December 11, 2009

Looking Back

Published December 02, 2009, issue of December 11, 2009.
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100 Years Ago in the Forward

On Manhattan’s East Side, 11th Street resident Israel Gleichman was in the Essex Market Court trying to prevent his 12-year-old son from going to jail. “Until he went to public school,” Gleichman pleaded, “my boy was all right. It was his friends from school who taught him how to steal. They have brought ruin and tragedy on my head.” Thirteen-year-old Morris Kronish, who lived two doors down from the Gleichmans, was also in court on a charge of theft. The Gleichmans accused Kronish of threatening to harm their son if he didn’t help him rob people.

75 Years Ago in the Forward

One might think that with the Jewish people on the brink of disaster in Europe, and with the Jews surrounded by enemies, Hebraists and Yiddishists would put aside their differences. If you did think that, you were wrong. In Palestine, a certain someone by the name of Rafelkes received permission from the British Mandate authorities to start publishing a biweekly Yiddish newspaper. When the fanatic Hebraists heard about this, they went wild. But what could they do after the government gave permission? They decided to hit Rafelkes where it hurts — in the wallet. Rafelkes, who works as an attorney, found himself out of a job and kicked out of the lawyers union. In Palestine, they’ll take the food out of your mouth to keep you from Yiddish.

50 Years Ago in the Forward

When Jews were evacuated from their homes in the Belarusian and Ukrainian Soviet republics during World War II, they were often sent to Siberia, where hundreds of thousands survived the war but lived in poor conditions. When the war ended, the Soviet authorities often did what they could to avoid repatriating these Jews to their old homes in the Western USSR, keeping them in Siberia. Those who remained in places like Birobidzhan, the “official” Soviet Jewish autonomous region, benefited from a small number of Jewish cultural activities, as these were the only places where such activities were permitted after 1948. Despite this advantage, many of the Jews who lived out the war there wanted to leave Birobidzhan. The problem was that the USSR didn’t want them to and made it extremely difficult for them.

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