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Divorce Court

Long before Jerry Springer, divorcing couples fought it out before Warsaw’s rabbinical court

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“A makeh,” from Der blofer, Oct. 1929 (All images courtesy of Eddy Portnoy.)

“A Hot and Bloody Day in the Rabbinate,” Moment, February 1934

Yesterday in the rabbinate was a hot one—and bloody, too. Good sense was butchered and the blood flowed like water. And rest assured that the rabbis ran out in the middle of these cases. All of the disputes broke out in connection with divorce proceedings, which, unfortunately, have occurred all too often as of late.

The first fight occurred between the owner of the Garden Restaurant, 45-year-old Masha Becker, and her second husband, 25-year-old Yitskhok Lerner, an employee in her restaurant.

Five years ago, Becker’s first husband died and she took Lerner the waiter as her husband. But in the restaurant, she still treated him like a servant. Lerner did not want to put up with that and called his wife to the rabbinate and asked to have her sign the business over to him.

Words were exchanged and Lerner slapped his wife. This didn’t seem to bother her at all and she blackened his face with the contents of an inkwell.

No agreement was reached.

A second couple beat each other up over a heated issue. A certain Leybl Nayman was a frequent guest at his fiancee’s house, where he would come to eat and occasionally sleep over, until his fiancee ended up with “a bun in the oven.”

But in front of the rabbi, he said he didn’t know anything about it.

“What?” the girl screamed. “Now you don’t know anything? Here, now you’ll know something!” And she punched him in the mouth so hard that she knocked two of his teeth out and he was completely soaked with blood.

A third case did not even make it into the courtroom—it played out in the hallway.

A young man with four women—two wives and two brides—showed up in the hall. They pounded one another so badly before the trial, that the police had to be called, who were only able to pull the combatants apart after great effort.

What a hot day it was yesterday in the rabbinate.

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Scott Aaron says:

Thanks, Ms. Portnoy, for your great history pieces from the yiddish press. Brings to life an era I think sometimes get romanticized because of our loss of the language. I really enjoy reading your pieces as an educator and they are helpful when teaching European Jewish history too as examples of daily life.

J. Garber says:

Another gift to antisemites.

Jerry Springer originated in the Rabbinic tradition.

You people are out to lunch.


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Divorce Court

Long before Jerry Springer, divorcing couples fought it out before Warsaw’s rabbinical court

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