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Culture

April 23, 2004

100 YEARS AGO

• When firefighters arrived to put out a fire at the Greenberg residence in Antakolye, a small suburb of Vilna, they found that the house had been ransacked and the family slaughtered. The body of Leyb Greenberg was found burned; his hands had been tied behind his back, his throat slashed. More than 40 sword wounds covered his body, an indication that he tried to defend himself. Mrs. Greenberg was found burned and with her head nearly cut off. It was determined that the couple’s 15-year-old housekeeper was raped and then murdered. A band of Cossacks whose camp is nearby is suspected in the triple murder.

75 YEARS AGO

• There is a new kind of Jewish magid (preacher) in Soviet Russia that has begun appearing in the shtetls of Belarus. He preaches about Lenin. He preaches about communism. He preaches about the Soviet government, and he rails against counterrevolutionaries. And, when he finds an opportunity, he throws in a word here and there about mikvahs, brises, cheders and other Jewish matters. But he’s not like the old-style magid, the kind that Yiddish writer Avrom Reyzn wrote about. In fact, the synagogue caretaker lets him talk as long as he wants and even gives him the key, asking the visitor to kindly lock the door behind him. Why this freedom to talk about communism in shul? Apparently, no one hangs around to listen.

Another type of “Soviet” preacher showed up in Stalingrad to do some work, but instead of calling himself a magid, he was billed as a “doctor of philosophy.” His talks were also not called droshes, but lectures.

Nonetheless, he did manage to discuss a variety of religious issues, including how Moses was one of the world’s greatest revolutionaries and how the basic theme of our holy Torah is really communism.

50 YEARS AGO

• In Romania, more than 100 Zionist activists have been charged with treason and sentenced to long prison terms. A majority of those held — some since 1950 — were active in the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement. One of the leaders of the group, Armand Mark, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Reports indicate that Mark acted as his own defense lawyer at his trial, during which he justified his Zionist activities and bitterly criticized the Romanian regime’s oppression of pro-Israel activists.

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