March 26, 2004

100 YEARS AGO

• A large number of Lower East Side tenement houses are boiling after their landlords put tenants on notice that their rent was to be raised. It’s been discussed in every Jewish tenement house, in every sweatshop and throughout the Jewish quarter, and, as a result, a massive rent strike has begun in hundreds of tenement houses. It started with the Galitzianers in the poorer streets like Columbia, Sheriff and Cannon, but is quickly spreading throughout the Lower East Side. A number of public meetings have been held as part of an effort to bring this battle between the Jews and their usurious landlords to the attention of the general public. “The battle against the bloodsucking schnorrers will continue!”

75 YEARS AGO

• This week’s ceremony to celebrate the opening of a new synagogue, B’nai B’rith Abraham, in the heart of Harlem was an interesting one. The synagogue was packed — with the men sitting separately from the women — as the festivities began. The program was an excellent one that included intelligent speeches and beautiful music. Some of the speeches decried the level of yidishkayt in the community and called for special prayers for Zion. “Hatikvah” was sung by all. Perhaps the unusual aspect of this synagogue is that all the congregants are black Harlemites. These Jews, unlike any white Jews, even had royalty at the opening: Prince Amoa III of Africa’s Gold Coast was in attendance.

• Yehoshue Rothstein was one of the early supporters of the Etz Hayim Yeshiva on East Broadway, which later became the Yitzhak Elchanan Yeshiva. Rothstein was also a socialist propagandist who occasionally got into heated arguments with Forward editor Abraham Cahan. But Reb Rothstein would end up being part of the Orthodox world and was one of those who helped to organize the administration of New York’s first and only chief rabbi. It also happened that Rothstein was the grandfather of the recently deceased, world-famous gambler, “king” of the New York Police and “brains” of the underworld, Arnold Rothstein.

50 YEARS AGO

• Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that Senator Joseph McCarthy has not found one single Communist in any of the U.S. Armed Services. Wilson also commented that he saw as truthful the report in which McCarthy and his chief lawyer, Roy Cohn, were accused of obtaining special privileges for David Shine, who was McCarthy’s assistant before being inducted into the Army. Cohn and Shine, widely considered to be the “brain trust” behind McCarthy’s Communist hunt, are both the sons of wealthy Jewish families.

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March 26, 2004

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