The Jewish Press In New York City Part III


(b.) Judeo-Spanish

The 20,000 Oriental Jews in New York City maintain two weekly papers: "La America" and "La Bos del Pueblo" (The Voice of the People), both written in Judeo-Spanish with Hebrew characters. But the Jewish press in Judeo-Spanish or Ladino is even more badly situated than the Hebrew press. From the editorials of "La America" it is rather difficult to decide what policy it pursues, but "La Bos del Pueblo" is pronouncedly socialistic. Two other periodicals in Judeo- Spanish, "La Renasansia," a Zionist sheet, and "El Kierbatch Amerikano," a humorous paper, appear very irregularly. For one reason or another, the Judeo-Spanish press has failed to get a grip on the Oriental community. All the four papers combined have a circulation not exceeding 1,500, which is pretty low considering the size of the Oriental community in New York City. The limited circulation of the Ladino press may perhaps be explained by the fact that the Oriental community does not form a unit even linguistically, some Oriental Jews speaking Arabic, some Greek, and the rest other languages, while not all of them understand Ladino.

(c.) German

The Jewish press in German was never strong in New York City, but until America's declaration of war with Germany, the "Orden's Echo," the monthly organ of the Independent Order of True Sisters, still continued to appear. The war between the United States and Germany, however, induced the Independent Order of True Sisters to change the language of its organ from German to English, thus wiping out at one stroke the entire German-Jewish press in New York.

(d.) Yiddish

The Yiddish press in New York City differs in many essentials from the other divisions of the Jewish press. First, it has the peculiar distinction of having practically created its own reading public. Very few of the people who are now readers of the Yiddish papers in New York City, had ever read any journals while on the other side of the Atlantic. As Shomer, the noted Yiddish novelist, created a Yiddish-reading public by the publication of his novels, so the Yiddish papers taught the East European Jew in America to read newspapers by coming out every day for his special benefit. Then, too, the readers of the Yiddish papers being newly made readers, have read very little outside, perhaps, of the Chumosh. The Yiddish newspaper, therefore, is their only education and their chief educative influence. Here may be found the origin of the make-up of the Yiddish paper, which is radically different from that of the English newspaper. While the English newspaper is primarily organized for the conveying of news, the Yiddish paper must also be a literary journal, printing short stories, novels, articles on popular science, theology and politics. It explains also the marvelous influence of the Yiddish press. No other press in the world exercises such a monopoly on the mental content of its readers. While, for instance, it is possible for a political candidate in New York City to get elected in the face of the strong opposition of almost the entire English press, the election of any candidate on the East Side is impossible unless the Yiddish press favors him.

As to the power of reach of the Yiddish press, the Circulation Statistics tell a very interesting story. These figures were given to the Post Office on October 1st, 1917, by all the Yiddish dailies:
The Day............................ 65,369
The Forward..................... 148,560
The Jewish Daily News........... 55,000
The Jewish Morning Journal..... 87,322
The Jewish Daily Wahrheit ..... .50,241

This gives us 411,492 as the total number of copies of the Yiddish papers actually sold every day in the United States. Since three-quarters of the total number of copies is sold in New York City we find that 308,619 copies are sold in New York City daily. On the assumption that a person buys two papers a day, divide this number by 2 and we get 154,309 people who buy Yiddish papers in New York City every day. Knowing as we do that every paper bought is read by at least three people including the buyer, multiply 154,309 by three and we get a total of 462,937 as the number of Jews of New York City who come within the radius of influence f Yiddish papers day in and day out. Great as these figures are for 1917, they were even greater in 1916,when Yiddish papers sold for a penny a copy instead of two cents as is the case now. In 1916, the total circulation of all Yiddish dailies was 532,697, that is, 121,- 205 more than in 1917. Subjecting the figure of 532,- 697 to the same calculations, as we have subjected the figure of 411,492, that is, the circulation for the year 1917, we get a total of 599,283 readers of Jewish dailies in New York City in 1916, a net surplus over 1917 of 136,356. This means that the change of the Yiddish dailies from the one cent basis to that of two cents caused a shrinkage in the Yiddish-reading public of 136,356. Many people who before bought two or more papers during the day now buy less, while a few who bought one paper, buy none at all.

The huge sum spent by New York Jewry on the Yiddish dailies, should give us an additional index of the radius of influence of the Yiddish press. Multiply 308,619, that is, the daily circulation in New York City for 1917 by the 365 days in the year, and we get 112,-
645,935. From this total deduct three-quarters of sixty times the added circulation of the "Jewish Morning Journal" and the "Jewish Daily News," which do not appear on Saturdays and holidays, that is, 6,404,490, we will get a circulation in New York City amounting
to 106,241,445 per annum. Then, by multiplying the animal circulation in New York City, that is, 106,241,445 by $.02, we obtain the amount spent per annum by the Jewry of New York City for daily publications in Yiddish, which is $2,124,828.90. (See Table I).

But the Yiddish dailies, though an exceedingly important part, are by no means the entire Yiddish press. Be sides the five dailies, there are twenty-four other publications in New York appearing in Yiddish—weeklies and monthlies, covering a wide range of topics and appealing to a multitude of readers. The Yiddish press practically runs the entire gamut of Jewish life in York City. (See Table II).

All this goes to show how great and important are the powers wielded by the Yiddish press. But it is only fair to say that the influence exerted by it for the good of the community has been proportionate to the power it wields. As an instrument, for the Americanization of the masses of Jewish immigrants settled on the East Side, the Yiddish press has been invaluable. Assuming at the very beginning an American character, the Yiddish newspapers have instilled in their multitude of readers the spirit of American life, making possible the intelligent citizenship and loyal American sentiment found on the East Side. The great usefulness of the Yiddish press is demonstrated also in the conscientious vigilance over the welfare of the community and in its fostering and encouraging of Jewish institutions which carry on the charitable and educational work of the Jewish community. In addition, the Yiddish press, by serving for so many years as a common channel for information and education of the large and heterogeneous Jewish masses of New York City, created that indispensable modicum of communal apperception without which no communal activity would be possible. If we add to this the fact that the Jewish newspapers have guided the Jewish masses to an understanding and appreciation of modern literary forms, we have the outstanding features of the character of the Yiddish press.

It should be remarked, however, that this exercise of power is not unattended by certain abuses. But the latter are almost unavoidable when power is wielded as omnipotently as it is in the Yiddish press. The Yiddish press has not always been able to resist successfully the temptation to allure its readers with cheap stories of "sex" interest, and its attitude towards Jewish institutions and movements as well as prominent personalities has not always been noble and righteous. Very often the editorial staffs of the Yiddish papers have not been animated by that spirit of responsibility which should be theirs. But there has come to pass in the Yiddish press an unmistakable gaining of vision both in its conception of the community as a unit and in the understanding of the character of its great responsibilities; the Yiddish press is beginning to catch the spirit by which the Jewish Community of New York is organizing itself into a firmer and more Jewish life. This spirit, it may now be hoped, the Yiddish press will eventually fully embody.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Jewish Press In New York City Part III
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: The Jewish Communal Register of New York City 1917-1918; Edited and published by Kehillah (Jewish Community of NYC) 1918; Lipshitz Press, 80 Lafayette Street, N.Y., N.Y.
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