn in December [2019] to help Hasidic merchants expand their online sales by contracting with experienced copy writers, web designers, videographers and other professionals whose occupations the Talmudic Sages never even dreamed of.

“We’re not college students,” Mr. Friedman said, “but the yeshiva makes us smart enough to figure things out.”

For the full story, see:

Joseph Berger. “Insular Hasidic Communities Embrace Selling on Amazon.” The New York Times (Thursday, October 17, 2019): A24.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 16, 2019, and has the title “How Amazon Has Transformed the Hasidic Economy.” The online version says that the article was on p. A26 of the New York edition. The article was on p. A24 of my National edition.)

Rosenwald Philanthropy Aimed at Self-Help More Than Social Change

(p. A15) At the beginning of the 20th century, three figures dominated the rapidly expanding world of American philanthropy. Two—Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller—are still remembered, mostly because of the foundations they established. But the third—Julius Rosenwald—is largely forgotten. No foundations, and few buildings, bear his name. If his approach to giving was more modest in spirit, it was no less influential and effective in its day.

. . .

. . . , Rosenwald invested in a catalog sales company that needed capital: Sears, Roebuck. He gradually became more involved in the business and, when co-founder Richard Sears resigned in 1908, took over its leadership.

. . .

Because the rise and fall of Sears, Roebuck is already well-chronicled, Ms. Diner, a professor of American Jewish history at New York University, concentrates on what Rosenwald did with the status and fortune he accumulated. By one estimate, he donated, in today’s dollars, close to $2 billion before he died in 1932, as well as considerable time to the causes he cared about.

Many of these centered on his hometown of Chicago. Rosenwald’s gifts helped to create the city’s Museum of Science and Industry, build the University of Chicago, and support the settlement houses run by Jane Addams and others. He also underwrote a wide range of Jewish organizations, including cultural institutes, theological seminaries and, most notably, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, a fund that was set up during World War I to aid Jewish refugees and that has continued to do so ever since.

The most striking part of Rosenwald’s philanthropy may well be his funding of African-American education in the South. Influenced by Booker T. Washington, he developed a program to construct elementary and secondary schools in any black community that wanted such support. Over a 20-year period, nearly 5,000 schools opened.

. . .

For both Jewish immigrants in the slums of Chicago and black sharecroppers in the rural South, Rosenwald’s philanthropy sought to promote practical efforts at self-improvement, not ambitious plans for social change.

For the full review, see:

Leslie Lenkowsky. “BOOKSHELF; A Catalog of Generosity; His approach to philanthropy sought to promote practical efforts at self-improvement, not ambitious plans for social change.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Oct. 30, 2017): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Oct. 29, 2017, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; Review: A Catalog of Generosity; His approach to philanthropy sought to promote practical efforts at self-improvement, not ambitious plans for social change.”)

The book under review is:

Diner, Hasia R. Julius Rosenwald: Repairing the World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017.

“Can We Stay Forever?”

(p. A8) “Anyone who knew my mom knew Disney was her happy place,” said Jodie Jackson Wells, a business coach in Boca Raton, Fla., who in 2009 smuggled a pill bottle containing her mother’s ashes into Walt Disney World.

Once inside, Ms. Wells helped spread ashes on the platform of It’s a Small World near a head-spinning bird, a moment in the ride that always made her mother laugh. Later in the day, overcome with grief, Ms. Wells hopped over the barricade surrounding the lawn outside Cinderella’s castle and ran across the grass, flinging them as she crossed.

“I had two fistfuls of the ashes and I literally leapt like I was a dancer,” she said.

. . .

Caryn Reker of Jacksonville, Fla., remembers her father growing emotional while watching the Wishes fireworks show outside the ice-cream parlor on Disney World’s Main Street. When time came for her to spread his ashes, in 2006, she opted to do it in numerous spots around the area.

“It’s a sweet way to giggle and remember—he’s here. . . and there. . . and a little over there. . . yep, there, too,” she wrote in an email. She returned to Disney World last week to spread the ashes of her brother, an Epcot enthusiast who died this year.

. . .

Shanon Himebrook, a 41-year-old state-government employee from Kansas City, Mo., grew up making summer trips to Disney World with her father, a worker at a plastic factory in Indiana.

At Disney, “he wasn’t my tired, graveyard-shift Dad,” she said. “He was, ‘Let’s get you the Mouse ears! Let’s get your name stitched in it!’ It’s like, ‘I love this dad! Can we stay forever?’”

Ms. Himebrook spread his ashes earlier this year near the park gates.

. . .

Kym Pessolano DeBarth, a 47-year-old optometrist-office worker from Northfield, N.J., dumped a small amount of her mother’s ashes in the water underneath It’s a Small World. “I didn’t want to clog the filter,” she said.

In December [2018], she’ll return to the park to commemorate the 15th anniversary of her mother’s death.

“Instead of going to a grave,” she said, “I go to Disney World.”

For the full story, see:

Erich Schwartzel. “Disney World Has a Secret: Family Ashes.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018): A1 & A8.

(Note: bracketed year, and ellipses between paragraphs, added; ellipses internal to a sentence, in original.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 24, 2018, and has the title “Disney World’s Big Secret: It’s a Favorite Spot to Scatter Family Ashes.”)

Drones Bringing Vaccine May Be Interpreted by Some as Cargo Cult Vindication

(p. A10) In the village of Cook’s Bay, on the remote side of the remote island of Erromango, in the remote South Pacific nation of Vanuatu, 1-month-old Joy Nowai was given shots for hepatitis and tuberculosis that were delivered by a flying drone on Monday.
It may not have been the first vial of vaccine ever delivered that way, but it was the first in Vanuatu, which is the only country in the world to make its childhood vaccine program officially drone-dependent.
“I am so happy the drone brought the stick medicine to Cook’s Bay as I don’t have to walk several hours to Port Narvin for her vaccines,” her mother, Julie Nowai told a Unicef representative. “It is only 15 minutes’ walk from my home.”
.. . .
. . . , about 20 percent of Vanuatu’s 35,000 children under age 5 do not get all their shots, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.
So the country, with support from Unicef, the Australian government and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, began its drone program on Monday. It will initially serve three islands but may be expanded to many more.
In the future, that expansion may run into some unusual turbulence — Vanuatu is one of the few places where “cargo cults” are still active, and the drones match their central religious dogma: that believers will receive valuable goods delivered by airplane.
That will have to be handled carefully, a Unicef representative said.
. . .
. . . : Vanuatu still has adherents of the John Frum movement, one of the South Pacific cargo cults whose adherents pray for valuables arriving from the sky.
The cults date back more than 100 years, but reached their zenith during and after World War II.
Islanders whose ancestors had been kidnapped by whites to work on plantations in Australia and Fiji watched “silver birds” flown in by the Japanese and American militaries disgorge vast amounts of “cargo” — food, medicines, tools and weapons — which was sometimes shared with them.
The legend spread that the cargo was gifts from the ancestors, but that it had been intercepted and stolen by the foreigners. After the war ended, the cults built airstrips and model planes to lure the “birds” back.

For the full story, see:
Donald G. McNeil Jr. “‘A Buzzing Thing in the Sky’ Delivers Vaccines to Vanuatu.” The New York Times (Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018): A10.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 17, 2018, and has the title “An Island Nation’s Health Experiment: Vaccines Delivered by Drone.”)

Idyllic Golden-Age Hunter-Gatherers

(p. A8) Before he was killed by an isolated tribe on a remote Indian Ocean island, John Allen Chau, a young American on a self-propelled mission to spread Christianity, revealed two things: that he was willing to die, and that he was scared.
. . .
He tried to give gifts. A boy shot an arrow at him. He expressed fear, fatalism, frustration and some humor.
The people Mr. Chau chose for his mission are among the most impenetrable communities in the world, known for their intense hostility to outsiders. They have killed or tried to kill many outsiders who attempted to step on their rugged island 700 miles off India’s mainland, where they are one of the last undiluted hunter and gatherer societies.
. . .
Mr. Chau was trying to accomplish the impossible. The people on North Sentinel have not accepted anyone outside their society. Anthropologists, filmmakers and government officials have tried to approach them. Just about all have been driven back by bows and arrows.
. . .
The fishermen said he had told them to give the letter to a friend, in case he did not come back.
In one passage, he asked God if North Sentinel was “Satan’s last stronghold.” In another: “What makes them become this defensive and hostile?”
“It’s weird — actually no, it’s natural: I’m scared,” Mr. Chau wrote. “There, I said it. Also frustrated and uncertain — is it worth me going a foot to meet them?”
He added, “I don’t want to die!”
Still, he went back.
On the afternoon of Nov. 16, the fishermen told police officers, Mr. Chau reassured them that he would be fine staying on the island overnight and that the fishermen could go. They motored out, leaving Mr. Chau alone for the first time.
When they passed by the island the next morning, they saw the islanders dragging his body on the beach with a rope.
No one knows what exactly happened. Police officials said the islanders most likely killed him with bows and arrows.
Mr. Chau’s body is still on the island, but several police officers said they were worried about retrieving it, lest the same thing happen to them.

For the full story, see:
Jeffrey Gettleman, Hari Kumar and Kai Schultz. “American’s Last Letter Before Being Killed by Tribe on a Remote Indian Island.” The New York Times (Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018): A8.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 23, 2018, and has the title “A Man’s Last Letter Before Being Killed on a Forbidden Island.”)