2 Friday, August 24, 1984
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
Kuf-Lamed of 'Israelite'
and Memory of Truman's
Jewish Press Century Role
Unheralded, with a commendable modesty, Cincin-
nati's English-Jewish weekly last month marked a notable
anniversary. The American Israelite of Cincinnati became
130 years old. Its first issue was dated July 15, 1884, and it
thereby represents a most interesting chapter in American
Making proper and deserved note of this occasion, with
these accompanying congratulations to the Cincinnati
newspaper and its editorial and publishing factors, inspires
a look into the background of American Jewish journalistic
When, on Feb, 21, 1949,
this commentator presented
to President Harry S. Tru-
man, at the White House, a
copy of the first English-
Jewishperiodical, the occa- both the Reform Jewish 'movement and the first Jewish
sion was the 100th anniver- weekly newspaper in English gave thelsraelite the status it
sary of the Jewish press in needed to survive.
America. Accepting a copy
The 130th anniversary issue of the
of that newspaper from this reproductions from early editions of the Israelite
paper and an in-
writer, who then headed ; as teresting editorial which recalls the predictions that the
its president, the American paper could not survive. It did and it continues to serve its
Association of English- community with dignity. The Kuf-Lamed, the Hebraic let-
Jewish Newspapers, now ters proclaiming life at 130, symbolizes greater power to
functioning under the re- survive than most of the American daily newspapers of
vived name of American nearly all the eras during which the Israelite functioned,
Jewish Press Association, retaining a most commendable continuity.
President Truman wel-
A note of acclaim is due especially to the long-time
comed it as a valuable his- American
Israelite columnist and editorial writer, Robert
toric asset in his library in Independence, Mo.
always on the alert, Segal earns recognition
The Feb. 18, 1949, issue of The Jewish News carried a
the Jewish writers with a continuity, of genuine
bylined story about the English-Jewish press, preliminary among.
for his newspaper.
to the presentation of the first issue of the first such news- accomplishments
An important element in such a lifeipan is the Jewish
paper, the Occident, to President Truman four days later.
population figure in the year of the founding of thelsraelite.
In that front page article, this writer indicated:
Demographic studies show that the American Jewish popu-
Pricir to the era of Yiddish journalism in
in the first Meade of the 1800s numbered 6,000 and
AMerica; there were a number of German-Jewish
increased to 50,000 in 1860. Some estimates limit the
periodicals and attempts also were made to foster
number of American Jews to under 100,000 in 1854, the
a Hebrew press. At present, there is one Hebrew
year of the founding of the American Israelite. •
weekly, Hadoar, now prospering, in its 26th year,
The current Kuf-Lamed anniversary of the, Cin-
under the editorship of Menahem Ribalow. There
cicnnati newspaper invites congratulations from Jewish
are four Yiddish dailies — the Forward, Der Tog,
Yiddisher Morgen Journal and Freiheit. Daily YId-
' dish newspapers at one time appeared in
Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland and for a very
Politicizing religion: 'separation'
short period in Detroit. All of them disappeared.
on brink of threatened defilement
In Chicago and Cleveland, Yiddish weeklies,
offshoots of the earlier, daily newspapers, still are
It is certainly ironic — and it could also be judged as
circulated. But in the main the Yiddish press
amusing — that the American Jewish Congress should
began to decline with the cessation of immigra-
have been asking the platform committee of the Republican
tion to this country. A new era, although slow-
Party to introduce a plank in the party platform to be
moving, therefore began for the Jewish news-
adopted by the convention supporting religious liberty. The
paper published in English.
AJCongress suggestion would recognize the importance of
• .The first English-American periodical pub-
Church-state separation as a component of religious free-
lished in English in this country was The Occident
• and American Jewbh Advocate which made its ap-
The one enthusing factor in such an approach is that
pearance in Philadelphia in. April of 1943 under
Senator Lowell Weicker was chairmqn of the platform
the editorship of the able Rabbi Isaac Leesser of
committee. His record is one of liberalism and common
Congregation Mikveh Israel. The Occident, about
Sense rooted in fairness. But that does not erase the fact
which Rabbi. Leesser reported that "we circulate
that encouragement to aims threatening the very survival
scarcely above 510," for 25 years struggled to ad-
of the basic tenets of the church-state separation principle
vance cultural Jewish ideals and to clarify reli-
comes from the White House and its Republican occupant.
gious issues. But The Occident, like earlier period-
It was from the Republican seats of the U.S. Senate and
icals which appeared both in English and in Ger-
House of Representatives that the efforts emerged for
man, was a monthly publication.
changes in the principled ideal of "Separation." The
e first English-Jewish weekly newspaper
frightened Democrats, fearing reactions on matters relat-
to make its appearance in this country was The
ing to religion at the polls in the November Presidential
Asmonean, which was published in New York by
and Congressional elections, provided the overwhelming
Robert Lyon in 1849. From that year therefore,
vote needed for the resolution adopted, approving use of '
begins the history of the Jewish weekly press in
school facilities for prayers. . .
America, published in the English language.
Therefore, the inevitable question whether religion
The Asmonean, a "family journal of commerce,
was being politicized. The question was properly posed in a
politics, religion and literature," lasted only nine
New York Times editorial, "Enough of Holier Than Thou,"
years. Before it suspended publication it added
occasional German supplements.. These were
... Consider the speech Mr. Reagan made at a
indications of the prevalence of German as the
Catholic church in Hoboken last week.
language used by.the Jews in the United States at
He said he did not believe•hat someone can
that time. But its beginning marked the introduc-
be compassionate and yet support a woman's
tion of an important .factor in American jour-
right to choose abortion. "How can they parade
nalism —the English-Jewish press— which today
down the street, wearing compassion as if it were
is acknowledged as one of the most powerful fac-
a cloak made of neon?" he asked. "They have no
tors for good in American and Jewish life in this
compassion for the most helpless of God's crea-
At that time, the American Israelite of Cincinnati al-
Some' of those allegedly pitiless people were
ready merited special attention as the oldest functioning
probably in the President's audience. Catholics
English-Jewish weekly. Its importance in evaluating the
are as likely to have abortions as members of
values of the Jewish press lies in the fact that the news-
other religious groups, and just as likely to
paper was established by the founder of American Reform
endorse the choice. That they may thus differ. ith
Judaism, Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise. The scholar who created
church's teaching is a matter for them, their
clergy, their conscience. It it not the business of
the President of the United States.
Nor is Mr. Reagan's faith the business of his
opponents. "The President walks around calling
himself a good Christian," Geraldine Ferraro said
recently, "but I don't for one believe it because the
policies are so terribly unfair." Mrs. Ferraro was
right in her policy judgment, wrong to char-
acterize it as pious.
But it's been Mr. Reagan who started this
competition for the "Holier than thou" award, in.
yoking religion not only on abortion but foreign
policy, school prayer and other. issues. He has
been intruding on the most sacred and private
realism, dividing Americans in ways repugnant
since the birth of the Republic.
The subject is inexhaustible, and scores of columns
have been published, pro and con, on the separation issue as
it is affected by the latest Congressional action. Neverthe-
less, the fact remains that President Ronald Reagan makes
religion a major plank in his campaign for re-election and
as a basic policy for the Republican Party. This generated
another important NYTimes editorial, "School Prayer
Windfalls" (Aug. 1), which merits special consideration:
Election-year posturing about "tradition and
family values" turns out to be a windfall for the
religious right on the issue of school prayer. With
the Democrats on the defensive, the House has
gone along with bills. authorizing prayer in
schools under certain conditions. No one seems to
care that the measures violate Kmerica's noblest
traditions and deepest family values.
Enforced wor§hip in the classroom, even if
silent, involves the state in religion every bit as
much as oral devotion led by the teacher. It's a
clear violation of the Constitution:s command
that government remain neutral on matters of
conscience. Far from threatening tradition and
family, that command flaws from profoundly held
American values: the community basis of educa-
tion, the wholesome separation of church and
state and the home-baSed, private character of
religious belief and practice.
Once again a Senate minority, which beat
back a constitutional amendment for vocal school
prayer in the spring, will have to resist this pious
tampering with religious liberty. - The Supreme
Court would never outlaw silent, voluntary
prayer by Americans of any age. But it wisely
insists that religion is too personal ever to be the
business of government. That message ought to
transcend politics, even in an election year.
It is not the Republican Party leadership alone, in-
spired by the White House, that creates the irony and a
threat to a basic American ideal. Many Congressmen are
frightened by voter reaction and there is evident only a
limited amount of courage in the current battle for reten-
tion of that great principle. Such are the current political
trends: that even religion is politicized.
Leo H. Frisch's Inspiration
If it were only for his concern over the abnormalities in
transliterating Hebrew and Yiddish terms into English,
and his creative efforts in encouraging normalization of
this need in Jewish publications, the name of Leo H. Frisch
would, be registered in the most inspired ranks in Jewish
His passing in early July, at age 94, recalled a most
interesting career of a man who early in life earned the title
dean of Jewish journalists. As editor and publisher for 60
years of the Minneapolis-St. Paul American Jewish World,
he served as a guide in creating an united force in Jewish
journalistic ranks in mobilizing the interest that was
needed to make the Jewish press a recognized factor in
organizing community functions.
• He was one of the organizers of the American Associa-
tion of English-Jewish Newspapers, which now operates as
the American Jewish Press Association.
Irritated by the confusions in transliterating Hebrew
and Yiddish, Leo Frisch undertook an assignment to cor-
rect a situation that failed tp take into account the urgent
need for literary conformity. In behalf of. the American
Association of English-Jewish Newspaper's, he made a
thorough study of the need for correction and his essay
"War of Words Is Peacefully Resolved" was widely pub-
licized and became a guide for authors and publishers.
The Frisch achievement gained so much wide acclaim
and recognition, in the general as well as the Jewish press,
that, at the risk of the charge of conceit an item from the
Detroit News,July. 2, 1966, may merit renewed
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