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Culture

December 19, 2003

100 YEARS AGO

• There’s a battle going on in the Grand Theater. Jacob Adler, president and director of the theater association, announced that he wanted to take a break after 79 straight performances. The theater management was opposed to a stoppage, so they stripped Adler of his titles, knocking his position down to that of plain old actor. But Adler refused to accept the demotion and had posters printed up declaring him president and director. Meanwhile, the theater managers had another poster printed up without Adler’s name. The poster-hangers didn’t know what to do. In fact, no one knew whom to listen to. Finally, Adler and a group of actors, accompanied by a few policemen, occupied the theater. Hoping to protect his assets, Adler dragged a bed into the box office and slept there; the rest of the actors slept on the stage. At about 4 a.m. someone turned off the heat; some actors went home on account of the cold. Adler and the theater managers, however, held firm. Lawyers for both sides have sprung into action, and a suit is pending.

75 YEARS AGO

• Way, way uptown, on the West Side of Manhattan, in a neighborhood previously known for being a Christian one, there was an amazing celebration of yidishkayt. But it was a new, strange kind of American yidishkayt. With great fanfare, Yeshiva College was opened: Chanukah candles were lit, rabbis recited prayers and cantors sang blessings, all in the presence of university professors and the mayor of New York City. Yeshiva College will educate hundreds of American students in traditional Jewish subjects, as well as the modern sciences. The school has the support of the most religious rabbis in America and Europe.

• The audience in the Second Avenue Yiddish Theater gave a standing ovation last Sunday night, but not for anyone onstage. There were a few well-known figures in the audience that night to see Molly Picon’s latest vehicle, “The Circus Girl,” including violist Max Rosen and opera singer Nanette Gilford. But when the audience became aware that Eddie Cantor was among them, the excitement became palpable and storms of applause and cheers exploded. When Cantor stood up to acknowledge the audience, cries of “Speech, speech!” went up, even from the actors, who had come out on stage. In a clear, Minsker Yiddish, Cantor said, “I want to live, but no one lets me!”

50 YEARS AGO

• A number of articles in the American Yiddish press have lauded the historic event of permission being given to publish a Yiddish daily newspaper in Israel. In spite of the fact that there is no law prohibiting the publication of a Yiddish newspaper in Israel, all requests to publish one have been denied by the government. Mordecai Tsanin, the Forward’s Israel correspondent, was preparing to bring a suit against the Israeli government for denying him the right to publish a Yiddish daily. It was only then that the government decided to permit one Yiddish daily, which, it turns out, is poorly done and comes out only sporadically. The government argues that it does not want a flood of Yiddish daily papers. Tsanin argues that only a few could actually survive. There are currently 19 dailies in Hebrew.

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