B"H Yom Yom
[13 Shvat] French National Assembly granted full and equal citizenship to the Portuguese and Avignonese Jews, 1790. France was the first European country to pass such liberal legislation.
[January 20] Meeting chaired by Gestapo head Rhinehard Heydrich, discusses the implementation of the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question", 1942. Franco met with Jewish representatives to discuss the legal status of the Jewish community in Spain, 1965. First such meeting since 1492. George Burns b.d. 1898.
[14 Shvat] Yosef b. Issachar Suesskind Oppenheimer, financial expert, was executed in Vienna, 1738. (One example of many "court Jews" whose financial expertise was valued and used by nobility, who were able to use their high positions to improve conditions for their fellow Jews, and who, when they fell out of favor, were summarily disposed of.) Yahrzeit of the P'nei Yehoshua, 1756.
[January 21] Jews of Majorca were guaranteed protection, 1393. (The edict was "forgotten" several years later. This was not an uncommon experience in Jewish History.)
[15 Shvat] Rosh HaShana for trees. First round of Daf Yomi celebrated a siyum, 1931. Ghetto in Lodz was established by Nazi decree, 1941. First session of the Knesset in Jerusalem, 1949.
[January 22] The Iron Guard revolt in Rumania led to the first massacre of Jews there in World War II, 1941. Israeli forces withdrew from most of Sinai, 1957.
[16 Shvat] Aaron Bernstein and Perez Smolenskin died 1884 and 1885 respectively. The former advocated Reform Jewish life in Germany and the latter advocated secular nationalism in Eretz Yisrael. (I mention these two distinguished writers and communal workers to give pause to reflect on the elements that doomed their ideas to failure from the start. Religious life - of any sort - without Eretz Yisrael in the picture and life in Eretz Yisrael without Torah anathema to the goals that G-d gave us at the birth of Bnei Yisrael, the Jewish People - Eretz Yisrael, L'AM Yisrael, al pi Torat Yisrael, the Land of Israel to the People of Israel by the Torah of Israel. Rav Kook's Yahrzeit is a positive inspiration. These Yahrzeits give us pause to reflect on the "spark of Judaism" that manifests itself even when the overall picture is negative.)
[January 23] First printed Chumash with Megilot, 1492. H. 23 (337th); L.
[17 Shvat] Purim of Saragossa celebrated the escape from destruction of the Jews, 1428.
[January 24} France recognized Israel, 1949. Merchaviya, first Jewish settlement in Emek Yizra'el, 1911. First Jewish doctor (of many) to settle in North America, 1656 (Maryland).
[18 Shvat] King Alfonzo V ordered Sicily's Jews to attend conversion sermons, 1428.
[January 25] Theodor Herzl meets Pope Pius X, who expresses the Church's opposition to Jewish control of Jerusalem, 1904. (This policy of the Vatican is alive and well today, and has significant influence in many circles.) The custom of tree-planting on TU b'Shvat was initiated by children of Jerusalem, 1925. HBV, LY.
[19 Shvat] Jews of Basle were burned alive, 1349, in wooden houses constructed for that purpose. (In relatively recent years, we tend to see Basle - and all of Switzerland - as quite civilized... and not un-nice to its Jews. In medieval times, it was a main "center of anti-Semitism".)
[January 26] The Russian army liberated 2819 survivors of Auschwitz, 1945. Switzerland recognized Israel, 1949. Israel and Egypt established normal diplomatic relations, 1980.
[20 Shvat] Birth of Asher b. Yaakov. First printed edition of Tzror HaMor, commentary on Chumash by Rabbi Avraham Sebag, 1523. (Very often, among the entries in Day by Day, Rabbi Bloch z"l includes dates of first publication of various texts. Usually, the entry "just" helps us get a picture of the proliferation of Jewish writing from the beginning of the era of the printed page. For this entry, however, Rabbi Bloch z"l attaches a historical vignette of Rabbi Sebag's life. Expelled from Spain in 1492, he made the unfortunate choice of places to flee to - Portugal. Their he was persecuted, his two sons were forcibly baptized and taken from him. He buried his manuscripts to save them from confiscation and destruction. After release from prison, he made his way to Africa where he managed to rewrite his works. Try to imagine the sacrifices made in order to keep the Chain of Tradition alive and well. These are Giborei Yisrael, no less than Yehuda HaMacabi.)Jewish doctors of Galicia were allowed to attend Christian patients, 1782.
[January 27] Earliest authorization for the establishment of a university (including medical and juridical departments) under Jewish auspices (sort of an early version of Yeshiva University), Sicily, 1466. Public execution of nine Damascus Jews, 1969.