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October 21, 1988 - Image 42

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-10-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

PURELY COMMENTARY

Sally Fields

Continued from Page 2

A Life Preserver
For The Forward

s

omething revolutionary has hap-
pened in the world of the media.
The struggling Jewish Daily For-
ward may have just been given a life
preserver.
The Forward (Forvertz) was the
dominant non-English language
newspaper in the country. It was a most
influential factor in Yiddish publishing
in the world.
It was undoubtedly an Americaniz-
ing factor as well because of the social
aspects it advocated and promulgated.
Primarily the Forward was a pioneer
supporter of liberalism and its genesis
was in socialism. Later, in the Franklin
Roosevelt "New Deal" years it began to
lean toward the Democratic Party. It
was a gradual move away from Eugene
V. Debs, the Socialist candidate for
president in the "New Deal" period.
The paper survived for nearly nine
decades. But it could not overcome the
decline of Yiddish and the drastic reduc-
tion of Yiddish readers. It was
transformed into a bilingual weekly. Its
journalistic standards did not decline
and it now enjoys an excellence for both
its Yiddish as well as English content.
The Forward had another mark of
achievement to its credit. It became the
sponsor of the popular WEVD Yiddish
radio program. In the years of its
decline from the daily publishing field,
the question was often asked whether
the affluence of WEVD would be utiliz-
ed to assure its survival. That questioon
was posed especially because the new
weekly periodical resorted to fundrais-
ing for survival. Its loyal following con-
tributed survival funds.
WEVD remained in the background
until the secret of its power became
public-knowledge. Now it is indeed the
rescuer of the paper whose future seems
assured as a result of a financial deal,
kind of a merger of the Yiddish WEVD
with the Spanish-sponsored media of a

42

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21, 1988

Abe Cahan

like nature. The secret was revealed in
the following news announcement:
The Jewish Forward, the
91-year-old Yiddish- and
English-language newspaper
that became a symbol of New
York Jewish immigrant life,
received a financial shot in the
arm last week thanks to a $100
million deal with the Spanish
Broadcasting System (SBS).
According to the terms of the
planned transaction, SBS has
agreed to buy radio station
WEVD-FM from The Forward
Association, while Forward will
acquire the SBS-owned WFAN-
AM station. WEVD will then be
broadcast on the AM dial, in-
creasing the range for its Yid-
dish and Jewish cultural pro-
gramming to approximately
2,720 square miles.
In addition to increasing the
range of WEVD, according to
Harold Ostroff, general mana-
ger of The Forward Association,
the deal with SBS "will also
enable the newspaper, the
Jewish Forward, to upgrade
and modernize the newspaper
plant and improve its news-
paper content?'
The sensational Forward news story
calls attention to its major pioneering
editor, Abraham Cahan (1860-1952),
whose activities and role in the Jewish
community aroused wide interest. He
authored several widely-acclaimed
short stories and novels as well as
political commentaries. The Rise of
David Levinsky was his most successful
narrative that attained best-seller
status.
Understandably, he was the pro-
mulgator of supportive efforts for the
Yiddish language, having edited the
Yiddish language Forward from 1902
until his death. Ironically, however, he
was pessimistic about Yiddish continu-
ing the early progress and even surviv-
ing. That aroused much indignation in
Yiddish ranks.
Cahan, a leader in American
socialist ranks, was a defender of Meyer
London, who was elected to the U.S.
House of Representatives as a socialist.
There was an attempt to expel London
from his Congress seat but the effort
failed.

This is among the many scores of in-
Moshe Leib Halpern, David Ig-
teresting incidents and historical occur-
natoff, and Moshe Katz. By the
rences which made the Cahan career a
late 1920s, however, the Freiheit
most sensational one.
had become an unswerving par-
ty organ, as was demonstrated
Politically, the Forward was in the
by its total support for the Arabs
limelight again last week. Its editorial
during the 1929 Palestine riots.
endorsement of Michael Dukakis, the
This position alienated many
Democratic candidate for president, is
of its readers and caused its cir-
no surprise. From its militant socialism,
culation to slip sharply from its
which included leadership in the
peak of 14,000. Subsequently,
presidential campaign of socialist
the Freiheit remained loyal to
Eugene V. Debs and the turn to the
the Moscow line through the
Democratic party loyalties starting
Hitler-Stalin pact and the Cold
with the 1930s, the Forward has been
War, regaining a measure of in-
consistently liberal, often militantly so,
dependence only in the 1950s,
in its firm political attitudes.
with the onset of de-
Something additionally sensational
Stalinization in Russia. In 1970
has just occurred in American Jewish
it was appearing five times a
journalism. On the eve of Rosh
week and had an estimated
Hashanah, Pesach Novick, editor of the
8,000 circulation.
Morgen Freiheit, announced that the
66-year-old Yiddish publication was en-
Under the editorship of Pesach
ding its existence. It no longer possessed Novick, who retired from the paper's
the financial means to carry on.
editorship upon its demise a month ago,
Thus ends a chapter in Jewish at the age of 97, the Freiheit remained
media occurrences which was marked leftist but had for a number of years
by diatribes, disputes, accusations and consistently opposed discrimination in
hatreds. The initial ideological con- the Soviet Union and joined in expos-
troversies occasioned by the Freiheit are ing the anti-Semitism that continued to
thus referred to in the reference to this harrass Soviet Jews.
Yiddish newspaper in the Encyclopedia •
It is necessary to add that it
Judaica:
linguistically assisted in treating Yid-
dish in the highest scholarly fashion.
Founded in 1922 by the
The Freiheit for a number of years
Jewish section of the American
received financial aid from a surviving
Communist Party, the Freiheit
loyal readership. It just evaporated.
managed for several years
under the editorship of Moissay
The story of the Freiheit is a chapter
Olgin to maintain high jour-
in Jewish journalistic history that will
nalistic standards and to assem-
merit an historical analysis accounting
ble a staff that included such
for embittered political and social
first-rate writers as H. Leivick,
disputes in Jewish ranks.

Jacq ueline ArztlMed ia

prasied by Dr. John Mames, Myron
Steinberg and several other leaders. It
was at the social function after that din-
ner, on Nov. 27, 1977, that she danced
the hora with the late Governor G.
Mennen Williams who, with Mrs.
Williams, shared association with her
in Democratic and social movements.
In the Jewish National Fund, Israel
Bonds, B'nai B'rith Women, City of
Hope, Shaarit Haplaytah and every im-
portant national American and
overseas cause, Sally Fields was iden-
tified as a leader. She rose to commen-
dable heights in many of them.
It was a militant Zionist, with a
notable share in rescuing victims of
Nazism and assisting in settling them
in Israel that she established herself
with distinction. If the "Materials for
Israel" story should ever be written, her
name will be among the most eminent
in a powerfully Zionist idealism. Her
passing serves as a reminder of that
great movement in state-building and
invites major acclaim to her name as in-
spiration in the Jewish communal tasks
during the most trying years in Jewish
history.

Israel began immunizing children and adults under 40 this week with oral polio vaccine after
the country's eighth case of polio in recent weeks was confirmed. The U.S. State Department
said there is no danger to Americans traveling in Israel and Israeli officials announced that
any tourist requesting immunization would be given the vaccine free.

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