September 5, 2003
100 YEARS AGO
• Theodor Herzl’s opening speech of the Zionist Congress was interrupted by delegate Rabinovitsh from Kiev, who yelled out in the middle of the speech that a moment of silence was not a sufficient manner with which to remember the victims of the Kishinev pogrom and that a rabbi should be brought in to say a prayer. This interruption was greeted with much applause. However, Herzl responded by saying, “We are here for a political, not a religious, meeting.” He added that if delegates wanted to express their grief in a religious forum, they were welcome to. Herzl’s comments were met with applause.
75 YEARS AGO
• Jewish professor and philosopher Horace Kallen was acquitted on charges of blasphemy. Kallen, who was charged after speaking at a memorial for Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, had said in his speech, “If Sacco and Vanzetti were anarchists, then Jesus was also an anarchist.” This comment upset a number religious activists, who invoked a 230-year-old law to have Kallen charged with a crime. The case against Kallen, however, was thrown out by the judge, who said there was nothing illegal about Kallen’s comments.
• It used to be that you could go into a restaurant and get a bowl of soup, a plate of kreplach or kasha knishes and a cup of coffee — all for 15 cents. Or, for the same 15 cents, you could have a piece of herring, a plate of latkes and a glass of milk. Prices were low, and the waiters worked like dogs. But these cheap restaurants began to disappear at the beginning of the World War. And along with the low prices, decent tips for waiters also disappeared. Good tipping practices returned after the end of the war, but recently, waiters in Jewish restaurants say, they have practically disappeared.
50 YEARS AGO
• A quiet revolution is taking place in American-Jewish religious life: Women are playing a more significant role in the synagogue. It used to be that if women went to synagogue, they only did so on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Now, however, they don’t just sit there with their husbands, but they are called up on the bima to read from the Torah. Obviously, this hasn’t yet occurred among the Orthodox, where the division of the sexes is deeply rooted. However, the Conservative movement, the biggest in the United States, is moving more and more toward the inclusion of women in their services.