September 12, 2003

100 YEARS AGO

• There was bound to be trouble between Shmuel Birnboym and Barnett Studnik. When Mrs. Studnik filed for divorce, her husband smelled something rotten. He figured she was no saint and concluded that Shmuel Birnboym put her up to it. Birnboym denied having anything to do with Mrs. Studnik and sued her husband for libel, requesting damages in the amount of $1,000 for ruining his reputation and affecting his business. A warrant was put out for Studnik’s arrest, and he was thrown in the Ludlow Street clink since he had no money for bail. But after Studnik was imprisoned, Birnboym’s heart began to melt — after all, here was a Jew in trouble who needs help. So Birnboym ran over to the courthouse and paid bail for Studnik, the man he had imprisoned in the first place.

75 YEARS AGO

• A short elderly man with a head of gray — nearly white — hair and a beard to match but with a lively face, he is quick and moves about abruptly as he talks. He speaks freely, as if in a heart-to-heart with a friend, with a bright look in his eyes, which sit under a wrinkled-up forehead with old gray eyebrows. It’s an amazing mixture of young and old facial elements, kind of a collision of old and young expressions. We’re in the company of the famous Jewish historian Shimon Dubnov, at his house in Berlin.

• Pogroms have broken out recently in Lithuanian shtetls. The remnants of the Russian Black Hundreds have been instigating attacks on Jews in the shtetls of Vilkomir and Shavl. The Forward’s correspondent has cabled that in Shavl, 28 Jews were attacked and 12 were seriously wounded. The town’s Jews are living in fear but have organized a self-defense unit. In Vilkomir, a group of hooligans broke into the synagogue, set the Torah on fire and attacked the Jews, wounding 60. The police allegedly looked on as the violence took place.

50 YEARS AGO

• Yisroel Prezent, director of the Brooklyn Kosher Butchers Association, was found murdered in his bungalow in the Catskills. Robbery appears to have been the motive: The victim was found with his pockets turned out, and the bungalow had been ransacked. Because of his business, he was known to carry large amounts of cash. Prezent had last been seen at 3 a.m. the previous morning driving through the town of Monticello in the company of two men. The police suspect that the two men may be involved in the murder and are currently searching for traces of them. Prezent was also the co-editor of the Yiddish trade journal Kosher Butcher’s Voice.

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September 12, 2003

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