Soviet Jews Win Right To Bake Passover Matzo

A Rare American Blood Libel and a Communist Disappears

Movement: In 1971 women protested outside the Russian Embassy in New York against the trial of four Jews for anti-Soviet activity.
Getty Images
Movement: In 1971 women protested outside the Russian Embassy in New York against the trial of four Jews for anti-Soviet activity.

By Eddy Portnoy

Published February 02, 2013, issue of February 08, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Forward Looking Back brings you the stories that were making news in the Forward’s Yiddish paper 100, 75, and 50 years ago. Check back each week for a new set of illuminating, edifying and sometimes wacky clippings from the Jewish past.

100 Years Ago
1913

The threats and danger of blood libels and pogroms are well known in darkest Russia. In America, we didn’t seem to have to worry about blood libels. Or so we thought. Jacob Miller, a resident of Creighton, Pa., was organizing a big party for his son’s bris. He hired a shokhet to slaughter all the chickens and ducks he bought, and arranged for a neighbor to prepare the animals. He also asked his housekeeper, a local girl by the name of Anna Hanzel, to help out. But as the neighbor, Mrs. Stein, was sharpening the knives, 16-year-old Hanzel, thinking of the stories she’d heard about Jews as a child, started screaming, and neighbors came out of their houses. Someone pulled a fire alarm. As chaos ensued, Hanzel ran from the house, into the woods. Some nasty locals began to spread rumors that the Jews had killed her. As a result, the Millers spent a sleepless night. Hanzel was found the next day, safe and sound, and the locals relented.

75 Years Ago
1938

Juliet Poyntz, the famed American communist who disappeared a few months ago, is thought to have been kidnapped by Shakhne Epstein, former editor of the Yiddish communist daily, Freiheit, on orders of the Soviet government. Carlo Trieste, the Italian radical and anti-fascist, made the accusation. Epstein is the likely suspect, since he appeared mysteriously in New York last June, around the time Poyntz disappeared. While Epstein was in town, Freiheit kept silent, unusual for the newspaper when its former editor visits from the USSR. Epstein was seen on the street by acquaintances, so it is certain that he was in New York. It may be a long time before the case is solved.

50 Years Ago
1963

According to the Soviet ambassador in Washington, D.C., Jews in the USSR are entitled to practice their religion and will be permitted to bake matzos for Passover. The statement was made after Rabbi David Hill, president of the Orthodox youth organization, Young Israel, visited the embassy. Hill said that the meeting went well and that he asked to visit the Soviet Union to see that Jews are permitted to practice their religion freely, a suggestion that, Hill said, was accepted as a real possibility. He also got the impression from his hosts that last year’s ban on the baking of matzos was actually the result of a clerical error.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.