September 19, 2008

    100 Years Ago in the forward: The Tshernovitz Yiddish Conference is one of those events that have attempted to stress the value and importance of our mameloshn, that one-time “jargon,” and to give it a place among the languages of Europe. During the past 25 years, much has occurred, the most important of which has arrived in the form of Yiddish literary works. Every quality piece written by our writers, every beautiful poem, deepens the impression that Yiddish isn’t junk; it’s a language equal to all others in the civilized world. But the old attitude is deeply rooted, and when an educated Russian Jew reads a story by I.L. Peretz or Sholem Asch, it seems impossible to him that Yiddish can be written in such a way. The juiciness of the expressions, the flexibility of the phrases, the melodic beauty and the power of the way in which the words are put together — all that is something new, something he never dreamed of.

    September 12, 2008

    100 Years Ago in the forward: Last week, some of the greatest Yiddish writers and cultural figures gathered in Tshernovitz, Bukovina, for the first-ever Yiddish language conference. To be honest, it didn’t seem like something that would ever come to fruition. In fact, the American Yiddish press was mostly indifferent to the conference and essentially ignored it. It’s true that the Yiddish press here in America, even the socialist press, treats Yiddish poorly. Everyone writes with a different style and different spelling, and there’s a tendency to throw in English words even when there’s no need to. Here in America, writers never cared about their Yiddish, they just wrote. But from day one in Russia, Der Fraynd, the first Yiddish daily there, paid attention to the quality of its writing and to the Yiddish language. The Bund’s newspaper has also helped Yiddish grow. Perhaps a similar attitude will take root here. Let us hope that this first Yiddish conference will be a success.

    September 5, 2008

    100 Years Ago in the forward: A dispatch from Jerusalem indicates that much of the Ottoman-ruled Middle East is thrilled with the new revolution in Constantinople. In Beirut, for example, the city was lit up for three days as the residents partied. But the news was slower to get to Palestine, and the reaction was mixed. Both Christians and Jews were relieved at no longer having to pay the head tax, but the older generation of Jews especially expressed fears that Jews (and Christians, as well) would soon have to begin serving in the Ottoman army together with the Muslims. Also, because the Jews in Jerusalem number fewer than 50,000, they do not have enough to send a deputy to the new parliament. They are now discussing a plan to unite the Jews of Jerusalem, Tsfat, Tiberius, Hebron, Jaffa and Haifa in order to present a united front to the new Turkish rulers.

    August 29, 2008

    100 Years Ago in the forward: The Mansour brothers are an international family of peddlers. One brother, Itzik, began in the trade by peddling dishrags on Essex Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Another brother peddles goods in Manchester, England. Another does the same in Cairo, Egypt. There’s one in Marseilles, France, and yet another in Haiti. Over the past two years, there have been diplomatic troubles between the United States and Haiti. Some say that this is because of one Itzik Mansour, who, when visiting his brother in Port-au-Prince, decided to open a business buying and selling goods. For one reason or another, the government of Haiti didn’t approve of Itzik’s business practices, and so it deported him back to the United States. Infuriated, Itzik initiated legal proceedings against the country of Haiti in order to try and sue for damages. For two years, Itzik’s cases languished in the court system without success. And just last week, a judge threw out the cases, declaring that Itzik obtained his American citizenship under false pretenses. Not to be dissuaded, Itzik said that he is going to take his case to the Supreme Court.

    August 22, 2008

    100 Years Ago in the forward: Isaac Sheinfeld, 22, was scheduled to marry 18-year-old Ella Winkler, but at the last minute he got cold feet and disappeared. Having made all the arrangements for a wedding, Winkler was furious and had Sheinfeld arrested for breach of promise. As the police brought him into the Essex Market Station for arraignment, thoughts of prison life crept into his head.