Looking Back December 24, 2004
100 YEARS AGO
• Last Saturday night, the police arrested the gang of counterfeiters that has been flooding New York City’s Lower East Side, passing out fake half-dollars and dimes. Among those arrested were East 4th Street residents Frank Schleiman and Elizabeth Reiber. Two other members of their gang were arrested uptown. The police recovered hundreds of phony half dollars as well as the machine that made them from the gang’s 4th Street lair, and said that Schleiman, an engineer by trade, had made copies of half-dollars and dimes that were practically identical to the originals, only a bit lighter. It also was discovered that the gang obtained silver for the coins by melting down goods they had stolen.
75 YEARS AGO
• When people think of speakeasies, the illegal drinking establishments that have cropped up since Prohibition began, they typically think of New York’s Tenderloin District or of Greenwich Village. Both areas are dotted with all kinds of illegal bars and cabarets. And when one considers the clientele that these places attract, one thinks of young partiers, people who are wild and free. It is interesting to report that in the middle of one of New York’s Jewish neighborhoods (we can’t say which one), there is a glatt kosher speakeasy. The place began as a little restaurant run by a fat, jolly old widow who cooked kishke and roast duck to make some extra cash. The religious Jews who used to eat there also liked to drink a little schnapps with their food. Eventually the schnapps became the main thing. The free-flowing liquor attracted a wealthier sort of religious Jew — the kind who has affairs and has no place to go with his lover. As a result, the secret little restaurant became a real, kosher speak easy which began to bring in a good deal of cash. Even the police know about it and they also get their cut.
• The communist-run cooperative cafeteria on Union Square, the jewel in the crown of the movement, where all the writers from the Daily Worker and the Freiheit eat, shut down last week. Apparently, the red eatery was in debt to the tune of more than $120,000. Not only did the owners fail to pay their creditors and vendors, but they also owe thousands of dollars to their employees. Uglier yet, those employees who were party members were paid more than those who were not.
50 YEARS AGO
• As threats against Jews in Egypt continue, it is being reported that the anti-Jewish campaign is being directed by wanted Nazi war criminals who have settled in Cairo. These Nazis have, at the request of the government, set up a special “Jewish Department” and thus far have arrested more than 300 Jews. Jewish employees for the government, in banks and in schools have been fired from their jobs. The Jews of Egypt are living in fear: Arrests of Jews already have occurred at weddings, brises and bar mitzvahs.