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Forward Looking Back

100 YEARS AGO

• When Lexington Avenue candymaker Morris Kornblum heard that his wife was slandered by his neighbor Isadore Blumenthal, he ran straight to the precinct to lodge a complaint against him. Blumenthal, in his own defense, said that he used offensive language only after Mrs. Kornblum cursed and slandered him. Kornblum categorically refused to believe his wife would use such language and announced — in front of the magistrate — that he would give $500 to charity if it could be proved that his wife spoke in such a vulgar manner. It turned out that Blumenthal could and did prove that Mrs. Kornblum called him, among other niceties, “a drunken, thieving bum.” Magistrate Krane advised Kornblum not to make further bets on his wife.

75 YEARS AGO

• Heinrich Graetz’s monumental oeuvre on the history of the Jews has outlived its usefulness. As a historical text, Graetz’s “History of the Jews” has not only been overtaken by subsequent historians, but also because Jewish historiography has made such enormous advances in the past 50 years that cover innumerable details that Graetz could never have known. Having adhered to the 19th-century school of rationalism, Graetz viewed chasidim as “fakers,” for example, and was unable to see them as today’s historians do, as a socioreligious movement of historical import. But we Jews will continue to sing a nigun from generation to generation, no matter how stale it has become. And, it seems, the same thing has happened with Graetz’s “History of the Jews.”

50 YEARS AGO

• They streamed out of Me’ah She’arim’s synagogues, shtiblekh and study houses, out of basement and attic yeshivas, a sea of young and old men in black hats with beards and sidelocks wearing long black coats. Some were so white it seemed that their faces had never been touched by sunlight. Along with them came religious women of all ages carrying books of psalms and wearing kerchiefs on their heads. The stores of the neighborhood had been shuttered, like on Tisha B’Av. They all gathered before the Orenshteyn Shul. A group of men mounted the stairs and sounded shofars. They swayed, prayed and beat their breasts. Here, Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox community was demonstrating against the Israeli government’s decision to require women to perform national service.

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