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August 11

100 Years Ago in the Forward When actress Gella Web sang the song “Vilste Mikh Nit Kishn, Kishn, Kishn?” (“Don’t You Want To Kiss, Kiss, Kiss Me?”) in Wallach’s Yiddish Theatre last week to actor Frank Daniels, who then kissed her, the audience went wild and demanded an encore. In the second rendition, when Web got to the “Don’t you want to kiss, kiss, kiss me” part of the song, a young man from the audience suddenly jumped onstage, grabbed Web and tried to kiss her. In great fear, Web hightailed it to the backstage area, while the young man was dragged off the stage. For his part, the unknown young man said that when a woman tells him to kiss her, he does it.

75 Years Ago in the forward With a name that evokes great pedigrees among Jews and Americans, the “world famous Abyssinian-American” cantor Abraham ben Benjamin HaCohen Franklin became concerned that the black Jewish community of Brooklyn’s Brownsville area was in trouble. He sent a plan into the Forward to help them out by performing in a benefit concert to raise money. The only problem is that there is no black Jewish community in Brownsville. The cantor must have misread a Forward article from a few weeks ago that described the difficult economic circumstances of the black community in Brownsville.

Twenty-five years ago, New York City’s police commissioner, Theodore Bingham, declared that 50% of the criminals locked up in the city’s jails were Jews. This statistic was terribly upsetting to the Jewish community, mostly because it was offered in an antisemitic tone. Bingham added that, with the city’s population a quarter Jewish, it was no surprise that there were so many Jewish criminals. But things have changed, and Jewish crime is way down. In state reform schools 20 years ago, Jews made up 58% of the juvenile delinquents; it is now down to 3.5%. And in Sing Sing prison, the proportion of Jewish prisoners is now down to 10%.

50 Years Ago in the forward Addressing a group of young Jews visiting the country, former Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion said, “Only in Israel can a Jew live a completely Jewish life, for only in Israel is it possible to create a Jewish life that is one’s own — to have one’s own schools, factories, houses, fields, and forests.” Speaking in English, Ben-Gurion added that the young people considering making aliya should give it a lot of thought, since they’ll be giving up the comfort of their homes for new difficulties and dangers in Israel. But the one thing they’ll get in Israel that they can’t get in the Diaspora, he said, was a true sense of Jewish national worth.

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