2 Friday, January 14, 1983
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
A Newspaper Tragedy
Transformation of a great daily newspaper into a weekly may represent the ebbing of
important media due to the economic stress. In. the American Jewish community it can
only be viewed as a great tragedy.
The Jewish Daily Forward — the Forvertz — served the great purpose as an
_inspiration to many tens of thousands of immigrant Jews. It was their Bible as the
newspaper that linked them with the world they stemmed from and the new one they
helped to invigorate with their devotions as Jews and as Americans. It was a great
Americanizing instrument, in the Yiddish language that was revered by the readers.
For several years -it had already been reduced to a four-day-a-week newspaper, from
the seven-day original. In February it becomes a weekly. This is cause for deep regret, for
deploring the fate that has struck a great language and is now reflected in the abandon-
ment of the Yiddish daily press in this country.
In Canada this had already been the fate of the Yiddish daily press for many years.
Only half a century ago, sociological and etymological studies showed that 90 percent of
Canadian Jewry considered Yiddish their mother tongue. The number commenced to
drop so rapidly that at present it is minimal. Else there would have been a revival of the
Yiddish daily newspaper as a symbol of.-Jewish cultural strength.
The Yiddish newspaper, and therefore the Yiddish language, were great powers in
this country. In 1914, when the Jewish population in the United States was perhaps 2.4
million, less than half the present population, there were 10 daily Yiddish newspapers in
this country. Their total sworn circulation, as reported in Editor and Publisher maga-
zine, was 762,910. (See Commentary, Jewish News, March 17, 1967).
The number of readers dropped to less than 100,000 in 1967. In the early years there
were daily Yiddish newspapers in Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Chicago as well as
New York. Many eminent writers gained their fame in the Yiddish press. The late
Detroit in Need and a Reminder
of a Neighboring Occurrence,
With David Croll as Leader
The sad' conditions which necessitated handouts in
food to the impoverished serves as a recollection of the
dedicated labors that were recorded under similar situa-
tions in the neighboring Canadian city of Windsor, David
Croll was the mayor during those horrible early 1930s.
David Croll personally supervised the soup kitchens and
the bread lines. It was an ordinary feat for him to be up at 6
in the morning to assure proper aid for the needy.
In the fascinating series of stories headlined "Why
Windsor?", edited by Alan Abrams, in the chapter entitled
"Godfather in Kilts" (referring to the Essex Scottish Regi-
ment in which Mayor Croll enlisted at the beginning of
World War II), there is this very brief account of the
Windsor City Father who won the affections of his con-
stituents with his devoted services to the needy:
The first thing I
did when I was mayor
was establish a wel-
fare department. The
Great Depression had
just come upon the
country and the gov-
ernments had made
little provision for the
people who were
thrown out of work.
We in Windsor were
particularly hard hit
because the Ameri-
cans closed the border
on 10,000 Windsorites
who crossed over
everyday to work in Detroit. They were left on the
doors of the city and.the Americans said "Well, go
to Croll. He'll have to feed you." And Croll did
It broke our city, we couldn't pay our debts at
the time, but we repaid them in later years. But we
made provision, to the best of our ability, for
everyone who was in need. Food, clothing and
-shelter were our Number One priorities.
What we did in Windsor was picked up in
various parts of the country and that gave me the
opportunity when I was elected as a provincial
member to establish a provincial department of
welfare. It was the first of its kind in Canada, and
we built the beginning of the welfare state on that
Is it any wonder that David Croll should have become
the unbeatable politician who had the affections of the
voters, who rose high in Canadian government affairs, who
served in his country's national cabinet and was the first
Jew to be named a Senator in Canada?
He still is active, in his eighties, as a Senator, as an
admired diplomat, as a Jewish leader, as an ardent Zionist.
Israel to the Rescue?
In the comment last week on Detroit's economic plight,
this columnist resorted to a bit of irony by recalling (with
tongue in cheek, no doubt) that during an economic decline
some years back there was a facetious proposal for the
establishment of an Israeli United Jewish Appeal as a
provider of relief for American Jews.
Ironically, indeed, the facts relating to the serious
problems affecting the Jewish community of Winnipeg,
Manitoba, contained such a serious consideration of Cana-
A Great Tragedy Has Struck the Jewish People in the
Decline of the Only Surviving Daily Into a Weekly,
Thus Challenging Jewry to Assure Cultural Aspirations
Gershon Agronsky_(Agron), who later became editor of the Palestine Post, which was
renamed the Jerusalem Post upon the rebirth of Israel, and who was the first Jewish
Mayor of Jerusalem, was a reporter on the Yiddish daily in Philadelphia.
Woe unto the present conditions and what has happened to the entire Yiddish press!
The Forward tragedy has other painful reactions. It was the last surviving Yiddish
daily on this entire continent. Now areas with Yiddish dailies are limited to Israel and
Another element of sorrow is that a newspaper should have had to resort to fund
raising to survive. The Forward conducted appeals for funds and raised some $1,300,000
for its purposes. The newspaper's management had hopes that the $540,000 raised in the
past two years would provide the required sustenance. Philanthropy failed as an asset to
Much interest is now being shown in Yiddish as a language and as a literary
treasure. It will have to be admitted that such an interest exists mostly in the transla-
tions of great works written in Yiddish and popularized in translations.
The announcement of the reduction of the Jewish Daily Forward into a weekly has
its tragic immensity in the number of readers to which that great newspaper has been
reduced. The announcement that its circulation now is 20,000 is the most shocking
element in a sad occurrence.
The decline of Yiddish is attributed to Nazism. A large measure of the Hitlerite
barbarism is in its having struck at the roots of Jewish culture. If it was among the
triumphs of Nazism in spite of the crushing defeat it suffered militarily and politically, it
represents one of the most pressing challenges to world Jewry: to rebuild where possible,
provide new life to a language that has enriched its readership linguistically and
culturally, to strive for new strength in Jewish ranks that will keep the culture of Jewry
dian Jews becoming dependent upon Israeli agencies. The
Jewish Post of Winnipeg, reporting in a front page story
under the headline "Jewish Community Here in Financial
Crisis," contained in its review of possible relief from the
impending troubles the following:
"The Winnipeg Jewish Community Council has also
approached the United Irael Appeal for help in paying the
interest on our debt. We will also be meeting with the
leadership of Israeli-based institutions to elicit their coop-
eration in supporting our institutions."
0 tempora! 0 mores! = Oh times! Oh customs! What
doesn't time do to frail humanity?
Yet, there is another aspect to this surprising de-
velopment, which may well be judged as a puzzling de-
velopment. It doesn't indicate that Jews in need apply to
and depend upon fellow Jews.
What a glorious definition for andut, unity!
Soviet proxy on the other.
Chinese-PLO relations are best exemplified
by each party's reaction to the death of President
Yasir Arafat was in Peking the day of the
Sadat assassination. On Oct. 8 he attended a ban-
quet in the Great Hall of the People hosted by Vice
Premier Zhao Ziyang, who called on Israel to
withdraw to 1967 borders and give up East
Jerusalem and the West Bank. He also expressed
grief at the death of Sadat and declared that
China would continue to support Eygptian. policy
— meaning recognition of Israel.
Arafat in contrast, was jubilant over Sadat's
death, and demanded the return of all Israel.
Ziyang was so infuriated by Arafat's gloating that
he stormed out of the hall.
China's poverty and distance from the Middle
Israel and China: The Dilemma
East leave it mainly with rhetoric and ideology as
of a Lukewarm Dispute
a means of influence. That rhetoric is intensely
anti-Soviet and pro-Arab.
Israel needs and seeks the friendships of all nations. It
The Chinese display a schizophrenic attitude
does not exclude the 20 Arab states whose potentates keep
toward Israel, however. In 1979, they supported
repeating destructive threats, with Israelis and their
Camp David and the Egyptian-Israeli peace
friends clamoring for peace.
treaty. However, they also felt a need to echo the
There are problems in the Third World spheres and
rejectionism of the other Arab states. Unable to
Russia and China present problems in their associations
retreat from their previous pro-treaty stand, they
with Israel's bitterest enemies.
launched an anti-Israeli propaganda blitz, thus
China offers an interesting study in the relationships
hoping to curry favor with the rejectionist Ara
with Israel. Animosities date back to the era of the found-
In the wake of Brezhnev's death there have
ing of the United Nations. At San Francisco in 1945 there
been Soviet-Chinese feelers but, even so, it will
was already an antagonism that enrolled the Chinese in
take some time for these to heal Soviet-Chinese
the anti-Zionist alliances.
The Chinese attitudes toward Israel and Zionism are
In the Middle East, the Chinese will continue
traced in an important outline of transpired events in the
the Arab side — but not blindly — and
Near East Report published by the American Israel Public
Egypt will remain the focus of their policy. They
Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Here are the outlined historic
will generally follow the line of the Arab majority
in their rhetoric. They would prefer to see Israel
Before coming to Washington, King Hussein,
behind 1967 boundries, but they do not call for its
along with other Arab leaders, stopped in Peking
to sell the Fez plan to the People's Republic of
And as King Hussein was probably told by his
Chinese hosts, support for the PLO and courtship
They were well received. The Chinese leader-
of the Soviet Union are losing games in Chinese
ship and media went through ritual denuncia-
tions of Israel, imperialism and the war in Leba-
As the most thorough account of the Chinese role vis-
non — but Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, also
Israel, this item serves to keep the interested parties
reported that Hu Yaobang, a high Communist
fully informed on this angle in the serious issues affecting
Party official, said that the Israeli people's right
the Middle East. The necessity and opportunity to retain
to a peaceful existence should be recognized.
the facts in matters involving the peace of a major area in
The moderate tone of the announcement
the world and therefore of the entire universe is most wel-
made some headlines in the United States. But the
fact is that China has long been treading a cau-
tious course in the Middle East, one more moti-
vated by opposition to the Soviet Union than
Cheer From Sen. Percy
enmity toward Israel.
It isn't all gloomy in Washington. U.S. Senator Charles
Both the People's Republic of China and the
Percy, who is on record as a severe critic of Israel, had
state of Israel were established at about the same
cheerful words this week for good relations with Lebanon
time: Israel in 1948, China in 1949. The Israeli gov-
when he stated:
ernment had intended to vote for China's admis-
In my judgment there is justification for the
sion to the United Nations but was deterred by
Israeli position that businesslike relations with
Lebanon must be a priority. While one can under-
Chinese-Israeli relations remained cordial, if
stand the Lebanese desire to avoid antagonizing
unofficial, until the Bandung Conference of 1957
or cautious elements in their coun-
at which Nasser of Egypt, Nehru of India and
try, nevertheless Lebanon should — in her own
Chou En Lai of China founded the Non-Aligned
interest — be willing to take significant steps
toward normalizing relations with Israel. Israeli
When the Chinese broke with the Soviets in
withdrawal would be a key element in the with-
the early 1960s they began opposing Soviet de-
drawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.
signs in the Middle East. This policy makes them
Israel needs friends and always welcomes the positive,
ambivalent toward the PLO, which they regard as
especially from the chairman of the Senate Foreign Rela-
a liberation movement on the one hand and a