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September 11, 2009

100 Years Ago In the Forward

Ida Feitelson’s father is upset, and with good reason. The attractive 17-year-old brunette, in the country for only three years, has disappeared without a trace. She had been working in a shop and had saved $100, which she dutifully deposited in the bank. But then she wanted dancing lessons, and that was the beginning of her downfall. It was at dancing school that she met “Sam,” a handsome, young Italian boy. Feitelson fell in love, and one morning, she, Sam and the $100 were gone. When her father, who peddles goods near Rochester, N.Y., heard about this, he rushed home to look for her. Thus far, he’s had no success. He only hopes that she hasn’t been swindled and seduced.

75 Years Ago In the Forward

All of Berlin has been taken over by an atmosphere of sadness. Even Hitler’s government has tried to battle this problem with their “Power Through Joy” slogan, an attempt to improve the mood. A major part of the reason for this problem stems from the fact that the German comedy industry has gone out of business. Most of the cafés and theaters are empty. And since it’s an open secret that the vast majority of comedy performers are Jews, the only things people are laughing at are anti-Nazi jokes, which can’t be told in public. It’s a sad situation: Jewish comedians taught the Germans to laugh, and now they cannot work. There is one place where the laughs come long and loud: in Berlin’s free Jewish kitchen, where Jewish comics and comedy writers congregate.

50 Years Ago In the Forward

If you haven’t been to Manhattan’s Lower East Side lately, the changes might shock you. The old Jewish ghettos of East Broadway and Clinton, Grand and Hester streets have been torn down, and with them went quite a large chunk of Jewish history. In their place, huge buildings with balconies and terraces are going up. These new buildings, put up by the Amalgamated and International unions, are supposed to create a new “shtetl.” But in doing so, they have washed away not only the old tenements, but also a large number of Jewish institutions, among them synagogues and landsmanshaftn. On the one hand, the disappearance the these places is problematic; on the other, the construction of these new union buildings indicates that the Lower East Side will give Manhattan a Jewish core for many years to come, unlike other American cities.


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