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Culture

February 28, 2003

100 YEARS AGO

• Three Jewish workers from the cloak-maker shop of Kastovitz and Polanski came into the offices of the Forward and informed us of the following terrible conditions in their shop. The sewing machine operators are all Jews, but the 12 pressers are all Italians who let themselves be treated like slaves. The foreman wants the Jews to act like the Italians, but they refuse. Last Saturday, the slave-driving foreman again tried to trample the rights of the operators. After a heated argument, he yelled for the Italian pressers to attack the Jewish operators, which they did, with knives and a gun. The workers would like to warn others not to apply for work in this shop.

75 YEARS AGO

• There is an organization in Palestine called the Legion for the Protection of the Language. The language, in this case, happens to be Hebrew. This Legion refuses to permit Yiddish newspapers or theater, not to mention the use of Yiddish in schools. The government refuses to do anything about it and acts like it’s none of their business. Officially, a Yiddish newspaper is allowed. But the Legion has threatened all the printers with violence if they put one out. Recently, however, Tel Avivians came across big posters announcing a production in Yiddish of the play “Yenta Telebenda.” People wondered if it would really be in Yiddish. The show sold out in one day, and the only way to get a ticket was through scalpers, who were selling them at twice their face value. The Legion was furious, and rumors spread that they had prepared stink bombs to throw into the theater if they heard Yiddish being performed. Others said they were packing heat. When the curtain rose, the young director announced that this version of “Yenta Telebenda” would be performed in the “language of our fathers, of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, and of our great poet Chaim Nachman Bialik.” Sure enough, Yenta Telebenda came out singing and cursing in Hebrew. The Legion was happy, the audience furious.

50 YEARS AGO

• Rumors abound that the USSR is deporting masses of Jews to the Siberian region of Birobidzhan. It is alleged that such deportations began in 1950 and that 30,000 per year have been sent there as “criminals.” This is part of a policy to remove Jews from the industrial centers of the USSR, as well as its western borders. The reason given for this occurring is as a punishment for Jews, seen to be a “security risk,” because they allegedly support Israel.

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