Category Archives: Essay

The Voting Rabbi: Tinted Toes, Temple, and The Times

In my last blog, “The Story of the Voting Rabbi,” I wondered who Rabbi Nathan Wolf was, that lone voter in New York’s 40th Precinct of the Tenth Assembly District in November 1934. Who was this man, this voter, this rabbi?

Apparently, he was a very busy citizen.

I found a blog, specifically Jen Taylor Friedman’s blog from HaSoferet.com, which spoke about Rabbi Wolf. He was quoted in the 1936 Milwaukee Journal article, “Tinted Toes Help Girls Get Higher Quality Husbands”:

The Marriage Brokers’ Association . . . reported Friday that tinted toe and fingernails are getting girls more and better husbands . . .  ”Every year there is more business,” announced Rabbi Nathan Wolf …”For example, the girls say ‘Do men like painted nails?’ I say ‘Listen, they want to marry a lady, a pretty one. So make yourself beautiful. Ruby, rose–they look nice. Color your nails if you want to. Even your toenails. It will be a surprise for him.’ . . . The association believes a girl should be beautiful, young in comparison to the man’s age, well-educated and have a dowry of some kind…

The rabbi seems to have had an open ‘round-the-clock temple, too:

He was apparently a bit creative when it came to raising a minyan: In a 1936 issue of the Jewish Floridian: “Midtown New York is being treated to the sight of a sandwich man advertising Yiskor and Kaddish services at the Temple and Centre of Times Square…The rabbi of the Temple is Dr. Nathan Wolf…” This is the Garment District in the 1930s, an area crammed full of Jewish immigrants working in garment manufacture. There were quite a lot of shuls in the area servicing the workers; I imagine that Rabbi Wolf’s “Always Open” temple was quite attractive to shift workers and so on who were trying to cram a bit of communal Judaism into their lives. Best guess is that his shul, like many others of the area, declined as the area ceased to be full of Jewish immigrants.

Moreover, in 1939, he published an encyclopedia of Jewish festivals and holidays.

And now, to return to the mid-term elections in November 1934.

The Chicago Tribune’s article (the one that started me on this research project), read thusly:

Conversely, the New York Times article reads a bit differently. The city’s cost is considerably less. The precinct number moves from the 49th to the 42nd. We see the addition of 100 spectators to the two policemen and four election officials. And we discover this is an annual event, and why he is the sole voter:


It’s difficult to discern which of the two newspaper stories are correct, and how much is embellished, based on missing information and conflicting data. That is, what is true, and what is not.

It sounds a lot like today’s news, doesn’t it?

©Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.


The Story of the Voting Rabbi

Writing is never conducted in a vacuum. There is research to be done, notes to be jotted down, paragraphs to be edited and deleted, thoughts to be discussed with family and friends, books to read and ruminate over, and more research to be delved into.

I’m in the process of writing a book I mentioned here once or twice. It seems that I’ve been writing it forever – and maybe so. It’s a story that’s been floating and spinning in my head and sprawled in shorthand and scribbled notes in a notebook for years. Just as writing – good writing – is never achieved in a vacuum, neither is composing a well-written book. And therein comes the research.

My book needed some information on women’s makeup fashion and habits from the 1930s. I knew a little bit about that – I’m a big fan of culture from the first half of the twentieth century – yet I needed specifics: product names, colors, types, where to buy the beauty products, et cetera. An Internet search led me to the November 7, 1934 archived issue of the Chicago Daily Tribune. It had advertisements and a plethora of information I could use.

My husband and I even found a story about one of his grandfather’s friends on the front page (There’s a story for the future!)

Then, turning to the front page, where the headlines and sub-headlines screamed all the news of the mid-term election where the Democrats were the Stars of the Day and won a Supermajority, and towards the bottom of the page, was this story of the voting rabbi in New York City:

Now I am curious why Rabbi Wolf was the only voter in the precinct. Did the election officials know there would be only one voter, or did it just turn out that way? Who was Rabbi Wolf? What kind of poems were in the book he carried to the polls?

This will need more research, and who knows where that will lead me?

©Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.


A Loss, But Yet A Gain

I lost a good friend today.

The end was unhurried and painful, and it was something completely avoidable.

We knew one another since our days working in the Personnel Department, as far back as 1980. We briefly lost touch with one another when I temporarily left my job to return to college, and we struck up again when I returned to work.

We had tons of fun visiting one another on breaks, going out to lunch, and we even took a few business trips to Washington, DC. Then, when the time was right for her, she retired. I stayed on since I had a couple more years to go before I could take my early retirement.

We texted quite a bit, wherein the topics were the news of our lives, trips, recipes, a few jokes, mourning the deaths of colleagues.

Last summer, her texting increased. “Do you like watching the Presidential debates as much as I do?”

“Yes,” I texted back.

And we would share nothing more than, “I watched last night,” and our opinions on the speakers’ clothing fashion.

Then the final two candidates were announced, and her texts became even more frequent. They were off the deep end.

In a nutshell, my friend began a daily spam-texting spree with pretty obvious misinformation about “the other candidate.” I support free speech and opinions, but passing along unmistakable lies and grotesque spins is not responsible, and therefore, not conducive to intelligent conversation. Anyone who was inclined to fact-check would see it was all twisted and full of lies.

She went into a meltdown, fomenting an unrelenting negative obsession with whom she didn’t like.

Though I asked her repeatedly, nicely, then boldly to please stop sending me such texts, she nevertheless continued.

Today, I blocked her from further texting me, but not without first to cheer, then mourn, the friendship we once had. She didn’t respect me. (In all of our long friendship, never did I berate who she liked in anything, nor did I ever discuss politics with her, and neither did she until this go ‘round.)

I wish her internal peace and acceptance.

There are reasons for setting boundaries and for etiquette. They are there to govern how we act in consideration of others and to protect what we deem acceptable to ourselves.

No one should be force-fed crap. No one deserves that. No one.

©Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.


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