October 8, 2004
• Abraham Shnodman, a 35-year-old resident of New York’s Suffolk Street, made a bet with one of his pals that he could drink l’chaim — an alcoholic toast — 18 times and still stand up on his own. The two headed to a saloon on Greene Street, where, after deciding that one drink was equal to three fingers of whiskey, Shnodman put down 18 shots of whiskey, one after another. After winning the bet, Shnodman walked out of the saloon and headed home. But he only got as far as the corner of Mulberry and Houston, where he collapsed. An ambulance brought him to St. Vincent’s Hospital, where his stomach was pumped. However, the doctors were unable to revive Shnodman and are not optimistic about his recovery.
• Ultra-Orthodox bigwigs from around the globe, from the Czestochower Tzaddik to the Gerer Rebbe, descended on Vienna this week to participate in the world congress of Agudath Israel. With lush beards and long, swinging payess and dressed in black silk capotes and hats, the huge conglomeration of rabbis, rebbes, tzaddiks, philosophers, students and simple Hasidim looked like an image out of the past and made a remarkable impression on the journalists, Jewish and non-Jewish, who had gathered there to report on the gathering. The conference is the brainchild of the Chofetz Chaim and famous philosopher Nathan Birnbaum. Birnbaum gave a powerful speech in which he declared that only religion could save the world from disaster. A onetime Zionist leader who was the convener of the 1908 Czernowicz Conference on Jewish culture, Birnbaum still supports Yiddish education, but now, in his religious incarnation, opposes the anti-religious activities of the pro-Yiddish Bund and the communist Jewish Yevsektsia.
• Famed Yiddish author Joseph Opatoshu died this week in the Bronx, N.Y., at the age of 67. Jews worldwide are mourning the novelist, whose work “In Polish Woods,” was critically acclaimed and popular throughout the Yiddish-speaking world. Born in the shtetl Mlave in Poland, Opatoshu studied engineering in France before coming to New York in 1907. Doing various types of work, in factories and as a Hebrew teacher, he co-founded the literary journal “Shriftn” and began to publish his stories. Despite his involvement in Yiddish literary circles, Opatoshu studied for his degree in civil engineering, which he received in 1914. He worked as an engineer for only a short time and returned to his first love, Yiddish literature.