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July 24, 2009

100 Years Ago in the forward

Unemployed worker Harry Rosenthal was hungry and thought it would be easy to lie down in the street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and pretend he was dying of hunger. Police on Elizabeth Street bought his act and had him brought to the station, where he was fed and given quite a few donations for his “starving wife and four young children” — even from some of the detectives. This worked so well that Rosenthal thought he’d try it closer to home, in Brooklyn’s Brownsville. And it started out okay: He collapsed in the street, and people came to help. An ambulance arrived, but the attendant recognized Rosenthal from the previous day. So he took a pin and stuck it into Rosenthal, saying, “How’s your starving wife and four babies?” The jig was up. Rosenthal was arrested and put in the Brownsville jail.

75 Years Ago in the forward

The Jews of Adrianople, Turkey, have suffered a number of bitter pogroms over the past month. Although there was talk of attacks on Jews, local residents didn’t pay much attention to it. Attacks began on July 2, when a band of Turkish nationalists rode into the Jewish quarter of the city and began assaulting residents and plundering their homes. The attacks continued over several weeks and, as a result, the city was emptied of Jews. Those who could afford it took trains to Istanbul. But many simply walked out of town in the direction of Istanbul, sleeping in fields along the way. Similar activity occurred in the town of Kirklise, where many Jewish girls were wrenched away from their parents and taken by the attackers. Life for those Jews who are in hiding in these towns is made even more difficult by Turkish nationalists who have threatened shop owners and bakers, warning them not to sell any food to Jews.

50 Years Ago in the forward

A typical scene these days in Israel might be a line of Polish and Romanian immigrants standing in line at a bus stop at 6 a.m. As the time comes for the bus to appear, a group of Moroccan Jews shows up. Instead of going to the end of the line, the Jews go straight to the front and crowd in. When one of the Polish or Romanian Jews protests, one of the Moroccans flashes a long knife and the protests fall silent. This activity is relatively common. Although most of the immigrants from North Africa have settled in reasonably well, there are many immigrants that haven’t, and there have been what can be called “race riots” over the past few weeks in Haifa and in Beersheva, in response to perceived discrimination on the part of North African Jews. This issue needs sorting out, and if not attended to, it will be a long, hot summer for the ingathering of the exiles

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