August 15, 2008

    Sweatshop romances are not uncommon among the Jews of New York City, but it looked like trouble when 19-year-old Sarah Bennett fell in love with an Italian worker, Jim Troyano, at the paper box factory on the Bowery, where they both worked. Both of them having been in America for about eight years, the attractive couple ran off to Connecticut and were married by a judge. But when they got back, Sarah’s mother wasn’t happy. She told Jim that unless he converts, he’s out. “What do I gotta do?” Jim asked. “You have to get circumcised,” was the reply. “Dat’s nuttin,’” said Jim, who immediately made arrangements for a brit milah. So, in a fourth floor apartment on Clinton Street, it took place. As this was a major neighborhood event, people filled the windows of adjacent buildings and lined the rooftops and fire escapes, as well, to watch. Famed meat manufacturer Isaac Gellis served as the mohel, and Stanton Street’s Dr. Simberg handled the anesthesia. The operation a success, Jim was renamed “Avrom ben Avrom” and relaxed on a lounge chair as guests celebrated.

    August 8, 2008

    100 Years Ago in the forward: The Forward received a heartbreaking letter from the two young Volotshinsky sisters, 6-year-old Hinde and 4-year-old Gishe, addressed to their father, who abandoned them and their mother in a shtetl near Minsk nearly five years ago: “Dear Father, we’re sending you a photograph of us so you can see what we look like. You shouldn’t get the idea that because we are barefoot in the photograph we sent that we go out and play in the street like that. The fact is, we just don’t have any shoes. We are thin and bent from hunger. Have pity on us, dear father. Think about your poor children. It is time that you took some pity on us. Help, save us, dear father. Now you can see with your own eyes what has become of us. Mother is sick and cannot care for us. Take pity on us.”

    August 1, 2008

    100 Years Ago in the forward: When a hotel has a sign on it that says “Hebrews not served,” the hotelkeepers usually say that it’s not a question of antisemitism, it’s just business. They say that if they let Jews in, their regular Christian customers won’t come. But whenever their regular business goes south, they have no problem letting Jews in. All they do is leave the line “Hebrews not served” off their advertisements. In this way, previously antisemitic establishments have become ones that are liberal and philo-Semitic. Some hotels turn over completely in a year: One season there are no Jews at all, and the next they’re flooded with Jews. And the hotelkeepers are happy with their business. One story, of a hotel in Connecticut, is told about a Christian family who rented a room, only to find a gaggle of Jewish ladies sitting on the veranda. They asked the boss if he rented to Jews. He replied: “I’m an American. As far as I’m concerned, all people are equal. If you have other ideas, I’m sorry, but my place isn’t for you.”

    July 25, 2008

    100 Years Ago in the forward: It has been revealed that the famed “Hotel Thief,” who has been burglarizing rooms in some of New York’s fanciest hotels, is one Nathan Levine, formerly of Clinton Street, currently of Sing Sing Prison. Levine, who dressed impeccably and played the role of a wealthy gentleman, would rent rooms in expensive hotels and then, under cover of night, sneak into other rooms and rob the occupants.

    July 18, 2008

    100 Years Ago in the forward The police reserves from the 5th Street Station on Manhattan’s Lower East Side were called out last week to break up a riot, the cause of which was 22-year-old Becky Rabinowitz. Apparently, Rabinowitz refused the entreaties of a number of young men who had approached her as she sat cooling off on the stoop of her building. After she snubbed the young men, they began hurling insults at her. This didn’t sit well with her father, Morris Rabinowitz, who stood up for his daughter. At that point, one of the youths pulled out a pistol, aiming it at Morris. Officer Nelson, who was walking his beat on that block, saw the event transpire; he ran over and grabbed the gun away. The youths began to beat the officer, and he was able to whistle for the reserves, who came charging in like the cavalry. The reserves violently cleared the crowd of hundreds that had gathered to watch the fight. In the meantime, the assailants escaped. But later that day, a young man named Michael Polesina marched into the station and demanded the return of his pistol. He was promptly arrested.