Danny Thomas/Arab American: Saint Jude’s Messenger

Ye shall know them by their fruits.ST Jude displays veil to King Abgar 001

Danny Thomas was born Muzyad Yakhoob on January 6, 1912 in Deerfield, Michigan, or as he liked to say “over Mrs. Feldman’s bakery in Toledo, Ohio.” Danny’s father,  Shaheed (the Witness) Yakhoob could read Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic and spoke some English. Danny’s mother, Margaret Taouk, like her husband, was a Maronite Catholic from Becheri (B’Sharri), Lebanon.

Danny grew up in Toledo listening to his father playing a wide variety of Lebanese string and wind instruments and telling stories of life in the mountains of Lebanon. Their landlady, Mrs. Feldman, was also a story teller, often involving life in the Polish shetl were she grew up. All his life, Danny maintained a genuine love of all people and cultures and an ability to relate their concerns with humor. He began his show business career as a saloon entertainer using his Anglicized name Amos Jacobs.

His wife, Rose Marie, in a Detroit hospital ready to deliver their first child Marlo, had been urging him to abandon show business and find a real job. The despondent entertainer entered the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul seeking consolation (this was during the Great Depression, a hard time for many). On the pew was a pamphlet for the forgotten saint, Jude Thaddeus, patron saint of the impossible, hopeless and difficult cases. Amos took his last seven dollars and dropped it in the donation box and asked St. Jude to return it ten-fold. A week later he earned seventy-five dollars doing a radio ad.

Shortly thereafter, he was offered a job with a Chicago radio station, so the young family moved from Detroit. In 1940, he took a one-week trial engagement in a new club. The club’s owner asked him what stage name he wished to use. Thinking quickly, he chose the names of two of his brothers and replied Danny Thomas.

Three years later, still at the 5100 Club, Danny was offered a partnership in the club with the proviso that he stay on permanently as master of ceremonies. Danny was torn between the promise of economic security and giving up on his goal of becoming a “big time” star. He again turned to St. Jude:

Help me find my place in life. Give me just a small sign of what road I must take and I’ll dedicate my life to perpetuating your name. Help me find my place in life and I will build you a shrine . . . where the poor, and the helpless and the hopeless may come for comfort and aid.

When the day arrived for Danny to give an answer to the club’s owner, Chicago was hit with a massive snow storm. All travel venues were shut down. Stuck in town, legendary theatrical agent Abe Lastfogel, upon the advice of a friend, decided to check out the young comic at the 5100 Club. He loved what he saw. The rest is history.

Danny Thomas was one of television’s most beloved figures on Make Room for Daddy which ran from 1953 to 1965. He also produced The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show and The Real McCoys. More importantly, Danny Thomas kept his promise to Saint Jude.

For us today, Jude’s story begins with the death of Christ. When the body of Jesus was removed from the cross and taken to a tomb it was dressed for burial in a traditional Jewish manner. Before the massive stone was rolled in place sealing the tomb, Mary Magdalene laid a small veil woven from expensive sea silk (threads of which are spun from fiber produced by clams) upon Jesus’ face. To this day Mary Magdalene can be identified in Christian art by her symbol, a sea shell. When she returned to the tomb on the First Easter Sunday the rock had been rolled away, she ran to tell the other disciples.

Peter entered the tomb and saw the linen wrappings lying there and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, John, entered and he saw and believed. What we can deduce is that he saw Jesus’ face, clearly visible on the sea silk cloth which came to be known as the Veronica Veil.

Any object which had come in contact with a dead body was considered defiled by Jewish tradition. So contact with such items was strictly forbidden. Hence the early Christians great dilemma was that the most tangible proof of Christ’s Resurrection could not even be discussed or displayed publicly. It remained hidden (in plain sight in a church in the Tuscan mountains) until Paul Badde wrote THE FACE OF GOD and THE TRUE ICON.

This was the so-called arcanum [closely guarded secret] of early Christianity, in which what was previously the most impure thing was suddenly revered as the purest of all. The light images of these cloths of light were immediately locked up so tight under this code of secrecy that it was centuries before the news was released from that secret space — while the beautiful rumor of an image “not made by human hands” of God’s countenance gradually filled the whole house of Christendom like incense.  Paul Badde

King Abgar of Edessa (now part of Turkey) had desired to meet Jesus. The king suffered from leprosy and was convinced Jesus could heal him. After the crucifixion, Jude Thaddeus displayed the veil to King Abgar, who was then cured instantly. This scene (taken from The Face of God) is depicted at the top of this article.

Danny Thomas, determined to keep his vow by building a hospital for children, sought assistance from two quarters: Samuel Cardinal Stritch of Chicago (left) who had confirmed Danny many years earlier when he was Bishop of Toledo, and the Arabic speaking community of the United States.

He came to them, his people, because never in the history of this country had people of their ethnic back ground joined together as a group to honor their forefathers who had come to America seeking a new world for their children. Nor had they done anything as a group to say “thank you” to America for letting their forefathers come to this country, establish themselves in the business and professional community and raise their children to enjoy the full benefits the country had to offer.” (From A DREAM COME TRUE The Story of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and ALSAC).

St Jude & Danny Thomas 001With the devoted assistance of LaVonne Rashid (left) and Michael Tamer St Jude & Danny Thomas 002(right) Danny Thomas founded the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities on October 10, 1957 in Chicago. Since then ALSAC has raised more than $500 million annually of which 85% goes directly to St. Jude’s Hospital. According to Wikipedia, “Discoveries at St. Jude have completely changed how doctors treat children with cancer and other catastrophic illnesses. Since St. Jude was established, the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer, has St. Jude & Danny Thomas 001increased from 4 percent in 1962 to 94 percent today. During this time, the overall survival rate for childhood cancers has risen from 20 percent to 80 percent. St. Jude has treated children from across the United States and from more than 70 countries. Doctors across the world consult with St. Jude on their toughest cases. Also, St. Jude has an International Outreach Program to improve the survival rates of children with catastrophic illnesses worldwide through the transfer of knowledge, technology and organizational skills.” St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital was also the first fully integrated hospital in the south.

Today, St. Jude is well known for his works. Anonymous newspaper ads across America attest to Jude’s faithful response to requests for his aid. May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be honored, loved and praised throughout the world, now and forever. Sacred Heart of Jesus pray for us. St. Jude, worker of miracles, pray for us. St. Jude, helper of the hopeless, pray for us.

Danny Thomas intended that St. Jude’s Hospital never turn away a child due to the family’s inability to pay, ethnic origin or religion. Danny Thomas’ belief in St. Jude has made the world a better place. Let us all pray to St. Jude for healing and light to overcome bigotry and hate. May all peoples live in harmony, our common prayers reaching the heaven within our hearts and reflect onto the faces of all we meet.

Standing before a ten foot marble statue of St. Jude, his personal gift to the hospital, Danny Thomas told the crowd, To those of you who are Catholic, this is a symbol of our faith in St. Jude as the patron saint of hopeless causes and our dedication of this hospital as a shrine fulfilling a promise made to him.” He paused, then continued, “To all of you who are of different beliefs, it’s still a pretty nice statue.”
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Lawrence Birney, along with his wife Angelina Birney, is co-founder of The Pure Vision Foundation, a non-profit organization which donates inter-faith spiritual books to New York prisons through its Thomas Merton Prison Project. Lawrence and Angelina have also written two spiritual novels, PURE VISION: The Magdalene Revelation and TARA THUNDERBOLT and the Sky Dancer Cat.
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