late 11-12th century. Convert from Catholicism. Among the material discovered in the Cairo Geniza in the early 20 century were documents relating to a certain Obadiah born in the late 11 century in Italy. The documents included an autobiography, the so-called 'Obadiah Scroll' written in biblical Hebrew, and notes on early synagogue chants. He was the son of a Norman nobleman who had settled in Bari, and the young man entered the church as a priest. Influenced by the example of a townsman and by the persecution of the Jews, he decided to convert to Judaism. He travelled to Baghdad where he studied Hebrew and the Pentateuch. He settled in Fostat, Egypt.
1858-1935. US publisher. The son of a Bavarian immigrant who had settled in Tennessee and fought in the American Civil War, Ochs acquired the fading New York Times in 1896 and was its publisher for nearly forty years. Under his slogan 'All the News That's Fit to Print', it became one of the world's greatest newspapers. Ochs was succeeded as publisher by his son-in-law Arthur Hays Sulzberger (1891-1968).
1906-63. US playwright. Clifford Odets was a prominent member of that group of playwrights whose experience of the depression found expression in a theatre of social protest and hard-hitting realism.
He was born in Philadelphia but spent his formative years in New York City. At an early stage, he was attracted to the theatre, and became an actor after graduating from High School. Odets' far-left, firmly held beliefs were the driving force behind his first production, Waiting for Lefty (1935), which was inspired by a New York taxicab drivers' strike the previous year. The play was an instant success and was transferred to the Broadway stage with another one-act play about the leftist underground in Germany, Till the Day I Die, which employed a similar multi-faceted technique. He followed this up in the same year with Awake and Sing!, which was acclaimed for its clear-eyed though sympathetic portrayal of New York Jews and its mixture of earthy humour with violent passion. He had a similar success with Golden Boy (1937), with its sensitive characterization of a young Italian boy with musical aspirations who degenerates when he turns prizefighter. Odets was a screenwriter in Hollywood for several years in the 40s, but he never recaptured the anger, idealism and single-mindedness that made his depression-era plays such effective vehicles of protest. Of his later work, the most notable was The Country Girl (1950).
1819-80. Composer. The son of a German cantor, Offenbach became the conductor of the Théâtre Français in Paris. He composed over a hundred operettas, marked by gay music and light social satire. The most famous of them was The Tales of Hoffman (first performed 1881).