Looking Back August 12, 2005


This week, the Forward received a postcard from one Yidl Zaydman, in the shtetl of Rishkan in Bessarabia. It read as follows: “It’s not so good here, and even worse since the economy is so depressed. There has also been a riot of pogroms nearby, but always in other shtetlekh. Yesterday, suddenly, there was pogrom in Rishkan. Five goyim were killed. They had robbed all the stores and had wounded six of the most important townspeople.” Clearly the results of this pogrom were atypical.


If one takes a walk around Manhattan’s Lower East Side and listens to those gabbing on the stoops, he or she might hear things like, “He gave his daughter $5,000,” or, “He took his son-in-law right into the business as a partner.” This kind of talk seems like a relic of the shtetl wealthy on the other side of the sea, but it’s come back strong. Residents are talking about dowries, which have become a given if one wants to marry off a daughter. In fact, it’s not called a dowry any more; now it’s a “present” for the groom. Romance used to be big among immigrants in the Jewish Quarter, but since the stream has halted, the American-born girls have been using matchmakers, who, many say, are at fault in the dowry epidemic.

The entire sports world is talking about Jewish pugilist Jackie “Kid” Berg’s sensational victory over Cuban fighter Kid Chocolate, whose record previously had been an unblemished 156-0. This accomplishment has catapulted Berg to great heights in the esteem of fight fans. The fight’s ethnic flavor was particularly interesting, with a cross in Kid Chocolate’s corner and a tallit in Kid Berg’s. Berg’s manager was heard yelling from the corner, “Yidl, gib klep!” (“Hit him, Yidl!”), and the boxer’s father wrote a letter to the Forward asking the paper to write about the fight so that he could read about it in Yiddish.


The Reform movement has dropped two bombs over the past few weeks — one in America, and one in Israel. The first sensational story is already well known — that a woman will be leading services this Rosh Hashanah at a synagogue on Long Island. The second, just announced, is that a group of Reform rabbis has decided to build a half-million-dollar synagogue in Jerusalem. This group has plans to build more synagogues in Tel Aviv, Haifa and other towns in Israel. This announcement has caused much consternation in Israeli religious circles. Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim said that Reform Judaism poses a threat to the Jews equal to that posed by Christian missionaries.

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Looking Back August 12, 2005

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