If anyone in the future makes the accusation against the Jewish Daily Bulletin that it does not print news that places Jews in an unfavorable light, one need only point to the item that appeared on page one of Tuesday’s paper.
“The entire Jewish population of Merrylee, in Scotland, will celebrate the Jewish New Year next week in the local police station,” the story read.
At first glance that sounded as if all the Merrylee Jews had been pinched and tossed into the hoosegow for some reason or other and that their sentence included the period of the New Year festival.
“Wow!” the copyreader into whose clutches that cable fell ejaculated. “What a story! What a chance for a headline that will make them titter!”
But the copyreader read on and his hopes were dashed.
“Merrylee’s Jewish population,” he read, “has increased so much in recent years that the local synagogue is proving too small to accommodate all the worshippers. Puzzled Jewish leaders of the community appealed to the police for advice with the result that the police obliged the congregation by yielding up their own headquarters to provide an adequate house of worship.”
Crestfallen, the copyreader settled to the task of writing a sober headline on a very sad story.
It was lack of moneyâ€”not too much slivovitz and an ensuing fracas â€” that had landed these Scotch Jews in a jail for the High Holy Day rites. Evidently they couldn’t afford to rent temporary quarters that would accommodate the enlarged congregation. Or elseâ€”which is even a more prosaic reasonâ€”there just weren’t any buildings or lofts available in Merrylee for that purpose. At any rate, the cable didn’t go into details on that scoreâ€”the price of cabled words being as prohibitive as it is.
As it stands, the story nevertheless and distinctly enough puts the Merrylee Jews in a bad spot.
We don’t mean to imply that conducting holy religious services in a jail house is unique or that it is particularly sacriligious. After all, there are Jews who, for reasons other than economy, are obliged to observe the holidays in such renowned temples as Sing Sing and Leavenworth and Atlanta and Dannemora. But it must be confessed those persons are not in those places from choice.
Now the Merrylee jail may be an ideal place for worship. (Can’t you imagine just how ideal a place the Nazi propaganda bureau will say it is for all Jews!) It may be clean. It may be spacious. It may be airier than most old-fashioned temples. And it may be quiet.
But the chief objection will indubitably be to the fact that it is still a jail, for all its advantages.
Among the advantages that haven’t been listed, however, and which should be taken into consideration in these times, are these:
The worshippers will be assured of ample police protection from disrespectful gangsters. (But there probably aren’t any anti-Semites in a town with so lovely a name as Merrylee, so that advantage may be negligible in importance.)
The worshippers will have the satisfaction of knowing that they are not being gypped by some racketeer organization that cropped up overnight to take advantage of their predicament.
Now in this country, such a thing as an entire congregation moving into a police station would have been incredible. Before ever they had a chance to suggest such a thing to Captain O’Rourke of the Fifty-third Precinct, the crisis would have been non-existent. It would have been wiped out by an enterprising group of religious racketeers who would have rushed to the rescue with one of their so-called mushroom temples. In a trice they’d have had an empty candy store, or a factory loft, or a decrepit theatre rigged up with benches and an altar. The “world’s greatest cantor,” accompanied by an “imported choir from Jerusalem,” would be featured in handbills and the overflow congregation would be handily taken care of, to their ultimate regret and to the profit of the promoters.
Perhaps the Merrylee Jews are better off in their jailhouse temple, even if the “shofar” blowing is marred by the clanking of heavy cell doors as they close upon some hapless drunk.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.