March 23, 2007
100 Years Ago In the Forward
As Samuel Wachman and Lina Hentshuch stood under the chupah, about to be pronounced man and wife, a screaming woman with a child in tow came into the Eldridge St. Synagogue with a policeman. The woman claimed that she was Wachman’s wife and that Wachman, allegedly the father of her child, had abandoned her five years ago in Russia. The rabbi and the guests were in a state of complete confusion. The policeman arrested Wachman and led him away, as he yelled to his bride, “Don’t worry, I’ll be right back!” Unfortunately for the bride and her guests, who stayed in the hall until late into the night, Wachman never made it back, since the sergeant at the station refused to accept the bail money proffered by the groom’s friends, nor did he accept Wachman’s claims that he had divorced his wife in Russia and that the child was sired not by him but by the woman’s second husband. His disputed ex-wife, Gussie, argued otherwise, that Wachman was guilty of criminal abandonment. As a result, the groom spent his wedding night in a jail cell while the bride cried her eyes out.
75 Years Ago In the Forward
A crowd of more than 10,000 mourners attended this week’s funeral of Morris Winchevsky, famed writer and “Meshugener Filosof” (“The Crazy Philosopher”) of the Socialist movement, who died this week at the age of 75. Winchevsky passed away in his home in the Bronx Coops after a long illness. Born in Kovno in 1865, Winchevsky moved to London and founded a number of socialist journals there. He subsequently moved to New York, where, together with Abraham Cahan and Louis Miller, he helped to found the Forward. A sharp humorist and poet, Winchevsky was a central figure among the Sweatshop Poets of New York City around the turn of the century. Revered throughout the Jewish left, Winchevsky became a subject of contention even after his death, after a group of communists demanded his body so that they could perform their own memorial service.
50 Years Ago In the Forward
For the past two years, “The Diary of Anne Frank” has had a hugely successful run on the Broadway stage. This week, well-known American writer Meyer Levin has filed suit against the play’s director and producers, as well as Otto Frank, Anne’s father, for breach of contract in connection to the way the play is being performed. According to Levin, who obtained exclusive rights from Frank to write a stage version of the diary, his play was initially rejected by a number of Broadway producers because it was “too Jewish.” In the meantime, Hollywood writers Albert and Frances Hackett wrote their own stage version of the play, which was eventually staged on Broadway and has brought in millions in profits.