September 30, 2005

100 YEARS AGO IN THE FORWARD

Emmanuel Feigenbaum was already married to three women and was about to marry a fourth when the police intervened. Feigenbaum left his first wife, Yetta, and married Maria Kotter without divorcing Yetta, who had been searching for him. Yetta managed to find Kotter and while they were commiserating over their situations, they were informed that there was a third Mrs. Feigenbaum, whom Emmanuel had married six years earlier. When the women went to the police, who arrested Feigenbaum, it was discovered that the serial groom was about to marry again.

75 YEARS AGO IN THE FORWARD

In spite of a strong anti-religious campaign that saw the Soviet government threaten Jewish workers with losing their jobs if they attended High Holy Day services, synagogues in Russia were packed this Rosh Hashanah. In addition to filling up synagogues, many services were held in private homes, which previously had been impossible, since apartment house guards were told not to permit religious services in apartments. For unknown reasons, the government relented on this issue and allowed private services. Jewish communists, who participated in the anti-religious campaign, organized shows and plays the night of Rosh Hashanah in an attempt to lure Jewish workers away from going to synagogue.

A riot broke out in Tel Aviv’s largest movie theater when the first word was spoken during the showing of the world’s first Jewish talkie, “Di yidishe mame.” Gangs of violent Hebraists began screaming, threw stink bombs and splattered the screen with ink while the first Yiddish sentences were spoken during the screening of the film. On the advice of Tel Aviv’s vice mayor, the police shut down the theater and banned the film. The daily Doar hayom praised the protesters for “defending the Hebrew language” and for protesting against those with the chutzpah to show a film in the “Jewish jargon.”

50 YEARS AGO IN THE FORWARD

The Great Synagogue of Moscow has a capacity of 2,000. When 5,000 people showed up for services this past Yom Kippur, the 3,000 who weren’t able to get inside surrounded the synagogue and prayed outside in a ring that extended 300 feet from the building’s walls. While some congregants stood silently, others prayed from High Holy Day prayer books that were wrapped in copies of Pravda and Isvestiia, the two biggest communist dailies. When asked what he hoped for this holiday, one congregant responded, “I wish good health for President Eisenhower.”

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September 30, 2005

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