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Samuel Myer Schmidt

SCHMIDT, SAMUEL MYER (1883–1965), newspaper editor, medical director, and representative of the Va'ad Hatzalah. Schmidt was born in Kovno, Russia (later Kaunas, Lithuania). His family came to Boston in 1896; Schmidt, one of six children, attended public school for a year, then worked at a variety of odd jobs to help him support the family. In 1899, he was offered a job in a rubber factory. There, he lost his right arm in a grinding accident but was determined not to be defeated by his disability. After trying a number of businesses, he prepared himself to enter MIT in 1907. He majored in biology and public health and graduated in 1911. While in school he volunteered in settlement houses in Boston, teaching Americanization classes to new immigrants. In 1913 Schmidt was appointed as an industrial health inspector and also director of the Boston Evening Center, carrying on his settlement work. Through an acquaintance with Boris *Bogen, (a national social work leader), he came to Cincinnati for one year to serve as superintendent of the Jewish Settlement. He returned to Boston, but the following year, joined the Joint Distribution Committee's (JDC) Zionist Medical Unit in Palestine, assigned especially to the problems of sanitation, cholera, and malaria. In 1919, he returned to the U.S., then accepted the call of the JDC and went to Poland as a member of the first relief unit. From 1921 to 1923, he served as medical director for Poland.

In 1926, he returned to Cincinnati to help organize the Wider Scope Program (later, Hillel). Schmidt published a manual on Jews and Jewish history for students. That same year he decided to establish a newspaper; the Every Friday was to serve as "a mirror of Jewish life in Cincinnati," reflecting the whole spectrum of Jewish life and opinion in the city. The paper underwent its vicissitudes with financial problems during the Depression, and competition with another Jewish paper which sought to undermine its circulation, but Schmidt persevered, and the paper continued weekly publication for almost 40 years.

In 1939 an editorial by Schmidt about the uprooting of Talmudic academies in Eastern Europe caught the attention of Rabbi Eliezer *Silver, head of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis and the Orthodox leader of the Cincinnati community. Silver prevailed on Schmidt to go to Lithuania as a representative of the Va'ad Hatzalah, to bring rescue and relief to the rabbis and students of the Eastern European yeshivot who had gathered in Vilna. So honored by this commission and impressed with the piety and purity of the rabbis he met, Schmidt determined to become a "whole Jew" and undertake a serious program of study and practice when he returned to Cincinnati.

When the war ended, Schmidt returned once more to Europe to give comfort and sustenance to the survivors of the Holocaust in the displaced persons camps. He described his reaction to these encounters in articles he sent home to the Every Friday. His readers back home were thus made intensely aware of the tragedy of the European Jews. On October 3, 1965, Samuel Schmidt collapsed and died in the presence of 500 friends and family members, at his own testimonial dinner in Cincinnati.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.