Jewish newspapers and periodicals have been published in the main three Jewish languages (Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino) and have also appeared in the primary languages of countries in which Jews have lived. The first Jewish newspaper, Gazeta de Amsterdam, was published in Ladino in Amsterdam (1674–1699). A short-lived Yiddish newspaper, Kurant, soon followed (1686–1687); however, other early efforts at news reporting in Yiddish did not succeed. In 1784, German supporters of the Haskalah movement created the Hebrew-language, largely literary Ha-Me’asef (The Harvester).
The spread of Haskalah journals throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the early nineteenth century marked the beginning of the age of Jewish periodical literature in Eastern Europe. These publications were devoted to literature, criticism, and scholarship. Among the earliest were Bikure ha-‘itim (First Fruits of the Times; 1820–1831) and its successor, Kerem ḥemed (The Lovely Vineyard; 1833–1856). Although Bikure ha-‘itim was printed in Vienna, many maskilim contributed to it from Galicia and Bohemia. The editor of Kerem ḥemed, Shemu’el Leib Goldenberg (1807–1847) lived in Tarnopol, and from 1838 to 1843 the journal was printed in Prague.
Two men and a girl in a marketplace, L’viv, ca. 1930. The poster on the wall behind the girl advertises the Yiddish newspaper Togblat (Daily Paper). (YIVO)
On 3 December 1823, the first newspaper (as opposed to a scholarly journal) in Eastern Europe specifically directed toward Jewish readership appeared in Warsaw, though it was published for less than a year. Produced weekly and apparently aimed at the mercantile class, it was called Der Beobakhter an der Vayksel (Observer at the Vistula) in Yiddish and Dostrzegacz nadwiślański z Warszawy (Observer at the Vistula from Warsaw) in Polish; the languages were arranged in parallel columns. The Yiddish selections were actually transliterations of German into Hebrew characters, with the addition of some Hebrew words and phrases. This was apparently a condition imposed by the Polish government for granting the paper a subsidy.
Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, newspapers and periodicals flourished with wide-interest audiences in Eastern Europe for nearly a century. Readership depended upon a variety of publications in Yiddish, Hebrew, and the national languages of each country. In addition, the different streams of the left-wing political parties produced timely materials aimed at Jewish readers in various languages.
The Yiddish Press
Yiddish was held in low esteem by educated Jews. After the failure of the earliest papers, a number of years passed before another Yiddish newspaper was attempted; called simply Tsaytung (Newspaper), it was a short-lived weekly of which few copies remain. Tsaytung was published in Lwów during the revolution of 1848 by the Galician writer Avrom Menakhem Mendl Mohr (1815–1868). In Odessa in 1862 the veteran Hebrew editor Aleksander Zederbaum (1816–1893) published Kol mevaser (The Voice of the Messenger), a Yiddish supplement to his Hebrew weekly Ha-Melits. Kol mevaser dealt with social problems and was noted for its numbers of women readers, who considered the paper as a vehicle to arouse public interest on their behalf. Its founders learned the lesson of earlier failed attempts to accustom readers to Germanized Yiddish; its language was, instead, what Zederbaum called a simple Yiddish (actually his own Volhynian dialect), so that “even” women readers could be informed of current affairs. The weekly publication was discontinued in 1873 when the editor blamed financial difficulties on the fact that many people managed to read it for free. In actuality, the failure was probably due to Zederbaum’s inability to gain permission to publish Kol mevaser in Saint Petersburg when he transferred Ha-Melits there from Odessa; consequently, he had to leave the Yiddish weekly in the hands of less capable editors in Odessa.
Zederbaum did not give up his efforts to publish in Yiddish, and in 1881 he was granted permission to establish a new weekly, which he called Dos yudishes folks-blat (The Jewish People’s Paper). This newspaper, which historian Yankev Shatzky called the first modern European journal in Yiddish, gave a platform to a number of significant Yiddish writers, including Sholem Aleichem.
Masthead of Der fraynd, St. Petersburg, January 1903. (YIVO)
In the latter half of the nineteenth century, a Yiddish newspaper, the weekly Varshoyer yudishe tsaytung (Warsaw Jewish Newspaper; 1867–1868) was able to publish for less than a year. Jews in Russia were limited, as well, in their access to news facilities in Yiddish. However, when the Hebrew publishing house Aḥi’asaf failed to gain permission to publish a Yiddish weekly in Russian, it maintained its presses in Austrian Galicia and sent copies to Russia. Der yud (The Jew; 1899–1902) was printed in Kraków but edited by Yehoshu‘a Ḥana Ravnitski (Rawnitzki; 1859–1944) in Odessa. Originally a biweekly, it soon became a weekly newspaper edited by Yoysef Lurie (1871–1937), and was replaced in 1903 by the first Yiddish daily in Eastern Europe, Der fraynd (The Friend), published in Saint Petersburg and later in Warsaw. Der fraynd was founded by Sha’ul Ginzburg (1866–1940), who was also its first editor, and Shabse Rapoport (1862?–1928); in Warsaw it was edited by Shmuel Rosenfeld (1869–1943). Der fraynd continued publishing until 1912, though censors suppressed it more than once during its relatively long existence. In 1904, the Hebrew and Yiddish writer Gershom Bader (1868–1953) founded Togblat (Daily), the first Yiddish daily paper in the Austrian empire (published in Lemberg [Lwów] between 1904 and 1906).
Efforts were made to publish Yiddish dailies at the beginning of the new century in Congress Poland as well. The leading figure in Polish Zionism, Naḥum Sokolow (1859–1936), produced a short-lived paper called Der telegraf in 1906. The first successful Yiddish newspaper in that country appeared a year later; it was a Warsaw daily called Idishes tageblat (Jewish Daily; 1906–1911), published by the enterprising journalist Shmuel Yankev Yatskan (1874–1936); it sold for a kopek and was said to have reached a circulation of more than 70,000 at its peak. Success in Warsaw was also achieved with Yatskan’s founding of the daily Haynt (Today; 1908), followed in 1910 by Tsevi Pryłucki’s (1862–1942) Der moment (1910). Haynt reflected the left wing of the Zionist movement, while the nonpartisan Der moment leaned toward Revisionist Zionism in its last years. Der moment was later edited mostly by Pryłucki’s son, Noah (1882–1941), the founder of the Jewish People’s Party in Poland and a noted Yiddish linguist. The two papers competed, sometimes bitterly, until the Holocaust, except for a short period during World War I when Russian authorities did not permit publication in the Hebrew alphabet “near the front.”
Zajczyk, a lumber merchant, reading a copy of the Yiddish newspaper Moment, Grodno, Poland (now Hrodna, Bel.), 1920s. (YIVO)
In the Soviet Union, Hebrew production was banned while the Yiddish press was made to serve the party line. The main newspaper was the daily Der emes (The Truth; 1920–1938), earlier called synonymously Di varhayt (1918) and edited by the literary critic and cultural activist Moyshe Litvakov (1875–1937). In Ukraine the central paper was Der shtern (The Star; 1925–1941); and in Belorussia, Oktyabr (October) was published during the same period. The technical quality of the Soviet Yiddish dailies was poor, the Jewish content weak, and the readership limited to a few thousand. Although many political, literary, and scholarly journals were also published, their numbers and frequency diminished progressively in the 1930s. The best-known periodicals of this sort were Di royte velt (The Red World) in Ukraine (1924–1933) and Der shtern in Belorussia (1925–1941). Der shtern’s editorial board was decimated by purges, which struck Belorussia very hard.
During World War II, the one remaining Yiddish newspaper, Eynikayt (Unity; 1942–1948), served as a link between the Jews of the Soviet Union and those of the West. Stalin’s suppression of Yiddish culture in 1948–1952, however, stopped the production of Yiddish periodical literature except in the Jewish Autonomous Region (Birobidzhan), where the newspaper Birobidzhaner shtern (Birobidzhan Star), which had begun publication in 1930, was able to continue. After Stalin’s death, the Moscow literary monthly Sovetish heymland (Soviet Homeland; 1961–1991) was established and lasted until the breakup of the Soviet Union. Its editor was the Yiddish poet Arn Vergelis (1918–1999), who briefly edited a later journal called Di yidishe gas (The Jewish Street; 1993–1997). The post-Soviet revival of the Jewish press is now limited largely to the Russian language; at present the remaining Yiddish output in the Former Soviet Union is the eight-page Vilna quarterly Yerushalayim de-Lite (Jerusalem of Lithuania), published in Yiddish as well as Russian, Lithuanian, and English. Birobidzhaner shtern became a Russian-language newspaper with a few poorly printed Yiddish pages appearing weekly.
The Yiddish press in Eastern Europe reached its peak years in interwar Poland with Haynt and Der moment, both claiming at times circulation levels of 100,000. At the same time, Orthodox readers between 1919 and 1939 had access to the Agudas Yisroel dailies Der yud (The Jew) and its successor, Dos yudishe togblat (The Jewish Daily). Socialists read the Bund paper Folks-tsaytung (The People’s Newspaper; 1921–1939). Out of Vilna came the daily Der tog (The Day), begun in 1912 and edited between the wars by the Yiddish scholar and bibliographer Zalmen Reyzen (1887–1941). Poland also had an abundance of journals devoted to literature, education, and scholarship.
After World War II, the newly established Communist regime in Poland allowed one Yiddish newspaper: Folks-shtime (People’s Voice; 1945–1991), which was published inconsistently. Originally a party organ, it explored a greater number of Jewish issues after the period of liberalization in 1956; and in its last years it was bilingual (Yiddish and Polish). Its editor for many years was the veteran Communist journalist Hersh Smolar (1905–1993) who immigrated to Israel in 1971.
Young man with Folks-tsaytung, Daugavpils, Latvia, ca. 1921. (YIVO)
Jews of the newly independent Baltic States, and especially those of Lithuania, continued to speak Yiddish after World War I, but their limited numbers made it difficult for them to sustain a Yiddish press. The main Jewish newspaper in Lithuania was the Zionist-oriented daily published in Kovno (mod. Kaunas), Di idishe shtime (The Jewish Voice), edited at first by Leib Garfunkel (Leyb Gorfinkel; 1896–1976); he was succeeded, in the early 1920s, by Ruvn Rubinshteyn, who became synonymous with the paper. Commencing publication in 1919, it existed until the Soviet occupation in the summer of 1940, and was thus the last independent Jewish newspaper in Eastern Europe until post-Soviet times. In the 1930s there were other Yiddish dailies that appeared in Kovno: Hayntike nayes, the afternoon edition of Di idishe shtime; Dos vort, a Labor Zionist paper and its afternoon edition Dos vort baytog; and Folksblat, a Folkist paper and its afternoon edition Oventblat. Less regularly, there were the Revisionist Zionist Der moment and a religiously oriented paper, Frimorgn (to be distinguished from its Riga namesake).
In Latvia the daily Dos folk (The People; 1920–1927) was followed by the higher quality Frimorgn (Early Morning) in 1926, both of which were nonpartisan and edited by the Zionist socialist Ya‘akov Latzky-Bertholdi (1881–1940). Frimorgn was published until the overturn of Latvian democracy in 1934.
In Hungary, even traditional Jews adopted the country’s language early on; this situation prevented the establishment of a serious Yiddish-language press. Consequently, the few “Yiddish” newspapers that did exist were actually in German written with Hebrew characters. Exceptions occurred in Subcarpathian Rus’, which was Hungarian before World War I but joined Czechoslovakia thereafter; its main city, Munkács (Cz., Mukačevo; Ukr., Mukacheve), had a lively Yiddish press during the interwar period. A bitter dispute between the Hasidic rabbi of Munkács, Ḥayim El‘azar Shapira (1872–1937) and the Belz Hasidim was reported in the pages of several papers: the Orthodox weekly Di yidishe tsaytung (The Jewish Newspaper; 1926–1938), its Zionist opponent Di yidishe shtime (The Jewish Voice; 1929–1938), and the weekly Dos yidishe folksblat (The Jewish People’s Paper; 1924–1935?), the last of which was nonpartisan but apparently oriented toward the Orthodox party Agudas Yisroel.
Romania, by contrast to Hungary, continued to see its Yiddish-speaking population grow, a factor that led to the establishment of Yiddish journalism in the middle of the nineteenth century. Koyroys hoitim (Happenings of the Times; 1855–1871?) was founded possibly to satisfy the thirst for news during the Crimean War. Another paper with longevity also had a Hebraic title, Hayoets lebeys Yisroel berumenye (The Adviser to the House of Israel in Romania; Hayoets for short). It appeared twice weekly in Germanized Yiddish, and was edited by Yekhiel-Mikhl Aziel (1822–1896) from 1874 and after his death by his son Yoysef Aziel (Azielescu) under the title Der vahre hayoets (The True Adviser; probably until 1914). Hayoets was an early advocate of the pre-Zionist Ḥibat Tsiyon movement in Romania. Aziel also published the short-lived daily Yudisher telegraf (Jewish Telegraph) in 1877–1878, presumably occasioned by the war with Turkey.
Post-1918 Romania annexed the disputed provinces of Bessarabia and Bucovina, areas with high numbers of unassimilated Jewish populations. In Kishinev (Bessarabia; mod. Chişinău, Moldova) the daily Besaraber lebn (Bessarabian Life; 1919) did not last long, and neither did later attempts to start publications; but in Czernowitz (Bucovina; Rom., Chernăuți; mod. Chernivtsi, Ukr.), the literary–political journal Tshernovitser bleter (1928–1938) was produced almost until the beginning of World War II, when the Soviet Union occupied and annexed the region. Under communism, the Jewish religious community published a trilingual journal in Romanian, Yiddish, and Hebrew, Revista cultului mozaic din R.P.R.
The Hebrew Press
The Hebrew press enjoyed higher prestige than the Yiddish, but its audience was much more limited and consisted mostly of men (few women could read modern Hebrew) who had a higher than average level of Jewish education. Among the journals produced were the scholarly periodicals Bikure ha-‘itim and Kerem ḥemed (cited above), which were popular among Galician writers. The Haskalah scholar Max Raisin wrote in the Jewish Encyclopedia that Bikure ha-‘itim was adopted by the Galician maskilim as their organ to foster education and culture among Jews of that area.
The revolution of 1848 caused Galician maskilim to found a combative journal to attack Hasidism. The Hebrew satirist Yitsḥak Erter (1791–1851) died before plans could be carried out, but his friend Yehoshu‘a Heshel Schorr of Brody (1814–1895) took on the task himself and edited the journal He-Ḥaluts (The Pioneer), which appeared irregularly from 1852 to 1889. Initially a number of notable scholars contributed, but because Schorr (who was known as the Galician Voltaire) not only attacked Hasidism but also disparaged the Talmud and contemporary rabbis, he wrote most of it himself in later years.
Ha-Tsefirah, 1862. An article in the paper’s first issue explaining the working of the telegraph one year after the first transcontinental telegraph system was established in North America and several years before the first successful transatlantic cable. (The Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem)
Other, mostly short-lived, Galician Haskalah periodicals included Ha-Mevaser (The Messenger), a weekly that appeared from 1861 to 1867 with news as well as critiques about Enlightenment. Its editor, Yosef Kohen-Tsedek of Lwów (1827–1903), edited a number of other Hebrew periodicals and made two brief attempts at publishing Yiddish ones. Its rival was the weekly Ha-‘Ivri (The Hebrew), at times called ‘Ivri anokhi (I Am a Hebrew), which was edited initially by Barukh Werber of Brody (d. 1876) and then by his son Ya‘akov (1859–1890). The name was altered because its founders lacked a needed license for publishing a periodical. The weekly was issued between 1865 and 1890 and was the first long-lasting Hebrew newspaper in Galicia.
Hasidic leaders generally frowned upon newspaper reading, but the Belz Hasidim made the decision to add journalism to their arsenal and founded Maḥazike ha-dat (The Supporters of the Faith) in 1879; the weekly was produced most probably until 1914. For a time, a Belz group with a variant ideology published Kol maḥazike ha-dat (The Voice of the Supporters of the Faith). Hebrew journals in Galicia generally gave way to Yiddish after 1890, but a significant exception was the Kraków weekly Ha-Mitspeh (1904–1921), a Zionist newspaper with a traditionalist bent, edited by Shim‘on Menaḥem Lazar (1864–1932).
In Russia, a pioneering journalist was Shemu’el Yosef Fuenn (1818–1890) of Vilna, a prolific Hebrew writer. Ha-Karmel, the weekly that he edited from 1860 to 1880, was both didactic and informational, and contained supplements in Russian and German. However, in 1871 Ha-Karmel became a monthly, and its value as a timely purveyor of news was greatly diminished. Across the border in Lyck (Pol., Ełk), Prussia, Fuenn’s contemporary Eli‘ezer Lipman Silberman (1819–1882) founded and edited the weekly Ha-Magid (The Announcer) in 1856. The German venue was intended to stave off problems with Russian censors, for Ha-Magid was intended primarily for the Russian market. Since Ha-Magid preceded Ha-Karmel, Silberman is considered by some to be the real founder of Hebrew journalism. In the 1880s, Ha-Magid was edited by his assistant David Gordon (1826–1886), who was active in Ḥibat Tsiyon and pushed the paper in that ideological direction. Ha-Magid was published in its last years in Berlin and Kraków; it ceased production in 1903.
More prestigious than Ha-Magid was Ha-Melits (The Interpreter), founded in 1860 in Odessa as a weekly by Aleksander Zederbaum, who edited it until his death in 1893 and was succeeded by Leon Rabinovich (1862–1938). Zederbaum, who also established Yiddish newspapers, intended Ha-Melits to mediate between the different sectors of the Jewish population and between Jews and the Russian government. It was probably for the latter reason that he took his paper from Odessa to Saint Petersburg in 1871. In 1886, Ha-Melits became a daily. It suffered from occasional repression by the censors, and had to cease publication in 1904 because the growing number of Yiddish and Russian Jewish publications limited the available audience for a Hebrew daily. Ha-Melits saw itself forced to become a daily to compete with Ha-Yom (The Day), the world’s first Hebrew newspaper of that type. Ha-Yom was published in Saint Petersburg for about two years (1886–1888); it was edited by the Hebrew and Yiddish writer Yehudah Leib Kantor (Yehude Leyb Kantor; 1849–1915). It is speculated that the exigencies of going to press nearly daily made Ha-Yom and its rivals develop a simple narrative Hebrew style to replace the rhetorical style that many writers adopted to display their knowledge of Hebrew classics.
Young men posing with cigarettes and a newspaper, Kolbuszowa (Kolbishev), a town in southeastern Poland, 1930. (Film commissioned by the town's landsmanshaft organizations in America: The Kolbuszower Relief Association and the Kolbuszower Young Men's Benevolent Society) (YIVO)
Warsaw, the capital of Congress Poland, produced the daily Hebrew Ha-Tsefirah during the same era as Ha-Magid and Ha-Melits. It was founded in 1862, suspended from 1863 to 1874, revived that year in Berlin, and returned in 1875 to Warsaw. Like Ha-Melits,Ha-Tsefirah felt compelled to change from a weekly to a daily paper in 1886. Its founder and first editor, Ḥayim Zelig Słonimski (1810–1904) was an astronomer whose first aim was to teach science to his readers, but after 1886 the publication concentrated on news. Its second editor, Naḥum Sokolow, developed the Hebrew feuilleton and exposed its readership to the Zionist movement. After publication was suspended during the war years, sporadic attempts were made to revive it in independent Poland.
The end of Ha-Tsefirah in 1931 also marked the end of the Hebrew daily newspaper everywhere except in the Land of Israel. The Hebrew–Yiddish journalist Bentsiyon Katz (1875–1958) attributed the demise of the Diaspora Hebrew press to the fact that women readers did not know Hebrew, while men were still able to read Yiddish. Katz noted that in 1905, when he published his own daily Ha-Zeman (The Time) in Vilna, the three Hebrew dailies of that time drew approximately 20,000 subscribers, considerably less than the Yiddish Der fraynd. By then, Ha-Melits had ceased to exist; the three remaining dailies were Ha-Zeman, Ha-Tsefirah, and the latter’s not particularly successful Warsaw competitor Ha-Tsofeh (The Observer), edited by Eli‘ezer Eliyahu Friedman (1857–1936) from 1903 to 1906. The lifting of press and other restrictions after the overthrow of the tsar in February 1917 gave renewed energy to Hebrew publishing. In Moscow, the Zionists founded a Hebrew daily, Ha-‘Am, in the summer of 1917, but the Bolsheviks stopped its production not long after.
In contrast to Soviet Russia, Poland’s situation enabled Hebrew to begin to flourish. However, various factors worked against the success of Hebrew publication. One factor was that the new literary center in the Land of Israel even attracted writers who were living abroad but who still considered it to be their spiritual home. The fact that the 3 million Jews of Poland could not maintain one Hebrew daily caused much comment at the time. New periodicals rarely produced more than a few issues. The most successful of these was Ba-Derekh, a Warsaw weekly that was issued from 1932 to 1937, claiming a circulation of 20,000. Its end signified the final chapter of Hebrew journalism in Poland.
Jewish Print Media in Other National Languages
The Jews of Bohemia and Moravia
(today the Czech Republic
) dropped Yiddish early on in favor of German (the official language of Austria-Hungary). During the twentieth century, growing numbers of Jews functioned in Czech. In Slovakia
, which until 1918 was a part of Hungary, Jews spoke Hungarian and German, as well as Yiddish. The Jewish press reflected this situation, as is illustrated by a prestigious historical yearbook that was printed in German between the wars; it was called Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für die Geschichte der Juden in der Čechoslovakischen Republik
(Yearbook of the Society for the History of the Jews in the Czechoslovak Republic) and was published in Prague
from 1929 to 1938. Another notable periodical, representing the integrationist Czech Jewish movement, was titled Českožidovské listy
(Czech Jewish Leaves); after its founding in 1894, it merged with another publication and changed its name to Rozvoj
(Progress) in 1907. The Zionist weekly Židovské zprávy
(Jewish News), founded in 1918, fought Rozvoj
’s ideology and both papers survived until the Nazi occupation in 1939. In German, the Zionist movement published the weekly Selbstwehr
(Self-Defense) from 1907 until 1938; it was edited in the interwar period by Felix Weltsch
(1884–1964). Each of these newspapers was published in Prague.
In the Moravian capital, Brno, the nonpartisan (Jewish People’s Voice) appeared from 1900 to 1939, and was edited by Max Hickl (1874–1924) and the historian Hugo Gold (1895–1974). In the Slovakian capital of Bratislava the weekly Jüdische Volkszeitung was written in German and contained a Slovak supplement, edited by Oskar Neumann. Many smaller groups and parties also had newspapers written in the languages of their regions. During the post-Holocaust period, the religious community of the restored republic continued the earlier established Vestník židovské nábozenské obce v Praze (Bulletin of the Jewish Religious Community in Prague; 1934–1990), which after 1953 was titled Vestník židovských nabozenských obci v Československu (Bulletin of the Jewish Religious Communities in Czechoslovakia).
The pioneer of Jewish journalism in Hungary was Leopold Löw
(1811–1875), a rabbi who was among the founders of liberal Judaism in that country and whose scholarly German-language monthly, Ben Chananja
(named in admiration of the tana’
Yehoshu‘a ben Ḥananyah), was published in Szeged from 1858 to 1867 to serve that cause. The Orthodox fought the Neologs (religious reformers) with a daily paper written in German with Hebrew characters: Allgemeine jüdische Zeitung
(General Jewish Newspaper), which appeared in Budapest
from 1888 until the end of the Habsburg Empire in 1918. In the secular field, a literary monthly called Múlt és Jövő
(Past and Present), was published, also in Budapest, from 1911 to approximately 1940, and was edited by József Patai
(1882–1953). A Hungarian journal, Magyar Zsidó Szemle
(Hungarian Jewish Review), published by the Budapest Rabbinical Seminary
, was produced from 1884 to 1948. Finally, under the Communist regime, Hungary saw the publication of Új Élet
(New Life; 1945–), the newspaper of the organized Jewish community, which had more Communist than Jewish content.
Poland (including Galicia).
In the mid-nineteenth century, Jewish periodicals were produced by assimilationists who tried to integrate Jews into the Polish environment, usually with little success. In the twentieth century, however, and especially between the wars, an increasing number of Polish Jews functioned in the Polish language, and a Jewish press in that language became a necessity.
Jews at a newsstand reading Jewish newspapers, Wrocław, 1947. The Polish–Yiddish poster on the right advertises a performance by comedians Shimon Dzigan and Yisroel Shumacher and singer Roza Rajska. (Associated Press; print courtesy YIVO)
An early example was the Warsaw weekly Jutrzenka (The Dawn), which was issued from 1861 to 1863 and was edited by Daniel Neufeld (1814–1874) with some contributions from non-Jews. Responding to waves of pro-Polish sentiment during the Polish rebellion, its publication ended when the rebellion was suppressed. Jutrzenka was followed by the more successful Izraelita (1866–1913), a weekly edited by Szmul Hirsz Peltyn (1831–1896) and after his death briefly by Naḥum Sokolow, at which time it temporarily took a Zionist stance.
The Polish-language Jewish press played an important role in restored Poland, especially in Galicia where Jews were more thoroughly assimilated. Editors competed successfully with the general Polish newspapers that Jews—especially Jewish women—were accustomed to read. Some of the more notable newspapers included Nowy Dziennik (New Daily), a Zionist newspaper printed in Kraków from 1919 through 1939 (though printed initially across the Czech border to escape Polish censorship); Chwila (Moment), also Zionist, published in Lwów between 1919 and 1939; and the best-known and most successful Polish Jewish daily, the nonpartisan Nasz Przegląd (Our Review), published in Warsaw under that name from 1923 through 1939 as a successor to earlier publications dating back to 1918.
In its expanded borders between the two world wars, Romania
(which included Transylvania
, and Bucovina
) produced Jewish newspapers and periodicals not solely in Yiddish and Romanian but in German and Hungarian as well. The earliest publication was a bilingual—Romanian and French—weekly called Israelitul român
(The Romanian Israelite); established in Bucharest
around 1855, it existed for no longer than a half year. As was true of much of the Jewish press in that country, it promoted the concept of Jewish emancipation. Most other early attempts were similarly unsuccessful. In 1890, however, Moses Schwarzfeld (1857–1943) founded probably the most important Romanian-language Jewish journal, the weekly Egalitatea
(Equality); it did not cease publication until 1940. With his brother Elias (1855–1915), he also edited the annual Anuar pentru Israeliți
(Annual for Israelites); 19 issues appeared between 1877 and 1898.
Lumina Israelită (Dos likht), Bucharest, 14 September 1901. The headline reads, “Congress about Jewish School Program.” (YIVO)
In the pre-1919 period, the Union of Native Jews advocated the integration of Jews into Romania; accordingly, this association produced a weekly organ called Curierul Israelit (The Israelite Courier) in Bucharest from 1906 to 1945, with an apparent interruption from some point in 1941 through September 1944. One contributor was the leader of the Romanian Jewish community, Wilhelm Filderman (1882–1963). The Zionist movement and its various parties promoted a number of periodicals in the central cities of interwar greater Romania; the most important example was the Bucharest weekly Renaşterea noastră (Our Renaissance), started in 1924 and lasting until 1941. Its first editor was Samuel I. Stern, and it was revived briefly in 1944.
In Communist Romania, the organized religious community published a trilingual periodical called Revista cultului mozaic din R.P.R. (Periodical of the Mosaic Religion in the Romanian People’s Republic; 1956–1991). In Yiddish it was named (with varying subtitles) Tsaytshrift funem religyezn yidntum fun der rumenisher folks-republik, and in Hebrew it was called Ketav-‘et shel ha-yahadut ha-datit be-republikah ha-‘amanit ha-romanit. Its editor, the chief rabbi of Romania Mozes Rosen (1912–1994), noted that the journal was the only Hebrew-language publication in the socialist world. In a strange paradox, in Romania (and elsewhere), the economic problems brought about by the collapse of communism caused the one Jewish periodical of the country to collapse as well.
Russia and the Soviet Union.
Russian-language periodicals began early, took different forms, and played an increasingly important part in the intellectual life of Russian-speaking Jews who were interested in preserving at least part of their Jewish heritage. Censorship
was a constant problem, despite the respite granted by the revolution of 1905 and the democratic revolution of 1917, as neither tsarist nor Communist authorities ever relaxed the practice. The situation since the breakup of the Soviet Union remains in flux.
The Russian Jewish press began in 1860 with the weekly Razsvet (Dawn), edited in Odessa by Osip Rabinovich (1817–1869), who was inspired by innovations emerging from the “Tsar-Liberator” Alexander II. Rabinovich compared the political changes to the light of creation. But various reasons—poor sales, censorship, anger of readers at the exposure of Jewish misdeeds—caused Razsvet to collapse in less than a year. It was replaced by Sion in 1861, but the new weekly had no better luck. In 1869, the number of people interested in a Russian Jewish newspaper had grown sufficiently to make the third attempt more of a success. This time the sponsor was the Odessa branch of the new Society for the Promotion of Culture among the Jews of Russia. Titled Den’ (The Day), the format of the new weekly was reminiscent of its two predecessors. But Den’ was more clearly in favor of integration into the larger society even as it attempted to preserve some of the traditions. One prominent participant, the jurist and historian Il’ia Orshanskii (1846–1875), envisioned religious communities modeled on the lifestyles of Jews in the West. The Odessa pogrom of 1871 was one of the factors that brought an end to Den’ that year. That same year, Aleksander Zederbaum tried without much success to add a Russian newspaper to his Hebrew Ha-Melits and Yiddish Kol mevaser. It was called Vestnik russkikh evreev (Messenger of the Russian Jews) and was published in Saint Petersburg from 1871 to 1873. It failed partly because Zederbaum, an accomplished Hebrew journalist, was not taken seriously as a Russian one.
Jewish colonists, residents of a collective farm in Stalindorf, a Jewish autonomous subdistrict of the Kherson region (now in Ukraine) reading Der emes, 1937. (YIVO)
Real success was achieved by the first Jewish replication of what Russians call “thick” journals (that is, with many pages). Titled Evreiskaia biblioteka (Jewish Library), it was edited by Adolph Landau (1841–1902) as an irregular literary and scholarly annual published off and on until 1880, with additional volumes published as late as 1902. After 1880, Landau devoted his energies to a monthly called Voskhod (Sunrise), which became the leading periodical of Russian Jewry and, despite frequent problems with censors, closed down only in 1906; Landau had given up the editorship in 1899. The most notable contributor to Voskhod was Simon Dubnow, the historian, publicist, and literary critic. Voskhod was also published in a weekly edition that filled the readership gap left by several failed newspapers, including the revived Razsvet in Saint Petersburg and its competitor Russkii evrei (The Russian Jew), both of which had stopped publishing by 1885, leaving the weekly Voskhod as Russia’s only Jewish newspaper.
The political turmoil in Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century, the growing Zionist movement, and the constantly expanding number of Jews whose main language was Russian caused an upsurge in the number of Russian-language Jewish periodicals. The fact that political parties became legal after 1905 had an influence, though many party journals existed for only brief periods. Before 1900, the primary stress on Jewish national awakening without a commitment to Zionism was maintained by a successor to Voskhod, a weekly called Novyi voskhod (New Voskhod), which was started in 1910 but was closed by the authorities in 1915. One of its editors was Maksim Vinaver (1862–1926), leader of the Evreiskaia Narodnaia Gruppa (Jewish People’s Group) that opposed the existence of Jewish political parties. Zionists produced the monthly Evreiskaia zhizn’ (Jewish Life) from 1904 to 1907, adding for much of this time a weekly supplement called Khronika evreiskoi zhizni (Chronicle of Jewish Life). In 1907, the Zionist movement founded a militant weekly called Razsvet, which was forced out of existence by the Russian censor in 1915. Its editor, Avraham Idelson (1865–1921), was also active in the field of Jewish education.
Soviet nationality policy did not allow Jewish periodicals to be printed in languages other than Yiddish. The only exception was the Moscow monthly Tribuna (Tribune; 1927–1937), the organ of OZET (Society for the Settlement of Jewish Toilers on the Land), which in effect served as a general Jewish newspaper for a time. In the 1980s, the dissident publication Leningradskii evreiskii al’manakh (Leningrad Jewish Almanac) appeared from 1982 to 1989 as a samizdat publication. In post-Soviet Russia and the Former Soviet Union, a number of not very stable local papers have appeared, bearing some similarity to the communal Jewish weeklies of the West. Those which have lasted from about 1990 include Moscow’s Mezhdunarodnaia evreiskaia gazeta (International Jewish Newspaper; published with varying frequency and general and Jewish reportage); Saint Petersburg’s Narod moi-ami (My People; bimonthly); Vilnius’s Litovskii Ierusalim (Lithuanian Jerusalem; monthly, with editions in Lithuanian, Yiddish, and English); and Kishinev’s Nash golos (Our Voice; irregular monthly).
Socialist and Revolutionary Periodicals
Masthead of the Varshoyer yudishe tsaytung, Warsaw, 24 March (5 April) 1867. (YIVO)
Tsarist Russia tolerated no political parties until 1905, and the unauthorized parties that aimed to overthrow the regime were particularly suspect. Socialists, anarchists, and those expressing similar ideas were not only illegal (as Zionists technically were, too) but also were part of the persecuted underground. Parties in Austria-Hungary had the freedom to organize but were under suspicion and faced censorship.
Jews were active in the Narodnaia Volia (People’s Will) Party in the 1870s and in the Marxist and non-Marxist socialist parties from the 1880s on. Many parties were not concerned with the problems of Jews or Jewish workers, but as time went on, an increasing number regarded Jewish workers as doubly oppressed. Consequently, specifically Jewish parties gained favor, and they created a literature to advocate their causes. The general parties, which usually fought against what they considered to be Jewish separatism, also published underground literature in Yiddish to appeal to Jewish workers who were literate only in that language.
While most of these publications were in Yiddish, some were in the languages prominent in the regions. The first two Jewish socialist periodicals were actually written in Hebrew so that they could influence yeshiva students. These were Ha-Emet (The Truth), edited by the radical Hebrew writer Aharon Shemu’el Lieberman (1843–1880) and printed in Vienna in 1877 for import into Russia. Its message encouraged its readers to abandon the ubiquitous national problem and deal instead with the problem of bread (that is, poverty in general). Only three issues appeared. It was followed by Asefat ḥakhamim (The Assembly of the Wise), edited by Morris Winchevsky (1856–1932) and printed in Königsberg in 1877–1878. These Hebrew-language monthlies left little impression and, from that point on (with the exception of the Tse‘ire Tsiyon party), Diaspora socialists abandoned Hebrew. The first socialist newspaper in Yiddish, by activists from the Narodnaia Volia party, was the Arbayter tsaytung (Workers’ Paper) of 1881; only one known issue was produced.
“Worker! Your newspaper is the Folks-tsaytung!” Polish/Yiddish poster. Artwork by H. Cyna. Printed by Blok, Warsaw, 1936. (YIVO)
The Bund, the Jewish socialist party and organization, was founded in 1897 and reached its high point as a legal party in interwar Poland. Many, if not most, of the Jewish socialist periodicals in the pre-1914 Russian Empire were produced by the Bund, largely in Yiddish but also in Russian and Polish. There existed an informal association with the Jewish Social Democratic Party of Galicia, popularly called the Galician Bund; the two groups merged when Poland was reunited. A similar group was formed in Romania, which called itself Lumina (Light). The main journals of the Bund were Di arbayter shtimme (The Workers Voice), irregular, 1897–1905; Der veker (The Alarm Clock) and Folks-tsaytung (People’s Paper), legal dailies, 1905–1907; and the Russian-language Poslednye izvestiia (Latest News), a weekly published abroad between 1901 and 1906. The main organ of the Jewish Social Democratic Party of Galicia was the Yiddish weekly Der sotsyal-demokrat, published in Kraków and later in Lwów (1905–1920), though not produced during World War I). The Romanian group published Lumina in the Romanian language in Iaşi between 1895 and 1897.
Disappointment with the Bund and Zionist sentiment caused a number of Jewish socialists to found parties that combined Zionism with socialism. They were loosely called Po‘ale Tsiyon (Workers of Zion), a name that became official for the faction led by Ber Borokhov (1881–1917), and the only party to survive in the long run. Another party, called Zionist Socialists, were actually socialist territorialists who emerged after the Uganda split in the Zionist movement. The smallest party called itself simply the Jewish Socialist Workers Party, but were called Sejmists because they believed that major questions should be settled by a Jewish sejm.
Borokhov’s Po‘ale Tsiyon Party produced the largest number of publications in the Socialist Zionist camp. In Russian, Evreiskaia rabochaia khronika (Jewish Labor Chronicle) was published in 1906 and included his party’s platform. It produced many periodicals in Yiddish, though these were short-lived due to persecution by the authorities; however, in the Austrian Empire its irregular Der yudisher arbayter (The Jewish Worker) began publication in 1903 and persisted until the end of 1925 in independent Poland. Po‘ale Tsiyon had periodicals in German, Czech, and Bulgarian as well.
“The Sukkah in Danger.” Di royte fon (The Red Flag), edited by Yoysef Tunkel, Warsaw, ca. September 1918. The cartoon depicts the leaders of Jewish political parties (some newly legalized) holding their respective party-oriented newspapers and arguing with each other. Meanwhile, they ignore the “counterrevolution” (pig) leaning against the shaky upright that holds up the roof of the flimsy postrevolutionary political structure (Sukkah). (YIVO)
The central organ of the Zionist Socialists was the weekly Der nayer veg (The New Way), published in Vilna from 1906 to 1907, when it was closed despite theoretical freedom of the press. At about the same time, also in Vilna, the Sejmists published their organ Folks-shtime (People’s Voice).
In Poland during the interwar period, Communist activity was illegal but socialism was tolerated, though the Bund suffered from occasional harassment. In addition to the daily Folks-tsaytung, which the Bund published from 1921 until World War II, the Po‘ale Tsiyon published a left-wing, Yiddish-oriented newspaper, Arbayter-tsaytung (Workers’ Paper) from 1918 to 1939, which changed from weekly to semiweekly and had among its participants the young historian Emanuel Ringelblum.
The Jewish press in Eastern Europe showed a progression from Hebrew to the once-despised Yiddish, which was much more widely known and thus had a much greater potential readership. Growing linguistic assimilation, the Holocaust, and Stalinist repression put an end to the Yiddish press by the end of the twentieth century with the exception of a few remnants, leaving only the newspapers in the local languages. The fact that most Jews in the area except those of Hungary saw themselves as a national minority made their press much more political than that of the Jews in Western countries.