First Secretary: Oscar Straus, the brother of Macy’s founder who perished on the Titanic, served as the first Jewish American Cabinet Secretary. He later worked with the Secret Service to find out suspected anarchists.

Forward Looking Back

1916 100 Years Ago

Boris Thomashefsky is currently playing the role of Piterknap, the poor coalman, in the production of Avraham Shomer’s “Der Griner Milyoner” (“The Immigrant Millionaire”) at the National Theater, in New York City. His character sells coal from a pushcart, is dirt poor, dresses shabbily, scarfs down pickles and tells crude jokes that the audience loves. After the end of a recent show, a woman who sat in the balcony walked out of the theater to see Thomashefsky’s huge, fancy automobile parked in front. She gawked at it for quite a while, until one of the security guards came over to her and asked what she was looking for. “Piterknap the coalman has some fancy pushcart,” she said ironically. While Piterknap the coalman will be driving away from the theater in his expensive “pushcart,” this woman will probably stop on her way home to buy onions from a real pushcart.

1941 75 Years Ago

Harry Donenberg, a 67-year-old Brooklyn baker, always said that the best protection in case of a holdup is a rolling pin. So when he was alone in his bakery at 145 Belmont Avevenue and a thief burst in, demanding all his cash, Donenberg told him: “Who’s got cash? All I have are a few bagels, and you can take them.” The thief took out a knife and began to threaten him: ”I need some money!” Donenberg grabbed his trusty rolling pin and smashed the thief over the head, knocking him to the ground. This gave the baker time to call the police. They came and arrested the man, who turned out to be James White of Liberty Avenue in Brooklyn. Donenberg, however, did not come away clean: He had to go to the hospital to have his hand bandaged, as he injured it while braining the thief.

1966 50 Years Ago

Over 300 Jewish leaders plan to meet for a conference during which they are expected to express anger at the bitter fate of Russian Jewry. They will also demand that the Soviet government give full religious and cultural rights to Russian Jews, similar to the rights recently given to the Volga German minority in the country. It is estimated that more than 1.5 million Russians of German extraction live near the banks of the Volga River and have received rights as a distinct ethnic minority. It is expected that prominent American personalities will participate in this conference and will lend their names to the cause of solidarity between American and Russian Jews.

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