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Looking Back February 6, 2004


• At a time when pogroms are occuring so frequently, it seems like all Russians hate Jews. The Bund reports, however, that there are not only working-class Russians who consider themselves compatriots of Jewish workers, but they are also willing to stand up and protect their Jewish colleagues during pogroms. For example, during the recent pogrom in Homel, a large number of Christian workers helped to defend the Jewish community from the attackers. The Bund felt it was extremely important to publicize this fact, particularly since reports of self-defense in the face of pogroms have not mentioned the growing number of Russian defenders taking part.


• There is no question that the most popular Jewish sports hero in America is the undefeated lightweight boxing champion, Benny Leonard. In a recent article, journalist Arthur Brisbane wrote that Leonard has brought more honor to the American Jewish masses than the dozens of famous Jewish singers, artists and intellectuals. When the Forward approached Leonard and asked him if he would be willing to tell some of his stories in our paper, he said, “I speak plain mameloshn. It would give me great joy to be able to tell my life story to the readers of the Forward.” Here is some of what he said: “I started fighting when I was about 9 or 10 years old. The kids from the block used to organize themselves into gangs. Every gang had a leader. The strongest kid from one block would usually fight the strongest kid from another block. I used to get beat up by some of the stronger kids — I was never a fearsome type. When I got older and stronger, I got a little ambitious and fought another kid for the ‘honor’ of being leader of my block. We used to fight in the back yards of the tenement houses. The little kids from the block would come and watch and it was really wild…. My mother used to yell at me, ‘I don’t want you to be a fighter, a bum! Someone will give you a zets, and you’ll, God forbid, turn into a cripple.’” But Benny persevered and made a successful career out of fighting.


• There is a saying: “Children and glasses: You can never have enough.” But you have to wonder, how was it for people like Horace and Augusta Rubenstein, formerly of Krakow, who had a grand total of eight daughters? Not bad, as it turns out. All of their daughters are beautiful. They were beautiful as little girls, and now, all of them bubbes, they are still beautiful. Though it is said that beauty and intelligence don’t usually go together, it wasn’t the case with the Rubenstein girls, especially the eldest, Helena. With both looks and brains, Helena was besieged with Polish officers wanting to marry her. Her parents, unhappy with that prospect, sent her to live with cousins in Australia. Arriving Down Under, she was aghast at the pale and dried-out complexions of the women in Melbourne. With a homemade recipe for cold cream, Helena opened a business that is still very successful.


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