November 21, 2008

Looking Back

Published November 12, 2008, issue of November 21, 2008.
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100 Years Ago in the Forward

A massive fire broke out in Beth Elohim, a Reform synagogue on Kip Street in Brooklyn. Joseph Dresher, the synagogue’s next-door neighbor, discovered the blaze. He alerted the shames (synagogue caretaker), who, upon opening the door, saw the entire eastern wall of the synagogue engulfed in flames. It took firefighters awhile to get things under control. Beth Elohim’s rabbi, Simon Cohen, suspected that thieves set the fire to cover their tracks. Firemen, however, thought that faulty wiring behind the ark might have been the cause. It is expected that further investigation will shed some light on what really happened.

75 Years Ago in the Forward

Max Mintzer, a housepainter from Brooklyn, was arrested this week on bigamy charges after it was discovered that he is currently married to six women. Police say that Mintzer keeps getting married in order to get dowries, which apparently net him between $1,000 and $2,000 per bride. Wife No. 5 busted Mintzer when she caught him in a movie theater on Nostrand Avenue with wife No. 6. Mrs. Mintzer No. 5 is 25-year-old Ida Kassel, who married Mintzer in March 1932. No. 6 is Rosa Finkelstein, who tied the knot with Mintzer in December of the same year. The first time Mintzer got married was in 1918, to Reba Grisman, with whom he has two children. Wife No. 2 is Eva Diamond, who got hitched to Max in 1922. Initially, Mintzer denied the charges, claiming he is married to only one woman. Later, however, he came clean, and even admitted to police that wives three and four happened so fast that he couldn’t even remember their names.

50 Years Ago in the Forward

Former Harvard University anthropologist Mark Zborowski was found guilty this week of perjury before a federal grand jury. During the trial, Zborowski admitted that for many years he served as an agent of the Soviet Secret Police, collecting information on Trotskyists, socialists and other anti-communists. The complaint against him, however, dealt with only the perjury charge, which had to do with whether or not he knew convicted Soviet spy Jack Sobel; he claimed not to know him. Sobel, who turned state’s evidence, took the stand and said not only did he and Zborowski know each other, but also that the latter had passed him significant amounts of material to give to the Soviets. Zborowski, who is considered to be a risk for fleeing, was denied bail. With sentencing two weeks away, the anthropologist may get up to five years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

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