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Is there anything Jewish about Leap Day?

Considering us Jews have a whole leap month (that we’re currently in), it’s not surprising that Leap Day, Feb. 29, doesn’t have much significance in the Jewish world.

Clockwise from upper left: Benjamin Disraeli, Al Rosen, Yigal Allon, Howard Nemerov and Dinah Shore. (Wikipedia)

Clockwise from upper left: Benjamin Disraeli, Al Rosen, Yigal Allon, Howard Nemerov and Dinah Shore. (Wikipedia)

Nevertheless, we thought it would be fun to see if the Intermountain Jewish News had ever published on Leap Day or even ran a story about the extra day of February that comes once every four years. Well, it seems the calendar gods conspired to make it that there would be no IJN ever published on Leap Day. Well, maybe ever is an exaggeration, but at least not during the years of the IJN that are currently digitized, 1924-1969.

But when we say conspired, we mean it, because Feb. 29, 1952 was a Friday — but it came during a brief period when the IJN was published on Thursdays, not Fridays.

So this isn’t going to be a From the Archives post, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have any Jewish fun with Leap Day.

In a 2016 article for the Forward, Seth Rogovoy gets into the nitty gritty about the astronomy and theology behind leap years. If the words “Metonic” cycle or “pregnant year” intrigue you, you’ll want to read Rogovoy’s article, but it was the historical trivia that caught our attention.

“Considering it only pops up once every four years, February 29 has proven to be a somewhat auspicious date in Jewish history. It was on this date in 1868 that British-Jewish Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli formed his first cabinet.

“It was also on this date in 1988 that a Nazi document was discovered implicating participation of Austrian president and former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim in WW II deportations. Former Israeli prime minister, longtime politician and military leader Yigal Allon died on February 29, 1980.

“Jewish-American singer-actress Dinah Shore was born on February 29 in 1916, and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet laureate Howard Nemerov (older brother to photographer Diane Arbus) in 1920. Someone born on this date is called a “leapling.”

“Al Rosen, one of the greatest Jewish baseball players of all time, was born on February 29, 1924. The four time all-star and legendary home-run hitter played a decade for the Cleveland Indians in the 1940s and ‘50s and inherited his hero Hank Greenberg’s nickname, “The Hebrew Hammer.” A former boxer, Rosen was known for challenging opposing ballplayers to fight whenever they taunted him with anti-Semitic slurs. Rosen refused to play ball on the High Holy Days, undoubtedly influencing Sandy Koufax after him.”

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