Jewish Newspapers

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


The Jewish Press


When in 1897 the Forward was founded as a Yiddish daily newspaper it was by no means the first example of Jewish journalism in America. Numerous Yiddish publications were already in existence in the immigrant ghettos of New York, Philadelphia, and other major centers of Jewish settlement.

Nevertheless The Jewish Daily Forward quickly became America's leading Yiddish paper because it represented moderate Democratic Socialism and was a defender of trade unionism. Its founder, owner and editor was Abraham Cahan. Known for his overbearing arrogance, Cahan nevertheless succeeded in becoming the voice of the Jewish immigrant. This means that the Forward promoted all those political issues which today are called "liberal".

From its founding, and certainly throughout the 1930s, the alliance of the Forward and other Jewish newspapers with the liberal point of view made a great deal of sense. At least until the end of the Second World War the Jewish experience in America was that of poor slum dwellers who had to fight their way out of poverty. These were the days when labor unions in the sweatshops of the New York east side represented the Jewish masses and Socialist politicians supported the policies of President Franklin Roosevelt, who fooled the Jewish population into believing that he was their friend.

When in the First World War the German army defeated the Russians, the Forward enthusiastically supported Germany on the grounds that Russia had been the scene of innumerable pogroms while Germany was regarded by the Jews as having made the greatest progress in the socialist labor movement.

In addition to the Forward there were of course other Jewish newspapers with such names as Arbeiter Zeitung, meaning "worker's newspaper", Yidisher Amerikaner and many others. All of these publications and many magazines and periodicals supported liberal causes because it was in the interest of the Jewish people in America to do so.

This Jewish support for liberal causes continues in the United States even now, although the party of Franklin Roosevelt is today the prime supporter of anti-Jewish hatred in the United States. Examples of such anti-Jewish sentiment among Democrats are the anti-Israel diatribes of former President Jimmy Carter, the love affair between former President Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat, the persistent anti-Jewish rhetoric of the black establishment in America, and the failure of the Democratic Party to criticize the effort of Cynthia McKinney, a Democratic Representative from Georgia, to cease all American support for Israel.

This peculiar conduct by the Jewish community is called "culture lag" by sociologists. Culture lag is a condition in which large numbers of people persist in believing in causes long antiquated and no longer in accord with reality.

In the 1930s the Forward reached a circulation of over 275,000, with readers all over the United States and in other parts of the world. The Forward also operated a Yiddish radio station, WEVD.

After 1945 the Yiddish speaking world had come to an end in Hitler's gas ovens. Furthermore, the children of the Yiddish speaking immigrants were no longer capable of reading the language, so that by 1983 the Forward and so many other Yiddish papers cut back to becoming weekly or ceased publication altogether. Then, in 1990, the Forward became an English language weekly newspaper. It now included such writers as Cynthia Ozick, Philip Lopate, Anne Roiphe and Ilan Stavans. Today the Forward publishes also in the Russian language.

Now there are about 250 Jewish newspapers and about 170 Jewish magazines in the United States with a combined readership of 2.5 million. These newspapers and magazines are generally members of the American Jewish Press Association, which was founded in 1944 as a voluntary not-for-profit professional association. 

Like the Buffalo Jewish Review, most of the Jewish press are weekly papers appearing in the principal centers of Jewish life in America. In addition there are numerous magazines reflecting our diverse religious opinions as well as those supporting Israel and a few, like Tikkun, opposed to the survival of Israel and the Jewish people. The editor of Tikkun is Rabbi Michael Lerner, who publishes anti-Jewish propaganda every month and repeats all the Arab canards copied from the anti-Jewish press published in Moslem countries around the world.

Jewish journalism is of course not confined to the Jewish press. There are many Jewish columnists who write in the daily newspapers of this country, who edit some of our major magazines and who, like Charles Krauthammer and Alan Dershowitz, to their credit defend us every time.

Shalom uívracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Football & American Identity (2005) & the forthcoming Youth Culture and the Generation Gap with Dr. Ursula A. Falk.

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