Friday, January 12, 2007

Saturday Jan 12

Slept late, in the evening visited
the K.H. office, the 2nd and 3rd Zionist
Districts and the remainder of the time
about 3 1/2 hours (from 11:30pm to 3:00am) at
the Cafe Royal.

Goldstein introduced me to Dr. Murdoni
the famous dramatic critic, the Dr. M.
told me of a sad experience
while in Siberia on a mission of the
Russian Jewish Relief Comittee during
the war, He met ther 500 Galician
Jews in one place, very religious
old jews and jewesses and children
were forced to live among the
wild Tatars in the villages in
Siberia, where they were forced to go
for no reason whatever, and what
horrible experiences they had to go there.

Only one picture of the Golus


Matt's Notes

Yesterday Papa talked about escaping to the movies, but today he's got more serious things on his mind. It's interesting to be reminded that, as modern and American as his life seems, he could relate quite closely the dark, almost regressive-sounding world of the Jews in "Dr. M's" story. His life might easily have gone that way and he knows it.

I had a bit of trouble reading a couple of words in this entry. I'm not sure if I got "Dr. Murdoni" right or the word "Golus". Take a look below and see if you think I got them right. Any idea who or what he could be talking about?



1/13 - I didn't have much time to poke around when I wrote this yesterday, but a quick Web search today reveals a bit about the term "Golus." "The Golus," as my grandfather uses it, roughly refers to the Diaspora and the plight of Jews in exile. So, when he refers to "Dr. M's" story of Jews being shipped to Siberia as "one picture of the Golus," he means it's one example of Jewish suffering in the absence of a Jewish homeland. The more strident Zionists scorned and sought to eliminate the "golus mentality," which they saw as a tendency for Jews to resign themselves to defeat and abuse.

Papa didn't have a violent bone in his body (my mother tells a story of him reprimanding my cousin for swatting a bee because "even a bee has a right to live") but he must have had a touch of distaste for the image of the "golus Jew," else he wouldn't have pushed to nickname his B'nai Zion lodge "The Maccabeans" after the Jewish warrior heroes of the Hannukah story.

2/4 - I just came across a February 26th article in the New York Times about the Yiddish theater that mentions Cafe Royal. Looks like it was on 2nd Avenue and 12th street and was, according to the article, a hangout for Yiddish actors. My mother adds that "it was a gathering place for 'intelligentsia' to meet, greet and harangue each other. It was very popular back in the day."

4/7 - Ari, an Assistant Professor of American Studies at UC Davis, adds:

...Second Avenue was known as "the Yiddish Rialto" or Yiddish Broadway, as it housed most of the Yiddish theaters in NYC. The Royal was the hangout for artists and intellectuals, who would go there before and after the shows, to debate politics, communism, and whatever they wanted to.


Dr. Murdoni is, in fact, Alexander Mukdoni, a prominent and prolific Yiddish theater critic. Most of his work is rendered in Yiddish, and not much of it is translated, but there should be a good bio out there somewhere. He was quite well-respected and very serious about his criticism, scholarship and journalism.


  1. Matt,

    Not surprised your grandfather was relating this gloomy tale. The 1920s were a bad time for Jews across the former Russian Empire and neighbouring territories, and with his parents there, he must have felt this acutely. It’s the old story: Political upheaval? I know, let’s go kill some Jews…
    See below for what seems like a very good book related to what was going on in Galicia at the time and its Amazon link.

    Nationalizing a Borderland: War, Ethnicity, and Anti-Jewish Violence in East Galicia, 1914-1920 (Judaic Studies Series) (Hardcover)
    by Alexander V. Prusin

    As an aside, my gran, Liebe Kolodner (born in Ukraine 1909) was orphaned by a pogrom She was among 200 children rescued and brought to South Africa by philanthropist Isaac Ochberg in 1921. There were hundreds of thousands of orphaned Jewish children left destitute and Jews in the ‘golus’ were aware of this, setting up various relief committees.
    My gran’s parents were murdered in front of her at age 12. She never spoke a single word in her lifetime about it, but we know she escaped to the forests with a little brother and sister of 3 and 4. How they were found is unknown, but among thousands, they were three of the lucky 200 to be transported to Warsaw and then to Cape Town via London. See the website below for more info. (Liebe is pictured in photo group 2 in 2nd row, 2nd from right. She has her little brother Isaac on her lap).

  2. Is there any relationship between Golus and Golem? It seems there might be one since they both deal with jews reaction, or lack thereof, to persecution. There is a wonderful modern day novel "The Snows of August" I think it's called by Pete Hamill, which deals with a Golem in NYC. Just a thought.

    This is a wonderful thing you are doing. I hope I can stick with it and read all the entries. It is better than some novels I have read!