Morantz, David, 1893-1959
- Existence: October 30, 1893 - April 23, 1959
David Morantz was born October 30, 1893, in Kansas City, Missouri, to Jacob Joseph and Goldie Morantz. His parents also had another son, Ben, and a daughter, Esther. Morantz was raised in Kansas City and, after graduating from Central High School, took a job with the Kansas City Public Library. In 1919, he founded the Morantz Mercantile Agency, a company which specialized in collecting past due accounts for doctors and others in the medical profession.
In the early 1930s the program chair of the Kansas City, Kansas, Rotary Club ask Morantz to give a talk on the reason why he did not eat lunch when they served pork at their Thursday meetings. In order to make his presentation more meaningful and interesting, he interspersed some tales from the Talmud. Bill Bailey, a fellow Rotarian and publisher of the Kansas City Kansan, approached Morantz about writing a daily column for his newspaper entitled “Talmudic Tales”. From that offer a daily column appeared first in the Kansas City Kansan, and eventually in fifty other periodicals throughout the world, including the New York Mirror, Atlanta Constitution, and even an Anglo-Jewish paper in India. Popularity of the column led to a compilation of the “Tales” and a book entitled Talmudic Tales was published in 1934.
The Kansas City Kansan published more than 2,000 installments of Morantz’s column from 1934 to 1941. Their subjects ranged from lessons of morality to explanations of specific Jewish customs. The popularity of the column and its accompanying Sunday morning radio show on the Kansan’s station KCKN led Morantz to focus more of his energy on his Talmudic scholars and less on his Mercantile Agency. Morantz became an influential member of both the secular and religious communities. In addition to the Kansas City, Kansas, Rotary Club, Morantz was a member of the Kansas City, Kansas, Credit Association, serving as president in the 1930s. He taught religious school at the Temple B’nai Jehudah in Kansas City, Missouri. He also formed a club of intellectual Jewish men called the “Maccabeans”, who met regularly to discuss Jewish and world affairs. To get his son Stanley involved with Jewish boys his own age, Morantz formed and directed a sort of junior Maccabeans for teenage boys called the “Akibians”, named after the Talmudic scholar Rabbi Akiba. In addition, Morantz served as president of the Beth Horon Lodge of B’nai B’rith, was a member of the Anti-Defamation League, and advised Jewish Youth Groups. After his column gained attention in the community, he frequently gave lectures to Jewish groups on the Talmud. At home, Morantz collected stamps and buttons, tinkered in his basement workshop and wrote. He was married to Rose Slabotsky and taught Hebrew to both his children, Stanley and Golda. In late 1939 Morantz began running the “Talmudic Tales” column under the headline “Hebrew Humor”. Most of these columns quoted Jewish and Hebrew poetry. The final installment of Morantz’s column ran in the Kansan on May 1, 1941.
Morantz died April 23, 1959, on the evening of the second Passover Seder. He was 65 years old. In his scholarly paper Talmudic Tales: Ancient Jewish Law in 20th Century Newspapers, Morantz’s great-grandson and namesake, when speaking of his great-grandfather writes, “His scholarly work represents perhaps the first attempt to demystify the vast amount of rabbinical commentaries surrounding the Talmud and convert this material into simple parables that illustrated the basis of Western morality and common law.”