April 4, 2003
100 YEARS AGO
• When her tenement on Henry Street went up in flames, 14-year-old Rosie Rothstein ran into the hallway screaming for someone to save her 84-year-old grandfather. But in the chaos, no one in the crowd paid any attention to her. “You’re a bunch of sissies,” the girl yelled, running back into the burning tenement to try to rescue her grandfather, whom she found and carried to the stairs. But by the time she reached the sixth floor, the flames were already at her back, and thick smoke began to choke her. Too weak to continue carrying her grandfather, she managed to get to the roof and jump to the next building. Brave Rosie survived, though her grandfather did not.
75 YEARS AGO
• Three Lower East Side boys, Harry Dreitser, Edward Fisher and Isadore Helfant, were found guilty of first-degree murder for killing a policeman. The three boys, all members of the notorious Brooklyn-based “Pants Gang” will be sentenced to death. As the verdict was read, the killers stood silently, but afterward they were seen joking and singing jazz tunes. One of them was overheard saying that they didn’t get a fair trial and that their sentence was unfair. Their lawyers will be appealing the verdict.
• After a wave of provocations and blood libels, Jews in Lithuania are living in fear of a new wave of pogroms. Local antisemites have been spreading reports that Jews killed a Christian boy in order to use his blood to bake matzo. The police have attempted to battle the problem and have arrested a Christian woman who claimed she saw Jews kidnap and kill a Christian girl to use her blood for religious purposes. Her accusation was found to be a complete falsehood when it was discovered that the girl had gone away on vacation.
50 YEARS AGO
• Avrom Reisen, beloved Yiddish poet and author, passed away this week at age 77. Known for his folksy stories and poems, Reisen was one of Yiddish literature’s most popular figures. A Forward editorial reads, “Every person that ever read a Yiddish word is today in mourning…. One of the classic figures of Yiddish literature, one who connected us to the golden epoch of the rise of Yiddish culture, has been taken from us…. Without ever meeting Reisen, millions fell under the spell of his poetry and became his faithful devotees.