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Looking Back February 4, 2005


• Melville Dewey, director of the New York State Library and inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, was called before the State Regents’ Library Committee to explain his position as president of an upstate hotel that not only restricts Jewish customers, but also openly advertises this fact. A number of well-connected Jews have complained that a person who draws his salary from the state has no right to be president of a hotel that openly professes antisemitism. Among those who attended the hearing was attorney Louis Marshall, who was instrumental in exposing the issue. For his part, Dewey said that, personally, he had nothing against the Jews, but that the hotel had rules.


• Every day New York’s Police Court is packed with people who have nothing else to do and therefore come only for fun. One of the regulars said, “It’s the best show in New York! And the cheapest, too.” It’s kind of like vaudeville, but the acts change all day long, not just once a week. Some of the “acts” are pathetic, others are comedies. They run the gamut from cases on charges of petty theft to people who let their dogs off the leash, to a man accused of pinching a woman’s behind on the train. One of the more unusual cases involved a Jew, an Italian and a parrot. The Jew was the complainant. He accused the Italian of chasing him around with a knife. The Italian denied it. In his defense, the Italian said that, on the day in question, he had brought his pet parrot with him to sit out on the stoop. He looked up to see the Jew standing above the bird with a knife. The Italian grabbed the knife and began to run after the Jew, who began to run away. As to why the Jew held a knife to the parrot, he informed the judge that the parrot constantly squawked rude expressions such as “Sheeny!” and “Dirty Jew!” and he wanted to put an end to it. To the dismay of the judge, the parrot was brought in as a witness, and attempts were made to get him to say one of these expressions, which he did not. Both the Jew and the Italian were sent home, case dismissed.


• In spite of appeals from America, England and other countries, two Jews accused of espionage by the Egyptian government were hanged this week in Cairo. They were Dr. Moshe Marzook, a physician at Cairo’s Jewish Hospital, and Shmuel Azar, a teacher. Dr. Marzook was born in Tunisia; Azar was a native of Cairo. Following their execution, a large black flag was raised above the prison to notify the public. Their bodies were then given to their families for burial in the Jewish cemetery. Marzook and Azar were arrested with 11 other Jews, two of whom received life terms in prison. The remainder were given sentences ranging between two and 15 years.


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