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Culture

January 3, 2003

100 YEARS AGO

• Kosher Jews have been busted with treyf schnapps. The police suspected that somewhere on Jerome Street in Brooklyn there was an illegal bootlegging operation, but were unable to find it. That is, until they discovered a barrel-laden wagon pulling out of No. 472. After stopping the wagon and arresting its drivers, Meyer Berdanski and Morgan Binder, they entered the house, where they handcuffed Philip after he opened the door. Upon entering the basement, they were met by Mrs. Poltisky, who greeted the first cop by smashing him in the face with a club. After a short battle, Mrs. Poltisky was subdued, cuffed and brought to the station. The trial of all four begins this week.

75 YEARS AGO

• The Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville had a baby and it’s called Canarsie. It’s the latest and probably the last — since there are no more empty fields around — new shtetl to spring up around Brownsville and the Jews are already moved in. Twenty years ago, Canarsie was the place where religious Jews from Brownsville would go walking on the Sabbath to get some fresh air and look at the bay. The few residents used to be Germans and Irish. Now it’s becoming packed with Jewish stores, butchers and Yiddish newspaper stands.

• The Forward reports that goyim, not Jews, are currently the most knowledgeable scholars of Hebrew, Tanakh and ancient Jewish history. It is true that these scholars, unlike many Jews, cannot write a simple letter in Hebrew. For them the Hebrew language is dead, like Greek or Latin. But when it comes to scholarly history and the grammar of the language, the goyim have a monopoly. These days, Hebrew is not only something for middle-class Jewish boys to know, but a subject for serious scholarly inquiry at a lot of major universities. Not only are these gentile scholars the last word on the Jewish Bible, but they’re making inroads into the Mishna and Gemara, too.

50 YEARS AGO

• If an old-fashioned Marxist were to go to Israel and see all the religious kibbutzim, with their shuls and mikvot, where they lead lives based on communal socialist ideals but where they also put on tefillin before they go to work, he would either burst out laughing or become infuriated. Who, after all, would have believed that such a thing was possible: religious socialists? Old time Marxists were brought up to be fanatically anti-religious — so what is one to do with a socialist in a yarmulke?

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