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March 17, 1967 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1967-03-17

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By Philip Slomovitz

Purely Commentary

Our Press and Our Conscience:
Observations on Occasion of
Jewish News' 25th Anniversary

A. quarter-century service to our community merits
consideration of the status of Jewish journalism

Lord Macaulay, in his essay written in
1828, reportedly said: there were three
estates in Parliament — he referred to
Kings, Lords and Commons — but, he
said, in the Reporter's Gallery yonder,
there sat a Fourth Estate more important
by far than they all.
Half a century ago, when he was
taunted about his foreign birth by an
antagonist who told him his own ancestors
came here on the Mayflower, Rabbi
Stephen S. Wise replied: Sir, MY ANCES-
TORS WERE AT MOUNT SINAI WHEN
MOSES, ON MY ANCESTORS' BEHALF
GAVE YOU AND THE ENTIRE WORLD
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.
By the same token, viewing Macaulay's
definition of the Fourth Estate, we go back
much, much farther into history in trac-
ing newspapers. In the 52nd Chapter of
Isaiah we read:
How beautiful upon the mountains

Are the feet of the messenger of good
Tidings that announceth peace
The harbinger of good tidings.

While the : first newspaper on record
anywhere in printed form is believed to
have been ACTA DIURNE — Acts of the
Day — published in Rome as a record of
the Roman Senate and was posted in public
places in the year 69 before the present
era, we consider Isaiah who prophesied
in Judaea six centuries earlier as the first
to have -spoken as a newspaper — as
the messenger of good tidings..
This may be viewed as a play on words
and as a fickle boast. But, taking into ac-
count our biblia, our Chronicles written
many years before Acta Diurne, we believe
that what is now a newspaper — the
Window on the World — sterns from the
cultural traditions of our people.
In the modern printed form, there
were several stages of Jewish Journalism.
It commenced with the Ladino — the
Judeo-Spanish-dialect Jewish newspaper
Gazeta de Amsterdam in Holland in 1678.
Interestingly, the second Jewish newspaper
on record also appeared in Amsterdam, in
1687, only nine years later — and this time
as a Yiddish newspaper. That Yiddish
newspaper was in the Judeo-German lyre
Teitch. It was known as Dienstagishi Und
Freitagishi Courantin — the Tuesday and
Friday Courant. It lasted only 16 months.
Before very long, Moses Mendelssohn
published his Kohelet Musar, the Hebrew
weekly that appeared in the year 1750
as an impetus for the revival of the
Hebrew language. It anticipated the Haska-
la movement.
For a time there was a Ladino press.
It flourished as a Spanish-Jewish dialect
press serving the Sephardic communities.
There was a substantial element that read
Ladino in this country. But the last copy
of the Ladino newspaper published in New
York, the LA VARA, was dated Jan. 23,
1948. Its publisher, Albert S. Torres, was
compelled to abandon the venture when
it readership was reduced to a few
hundred. While there still are Ladino
periodicals in Israel, where there is a very
large Sephardic community, the last of
the Ladino newspapers published mehutz
la-aretz — outside Israel — vanished when
the last such organ stopped publishing in
Turkey three years ago.
Now we come to one of the most
powerful journalistic instruments on rec-
ord anywhere — the Yiddish press that
became such a vital factor in Jewish life.
In 1914, when the Jewish population
of this country was less than half of our
members today — there were then ap-
proximately 2,400,000 Jews in this country
in that year — there were 10 daily Yiddish
newspapers in the United States. Their
total sworn circulation as recorded in
Editor and Publisher was — in 1914 —
762,910. Today, with more than twice that
number of Jews, there are left in our
midst two Yiddish dailies with a total
readership of much less than 100,000 in
the entire country.
These figures are here mentioned
with a sense of sorrow over the decline
of a great factor in the life of our peo-
ple about a generation ago. In its hey-
day, the Yiddish press was the great
guide of the Jewish masses. It created

2 Priday, March 17, 1967



the strongest links between the Jewries
of the world. It was a force for the
retention of Jewish values and for the
spread of knowledge. It was an effective
social force, and under its aegis no one
would have dared suggest that Jews
must be taught adherence to causes
such as civil rights and the equality of
men. Our traditions taught such high
ideals, our people accepted them, our
press labored under their influence.
In the interim, a new era has set in

true of many. But that was in the dif-
ficult days when there was no Jewish
Telegraphic Agency, when news was not
gathered as speedily as it is today, when
distances could not be spanned as rapidly
as today.
There was a time when the English-
Jewish weeklies had to turn to many un-
qualified and undependable sources for
news. Now we can laugh at incidents that
took place some 40 years ago among our
papers — the few that functioned at that

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THE YIDDISH NEWSPAPER was a great Americanizing force be-
cause it kept abreast of the times and was as much a spreader of
knowledge as it was a source of information. It was as much a literary
reservoir as it was a newspaper.
So important was the Yiddish newspaper that when William
Randolph Hearst conducted an unsuccessful campaign for Governor of
New York he established a daily newspaper of his own in Yiddish.
So vital was that press that when Louis Marshall, the then un-
questioned leader of American Jewry, felt impelled to know the mind -
of the masses, he desired to lead properly by understanding the masses,
and he learned Yiddish to be able to read their newspapers. He was of
the Yahudim, but he studied the language of the masses.
And when Marshall desired to influence the masses, he established,
together with Zvi Masliansky, a Yiddish daily of his own. It could not
complete with Forward, Warheit, Morgen Journal, Tageblatt. But he
made the attempt.

.**•• . itititaMatl.t.3SMIMMMirttVA

and in the changing climate there has
emerged a new force — now a major
meritorious journalistic factor in Jewish
life — the English-Jewish press.
A number of Jewish periodicals were
published in English in this country
towards the end of the first half of the
last century. They were all short lived.
The first English-Jewish weekly newspaper
appeared on Oct. 26, 1849. Robert Lyon
was its publisher. It lasted only nine years,
but during that period another newspaper
was issued in Cincinnati by the founder
of the Reform Jewish movement — Isaac
M. Wise — under the title the Israelite,
and that paper has appeared uninter:
ruptedly for about 110 years.
What is this press — the English-Jew-
ish press — which is best described under
the title IT HAPPENS EVERY FRIDAY?
It is the instrument that causes Jews
in hundreds of thousands of Jewish, homes
throughout the land to await the postman
every Friday morning for the arrival of
THEIR newspaper, bringing them news of
their rabbis' sermons, the successes of our
youth and of men in the professions who
have' made their marks in life, informing
them about our kinsmen who are ernerg-_
ing with dignity as leaders in industry .and
in commerce, telling them about birthS
and marriages, about the passing of friends,
giving them news about confirmations.
Deliberately do we mention first, the
social and personal aspects of our peOple
in our immediate midst in order to accept
a . vital factor in life — that we must
concern ourselves with our immediate
neighborhoods and with the elements that
affect our personal lives. In this respect
your Jewish newspaper is no different
from the general press as the medium
that cements intimacies between friends
and communities.
Because of this vital function of the
Jewish press some of the English-Jewish
weeklies had been referred to in the past,
by the blinded - elements who did not
recognize the vitality of great instruments,
as SHMUSS GAZETTES. Of course, it was

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time — when editors would pick up a
London-English Jewish weekly to copy
from it a story about a fire that devastated
an old shtetl, - about a pogrom or some
other calamity overseas. The very paper
from which the story was rewritten would
recopy it some months later because it
would fail to recognize it. Those days are
gone; The period of the Shmuss Gazette is
dead.
Now the press here described is the
great factor that emphasizes accuracy,
that insists on full coverage and time-
liness, that is served by the great instru-
ment known as the JTA — the Jewish
Telegraphic Agency — without which the
Jewish world would he a desert lacking
the basic cement — the rapidly develop-
ing information through its news cables
—that binds Jews and Jewries together.
This press is the guardian over the
public welfare of our people. It is the
historian of Israel. It is the reporter af-
fecting every occurence in our lives. It is
the chronicle of our time that may well
be considered the third volume of the
Biblical DIVREI HA-YAIVIIM — the Book
of Chronicles. It is the watchman over our
freedoms, the defender of our basic
American ideals and of our sacred Jewish
traditions.
There undoubtedly are three major fac-
tors that are vital to our existence and to
our survival — THE SYNAGOGUE, THE
PRESS AND THE ORGANIZED COMMU-
NITY. Into the latter we lump all of the
philanthropic, educational and recreational
movements.
In the writings of Thomas Jefferson
we find this telling statement: "When
the press is free and every man able
to read, all is safe . . . Were it left to
me to decide whether we should have
a government without newspaper, or
newspapers without a government, I
should not hesitate to prefer the latter."
This does not suggest the ignoring of
two of the vital factors in behalf of any
other third, but especially by applying
the Jeffersonian principle it is apparent
that none of the agencies mentioned can

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The Second Front _Page

The Second Front Page for this issue, which will
commence the regular news and feature sections of The
Jewish News appears on Page 17.
Featured in the news sections is the announcement
of the total subscription enrollment of the Jewish com-
munity of Flint, announcements of the opening of the
1967 philanthropic campaigns in Detroit and in Flint,
important news developments in this country, Israel
and overseas.

Kik ekitte: 04 , . eA mit .

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

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function properly unless there is a strong
press. None can subsist without proppi*
communication, whether it is between c
cities and their suburbs or. American Jewl -
-
and the rest of the Jewish world.
We must view our English-Jewi
press as THE BRIDGE BETWEEN THE"
KEHILLOT• It is the watchdog with-
out which the great Jewish movements
— whether it is the cause in support
of Israel or any other agency — would
be helpless.
There is a basic problem in which all
of us are involved and in behalf of which
the conscience linked with our existence
haunts our people and hurls challenges at
the communications agencies.
A distinguished American Jewish lead-
er, upon his retirement from the presidency
of one of the major national Jewish organ-
izations (Joachim Prinz, AJ Congress) said
in his farewell address at his organization's
annual convention:
"WE NO LONGER CAN SAY WITH
ANY CERTAINTY THAT THERE WILL
ALWAYS BE JUDAISM, THAT WE ARE
AN *ETERNAL PEOPLE."
He spoke of our youth who are willing
to march and to demonstrate in the solu-
tion of American problems who "DO NOT
KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT JEWISH HIS-
TORY AND TRADITION TO UNDER-
STAND THAT THESE ARE GREAT JEW-
ISH ISSUES AS WELL, AND THEY ARE
NOT CONCERNED ENOUGH ABOUT
THEIR JEWISHNESS TO CARE."
Several factors are packed into these
two brief quotations. There is an element
of despair to which we cannot subscribe.
We have been in the habit of saying
NEZACH YISRAEL. LO YESHAKER —
"the eternity of Israel shall not be betray-
ed." How, therefore, can we even entertain
the idea that there will be an end to the
eternal people? How can we say it while
reading the LO OMUTH KI EKHYEH —
"I shall not but live" — in our Psalms.
These quotations provide an answer:
knowledge . . . knowledge . . . knowledge!
They say to the young Jews: know
yourselves! And they also touch upon a
very sensitive subject: the diversionist de-
velopments which have caused some Jews
to rebuke us for what they believed was
failure by us to render unto Caesar all
that is Caesar's — to go out sufficiently
for civil rights activities.
Tire conscience involved in communica-
tions IS our major concern. It also in-
volves the basic Amreican ideals and chal-
lenges.
If our youth will know its ethics, its
traditions, its historic background, it will
appreciate and accept the simple: and es-
tablished rule that the dedication to the
rights of man is indelibly inscribed in our
lore and is inseparable from our basic
duties. It is only when we do not under
stand this elementary principle that we ex-
coriate ourselves — and with a debasing
result. And if our youth is to end debasing
let it recall that it is from our treasures
that have come the admonitions on the
Liberty Bell of UHROTElli DROR BA-
ARETZ — "thou shalt proclaim lib
throughout the land" — and we have
tributed something towards the cementing
of American principles that are rooted in
Hebraic ideals.
The English-Jewish press reaches into
approximately 300,000 Jewish homes.
There is the perfect right to ask what
has happened to American Jewry that
2,400,000 Jews in 1914 should have had in
their midst nearly 800,000 readers of Yid-
dish newspapers, and in 1967, with a total
Jewish population of closer to 6,000,000,
the chief journalistic service reaches into
only 300,000 homes.
There surely are a million or more
Jewish families in this country. If 300,-
000 families are recipients of Jewish
NEWSPAPERS, what about the other
700,000 families who are untapped?
There is another related matter — that
of the Jewish Publication Society.
The JPS now has approximately 13,000
members. It is the major publicly owned
American Jewish publishing house and it
has a vital appeal to all American Jews.
Why is it that out of more than a million
American Jewish families only 13,000 are
(Continued on Page 6)

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