April 10, 2009

Looking Back

Published April 01, 2009, issue of April 10, 2009.
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100 Years Ago in the forward

The old-style Jewish atheist used to hate all religious ceremonies and would mock them bitterly, heaping scorn upon ancient customs. As such, Jewish atheists always turned up their noses at Passover Seders. But this year, it seems, there are many apikorsim who celebrate the Seder as a principle. In fact, these freethinking Jews hold religious ceremonies as dear to them as any believing Jew would. What seems to have changed is the thinking Jews’ perception of religion, from purely a matter of blind belief to a philosophical-historical matter that views ceremonies as rungs on the ladder of human cultural evolution.

75 Years Ago in the forward

Typically, the men who trick young ladies into marrying them, taking these women’s dowries and then disappearing, are young, suave and handsome. But 67-year-old Max Rosen, an old man by any standard, managed to do the same. He accomplished his crime by placing a personal advertisement in the Yiddish daily Tog, in which he described himself as a businessman and widower who was looking to get married. A number of females replied to his ad, and they were told that although he was an honest businessman with his own shop, he was in debt, and if he could only get a few thousand dollars to cover his expenses, he’d be back on his feet and making money hand over fist again. The exact number of Rosen’s victims is unknown, mostly because the women who lost their money to this charlatan are too ashamed to come forward. But one was brave enough and, as a result, Rosen sits today in Brooklyn’s Raymond Street Jail.

50 Years Ago in the forward

“Yiddish is definitely a factor in the State of Israel,” young Yiddish journalist Mordkhe Fuks said, “and all the talk about Yiddish being oppressed is exaggerated.” The best example that Yiddish is alive and well is that the Tel Aviv newspaper Letste Nayes sells more than 20,000 copies per day and its weekend edition sells more than 35,000 copies. The Yiddish daily and weekly papers are read, according to Fuks, not only by new immigrants who don’t yet know any Hebrew, but also by many who have lived in Israel for years and do know the language. The fact that Yiddish papers are read by those fluent in Hebrew indicates that these people read Yiddish because they like it.

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