Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Saturday July 26

In an effort to kill a
monotonous day somehow
I went with Friend Weiner
& others to an Excursion given
by the Jewish National Workers Alliance

It seems that hard luck
falls on me everywhere, first
the reckless crowds and their
noisy wild shouting did not agree
with me, and to make the
day complete I lost a 10 dollar bill
or somebody stole it from my
pocket, I feel sorry but I had
some tougher luck in these my
trying days.

What will I do tomorrow?


Matt's Notes

The Jewish National Worker's Alliance sounds like the name of a labor union, but according to the 1923-1924 American Jewish Yearbook, it was a fraternal, social and support organization along the same lines and around the same size (6,100 members) as B'nai Zion (7,000 members) the fraternal order to which Papa belonged. Their office was at 228 East Broadway, just a few doors down from the Sniatyner Synagogue at 209 East Broadway, where Papa often worshipped. Here's what an October, 2006 article from the Jewish Daily Forward has to say about them:

In Yiddish, farband means brotherhood and is also shorthand for the Yidisher Natsyonaler Arbeter-Farband (the Jewish National Workers’ Alliance), a labor Zionist fraternal order founded in the beginning of the 20th century. The Farband provided insurance and medical plans, and it also organized schools and Yiddish-cultural activities and participated in political affairs.
The Farband also built the Farband Houses, a cooperative housing development in the Bronx, and was closely aligned with Poale Zion, the far-left "labor Zionist" organization that saw Socialism and Zionism as inextricably linked. I may be butchering history here, but I think Poale Zion's youth movement, Young Poale Zion, was also known as Zeire Zion. Papa didn't much like Zeire Zion and even wrote a nasty article about them for Dos Yiddishe Folk, a weekly published by the more centrist Zionist Organization of America. His distaste for Zeire Zion probably would have compromised his Farband excursion even if the crowd hadn't been intolerably reckless or a served as a haven for pickpockets.

I think Papa's use of the word "monotonous" and the concluding question "What will I do tomorrow?" indicate more impatience with bachelorhood than with boredom. I would wager the "noisy wild" labor Zionists he spent the day with less raucous than they were young and carefree, irritating his lower-key, old-world sensibilities just as the "wild women" did at a Zionist ball back in January. Really, how wild could these people have been? Did they sing their labor songs too vigorously? Make too many sloppy speeches?

I think the scene "did not agree" with Papa because he was growing up fast and feeling the burden of his 29 years. He had suddenly become the de facto head of his family after his father died, and he was waking up to the inexorable passage of time and to the inevitability of life's less savory surprises. As someone who had a good innate understanding of how important it was to concentrate on what he could do for himself and not on what he couldn't control, he rarely lamented his "bad luck" or "hard luck" unless he felt as battered by circumstance as he seems to have on this day. (Still, it's worth noting that he almost apologizes for seeing the loss of ten dollars as a sign of cosmic trickery when he says at the end of this entry "I feel sorry but I had some tougher luck in these my trying days.") With such considerations afoot, it's no wonder he got irritated among people who acted so cheerful and unburdened.

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