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Culture

Looking Back August 6, 2004

100 YEARS AGO

• It’s usually not easy to get a job in the trades run by the trusts. Typically, one has to be a friend or a relative of someone who already works in the industry. But because of a strike by the workers in the beef industry, the greenest of immigrants has been hired directly off of Ellis Island. Most of these new immigrant scabs are Italians and the Beef Trust is very pleased with them, since they work much more cheaply than the strikers did. The Trust currently has more scabs than it needs and has stopped negotiations with the strikers.

• A report from Bialystock on the massive rainstorms that have engulfed the region includes the odd detail that, together with the driving rains, tiny fish have fallen from the skies. How this happened has not been explained adequately.

75 YEARS AGO

• Essex Market Court, known locally as the “Jewish Police Court,” has changed drastically over the past 10 years. The defendants are still Jews, but they no longer need Yiddish translators. Also, no longer are they peddlers and strikers: Now they’re bootleggers. This courthouse, smack in the middle of the Lower East Side, was the only court in the world where one could hear Poles and Ukrainians accuse Jews of beating them up. It was to this court that the police took the first arrestees from Jewish picket lines that got out of hand. It also was here where one could see a huge policeman accuse a tiny Jewish girl of biting him after he arrested her off of an unruly picket line. More than anything, the cases dealt with disputes between peddlers. This was especially interesting during the holidays, when judges would wonder what exactly a lulav was, why customers became incensed if they were sold etrogs without stems, and why Jews were being dragged into court by the building inspector for making rickety additions to their dwellings without permits. Big Jewish funerals also resulted in altercations. Who can forget the fight that broke out during Yiddish theater director Zigmund Mogulesko’s funeral, when a Rumanian overheard someone say that the deceased was a Litvak? Both combatants ended up in Essex Market Court.

50 YEARS AGO

• Pogroms took place this week in the cities of Petizhen and Fez, Morocco, leaving six dead and dozens wounded. The attacks were related to activities of the extreme Arab nationalist movement that is battling to remove the French from Morocco. The pogrom in Petizhen was instigated during a demonstration by Moroccans to persuade the French to return Sultan Sidi Mohamed ben Yusef to his throne. When the demonstration reached the Jewish quarter of the city, the protagonists began to attack and rob the Jews’ stores. Those Jews who were killed were trying to defend their places of business.

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