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Culture

July 18, 2003

100 YEARS AGO

• In the wake of the Kishinev pogrom, a petition decrying Russia’s treatment of Jews was sent to the Russian government on the orders of President Roosevelt. Signed by some of America’s most important public figures, including dozens of congressmen and governors, Supreme Court justices and mayors, the protest petition was brought to the czar, who refused even to consider it. The Forward complains that B’nai B’rith, instead of continuing to battle against czarist oppression, will probably resign itself to giving up the fight.

75 YEARS AGO

• “It happened the first Sabbath in December 1773, 150 years ago. The Shearith Israel Synagogue on Mills Street, the oldest and only synagogue in New York, was packed, the largest portion made up of the descendants of Portuguese Jews, those who called themselves Sephardic — the first Jews that came to America. There were also a few of our kind of Jews, a few Litvaks and a few Polish, but they weren’t members of the synagogue: they only came to pray…. The rabbi began to say the ‘Hanoten tshu’a,’ a prayer that solicited for the life and good health of the king. But before he could say the words ‘King George,’ one of the Polish Jews, Borekh Yanover, jumped up and yelled, ‘Stop! Enough! We shouldn’t pray for the king! We don’t need a king! This country doesn’t want him and doesn’t need him! Better we should say a prayer for the country. Pray to God that the revolution should succeed!’” This is taken from the first chapter of an historical novel titled “Haim Solomon: A Yiddish Novel From the Time of George Washington.”

50 YEARS AGO

• This week, the ultra-Orthodox group of fanatics, the Neturei Karta, has decided to excommunicate Prime Minister Ben-Gurion as a protest against legislation he plans to submit to the Knesset that, if passed, will require religious girls to serve two years of national service. The group decided on the action after attempting to convince Ben-Gurion to shelve the bill until winter. A spokesman for Neturei Karta said that the excommunication ceremony will take place at the exact moment that Ben-Gurion submits the bill. According to the spokesman, the ceremony entails lighting black candles, sounding the shofar and saying special prayers.

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