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June 19, 2009

100 Years Ago In the Forward

The headless body that was cut up in pieces, wrapped up in oil cloth and found near the public school on Henry Street caused much upset and fear among residents of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Sliced into pieces, wrapped in two bundles of oil cloth and marked with the words “Black Hand,” the body was taken to the morgue, where police were able to find clues as to who it was. Among the clues were physical indications that the victim was a Jew, in addition to the clothing having markings from an uptown laundry. The clothing belonged to an East 96th Street resident by the name of Samuel Berzin. The police notified the victim’s sister, who identified the body at the morgue based on a look at the victim’s hands and feet. Later, Berzin’s head was found underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. Berzin’s sister told police that her brother was superstitious and had gone recently to a fortune teller, who told him that he had competition for his girlfriend. Police are currently investigating.

75 Years Ago In the Forward

In front of a crowd of 50,000 in Madison Square Garden Bowl in the Long Island City section of Queens, the great young fighter from California, Max Baer, became the first Jewish heavyweight champion of the world. Wearing purple shorts adorned with a Star of David, Baer achieved a stunning victory over the Italian giant, Primo Carnera. Baer dominated the fight and was destroying Carnera with his powerful punches throughout, until he was declared the winner by technical knockout in the 11th round of the scheduled 15-round bout. While Baer’s Jewishness became a question during last year’s fight against the German contender, Max Schmeling, the young Californian has gone out of his way to identify as a Jew.

50 Years Ago In the Forward

The Jewish problem continues unabated in the Soviet Union as the government there shuts down synagogues, confiscates Torahs and arrests Jews on trumped-up charges. Reports indicate that the Soviets have recently shut down active synagogues in Chernigov, Bobroisk and Stalina, cities with Jewish populations that range from 40,000 to 60,000. There also have been unconfirmed reports that synagogues have been closed down in a number of other locales. Torahs have been confiscated by the government, and in Kishinev, news has just come out that Jews were arrested just prior to Passover for baking matzot. The Jews of Chernigov have sent a delegation to meet with Moscow’s chief rabbi in an attempt to have their synagogue reopened.

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