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April 18, 2008

100 Years Ago in the forward

“I am innocent,” Max Soifer screamed as he was led to the gallows by guards at Philadelphia’s Moyamensing Prison. Chanting psalms as the noose was tightened around his neck, he was executed for the murder of his lover, Annie Margolis. Soifer was convicted of shooting two bullets into Margolis’s head after she taunted him following a failed business deal. He had apparently attempted suicide but did not succeed. In the wake of his sentencing, numerous attempts were made to obtain a pardon, to no avail. On the day of the execution, thousands of Jews protested outside the prison and even attempted to storm the gates, but were pushed back by the guards. After the execution was announced, the frenzied mob began to weep hysterically. Soifer’s body was placed in a coffin and taken for burial, but as the hearse exited the prison, protesters besieged it. They removed the coffin, hoisted it onto their shoulders and paraded it through the streets of Philadelphia’s Jewish quarter.

75 Years Ago in the forward

The Munkatsher rebbe, Moyshe Shapiro, throws one mean wedding. More than 30,000 Hasidim flooded the Czechoslovakian town of Munkatsh to attend a most extravagant wedding party for the rebbe’s only child, 16-year-old Frime-Etel, the daughter of his third wife. The groom, Rabbi Borekh Rabinovitsh, is the rebbe’s great-nephew. The town of Munkatsh was flooded with tens of thousands of Hasidim from all over Europe, and even some from the United States and Palestine. The wedding itself was a grand affair. Lasting eight days, it began as 2,000 women led the bride to the cemetery, where, as custom dictates, they invited their ancestors to the wedding. The rebbe himself arrived at the train station, accompanied by Hasidim dressed in fancy costumes and carrying swords, in a carriage pulled by four white horses. From the station, the groom was carried in the air to the mikveh. Then it was off to the chupah. Finally, after the ceremony took place, the groom got to see the bride for the first time. The partying in Munkatsh continued for an entire week.

50 Years Ago in the forward

During an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev attacked the State of Israel, as well as Jews in general. Saying that Jews are hardened “individualists,” Khrushchev accused them of not being capable of living a “collective” existence. Their failure to succeed in the “rich, fruitful” region of Birobidzhan is proof of that, he said. In his attack on Israel, the premier argued that the 10-year-old state was simply not good for the Jews. He added that Israel is an imperialist state and an enemy to all socialist countries.


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