The Jewish Press In New York City Part I


By S. Margoshes: Bureau of Jewish Education

I. Rise and Development

In a polyglot society, such as the Jewish community of New York City, the periodical literature is naturally polyglot. The accessibility of the modern printing press makes it possible for every group in the Jewish community, no matter how small, to maintain an organ of its own. Virtually, there are today as many divisions of the Jewish Press as there are language groups in the Jewish community. The main line of division, however, is to be found between the English, or native press, and the foreign language or immigrant periodical literature corresponding to the basic distinction prevailing between "uptown" and "downtown."

1. English

The readers of the Jewish publications in English, with the entire English Press open to them, and offering them all general information, had no need for a Jewish daily paper in English to minister to their daily needs. These readers contented themselves with weekly and monthly publications, devoted exclusively to Jewish affairs. As long as the Jewish community was numerically small, such weeklies or even monthlies could not be self-supporting, and until 1823, there was not a single English periodical in New York City that represented Jewish interests. In 1823, the first Jewish periodical in English made its appearance. It was named " The Jew." Journalistically it was a sorry affair, its chief concern being to fight the missionaries who were at that time very active in the Jewish districts. It dragged along a poor existence for two years when it suddenly stopped. So discouraging was the first effort at Jewish journalism in English, that for the next twenty-four years New York Jewry remained without a publication of its own. In 1894, Mr. Robert Lyon organized a weekly "The Asmonean," and that lasted ten years. "

The Asmonean" was devoted to the literary, religious and political interests of the Jews in America, and so strong was the interest it aroused, that when "The Asmonean" itself began to sink, "The Jewish Messenger" appeared. "The Jewish Messenger" enjoyed a long life, appearing from 1857 to 1903, when it was merged into " The American Hebrew." It represented the interests of the orthodox Jews of the city, and set up new and improved standards in Jewish publications. Not long after the first publication of the "Jewish Messenger," "The Jewish Record," another orthodox paper appeared, in 1862; but though the learned Jonas Bondy was one of its editors, this weekly had but a short life, ceasing to appear in the very year in which it was started.

In 1871, the first Jewish juvenile paper in English made its appearance. It was called "Young Israel" and was published for thirty years, creating a considerable if not highly valuable, Jewish juvenile literature in English. In the seventies,*the field of Jewish
journalism began to fill out. In 1871, Raphael de C. Levine published two monthly journals, "The New Era" which ran to 1877, and the "Jewish Advocate," which ran from 1879 to 1882. In 1879 "The American Hebrew," the most important of American Jewish weeklies, made its appearance. It was started as the mouthpiece of the German Jews in America, and continued to be such for many years. Pour years later, " The Hebrew Standard" was first published. It always regarded itself as the spokesman of the orthodox Jewish interests in New York City. In 1895 a very interesting periodical, "The American Jewess," a Jewish woman 's paper, made its appearance, and ran till 1899. It had a literary quality, and added considerably to the literary output of American Israel. Another woman's paper was the monthly, called "Helpful Thoughts," which was published for six years. If we add to the periodicals mentioned, "The Maecabtean," the Zionist monthly, which began to appear in 1901, and " The American Jewish Chronicle," the Jewish nationalist journal, which began in 1916, we have a list of the most important Jewish periodicals which have appeared in English in New York City from the earliest period to this day.

2. Foreign Languages

(a.) German

From the very small number of Jewish periodicals in German which were printed in New York City, five in all, the conclusion is obvious that the German Jews who migrated to America, speedily acquired the language of the country and had no need for German publications Isadore Busch, a Bohemian Jew, who when in Austria was active as a publisher of Judeo-German and Hebrew annuals, came to New York City in 1849 as a political immigrant. In New York, he resumed his profession and established a German weekly, entitled "Israel's Herald, ' ' which he published for the Order B 'nai Brith. The new weekly, however, did not last very long, hardly three months, and Busch, out of sheer revenge, left New York, and went to St. Louis, where he became a multimillionaire. The other Jewish publications in German were even less important. None of them lived more than a few months. From the point of view of influence and quality, they could not compare with either the Jewish press published in English, or with that in any other foreign language. The use of German, however, in the Jewish Press persisted for some time, and even a few journals in English carried German supplements.

(b) Hebrew

If the Jewish immigrants, coming from the Slavic countries did not absorb American culture, and did not acquire the English language as quickly as their German brethren, they did not support their Hebrew Press very much better than the German Jews supported the Jewish Press in German. Twenty or more Hebrew journals, monthly and weekly, were started in New York, but none with the exception of the first Hebrew weekly in America, "Ha Zophe b'Eretz ha Hadosho" (1870-1876) and the "Haibri" (1892-1902) had the privilege of a long life. Indeed very few Hebrew periodicals managed to survive a whole year. Either because the readers of the Hebrew Press in America were not sufficiently interested, or because the editors of the Hebrew journals were, for the most part, doctrinaires and impractical people who, in addition, did not even have sufficient capital for their enterprise, the Hebrew
Press in America dragged out a precarious existence. An attempt to run a daily in Hebrew in New York City, failed,—the "Ha Yom," published in 1909, surviving only for a few months with great difficulty. The effort of Mr. Reuben Brainin in 1912 to establish the "Hadror." a literary weekly journal of good quality, failed disastrously. At present there are two Hebrew weeklies in New York, "The Hatoren" and the "Haibri." Though their circulation is very limited, it would seem as if they are destined to escape the doom that has overtaken all their Hebrew predecessors in America.

(c) Yiddish

We now come to the most important part of the Jewish Press, that published in Yiddish ; the most important, because during the short period of its existence. it has been productive of more journals than all other divisions of the Jewish Press combined, but chiefly because in point of radius of influence, it far exceeds all other language groups of the Jewish Press. From 1872 to 1917, there appeared in New York City about one hundred and fifty publications. These publications appealed to a multitude of readers, running into the hundreds of thousands, and holding the widest views on all subjects under the sun. For unlike the Jewish Press in English, the one printed in Yiddish is the only souret' of information for its readers and consequently deals with an enormously wide and current range of topics.

We find in Yiddish all sorts of journals, trade and professional journals, humorous and serious newspapers, business journals, while every party in New York Jewry, beginning with the most orthodox and ending with the anarchist, has an organ of its own. We have lived to see even the publication of a newspaper in Yiddish dealing with matrimony. The first Yiddish paper in New York and in America was "Die Jüdische Post," published and edited in 1872 by Henry Gershuni. The enterprise was not a success, and the editor, who was a typesetter and newspaper vender, had to give it up very quickly. The immigration from Russia, which later was responsible for the phenomenal growth of the Yiddish Press in America, had not as yet assumed the tremendous proportions which it attained in the early eighties, but even the thin trail of Yiddish-speaking immigrants in America had created the need for printing information of what was going on in the Jewish world. Benefiting from this need, Kasriel Zwi Sarasohn, who was a good business man, began publishing the Yiddish weekly, "Die New Yorker Jüdische Zeitung" in 1872. This first venture of Sarasohn's was not very successful, chiefly because of the language used in the paper, a mixture of German and Yiddish, which could not possibly appeal to the Russian Jew. But Sarasohn was too far-sighted to abandon the idea 01' publishing a Yiddish newspaper because this first attempt of his was a failure. Two years after he had ceased publishing the "New Yorker Jüdische Zeitung he started the "Jüdische Gazetten," a weekly which still exists today. Sarasohn's enterprise soon attracted wide attention, the attention of competitors included, and in 1875 Mordecai Yahalimstein, who from 1870 to 1876 had published the Hebrew weekly, "Ha Zophe b'Eretz ha Hadosho," began publishing the Yiddish weekly, "Der New York Israelite" in competition with Sarasohn's "Jüdische Gazetten." This competition, however, had very little success, and very shortly, in the same year, Yahalimstein's newspaper collapsed, while Sarasohn's weekly became a success.

The intellectual complexion of the Jewish immigrants from Russia who found their way to America before the mass-migration of 1881, is very interesting. This immigration consisted mostly of adventurous individuals who had the courage to leave Kussia for an unknown country, for such was America to all Jews at that time. A good many of these immigrants were Socialists who came here in search of a new order of things. Here in America they organized the first Socialist and atheist newspaper, "Die Volkszeitung" which began to appear in 1878. With editors who were better idealists than business men, this paper could not last very long. Meanwhile, Sarasohn's weekly was growing. His previous competitors became his co-workers, and in 1885, he organized the "Yiddishes Tageblatt," which exists today, and is considered the oldest Jewish daily in the world. The "Tageblatt" was started as a strictly orthodox paper, and as such was widely read. With the rise of other papers, but chiefly because of the change in the calibre of Jewish immigration in the United States, the "Tageblatt" lost much of its influence, even among the conservative class. The first editor of the Tageblatt" was Yahalimstein, and he was succeeded by Johan Paley, who edited the "Tageblatt" for many years. Subsequent editors were J. J. Zevin, Leon Zolot-koff and Gedalia Bublick, who is the present editor. Following the eighties that witnessed the first tidalwave of Jewish immigration into the United States, there was a great rise and fall in the Yiddish publications in New York City. Jaffa, Shustrin, Mintz, Selikowitch and Sharkansky tried their hands at publishing Yiddish newspapers, with varying success. It was Shaikevitch, known to the Yiddish-reading public by his nom de plume as "Shomer," who was particularly active. When he failed with his three or four humorous papers, he organized a business paper, named "Der Wegweiser in der Amerikaner Business-welt, which showed the way so successfully, that it had to succumb to financial difficulties itself. On the whole, this is the period of short lived Yiddish weeklies.

The immigration in the eighties greatly added to the numerical strength of the Jewish Socialists in America, with the result that in the nineties, Jewish radicals on the East Side felt themselves sufficiently strong to issue their own daily in Yiddish. In 1894, the first Socialist daily in Yiddish in America and in the world, was published. It was named "Das Abendblatt," and was the organ of the Socialist Labor Party. It continued till 1902, but long before its end, it had outlived its usefulness as a radical paper. Dissensions, based on theoretical as well as on personal differences, led to a split in the editorial staff of the "Abendblatt" and in 1897 a new Socialist daily, "The Forward," under the editorship of Abraham Cahan was started. The new publication, though financially hard pressed from the very beginning soon became very much in vogue among the radical masses of New York City, achieving the place of the most widely read foreign publication in New York City.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Jewish Press In New York City Part I
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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