100 YEARS AGO
• Ten Jewish derelicts were hired to recite Psalms for a person who had died. The relatives of the deceased gave one of them, Aaron Kalish, a bit of cash for all of them. Kalish went out and bought some cake and a bottle of illegally distilled alcohol for the group. He then returned to the synagogue on Orchard Street where the rest had gathered. But after drinking the liquor, Kalish went home, collapsed and died. His family thought it was the flu. But another of the psalmists, Yosef Zayde, went blind. It was then determined by a doctor that the first man’s death and the second’s blindness resulted from the liquor.
75 YEARS AGO
• Eleven Minsk area rabbis have been arrested and released by the Soviet authorities on charges ranging from organizing secret yeshivas to making loans to poor peddlers from secret accounts. One of the accused, a magid named Binyomen Sakovitski, told the press that he preached and prayed in order to “save our children from this fire which threatens to extinguish the Jewish people.” Jewish communists believe that one of the secret sources behind the religious activity is Lubavitcher Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, whom they call “Tsadik-Fascist,” and who was exiled more than two years ago. Despite the fact that six of the freed Minsk rabbis signed a letter demanding that foreign Jews refrain from protesting against the Soviet Union, the American Jewish Congress declared a day of protest against the anti-religious activity currently taking place in the USSR. Reform, Conservative and Orthodox rabbis all participated. In related news, two Leningrad rabbis were arrested on charges of having contacts with the Lubavitcher rebbe. In response, Soviet Premier Aleksei Rykov informed the press that there is complete religious freedom in the USSR. However, it is well known that more than 700 houses of worship have been closed in recent days.
50 YEARS AGO
• Israel’s prime minister, Moshe Sharett, declared this week in the Knesset that permission has been granted to build Jerusalem’s first Reform synagogue. This announcement was met with warnings from parliamentarians representing religious parties, who stated that a Reform synagogue would not be tolerated in Jerusalem. Sharett shot back, saying that when the State of Israel was proclaimed in 1948, guarantees were made for freedom of religion. In connection to this matter, the government has given the go-ahead to a project of well-known archaeologist Nelson Glueck, which calls for the building of a Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reform seminary.