May 22, 2008

Looking Back

Published May 15, 2008, issue of May 23, 2008.
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100 Years Ago in the forward

Fred Elbaum, a resident of Manhattan’s Harlem area, was shocked after finding out that his 14- year-old boy, Jonny, was arrested for tearing out wires belonging to the Edison Electric Company. Appearing in Manhattan Children’s Court to plead his son’s case, Elbaum argued that Jonny wasn’t at all a criminal but had been studying electrical engineering for the past year and probably tore out the wires so that he could inspect and fix them. The judge agreed, saying: “In my opinion, your boy is a second Edison. But you must use all of your ability to guide him properly. People at the Edison Company have told me that your son’s work is as good as their best electricians.” With that, the judge set little Jonny, the 14-year-old electrician, free.


75 Years Ago in the forward

This week in Germany saw massive book burnings in all major cities and in all universities. Reminiscent of medieval book burnings, the works of Jews, socialists, pacifists and others who have fallen afoul of Nazi ideology were set alight in large fascist ceremonies. Among those thrown on the pyre were books by Thomas Mann, winner of the Nobel Prize, and by Erich Maria Remarque, Karl Marx, Ferdinand Lassalle, Karl Liebknecht, Jack London, Upton Sinclair and many, many others.

In what was probably the largest all-Jewish demonstration ever, between a quarter- and a half-million people marched in New York City to protest Hitler’s anti-Jewish policies. It seemed like an unending stream of people, as protesters lined Broadway under a sea of flags from Madison Square to Battery Park. People of all kinds marched, and hundreds of thousands of Jews and Christians lined the sidewalks to cheer them on. Sporting placards in English, Yiddish and Hebrew, the protesters also had special “Hitler groggers,” or noisemakers similar to those used on Purim. These noisemakers, apparently made in a factory on the Lower East Side, had swastikas on them, along with a statement, written in Hebrew: “Hitler — his name should be erased, Haman the evil.” The marchers were a colorful group: From elderly Jewish women in sheytlekh (wigs) to the strong workers of the Jewish labor movement, the Jews of New York let it be known that they are the enemies of fascism.


50 Years Ago in the forward

As a result of a ruling by Israel’s Supreme Court, eight Jewish families — a group made up of more than 40 people — were evicted from their homes in the Katamon neighborhood of Jerusalem because they refused to pay rent to the landlord, an Israeli Arab. The court ruled that the Arab landowner had the same rights as any citizen, whereas the Jewish families argued that they should be considered refugees, since they had been forcibly removed from their homes in the Old City 10 years previous, when the Jordanians took control of that part of the city. Exacerbating matters, the families have refused lodging in a hotel and are sleeping in the street instead.


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