April 17, 2009

100 Years Ago in the forward

Not long ago, a young Jewish man appeared before the magistrate in City Court in Manhattan. Having just finished law school, he acted as his own attorney. He was in court in order to have his name changed. “Why do you want to change your name?” the judge asked. “Because,” the young man explained, “I had a great deal of trouble with it in college, and now that I want to open a law practice, I don’t want my clients to have to break their teeth saying it. So I want to change Baruchowitz to Borrow.” The judge asked, “Who says Baruchowitz is so difficult to say?” and then sat and repeated the name a dozen times. Although he denied the young man’s request, the reality is that most name changes are accepted without any thought whatsoever.

75 Years Ago in the forward

There is something unusual happening in the inner lives of American Jews — in the lives of those who are assimilated, or partially assimilated, into American culture. In a recent meeting of Reform movement functionaries and brotherhoods at New York’s Temple Emanuel, the main topic of discussion was a shock to old-school Reform Jews, who usually discussed general themes of “social justice” at their meetings. When the president of the Temple Brotherhoods stood and began his talk on the main theme of this year’s meeting, audience members were startled to hear that “Jewish antisemitism” was his topic. And with this, he pointed his finger at the rabbis assembled there. “Stop preaching about the gold standard,” he said. “Stop being such political busybodies, experts on everything. Your jobs are to preach about religious matters and to teach Yiddishkeit.”

50 Years Ago in the forward

When asked whether he thought peace would ever be achieved between the Arabs and the State of Israel, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Abba Eban, answered jokingly, “As a son of a prophetic people, I take it upon myself to predict that peace with the Arabs will come in the second decade of Israel’s existence, around five years from today, or maybe more.” Eban was asked the question at a special luncheon thrown for him by an organization of U.N. journalists who were saying goodbye to him before he heads off to Israel to run for a Knesset seat. Among Eban’s other pithy comments was, “Physical strength and wisdom don’t always exist side by side,” in reference to the idea that small countries should play a role in world politics.

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April 17, 2009

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