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Yiddish paper beloved by Polish Jewry of old

Looking for news from the provinces? A husband? Sholem Aleichem’s book tour schedule? Published between 1908 and 1939, Haynt (along with Der Moment) was one of the two widest-circulation, longest-running Yiddish newspapers in Poland. Well-known writers (even some you’ve probably heard of), like IL Peretz and Sholem Aleichem, published columns in it.

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ANT KATZ

Haynt was a Polish daily newspaper published in Yiddish between 1908 and 1939. Its editors were : Shmuel Yankev Yatskan (1908-1920); Abraham Goldberg; Aharon Einhorn; Chaim Finkelstein; Yitzhak Gruenbaum.

Haynt’s weekend edition had special sports, arts, and women’s interest supplements.

Jewni - HayntA peek through its issues reveals what was important to Polish Jews at the time – world news, politics, literature, reports from small towns, and, yes, face cream.


RIGHT: The last edition of Haynt in September 1939


Haynt appealed to Jews of all stripes: Zionists, Bundists, Orthodox and secular. Alongside news, what we might today call “lifestyle columns,” appeared in depth.

One 1929 piece called “gut yontef,” reported on all of the different ways Jews greet each other on religious holidays.

In the words of its last editor, Chaim Finkelstein, “Haynt was constantly speaking up for Jewish interests, ceaselessly calling for rights for Jews.”

Its last issue was published on erev Yom Kippur 1939, one week before Poland was invaded by Nazi troops.

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LEFT: The Yiddish newspaper was consumed with relish by Polish Jewry before the war – see below how to access archive copies on the web


The HISTORICAL JEWISH PRESS website has 8,904 Issues with 59,100 pages published between 1915 and 1939 available to view.

The material is maintained by the National Library of Israel on microfilm is in a fair condition.

There are various problems with tearing, blurred print, stains, and black streaks.

Some of these problems stem from the newspaper’s original printing, while others are a result of the copies’ storage conditions.

There is also a HAYNT WEBSITE


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Haynt’s history: Prof Avraham Novershtern

Haynt (‘Today’, 1908–1939), was one of the two daily newspapers, the other being Der moment (‘The Moment’, 1910–1939), which embody the impressive development of the Yiddish press in Eastern Europe in general and in Poland specifically. These two publications filled a crucial rôle in the rise of Warsaw as one of the centres of modern Jewish culture in the Twentieth Century, up until the Holocaust. 

The origins of Haynt were humble; the newspaper was a late outcome of the Revolution of 1905 in Tsarist Russia. One of the results of the revolution was a considerable easing of the restrictions on publication of newspapers of all types and languages, despite the fact that the press continued to suffer from considerable legal limitations, most particularly, censorship.

Herrmann Sport IceHockyThe reforms cleared the way for the development of the Yiddish press, which suffered especially from the obstacles that the authorities placed in its way. Only in 1903 did the first daily newspaper in Yiddish appear in Tsarist Russia; two years later, in 1905, the first Yiddish daily newspaper was published in Warsaw as the ‘younger sibling’ of the Hebrew papers that had previously been printed — Ha-tsefirah and Ha-tsofeh. The dramatic events that took place in the year of the revolution and in its aftermath — first and foremost, the wave of pogroms—increased significantly the thirst for current news.

The founder of Haynt, Shmuel Yankev Yatskan (1874–1936), received an extensive traditional Jewish education before entering the world of journalism, where he gained much experience in the Hebrew-language press. Inspired by the dramatic events of 1905–1906, he envisioned the possibility of publishing a daily newspaper in Yiddish at an affordable price, much like other similar publications in Russian and in Polish. In 1906, he founded the daily Yidishes tageblat (1906–1911), which immediately attracted a broad audience and lasted until the beginning of 1911.

Finkelshteyn brothers

His partners in its publication were the Finkelshteyn brothers; owing to their success with the Yidishes tageblat, they began in 1908 to publishHaynt, which quickly became the most widespread Yiddish newspaper in Eastern Europe. Abraham Goldberg (1881–1933) served for many years as the managing editor and, later, became its editor-in-chief. Some sources claim that, at its peak, the newspaper reached a circulation of one hundred thousand copies, but it is reasonable to assume that these numbers are grossly inflated.

Throughout the 1930s, Haynt apparently printed around twenty-five thousand copies, but one must note that its readership was significantly larger than the number of copies sold, especially considering the extreme poverty that affected a considerable part of Poland’s Jewry—for whom the purchase of a newspaper issue was considered a luxury.

The editor Yatskan sought from the start to present Haynt as a newspaper appealing to an audience as wide as possible. On the one hand, it attracted a sizeable portion of the best writers of the generation, who contributed to the newspaper at one or another time in their lives: Sholem Aleichem (1859–1916) published in Haynt the novel Der blutiker shpas (‘The Bloody hoax’) and the second series of Menahem-Mendl letters, as well as other works. Isaac Leib Peretz (1852–1915) also contributed feuilletons and stories to the newspaper. The prominent writers for the newspaper during its early years (up until the First World War) included, among others, Hillel Zeitlin (1871–1942), David Frishman (1859–1922), Sholem Asch (1880–1957) and Hirsch David Nomberg (1876–1927). Some of them continued to play an important and central rôle in the newspaper also during the Interwar period.

Contributors switched between papers

The close competition between Haynt and Der moment meant that, sometimes, well-known contributors (such as Hillel Zeitlin) switched from one paper to the other, a dramatic step that, during the period between the two world wars, made waves throughout the Polish Jewish world. Such was the case, for example, with B Ye`ushzohn (born Moyshe Bunem Justman, 1889–1942), who was the most popular journalist of that time, owing to his style, which appealed to all readers and which recalled the language and the spirit of traditional texts. In 1925, he made the move from Der moment to Haynt, drawing with him legions of his loyal readers.

The physical dimensions of the newspaper during its early years were fairly limited—only four to six pages daily; even during its later phase in the Interwar period, the newspaper issues published on weekdays usually comprised eight to ten pages, while those appearing on the eve of the Sabbath and holidays were larger. Within these quantitative limits, the newspaper attempted to include a very wide variety of material—news, articles on current events by noted writers, literary works, economic news, and information on cultural life. It also paid special attention to news relating to the city of Warsaw itself, including both Jewish and general themes. Therefore, the materials included in the newspaper makes it one of the inexhaustible sources of information for understanding the daily life of Polish Jews in general and the Warsaw Jewish community in particular.  

One of the central factors contributing to the great popularity of Haynt (and also of its competitors) was its publication of serialised novels of a sensational nature, namely, those termed shundromanen (‘trash novels’) in Yiddish, the equivalent of ‘trashy romance novels’ in English. They usually appeared anonymously, since their authors were ashamed to be associated with them.

Haynt appealed to a wide array of readers

Frequently, these shundromanen were actually re-workings of foreign-language originals, with certain adaptations in order to apply the storyline to a Jewish setting. Some of them reflected the style of a detective novel and described the ‘dark corners’ of a big city and, especially, the shady underworld. Some shundromanen included mildly erotic scenes in their plots. During the 1920s, these serialised novels vanished gradually from the pages of the newspaper; however, they continued to enjoy a prominent place in the paper Hayntike nayes (‘Today’s news’, 1929–1939), a popular afternoon tabloid that was published by the owners of Haynt with the intention of competing with other sensationalist newspapers that appeared in Yiddish and in Polish.

Due to their publication of these shundromanen and also owing to the way in which they presented the news (in particular during the early years), part of the Jewish intelligentsia put Haynt and Der moment in the category of yellow press.

One must recall that Haynt appealed to a very wide array of readers from all walks of life: Observant and traditional Jews of all kinds were among its readers (even if they did so from time to time surreptitiously), as were secular Jews (who were also spread out across a diversity of backgrounds and opinions), Zionists, and ‘ordinary’ Jews. The editors were aware of this and made every effort to address the broadest common denominator possible, which, often enough, was somewhat low.

With the outbreak of the First World War, the first phase of the newspaper’s life came to an end. The years of the war in which Warsaw fell under German occupation were a nadir in the paper’s existence: it shrank to barely more than a publication of news alone (which, of course, underwent heavy censorship) and almost completely ceased publishing literary material. The circulation of Haynt also shrank drastically during this time, for it was no longer able to reach those readers who lived in territories under Russian rule.

 

Heavy censorship felt in this period

The establishment of an independent Poland inaugurated a new era for the Jewish press, including Haynt. In those years, Yatskan left his position as the chief editor and was replaced by Abraham Goldberg, a journalist with Zionist convictions, who was personally close to Yitzhak Gruenbaum.

The heavy hand of censorship was strongly felt throughout this period. The authorities often confiscated issues of the newspaper under various pretexts, but it persevered by appearing under a variety of disguised names. Between 1920 and 1925, it was called Nayer haynt (‘New today’); for a while, it was also published under the name Der tog (‘Today’)—a cover name for Haynt that its publishers used whenever it became necessary and until the newspaper could again be published under its widely popular name.

In the twenty years between the two world wars, the Jewish population of Poland underwent accelerated processes of modernisation, while also suffering from rising impoverishment, from deepening anti-Semitism, and from the feeling of suffocation in the absence of positive perspectives.

The newspaper reflected and expressed these developments; its tone became more ideological and more aggressive. Haynt identified itself unequivocally with the Zionist movement and served as a host for the writings of its leaders—Abraham Ozjasz Thon (1870–1936), Yitzhak Gruenbaum (1879–1970), Naḥum Sokolow (1859–1936; sometimes his articles were translated from Hebrew), Moshe Kleinbaum (later, Moshe Sneh, 1909–1972), and others.

 


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This stance also reflected the fact that other ideological movements within Polish Jewry—including the Orthodox community, the Bund, and the socialist Zionists (during the 1930s)—established their own daily newspapers. Nevertheless, Haynt did not become a clear-cut political organ; rather, it served as the voice of the Zionist mainstream, in opposition to its rival Der moment, which, during its later years, was taken over by the Revisionist Zionists. These two newspapers both devoted considerable space to the events taking place in Palestine and to the Jewish communities of the world.

The literary content of Haynt continued to grow more diverse in the 1920s and 1930s, during which it published the novels of popular Yiddish authors, such as the works of Sholem Asch, Israel Joshua Singer (1893–1944), and others. Likewise, it began to print a literary page, which included articles and news on the developments in Yiddish, Hebrew and world literature. This page sometimes included works by Yiddish poets (such as Itzik Manger, 1901–1969). One of the most popular sections in Haynt (like with other Yiddish newspapers) was its humour page. It also regularly published popular articles relating to medicine and health. Menahem Kipnis (1878–1942) covered the field of music, in all of its forms, from liturgical music to opera performances in Warsaw, and his articles and items of information are a vast source for research on this aspect of Jewish life in Poland. At times,Haynt also published a column aimed at women, although it is clear that the newspaper primarily targeted a male audience. Women did not have a substantial presence on the publication’s diverse staff of writers, which, at its height, comprised dozens of contributors working on a full-time or part-time basis — including members of the editorial board and writers in Poland and abroad. One of the most prominent contributors to Haynt during the 1930s was Azriel (Esriel) Carlebach (1909–1956), who later became the editor of the Israeli daily Maʿariv (1948–present).

Increasing linguistic assimilation, as well as the economic crises that hit the Jewish population of Poland particularly hard, jeopardised the continued existence of the newspaper. Despite the fact that the space set aside for commercial advertisement continued to grow over the years, it never amounted to a substantial portion of the newspaper. One of the main sources of income for Haynt was family obituaries and advertisements for theatre performances and cultural events, which reflect the rich cultural life of Warsaw Jews.

In 1932, Haynt was transferred from private ownership to the hands of a co-operative owned by the members of the printing and journalism staffs. This co-operative succeeded by various means in stabilising the financial condition of the newspaper under conditions that made its existence increasingly difficult.

During the first days of the Second World War, while Warsaw suffered from massive Nazi bombardment, Haynt continued to appear under impossible circumstances (unfortunately, these issues have not survived). The final issue of Haynt was published on 22 September 1939, only a few days prior to the fall of the city into German hands. With the outbreak of war, some of the journalists at Haynt joined the flow of refugees on a long journey of hardship. There were some who reached safe harbour—particularly in the United States and in Palestine—in the midst of the war and in its aftermath; other journalists remained in Warsaw and in other places under the German occupation and perished in the Holocaust.

Haynt is indexed in the Index of Yiddish Periodicals, a database that includes all of the signed articles published in the newspaper whether they carry the real name of their author or a nom de plume. This database also provides a detailed index by subject which, combined with the free search system of our site, offers easy access to the wealth of information contained in the pages of this important Yiddish newspaper. 
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A Haynt newsstand in pre-War Poland
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A cartoon of Haynt’s editors

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Womens’ interest articles and ads were well covered
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Cartoons such as this one representing the coming of the Moshiach show the age-old tolerance of Jewry

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World news in brief

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Antwerp mayor warns rule flouting triggers antisemitism

The mayor of Antwerp, a city in Belgium where about 15 000 haredi Orthodox Jews live, warned that their failure to comply with COVID-19 measures has triggered some antisemitism, and it could turn into a wave.

“In the Jewish community, not everyone realises this, they have their own logic, but the backlash of public opinion that I see in my inbox, it’s terrible,” Bart De Wever, a right-wing politician who has enjoyed good relations with his city’s Jewish community, told the ATV station on Sunday, 24 January. “If we really want to move towards a wave of antisemitism, this is the way to go.”

His statement followed the two-week shutdown of a Belz synagogue by the Hasidic sect’s leaders in Antwerp. Police had determined that the shul on Van Spangen Street was twice in violation of emergency measures that forbid group prayer but allow individual worship.

Antwerp police have tolerated minyans, but have intervened when they were exceeded.

Legislators criticise Israel for not vaccinating Palestinians

Joaquin Castro, a top foreign policy Democrat in the United States House of Representatives, has joined a handful of other Democrats in criticising Israel for not supplying Palestinians with the coronavirus vaccine.

“I commend Israel for leading the world on vaccinating its people, but I’m disappointed and concerned by its government’s exclusion of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation from these vaccination efforts, despite making COVID-19 vaccines available to Israeli settlers in the West Bank,” Castrol, of Texas, told Ha’aretz this week.

A number of other Democrats, including Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Jamaal Bowman of New York, and Marie Newman of Illinois have also criticised Israel for excluding the Palestinians.

Israel says it isn’t required to vaccinate West Bank Palestinians under international law and prior agreements with the Palestinians.

Israeli museum accused of smuggling artifacts out of Warsaw

The City of Warsaw has accused an Israeli Holocaust museum of smuggling Jewish prayer artifacts out of Poland that the museum said were found inside an old bunker in the Polish capital.

The Shem Olam museum near Hadera announced this week that it had obtained 10 sets of tefillin found by construction workers in Warsaw near the entrance to a bunker dug by Jewish fighters in preparation for the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

The City of Warsaw has no knowledge of the find, said spokesperson Karolina Gałecka. If Shem Olam was telling the truth about what it obtained and where, “a crime has occurred” because Poland requires anyone who finds archaeological items to report their discovery to the authorities.

Rabbi Avraham Krieger, Shem Olam’s director, said Judaica artifacts, including from the Warsaw Ghetto, are widely available for sale in Polish antique stores and online.

Leifer finally extradited to Australia

Malka Leifer has boarded a plane from Israel en route to Australia where she faces 74 charges of child sexual abuse.

Leifer fled to Israel from Australia in 2008 amid allegations that she had sexually abused students when she was the principal at the Adass Yisroel School in Melbourne. In 2014, Australia filed a formal extradition request, but Israeli authorities deemed her unstable and unfit for extradition.

After an investigation showed she was living a normal life, she was rearrested in 2018, and last year, an Israeli panel cleared her for extradition.

Leifer’s departure from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport came shortly before the country was due to ground all flights for at least a week to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Israelis torch bus in protest against COVID-19 restrictions

A mob of Orthodox Jews torched a bus in Israel after beating the bus driver amid ongoing riots protesting the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Police officers in other cities were also injured during riots in Orthodox neighbourhoods, where COVID-19 rates have spiked but residents object to lockdown restrictions.

The bus burning in Bnei Brak on Sunday, 24 January, a largely haredi or ultra-Orthodox city near Tel Aviv, came days after rioters there injured seven police officers in clashes last week. Police have sought to close haredi schools and other institutions, which has sparked a violent backlash from protesters.

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Index cards of Dutch Holocaust victims to be made public

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(JTA) Sonja Levy was a positive person who made an excellent first impression and whose important position exempted her from deportation, according to the personal card that the Jewish Council of Amsterdam made for her during the Nazi occupation.

But the accolades on the card weren’t enough to save Levy, a kindergarten teacher who was in her early 20s when the Germans invaded.

Like more than 100 000 Dutch Jews, she was eventually put on a train to the death camps in occupied Poland, and murdered there in a gas chamber.

On Monday, the ownership of her personal card – it turned out to be her first epitaph – was handed over to the main museum of the community to which she belonged.

Ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday, 27 January, the Netherlands branch of the Red Cross has transferred to the Jewish Cultural Quarter of Amsterdam ownership of more than 140 000 personal cards of Dutch Jews that are to be displayed to the public for the first time. The Jewish Cultural Quarter is an umbrella organisation of several Jewish institutions including the National Holocaust Museum of the Netherlands.

The entire index of the Jewish Council of Amsterdam, a body that the Nazis set up to have Jews oversee preparations for the extermination of their own minority throughout the Netherlands, is among the most comprehensive and best-kept registries of its kind anywhere in Europe.

It’s unusual in that it includes references to status and personal traits, reflecting how this registry, unlike most other Nazi lists, was made by for Jews by Jews.

In more than 75% of the cards, the Red Cross after World War II added the date of deportation in red ink, a rare tangible reminder of how in the Netherlands, the Nazis achieved their highest death rate anywhere in occupied Western Europe. Of about 110 000 Jews deported, only a few thousand survived.

The Red Cross has transferred its entire wartime archives to the Dutch National Archives, except for the Jewish Council’s index card archive. On Monday, the Red Cross transferred ownership of the archive to the National Holocaust Museum, which is undergoing renovations. The index will go on display next year when the museum reopens, the Red Cross said.

The index “is of great value not only as an archive, but also as a museum monument and a tangible reminder of the Holocaust”, the Red Cross wrote.

The cards were digitised in 2012, and made available for viewing online upon request for a name or other identifying details. But browsing the cards hasn’t been possible. The National Holocaust Museum of the Netherlands is now designing the cards’ display ahead of the reopening, but they will be visible for all to see, according to Emile Schrijver, the director of the Jewish Cultural Quarter.

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Bernie Sanders has his most viral week ever

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(JTA) Bernie Sanders was everywhere on James Corden’s late night show set on Thursday, 21 January.

Life-sized cardboard cut-outs of the Jewish senator in his now famous inauguration ceremony pose – hands and legs crossed, slightly crumpled in his chair, wearing a pair of fawned-over mittens – sat behind a synthesiser next to the house band, behind the bar for guests, and scattered throughout the practically non-existent audience.

“Speaking of breakout stars of the inauguration, we have another one with us in the studio,” Corden said, barely holding in his laughter.

It was a fitting indication of just how ubiquitous Sanders’ image was in pop culture and for the eyeballs of social media this week. No regular Instagram or Twitter user could have scrolled through their feeds since the presidential inauguration on Wednesday, 20 January, without seeing the mittened Sanders, usually in meme form, with humorous accompanying text, often comparing him to cranky relatives and the like.

Many employed Jewish humour along the way.

Then came the photoshop phenomenon. Social media users began splicing the Sanders’ silhouette into other photos of people and places all over the world, even into screen shots from movies and TV shows.

Our sister site Alma, not content with one long slideshow of Bernie memes on Instagram, posted three sets of Bernie photoshopped into everything from Fiddler on the Roof to When Harry Met Sally, to a Haim music video.

The meme deluge became so unrelenting, some were fatigued with the image by Friday.

An entire market of merchandise inspired by the image has quickly sprouted. The National Museum of Jewish History in Philadelphia is hawking “bundled up Bernie mugs” and more. Designers are incorporating it into their work on Etsy. Sanders’ own online store is now selling a sweatshirt with the image, and donating all of the proceeds to Meals on Wheels Vermont. Even the progressive magazine Jewish Currents has its own “Bernie merch”.

“The mug for a bris, a shiva, a long line at Zabar’s, a protracted and infuriating call with your insurance provider. This isn’t an endorsement of anything other than sitting like this,” the magazine tweeted.

As with most random internet phenomena, there’s no firm answer as to why the image went viral. Sanders has been a social media star before, most notably for the memes based on his December 2019 presidential campaign advert, in which the progressive legislator asks his supporters “once again” for donations.

But this photo seemed to capture the essence of Sanders’ public persona as the nation’s grumpy grandfather – and a Jewish one at that, with Ashkenazi features and an unmistakable Brooklyn accent. His homemade wool mittens, a symbol of Sanders’ Vermont style and his repudiation of anything fancy, also fit just a little too perfectly with a senator known for his rants about income inequality. (The gloves have a heartwarming backstory involving a public-school teacher that only helped fuel the fire.)

The intensity of the political moment, charged into a new gear after the deadly insurrection at the Capitol – especially for Jews, newly frightened by the display of antisemitism at the right-wing riot – probably had something to do with it too. The country, one could argue, was primed for a feel-good meme sensation. As a Refinery29 writer put it, the inauguration was, for the majority of liberal-leaning America, a “sigh of relief”.

Alma’s Emily Burack wrote, “As an Ashkenazi Jew with grandparents from Brooklyn, it’s hard not to feel a kindred spirit in Bernie. And in a year – well, in the past four years, really – when we’ve dealt with a rise in antisemitism, the worst antisemitic attack in American history, and an emboldened faction of white supremacists, the undeniable grumpy Jewishness of Bernie offers a real sense of catharsis.”

Writer Amanda Silberling tweeted that the memes “offered American Jews a chance to heal from the rampant antisemitism in the news cycle”.

A large part of Sanders’ appeal to his progressive fans has always been his stubborn focus on substantive policy debate and his impatience with the fluff of pop culture. As Refinery29 continued, the cross-legged Sanders photo captured that ethic perfectly.

“He has things to do and places to be. His demeanour is unsentimental, unmoved, and largely unbothered,” Michelle Santiago Cortes wrote.

Sanders’ comic response to the phenomenon was a TikTok video that expressed just that. Its caption, “Fashion? Let’s get to work.” The video showed a clip of him responding to a question about the photo on a news show and what he had “in mind” at the time of the shot.

“Two thousand dollars per adult. That’s what the Senate has got to do,” he replies, referring to the debate over how much money the next COVID-19 stimulus relief should include.

But Sanders eventually did have some sense of humour about the whole thing. The timing of the shot, taken as the country watched Joe Biden become president, prompted inevitable musings as to whether Bernie truly was cranky about the event, especially after coming so close to winning the Democratic nomination last year. Sanders, a long-time friend of Biden’s, dispelled those thoughts in an appearance on Late Night With Seth Meyers on Thursday night.

“I was just sitting there, trying to keep warm, paying attention to what’s going on,” he said to Meyers with a smile.

As the Biden era begins without the prospect of a President Sanders and subsequently no pressing need for Larry David to portray Sanders on Saturday Night Live, could this be the end of Sanders’ pop culture stardom?

As one Twitter user wrote, “If @nbcsnl doesn’t have Larry David dressed as @SenSanders in the background of every skit this weekend … then I don’t want it.”

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