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Culture

May 14, 2004

100 YEARS AGO

• As a result of the massive rent strike currently in effect on the Lower East Side, a group of local landlords held a meeting during which they discussed tactics such as to how to raise rents. Considering the success of the current rent strike, which is growing every day, the possibility that the landlords will raise their rents and continue to rob the renters is in serious doubt, mainly because there is such a large number of “To Let” signs around the neighborhood. It looks like the real estate boom is dead and that the landlords and speculators will have to head back to the shops and do real work for a living. A theater benefit is currently being planned to raise organizational funds for the rent strike.

75 YEARS AGO

• The official communal leader of a Jewish agricultural settlement in the Crimea has consistently refused to speak Yiddish with the members of the settlement, despite the fact that he knows the language. When Comrade Grinshteyn is addressed in Yiddish by his constituents, he invariably answers them in Russian, a language they do not understand. The problem does not end with Comrade Grinshteyn. The inter-ethnic liaison, Comrade Berdyakin, as well as the head of the agricultural bureau, Comrade Tsigelman, also speaks only Russian to the Jewish settlers. Locals are asking who should switch languages — the hundreds of Jewish farmers, or the three Jewish community leaders.

• “We accept wholeheartedly a doctrine that is dear to the hearts and minds of the American people — that foreigners, like the children of Israel, and others, must never be able to participate in the government of the United States.” This statement, uttered by Rep. Toker of Virginia in the House of Representatives, has caused a stir among Jews throughout the country. Even more offensive is that not a single congressman stood up to defend the Jews, including the few Jewish congressmen who were present.

50 YEARS AGO

• Once a thriving community of 10,000, only 600 Jews are living in Sarajevo. A formerly renowned center of Sephardic Jewry, the city’s one remaining synagogue had only 18 congregants this past Passover. Only one Seder took place, which had 30 attendees. Since 1941, when the Germans took Sarajevo, there has been only one bar mitzvah. One of the reasons that there are so few active Jews is that the Yugoslavian Communist Party has outlawed religious observance. This is evident because there is a Jewish “club” across the street from the synagogue that is far more active. Because so many of the Jews are party members, they refuse to partake in religious activities.

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