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September 4, 2009

100 Years Ago in the Forward

A letter we received from our correspondent in Galicia, Poland, details some unusual activity involving local Jews. First, he reports on an honest-to-goodness duel between two Jewish boys over a beautiful girl. Duels, which have long been popular methods of solving disputes, have never been particularly popular with Jews, but apparently it’s never too late to begin. The whole thing stemmed from a beauty pageant that some local Zionists organized: Two boys who wanted to support their respective girlfriends got into it over who’s girl was more beautiful, and they decided to have a duel. They got to the point where they needed to decide whether to use revolvers, knives or swords, and, seeing the weapons at hand, both boys decided to back down.

75 Years Ago In the Forward

The High Holy Days are approaching, and that can mean only one thing: Jewish communists in the Soviet Union are gearing up for their yearly war with God. There are many reports in the communist Yiddish papers about how religious the Jews in the shtetls still are — even the laborers. Out of Kharkov come the comments of the Yiddish paper The Shtern, which reports, “Like toads that sense the nearness of a swamp and sound off with their croaking, so do those who speculate on the power of tradition, the religious leftovers of those segments of downtrodden workers.”

50 Years Ago In the Forward

Although Soviet officials reiterate the fact that religious freedom exists in the Soviet Union, Jewish religious life, according to recent reports, is dead in the USSR. There are virtually no brises, no bar mitzvahs and no religious wedding ceremonies, and only occasionally are words of a religious nature said at Jewish funerals. While the government claims that the number of synagogues in the USSR has doubled since the end of World War II, real statistics indicate that their number has been greatly reduced. Those synagogues that are open suffer from a lack of prayer books, prayer shawls and other religious items. The real problem, however, is that the Soviet Union refuses to allow Jews to have any sort of official organization, leaving individual Jews to fend for themselves.

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