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Forward Looking Back

1916 100 Years Ago

Philanthropist Jacob Schiff was the keynote speaker at the opening ceremony for the Central Jewish Institute on East 85th Street. The theme of his speech was “Jews as Americans.” He argued that Jews must be Jewish in religion only. If Jews want to become part of general society, he argued, they cannot maintain linguistic and cultural differences as they have done in Poland and Russia. Schiff’s talk was a response to an article that appeared in April’s issue of Tsukunft, in which the Yiddish writer Sholem Asch argued that Schiff should not expect any recognition or thanks from the Jewish people and that it is not worth comparing him to philanthropists like Baron de Hirsch or Rothschild, who actually did things for the Jews. The proof, according to Asch, is that Schiff donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to American projects and just a few thousand to Jewish ones.

1941 75 Years Ago

The Nazis and their lackeys in Italy and Japan had a strong response to elements of a speech by President Franklin Roosevelt that brought hope to all the oppressed peoples of the world. The Nazis responded by denying Roosevelt’s claim that they want to conquer the world. “It’s not Germany that wants to enslave the world,” came the response via Radio Berlin, “but America with her politicians and the Jewish capitalists and swindlers who stand behind them, pulling the strings.” They added that they have nothing against the American people, but that America’s politicians should mind their own business. The truth is, Radio Berlin claimed, that America seeks to enforce an economic dictatorship on the entire world. But the Nazis, according to the program, will never permit it.

1966 50 Years Ago The New York Times provided an official apology to the American Jewish Congress after an advertisement purporting to sell a kosher product called “Instant Jewish,” claiming “you too can be Jewish” appeared in the paper. Richard Cohen, assistant executive director of the AJC, contacted the Times’ advertising department after receiving complaints about the ad, which cynically mocked Jews. A representative told Cohen that the paper had made an error in permitting the ad and that it would not appear again. The Times also issued an apology for insulting Jews and the Jewish religion.

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