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June 8, 2007

100 Years Ago in the forward

Anyone who has spent time in lower Manhattan’s Essex Market Courthouse knows that the door to the building’s jail gets closed as 4 p.m. sharp. So when the judge sentenced Max Rothstein, an umbrella peddler under arrest for peddling without a license, to a $1 fine and a night in lockup, the bailiffs were shocked to see the defendant run down the hall toward the jail as if he couldn’t wait to get there. Seeing that it was two minutes before 4, Rothstein was called back to complete the proceedings. Noting the time, the defendant magically forgot his correct address and how to spell his name. By the time the correct information was entered into the record, the clock had struck 4, the jail doors closed for the night and Rothstein, happy as a lark, went home.

75 Years Ago in the forward

In an unprecedented step, Yiddish writers in Moscow, in a general meeting, voted to distance themselves from the imperious editor of Der Emes (The Truth), Moyshe Litvakov, who they claimed held a dictatorship over Yiddish literature. The meeting was organized with the help of the general union of Soviet writers, a non-Jewish organization. The union also opposes the iron rule of Litvakov and his group, which has been terrorizing other Yiddish writers. Litvakov, who attended the meeting, came under a brutal hail of criticism for his treatment of Yiddish writers.

A court case in Shanghai pits the relatives of recently deceased multimillionaire Jewish businessman Silas Hardoon against his Chinese widow, with both parties laying claim to the estate. Hardoon’s relatives are arguing that the marriage was not legal according to Jewish law, and that his widow is not entitled to his estate. A rabbinical court in Baghdad, Hardoon’s city of origin, agrees. Although the widow claimed to have converted to Judaism, witnesses say that she is a Buddhist and that she never kept a kosher home.

50 Years Ago in the forward

As more news of the final days of the Stalin regime leaks out of the Soviet Union, the Soviet ambassador to Poland has informed a group of journalists of the sensational goings-on in the upper echelons of the Soviet government. According to the ambassador, Stalin suffered an apoplectic fit at a closed-door meeting of the Communist Party presidium after the presidium had refused to approve the dictator’s plan to forcibly relocate all Soviet Jews to Birobidzhan. Lazar Kaganovitsh, the only Jew in the 25-member presidium, initially asked if any exceptions would be made. Former foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov, whose wife is Jewish, meekly suggested that if the Jews were deported to Siberia, it would reflect poorly on the Soviets in the West. One by one, the presidium members stood and opposed Stalin’s plan, giving the leader an apoplexy from which he would never recover.


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