October 12, 2007

100 Years Ago in the forward

A New York City tenement house on Orchard Street has been in an uproar ever since the building’s housekeeper had one of its more upstanding, but financially unfortunate, tenants, the melamed Nokhem Strauss, evicted. Poor Strauss and his family were forced out onto the street after having had an argument with the housekeeper, who went to the landlord and told him that Strauss’s kids were breaking things in the building. To the horror of all the tenants, the landlord evicted the family. With that, the other tenants started a rent strike to protest the eviction of the teacher and his family, saying they would resume paying rent when the landlord evicted the housekeeper. The housekeeper hasn’t kept quiet, and she and her family have been busy starting fistfights with all her neighbors in the tenement.

75 Years Ago in the forward

There are the hayzernikes, or house-beggars. This is the kind that works in apartment houses, going from door to door asking for handouts. They work only in buildings; never would they work outside — that’s for the gasn-betler, or street beggars. These beggars are the diplomats of the trade. After all, how do they know whom to approach and whom to avoid? A third type of beggar is known as the trombenik. This type, who lounges about until he really needs to go begging for pennies, is considered lazy by the other kinds of beggars. But the crème de la crème of begging is known as the cripple-beggar. The cripple-beggars are so well organized that they have their own union. Their president, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that the union initially began in the 1920s as a kind of landsmanshaft, a club where fellow cripples met a few times a week and collected funds to help their brothers in need. But as membership grew into the hundreds, the group wrote a constitution. The union, for example, provides helpers — vetted by the executive board — to “double cripples,” those missing both legs, in case they need help getting around. Dues are also collected to give to members too sick to work. All in all, it’s not much different from a regular factory union.

50 Years Ago in the forward

The eyes of millions of the world’s citizens are looking toward the heavens, but no one has spotted what everyone is talking about. This week, the Soviet Union launched its second satellite, or levonele (little moon), as the Forward calls it, into space. The 23-inch-wide sphere is currently 560 miles above the earth’s surface and orbits our planet every hour and a half. It should be no surprise that Jewish scientists are at the forefront of these new experiments. Arye Shternfeld was instrumental in developing the Soviet satellite, and Joseph Kaplan, the son of a Hungarian cantor, is playing a significant role in developing American satellites.

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October 12, 2007

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