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October 13, 2006

100 Years Ago in the Forward During the last few weeks in one Williamsburg, Brooklyn, neighborhood, 24 houses have been broken into and numerous people have been robbed on the street. The police, therefore, were eager to catch those responsible. When they caught the culprit, it turned out to be a 16-year-old boy by the name of Joseph Stein, who admitted everything once he was under arrest. Additionally, some of his victims, among them Anna Goldstein, Sarah Friedman, Ignatz Friedman and Rebecca Butterman, showed up to identify the thief, who had robbed them in the street. Stein, whose parents had tried every method to reform him, has spent a number of years in homes for delinquent children.

75 Years Ago in the Forward Every once in a while, stories about dishonest rabbis, or disputes between rabbis, crop up in the Forward. A rabbi, who wishes to remain anonymous, has written in to explain the situation, which he feels has blackened the name of rabbis in America. He explains that following World War I, many Jewish communities in Europe were destroyed, leaving as many rabbis without positions. In addition, during the years following the war, American immigration law made it easier for rabbis to enter the country. This created a two-fold problem. One, a glut of rabbis competing for a limited number of pulpits and, two, a large number of people posing as rabbis who were not rabbis at all. These rabbis, he says, end up as virtual slaves of the synagogue boards. These boards are made up of wealthy businessmen, many of whom were immigrants who turned their old shuls into fancy temples. These wealthy Jews, who knew Yiddishkayt, saw that their children did not, so they built a “Jewish Center,” which is essentially a gymnasium and a bridge club, instead of a shul. As a result, the rabbi is no longer needed for religious purposes, but as a kind of “attraction.” The remaining Orthodox rabbis are unemployed and the high-paying jobs end up going to sharks.

50 Years Ago in the Forward Bugsy Siegel’s former partner, Hollywood gangster Mickey Cohen, has gone straight. One time thug, gambler and racketeer, Cohen, who now speaks to youth about the perils of a life of crime, is on the straight and narrow following his role as star witness in the Congressional hearings that netted a number of important racketeers. Cohen had played a central role in West Coast gambling rackets, using his haberdashery business as a front. He was known for having a huge collection of expensive clothes: It was said that Cohen’s underwear cost more than most people’s suits.

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