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January 4, 2007

100 Years Ago in the Forward

As a large-scale rent strike engulfs Manhattan’s Lower East Side, more than 150 strikers were called into Municipal Court on charges of failing to pay their rent. Of those standing accused, only one was sentenced by the court to leave his dwelling. With his landlord and the building’s housekeeper testifying against him, Abraham Ludzhin of 44 Essex Street received a court order to move out immediately. The following day, the city marshal appeared and moved all of his and his family’s belongings out of the apartment. But, to the chagrin of the landlord and his housekeeper, as soon as the family’s things were moved outside, the rest of the building’s residents brought them right back up, hiding them in various apartments. When threatened with eviction, the building’s residents laughed in the landlord’s face.

75 Years Ago in the Forward

The Soviet communist “clean-up” of undesirable party members continues as this year’s harvests are lower than ever and as “industrialization” is declared to become the foundation of the country’s economy. As part of the “clean-up” of undesirables, the well-known Ukrainian communist leader M. Kipper was threatened with expulsion from the party because the region he leads failed to meet the government’s bread quota. Kipper heads the large collective known as “Apikoyres.” Two other leaders of the Apikoyres collective, Simkin and Kusovski, were ejected from the party for associating with “kulaks” and for not adhering sufficiently to Bolshevist ideals.

It sometimes seems like the world is full of jokes that are either about Jews or by Jews. In France, both types of jokes are extremely popular. More often than not, the Jews come out looking good. For example, when you tell a joke to a Catholic, he laughs three times: once when he hears it, once after it’s explained to him and once when he understands it; a Protestant laughs twice: once when he hears the joke and once when it’s explained (he never really gets it); a Muslim laughs only once — when he hears it — and there’s no sense explaining the joke, because he’ll never get it; a Jew doesn’t even laugh: He tells you he’s already heard it.

50 Years Ago in the Forward

Last week, Leonard Bernstein began a new career as head conductor of the New York Philharmonic. He also performed a piano solo by Soviet composer Dimitri Shostakovich, Piano Concerto No. 2. The star-studded audience received Bernstein’s premiere with great enthusiasm and thunderous applause in a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall. But some critics were unhappy with Bernstein’s choice of Shostakovitch — this was the first time his second piano concerto was played in New York — whose work has suffered as a result of the strict parameters of Soviet culture and politics.

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