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401 Wo asF7m MZ M
YEARS The First Page of the Very First Nu mber of the Forward, April 22, 1897.
JEWISH DAILY FORWARD
by J. C. Rich.
The Jewish Uany forward, a Beacon of Light That Dominates Its Surroundings.
The Dramatic Story of a unique Newspaper
and Its Publisher, the Forward Association
FEW NEWSPAPERS are as widely distributed as the Jewish
Daily Forward. Published in New York City, its newsstand
circulation is in the metropolitan area of New York and other
large cities. The mails carry it into every state in the Union, every
province of Canada, and beyond the North American continent
into every corner of the world. Early in its career, it attained the
largest circulation in the Yiddish newspaper field. Now 70 years
after its founding, it still leads in both circulation and influence.
Under violent attack from a variety of sources during all these
years, it has nevertheless maintained its hold on the minds and
hearts of its readers.
The regard in which the Forward is held, while unique, is a
phenomenon of significance in any general study of the life and
times of immigrants in the United States. For, paradoxical as it
may seem, the Jewish Daily Forward, a newspaper printed in a
foreign language, has always been an instrument in the Ameri-
canization of immigrants. In the publishing fraternity, it is recog-
nized as one of the great newspapers of the world. Among its
readers, it is cherished not only for its daily news coverage but
for the spiritual and cultural stimulation it provides.
From its very first day, the Forward has had its broadest
support among men and women with an idealistic concern for
moral and spiritual values. Its purpose to this day is the promotion
of these values. Although it is materially the most successful
newspaper in the Yiddish language, no one derives any mone-
tary profit from it. No individual owns the Forward or has a
corporate share in it. The ownership is vested in a voluntary
association of men and women, much like the corporate bodies
that administer colleges, hospitals and similar institutions. The
Forward Association, the titular owner, has some 100 members
at the present time, most of them trade-union members, all of
them supporting democratic socialism and concepts of a coopera-
tive brotherhood as a system of society. The Association is one
of the most democratically operated bodies imaginable. When
differences of opinion arise, as they often do, they are resolved
by the democratic process of debate, study and a vote. Whatever
the majority decides is the decision of the entire Association and
working staff of the paper.
The Forward has often had to run counter to prevailing
opinion. It has always had the hostility of its opponents to contend
with, but frequently it has also risked the wrath of some followers
by taking unpopular stands. The amazing fact is that it has been
so completely vindicated by time. History has already recorded
how correct was its stand against the Communist ideology. Its
contributions to social thinking, to the welfare of working people,
to the acceptance and integration of immigrant Jews in the
American community are achievements the historian of our era
will also have to record.
To those familiar with the origins of the Forward, the
vindication of its position is not altogether surprising. The
Forward came into being in a ferment of conflicting ideologies.
The concept that there are short cuts to Utopia is not a new one,
and 70 years ago it was as enticing to the heedless and unthinking
as it is today. Then as now, there were men who strove for
About the Author
A member of the Forward editorial staff since
1922, Jacob C. Rich is editor of the Hat Worker,
weekly newspaper of the United Hatters, Cap and
Millinery Workers International Union, and has
contributed to such national publications as the
Saturday Evening Post, The New Leader, Liberty
and the old American Mercury.
Russian-born, Rich arrived in' the United States
in 1907, went to school in Manchester, New Hamp-
shire; Newark, New Jersey, and Malden, Massa-
J. c. RICH chusetts. He attended Harvard on a scholarship
granted by the alumni of Malden High, but quit
.during the World War I hysteria. Attracted by socialism, he worked for
Yiddish- and English-language newspapers in the Cap and Millinery and Ladies
Garment Workers Unions. At the Forward he has served in various capacities,
including ten years as labor editor.
position and power. Then as now, there were men who thought
that the benefit of the many could be gained by the dictatorship
of the few. These men ridiculed reform, disdained democracy,
derided progress that was achieved by the slow methods of
education and enlightenment. To some of these men the ballot
was an unnecessary impediment on the road to.the ultimate goal,
the trade union only a palliative which diverted attention from
the cure-all they envisioned. These were the Anarchists of 70 years
ago. Others, in the Socialist camp, preached. unremitting hate as
the road to brotherhood. They condoned violence as an inevitable
concomitant of the "class struggle." They instituted dictatorship
within their own ranks as a means of emancipating mankind
from oppressive authority.
The men and women who held to these stultifying and self-
defeating notions and ideas were not necessarily selfish or
corrupt. Many of them were idealists with a great capacity for
self-sacrifice in behalf of the social concepts they held dear. That,
indeed, is what made them so dangerous-their readiness to
condone evil in order to achieve good, violence to achieve peace,
dictatorship to achieve equality. The spark that gave birth to the
Forward was a revolt against the dictatorial rule that had fastened
itself on the American Socialist movement in those early days.
The fire it lit, the torch of enlightenment through freedom and
democracy, carried it through many a dark day.
While combatting the willful, impatient and intolerant forces
within its own circle of thought, the Forward had to contend
with even greater opposition from outside. Few people today
have any conception of how potent and overwhelming these
hostile forces were. Not just the garment industry on New York's
East Side but all industry in the United States operated on a
sweatshop basis in those days. A basic industry like steel worked
around the clock and demanded twelve-hour shifts, seven days
a week, from its workers, paying wages barely sufficient to keep
them alive. Coal mining, metal mining, railroading were no less
harsh. The burgeoning trade unions of those days were suppressed
with a brutality inconceivable to the present generation. In addi-
tion to the normal poverty and insecurity of the industrial popu-
lation, recurrent economic depressions, called "crises" in those
days, brought an extra measure of misery. The improvements in
conditions of labor gained during periods of relative prosperity
were wiped out by prolonged unemployment during the periods
It was to this system of industrial feudalism that immigrants
with a variety of ethnic backgrounds came in the second half
of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th. The sweatshop
system in the apparel trades, which was concentrated in the big
cities, especially New York, bore most heavily on the Jewish
immigrants. If all American labor found the indignities and
poverty of industrial feudalism oppressive, Jewish immigrants
found them doubly so. They had been led to believe that America
was a land of freedom and prosperity. The gold was turned to
dross and the freedom to dust by the harsh realities of existence
in the new country.
One condition that prevailed in all big American cities
during this period was especially flagrant in New York. This was
political corruption and the degeneration of the municipal admi-
nistration to which it led. Present-day racketeering is lily-white
by comparison with the rampant criminality of those days.
Venality pervaded every office and service of the municipal
government. It made a mockery of the ballot and of the concept
of equality before the law.
This debasement of democracy ate into the vitals of the
social environment in which the Jewish immigrants lived. The
East Side became the red-light district of New York. Commercia-
lized vice flaunted its wares openly under the protection of police
and grafting magistrates. Prostitutes made their abode alongside
the tenement dwellings of decent families. Young girls, suffering
the poverty and drudgery of the sweatshop, became the special
prey of those who battened on the profits of vice. It was into this
stifling atmosphere that the Forward brought gusts of fresh air,
of aroused indignation.
The poverty of the people from whom it had to draw its
readers was not the only obstacle the Forward faced. Astonishing
70th Anniversary Jewish Daily Forward a "PViy1 Ngl,,
though it may seem to us, there was also a language barrier to
hurdle. The problem stemmed from two sources. For one thing,
the printed word of those days was couched in phraseology which
was beyond the ken of the ordinary Yiddish reader. The leading
lights of the radical community had a fondness for abstruseness
of thought and expression; both the subjects they treated and
their manner of exposition. were dry and sectarian. Even more
important, many of those to whom they addressed their message
had been deprived of a formal education in the old country. Some
had been schooled only in Jewish religious lore, and even this
had often been sketchy. Many had never read a newspaper in
the old country. They were not stupid people; indeed, having
uprooted familiar associations and struck out in a new land, they
tended to be the most alert and venturesome of their kind. But
they were handicapped by the lack of an elementary education,
of which they had been deprived by the economic and political
restrictions against Jews in their former homelands.
This, then, was the audience and this the social environment
of the Jewish Daily Forward in its early days-an audience
without an established reading faculty, an environment of utter
poverty, and a corrupt social and political milieu, torn asunder
by sectarian divisions among the intellectuals and opinion-makers
of the day.
The Forward possessed several assets that helped it overcome
these seemingly insuperable obstacles. One of them was the
idealism of its founders, their selfless devotion to the principles
of liberty. This will be referred to again and again in our story
of the Forward, for it is at the basis of all it has achieved. But no
introduction can ignore the tremendous contribution that was
made by one man. He was its first editor, and the stamp of his
genius is indelibly imprinted on every page of the Forward to this
day. Abraham Cahan is his name.
In the New World
T HE MASS MIGRATION of Jews from Europe to America
came in several waves. The first was that of the German
Jews. This was not really a specifically Jewish exodus; the
Jews joined in the general migration from Germany that followed
the political and economic repression after the revolt of 1848.
The native tongue of these Jews was German, not Yiddish. Many
of them settled in New York, but a large proportion established
homes in German communities outside of New York. They
brought with them an advanced culture and a lively interest in
Some 20 years later, Jews from Rumania, Hungary and
Austrian Galicia began arriving in large numbers. Economic
deprivation and discriminatory laws in the old country set this
migration afoot. The common language of the people was
Yiddish. In religion and custom, they were of a piece with the
Jews from the Russian Empire who soon followed them to
The migration of Russian Jews took place in two tidal waves,
each following a series of atrocities against Jews in the land of
their birth. The groundswell began in the summer of 1881,
reached its crest in 1882, and continued with mounting force for
the next ten years, when it spurted to new heights as a result
of new anti-Semitic restrictions.
At about the same time, from 1891 on, pogroms and
discriminatory legislation in Rumania set off new migrations of
Jews from that country. For protection, for companionship and
for purposes of demonstrative protest, groups of young emigrants
sometimes joined together to walk to points of embarkation in
distant cities, asking aid from Jewish communities along the way.
In Russia, the treatment of Jews did not improve with the
coming of the new century. A corrupt and incompetent govern-
ment found Jews a useful scapegoat for its own failures and
misdeeds, seeking to divert anger from themselves to the
Jews. Government agencies not only condoned but even incited
pogroms. The massacre in Kishinev in 1903 set off a wave of
pillaging and lynching throughout the Russian Pale. The Russo-
Japanese War and the abortive revolution of 1905 gave renewed
impetus to mass migration to the New World.
At the time the Forward came into being, poverty was the
common denominator of all the newly arrived Jews. The philan-
thropic agencies and social-service institutions that were to
develop later were as yet non-existent or embryonic. The German
Jews were disdainful of the hordes of poverty-stricken, unculti-
vated Yiddish immigrants from Eastern Europe, while the im-
migrants, in turn, were resentful of the patronizing air of the
German Yahudim. By and large, the immigrants were thrown
on their own resources to establish a life in their strange nei
As in all communities, there were some in the Jewish
immigrant population who assumed positions of leadership.
There were intellectuals among them and idealists imbued with
new concepts of justice and the proper organization of society.
They had rebelled against traditional authority in the old country,
and they felt that the New World should offer something better
than the sweatshop and the tenement for its people, something
better than boodling and grafting for its government.
The idea of a cooperative society held the strongest appeal
for the intellectual element among the immigrants. Indeed, some
had left well-to-do homes and promising careers not only to be
rid of despotic rule in Russia, but also to establish cooperative
communes in America and set an example of the good way of
life. One such group called itself the Am Olem ("Eternal People")
society. Abraham Cahan, who had left Russia because of his
participation in the revolutionary People's Will organization,
joined this group while en route to the United States, but he stayed
in New York while others went on to found a farm commune in
the Midwest. The enterprise broke down because of a lack of skills,
capital and material resources. A clash of personalities also
contributed to the failure, but the theory of a cooperative system
was intriguing and served as a source of inspiration to idealistic
young people among the immigrants.
Many of them fell under the spell of the radicals of that day.
Henry George, with his Single Tax, fired people's imagination
sufficiently to challenge the rule of Tammany Hall in an election
for Mayor of New York. On the East Side, the Anarchists and
Socialists both proclaimed the cooperative brotherhood of man
as their goal, each insisting that their own path was the best.
When the Yiddish-speaking immigrants arrived on the scene,
they found active Anarchist and Socialist organizations already
in existence among earlier arrivals, the Germans. The Jewish
immigrants formed affiliates of their own and conducted lecture
meetings, debates and various cultural programs.
Since the English language was unfamiliar to their audien-
ces, those engaged in these propaganda activities at first generally
resorted to Russian, which was considered a worldly and culti-
vated tongue while Yiddish was a mere patois unsuitable for in-
tellectual pursuits. Abraham Cahan, who had a good command of
Russian and quickly mastered English as well, was the first to de-
liver Socialist lectures in Yiddish. A few years later, there was a
sufficient following among the Yiddish-speaking immigrants to
.establish a .branch of the Socialist Labor -party then active in the
70th Anniversary Jewish Daily Forward *
United States. The party was largely dominated at the time by
the German Socialists, who had their own newspaper, the New
The disputes between Anarchists and Socialists were heated
and extensive. They created divisions and antagonisms that
carried over into such non-ideological arenas as the trade unions.
In the decade before the founding of the Forward, numerous
attempts had been made to establish unions among the Jewish
immigrants, most of which came to naught. In the polemics be-
tween Anarchists and Socialists, the Anarchists always held
that trade unions were mere palliatives, reformist in character,
and not truly revolutionary as the time demanded. In practice,
however, they learned to support the unions to the best of their
ability, resolving the inconsistency between theory and practice
as well as they could.
Abraham Cahan in his autobiography recalls that at first
the Anarchists were the dominant ideological group among the
Jewish immigrants. He himself had originally been inclined to
side with them. He relates, however, that he quickly realized
the preposterous illogic of calling for revolution in a land where
political freedom already prevailed and the vote was available
to anyone wishing to exercise it. He turned to socialism and, with
characteristic intensity, became one of its foremost spokesmen
in the Jewish community.
As the Yiddish-speaking community grew, both the Anar-
chists and the Socialists recognized the need of a publication
to expound their views. Neither faction possessed the means to
run a periodical of their own. The Anarchist group proposed a
fusion of forces with an ingenious arrangement whereby two
editors would be appointed to present the views of both sides
"impartially." Nothing came of this proposal, for the convention
at which the publication was to be launched wound up in worse
disagreement than it began. This may have been the first
unitedd front" attempt in recorded radical history. It broke down
before it was consummated because of the obvious ideological
incompatibility of the Socialists and Anarchists.
After the two went their separate ways, the Socialist par-
tisans organized a publishing society which by dint of nickel
and dime collections managed to raise enough money to start a
Yiddish weekly, the Arbeiter Zeitung ("Labor Journal"), in
1890. Their periodical was significant on several accounts. Its
most prolific contributor was Abraham Cahan, who was later
to revolutionize Yiddish journalism by his innovations. A number
of other contributors were later to make their mark as writers for
the Forward or as leaders of the Socialist movement. The
business manager of the Arbeiter Zeitung was a young man by
the name of Morris Hilkowitz, who as Morris Hillquit was to
become a brilliant lawyer and Socialist spokesman. Cahan became
editor in time, and under his direction the weekly sketched in the
outlines of the concepts of social and political justice that were
later developed in depth and breadth in the Forward. The Art-
beiter Zeitung was also to become the vehicle for clashes of
opinion and personality that eventually brought the Jewish Daily
Forward into being.
These differences revolved around the person of one leader,
Daniel De Leon, head of the Socialist Labor party, who imposed
policies and tactics that became intolerable in the Socialist com-
munity. Eventually, the democratic-minded spirits in the move-
ment were forced to disown him and his tactics. The difference
between De Leon and the founders of the Forward was so basic
and casts such light on the entire history of the Forward that
it deserves elucidation.
A Dedicated Autocrat
THE PASSAGE of time has dulled the edge of the conflicts
that engaged Socialists in the days before the Forward was
founded. To anyone familiar with the ideological ferment
that stirred the immigrant Jewish community, the disputes,
cleavages and clamorous demarches of those early days will seem
incomprehensible. Yet, they were precursors of the clash of
ideologies that holds the world in turmoil today. On a reduced
scale, they are startlingly similar to the contest between dictator-
ship and democracy that the Communists were later to set in
For an understanding of the events that led to the estab-
lishment of the Forward, one must take into account not only
the personality of the protagonists in these early conflicts but
also the convictions of their followers. Already a social climate
favorable to radical ideas had been established. Revolt against
political autocracy abroad found its counterpart in revulsion
against economic oppression in this country. The binding for-
malism of religious tradition was broken, and the intensity of
emotion associated with religious faith was being transferred to
a belief in new concepts of justice and human welfare. The
fanaticism released from religious confines sometimes found
a repository in agnostic bigotry and intolerance. For a consider-
able time, extremists held full sway in the radical community
among the Jewish immigrants. The intellectuals who preached
moderation and democratic methods found the tide running
One of the most brilliant and certainly the most malevolent
bigot among the radicals of the day was Daniel De Leon. A
native of Curacao, the son of a wealthy family, he had come
to New York to do graduate work at Columbia University. He
was attracted to the Single Tax movement of Henry George and
from there moved by rapid stages into Socialist activity. A man
of considerable charm, forceful in speech and manner, endowed
with academic learning and worldly knowledge, his presence in
the Socialist Labor party flattered the immigrants who composed
the bulk of its membership. Excesses that would have been con-
demned in others were overlooked or condoned in him. De Leon
could not brook criticism or opposition. Unlike the Anarchists,
he believed in political activity and trade-unionism, but only as
a means to the desired end of a socialist society. He was impatient
of reform measures, regarding them as compromises that impeded
the attainment of immediate salvation. Similarly, a trade union
that was not Socialist in composition and subservient to his
direction was of no use to him, and he would have no compunc-
tion about destroying it, even if his followers had to act as strike-
During the period of the Arbeiter Zeitung, De Leon's major
undertaking was the capture of the trade unions, which were
then in the process of growth and consolidation. The Knights
of Labor were already on the decline, but a number of the early
Jewish unions were still affiliated with it. De Leon, who had
tried to infiltrate the burgeoning American Federation of Labor
and was thwarted by Samuel Gompers, cast his lot with the
Knights. When his attempt to capture control of its national
office was defeated in 1893, he set about creating a separate
labor federation, the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance, in op-
position to both the Knights and the AFL.
At the same time, with the influx of Jewish immigrants
that followed the pogroms of 1891, the audience for Yiddish
publications was growing steadily. The conservative press had
hitherto had the run of the field, first with the weekly Gazetten
and then with the daily Tageblatt. Orthodox in religion and
standpat conservative in all social matters, the Tageblatt failed
to grasp the new spirit of the times. It regarded the Socialists
and other radicals as interlopers and "troublemakers." Long the
only Yiddish daily, the Tageblatt was a potent force against the
S(moO corner jushzcei- ILW-WUJ
Our pioneer unionists were largely young folks. This group organized a
May Day demonstration in style. They ordered special caps, dressed to kill
.the dames, and hired a genuine, first class carriage. Somebody flunked
in spelling, however.
70th Anniversary -Jewish Daily Forward "V.Ia1 N ,,I
more radical immigrant publications, particularly since the radical
opposition was itself divided in warring camps.
At length, the Arbeiter Zeitung Publishing Association
started to gather funds to establish a Yiddish daily under the
auspices of De Leon's Socialist Labor party. Named the Ovend
Blatt ("Evening Journal"), it made its first appearance on Oc-
tober 14, 1894. Abraham Cahan would have been the natural
choice for editor; indeed, he was approached to accept the office.
But he was so embittered by De Leon's tactics that he declined,
and the editorship then went to Philip Krantz.
Not only Cahan was disturbed by the De Leon influence.
So was Krantz, a gentle soul with a bent for academic learning,
but hardly suited for the editorial craft. Krantz had established
a reputation for himself in London as a writer on Socialist theory
and was encouraged to come to the United States to edit the
Arbeiter Zeitung when it first appeared. Now he was entrusted
with publication of the first Socialist daily in the Yiddish language,
a post for which he was hopelessly unsuited. Most prominent of
those in the Publishing Association who supported Cahan were
the lawyer Louis Miller; Michael Zametkin, a gifted orator and
lecturer; Morris Winchevsky, a poet and writer of considerable
talent who published Der Emess ("The Truth"), a Socialist
Yiddish periodical in Boston; and Benjamin Feigenbaum, a man
of great learning in traditional Hebrew lore who turned agnostic
Despite limited financial resources, both the weekly Arbeiter
Zeitung and the daily Ovend Blatt continued to be issued by the
Publishing Association. Krantz was editor of the daily and Cahan
of the weekly. In addition, there was a monthly publication, Die
Zukunft ('"The Future"), devoted to weightier literary and
theoretical subjects. This, too, was edited by Cahan as a sort of
extra-curricular activity, but was published by a separate group.
The internal bickering and divisions in the Publishing Asso-
ciation came to a head at a Jewish Socialist party conference in
Webster Hall, Manhattan, which ran from December 28, 1895
to January 1, 1896. Feigenbaum took the lead in attacking the
"clique," as the ruling group in the Association was called by
its enemies. Cahan attended the sessions as a passive observer,
for he felt there was no hope of reform within the Socialist Labor
party so long as De Leon continued to dominate it.
Several German party members who attended the con-
ference interceded in behalf of peace. They contended that De
Leon was eager for a settlement and suggested that the entire
matter be submitted to a party court of honor for arbitration.
Cahan at first derided this as pointless, since De Leon would
dominate the court as he did every other instrument of the party.
but he finally acceded. At the end of six months, the decision
of the party court was that Cahan and Krantz should remain in
their respective positions, the Boston Emess should cease pub-
lication, and Winchevsky should be added to the editorial staff
of the Ovend Blatt.
Cahan immediately resigned as editor of the Arbeiter
Zeitung, but continued his association with the Zukunft, whose
publishing group, the Presse Verein, was largely in agreement
with the opposition to De Leon. He had already made several
ventures in English journalism, and the summer of 1895 saw
the publication of his first novel in English, Yekl. He planned
to devote himself completely to English writing and was en-
couraged in that direction by the warm support and guidance of
William Dean Howells.
In the meantime, things went from bad to worse in the
Socialist Labor party. De Leon became more dictatorial than
ever, reviling all who would not submit to his direction. "Labor
faker" was one of his mildest epithets, and in one burst of elo-
quence he characterized the struggling American Federation of
Labor as a "cross between a wind-bag and a rope of sand; it has
no cohesion, vitality or vigor... it is deader that the dead...
Samuel Gompers ... is an entrapped swindler." Inside the party,
De Leon was equally unrestrained in abusing anyone in his dis-
favor. Cahan, with whom he hesitated to tangle directly, was
one of the few exceptions.
Vain, shallow, given, to childish trickery and tantrums,
De Leon honestly felt that his ideas made sense. In later life,
Cahan said of him that he was a Bolshevik before there were
Bolsheviks, a Leninist before Lenin. Indeed, the American Com-
munist, Robert Minor, on his return from a trip to Moscow in
1919, wrote that Lenin had told him that De Leon was the first
to formulate the idea of a Soviet system and that he, Lenin, had
built on it. Others reported that Lenin had obtained De Leon's
writings from a member of the Socialist Labor party who re-
turned to Russia and had been greatly impressed with the
Tinged with economic fallacies, which even the most ritu-
alistic of Marxists might have considered absurd, his observa-
(Photo from te Leon Stein collection)
A GRUESOME SIGHT.-These young working people, shaken by
what they saw, had just come out of the morgue where they tried
to recognize victims of the Triangle Waist Company fire, March, 1913.
tions on the structure of society and the social Elysium he
envisioned seem ludicrously manic by present-day judgments.
A cultivated and sophisticated mind would even then have been
abashed by such puerilities of thought and cliches of argument
as De Leon offered for profound wisdom and expert sociology.
Yet in those early days at the waning of the Nineteenth and the
dawning of the Twentieth century, at a time of dreadful hardship
and disorientation among the Jewish immigrant young people
on the East Side, De Leon's harangues at the prevailing order
made sense. As late as 1907, a year of pandemic unemployment
and catastrophic economic "crisis" in the United States, De Leon
offered the following gem of philosophy in the publication of
the Socialist Labor party:
"... The moneys which workingmen deposit either
directly in the banks or which are taxed as dues out of their
hides by the labor fakers and placed in the banks ... become
to a not unappreciable extent the funds from which the
capitalists raise the loans, with which they purchase the
machines, with which they knock out the workers and then
reduce their wages....
Thus to De Leon, workers had hides and not skin. Union
leaders who in those days frequently had to forego minimal sal-
aries because of a lack of union funds were accorded the appella-
tion of "labor fakers." How they managed to divert barely
existent union funds into the hands of the capitalist- bankers is
a mystery that De Leon didn't deign to resolve. It was clear from
his lesson in elementary economics that one must never deposit
money in a bank. Keep the money in a pickle jar or hide it
under the mattress, but never let the capitalist bankers have
access to it, for they might buy machinery with it, a form of
automation which was suspect then as now among workers
fearful of displacement and loss of jobs.
The vanity, vindictiveness and childish trickery of the man
is illustrated with the following episode: One of the comrades
in a branch of the Socialist Labor party had incurred De Leon's
wrath and De Leon proceeded to drum him out of the party.
The charge he raised against the poor fellow was an astounding
one. He said that the accused comrade had misused party money.
This was a serious charge and was even more amazing in that
the accused was known as a particularly devoted, meek and self-
sacrificing member of the party, who willingly offered all his
spare time and every bit of money he possessed for the movement.
What really happened was that this poor man had inadvertently
omitted De Leon's name from an announcement of a forthcoming
party picnic. To De Leon this was an unforgivable offense.
When finally the victim obtained a hearing before a trial court
of the party, De Leon abused the man with vehement vitupera-
tion and then produced his "evidence." It ran as follows: The
party had hired a hall for a public forum. The rent cost six dollars.
The meeting lasted two hours. The accused spoke twenty minutes,
but said nothing relevant. Therefore he wasted the party's money
to the extent of at least one dollar. Wasn't he thereby guilty
of misusing party funds?
In the Jewish immigrant community, De Leon's tactics
caused dismay even among his adherents. His opponents were
outraged to almost hysterical indignation. Some of the branches
of the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance refused to obey direc-
70th Annlversary Jewish Daily Forward "IV1Ylnt.0,
tions to engage in atrikubreaking, whereupon he promptly dis-
banded them and tried to organize new ones. As long as he
headed the Socialist Labor party, all the members had to bear
the ignominy of his strikebreaking tactics. The Ovend Blatt
nevertheless supported his policies, dominated as it was by
The final break came at a meeting of the Publishing Asso-
ciation at which its administrative body was to be elected for
the next year. Both the "opposition" and the ruling "clique"
had girded for combat in advance. The meeting took place
January 7, 1897, and although the oppositionists arrived early
they found it already in progress. The oppositionists charged that
the secretary of the Association had failed to record candidates
for membership, and on arrival at the meeting these were dis-
qualified. A series of parliamentary maneuvers followed, with
the resut that the De Leonite "clique" was recorded as having
won by 50 votes to 48.
Fifty-two dissidents thereupon left the assembly and met in
a hall, where they organized a group they named the Press
Federation. At a meeting that lasted through to the dawn of
January 8, they set in motion the process that was to culminate
in the establishment of the Jewish Daily Forward.
None of the 52 realized then how fateful their decision was
More Than Money
AS SYMBOLIC as anything in the 70-year history of the
Forward were the events that followed the break with
De Leon and the decision to establish a new daily paper.
A newspaper was not a commercial venture to these people;
they knew from experience that a Socialist publication entailed
sacrifice of both labor and money. While, as in all human efforts,
personal strivings played a part with the founders of the Forward,
basically it was their idealism, their transcendent concern with
the good of the many, that moved them to the task they now
From the first, virtually all the Jewish trade unions sided
with the newly organized Press Federation. So did several of
the social and cultural organizations of the immigrant community.
Their support was of great moral but little financial value. Neither
the unions nor the social organizations of those days had money
to donate. Without exception, they were in need of outside
support, and they could obtain it only from the very sources to
which the Press Federation now appealed for aid.
De Leon showed considerable ingenuity in counter-attacking.
He moved to proclaim the Ovend Blatt an official organ of the
Socialist Labor party. Since all dissidents of the Press Federation
were members of the SLP, they could not in good conscience
attack its official Yiddish organ. But the Press Federation re--
sorted to a stratagem of its own. It formed "press clubs" among
the branches of the party which opposed De Leon. The press
clubs, as supposedly separate entities, were able to castigate the
official organ, which the branches could not do. Members would
assemble and conduct routine party branch business. When this.
was completed, they would adjourn and resume the meeting as
a press club. There the sins of the Ovend Blatt were recounted,
resolutions adopted, and steps taken to raise money for the new
paper. Outwitting the wily De Leon added an amusing fillip to
the task of promoting the new undertaking.
The public response to the appeals of the Press Federation
was by the standards of those days a substantial one. Mass meet-
ings were arranged at which leading lights of the Federation
condemned the sins of the De Leonite stalwarts and outlined
the objectives of the new paper. A committee, often the speakers
themselves, then passed the hat among the audience. In addition
to silver coins, one-, five- and ten-dollar bills were dropped in.
Since ten dollars was a week's wage for many of the workers
and five dollars represented a week's food and lodging, these
donations entailed considerable sacrifice. The vagaries of sea-
sonal employment sometimes brought workers to these meetings
whose meal had been only a scrap of bread, who had walked
miles to save a nickel's carfare. They willingly parted with the
money they had denied themselves, and when they lacked money
they dropped wedding rings, watches and other jewelry into the
hats. Some even pawned overcoats or Sunday suits in order
to contribute to the cause.
Surcharged with this emotional power, the crusade for a
democratically operated organ of Socialist thought advanced
rapidly. By the end of January, 1897, the Press Federation was
able to call a convention of unions, press clubs and Socialist
societies to perfect plans for the newspaper. The convention met
January 30 and 31 at a place called Valhalla Hall on Orchard
Street, New York; it attracted delegations from 23 organizations
in New York and such other cities as Philadelphia, Baltimore,
New Haven and Hartford. After two days and two nights-
of sessions, the delegates' adopted resolutions to hold "the ban-
ner of the international class struggle aloft" and to work with
all their strength for the Socialist Labor party, the very party
whose leader was working with all his strength to disbar them.
They also demanded that the Ovend Blatt Publishing Association
transfer the paper to representatives of unions and Socialist or-
ganizations-a demand which was, of course, contemptuously
rejected by the Ovend Blatt's De Leonite sponsors.
It was at this convention that a name was chosen for the
prospective paper. Louis Miller proposed that it be called For-
werts, a word not altogether idiomatic in workaday" Yiddish.
When he explained that the most successful Socialist paper in
the world was the Vorwaerts of Berlin, the convention unani-
mously adopted the name. It also decided one more thing: It
unanimously elected Abraham Cahan as editor of the new paper.
The months that followed the Press Federation convention
were occupied with fund-raising activities and the physical prep-
arations necessary for publication of the paper. But one obstacle
to success had nothing to do with money. It was a language
difficulty and concerned the special handicaps suffered by the
Yiddish-speaking audience to which the new Yiddish paper was
to address itself.
The Language & the People
Y IDDISH, the language in which the Forward is printed, is
both an old and young language. It is old in the sense that
specimens of the printed word in Yiddish survive that are
as old as the craft of printing. As a language of literary expression
and cultural wealth, however, it is only a little over a hundred
years old. The Forward made a direct contribution to the enrich-
ment of the language, not only through its wide acceptance
among people for whom Yiddish is the mother tongue, but also
by its effort to publish the best of Yiddish literature. Virtually
every Yiddish writer of note has had his work published in the
Forward. Often, he developed his talents as a salaried member
of the editorial department. The paper thus provided both the
audience and the means for the development of a literary heritage
The paradox of relative youth in a centuries-old language
may not be understood by those unfamiliar with the tongue. It
is as if Chaucerian English had stood still for centuries until
finally a Thomas Hood, a Byron, a Charles Dickens, Somerset
Maugham, Mark Twain and Stephen Crane had appeared on the
scene together. Yiddish is, of course, a Germanic tongue, much
as Italian or Spanish is a Latin tongue. It is closer to the modern
German than such obviously Teutonic derivatives as the Scan--
dinavian languages and Dutch. Curiously, in Germany itself
Yiddish had disappeared as a separate entity and even as a vul-
gate long before Hitler, but it persisted in lands with Slavic and
other tongues and flourished in this country with the arrival of
immigrants from those lands.
The use of the Hebrew alphabet for a language completely
different from the Semitic tongues is understandable. For cen-
turies, a religious education had been the only one available
to young Jews. They found refuge from a hostile world in the
Holy Book, in Talmudic commentary, in prayer and psalms, all
couched in ancient Hebrew or its close relative, Aramaic. While
Hebrew was the tongue of the prayer book and scholastic training.
Yiddish was the spoken language of the Jews of Eastern Europe.
The. written language made an interesting accommodation of the
two by using Hebrew characters to put the spoken Yiddish on
paper. The appearance of modern Yiddish can be dated from
1856, when the first popular work in. Yiddish, a story by Isaac
Meir Dick, was published in Warsaw. The same author sub-
sequently published hundreds of tales, all of them naive in struc-
ture and simple in moral precept but surprisingly rich in the
flavorful idiom of the people.
Thus, when the Forward was founded, Yiddish was the
universal spoken language among the Jews streaming into the
United States from Eastern Europe but had an uncertain exist-
ence as a written tongue. Many of the immigrants had not yet
acquired the habit of reading. Most had never seen a newspaper
in their own language in the old country. The women in par-
ticular had difficulty with the printed word, for there was no
requirement among Jews to teach girls even the elementary
70th Anniversary Jewish Daily Forward "yVV1l111l,,
knowledge needed to read the prayer book. Since a visual famili-
arity with the Hebrew alphabet was required -to read Yiddish,
a substantial portion of the potential reading public of a Yiddish
newspaper was in no position to read it. That they did learn to
read it, that they developed a need for and an attachment to the
Forward, is testimony to the latter's enormous cultural impact
among the immigrant Jews of the United States and Canada. ;;
If the cultural background of the Forward's potential
audience was so unpromising, their economic condition was even
worse. Persecution, discrimination and deprivation had been the
immigrant's lot. In the Russian Empire, Jews were driven out
of the villages and forbidden to buy farm land; thus, agricultural
pursuits were closed to them in a country whose economy was
almost exclusively agricultural. Restricted as they were to a few
provinces in western Russia, their mercantile endeavors were
also severely handicapped. About all that were left as sources of
livelihood were handicrafts and small barter and trade. Most of
the population in ghettoized Russia possessed no work skills
whatever. Emigration offered the only way out.
On their arrival in this country, the immigrants found them-
selves without resources, without a home, without a craft by
which to earn their living. This was particularly true in the
early days, when the immigrants as yet had no relatives here
to whom they could turn. Poverty was the common lot of thesee
newcomers, but even worse was the loneliness. Uprooted from
the old home, deprived of the company of family and friends,
they suffered from a homesickness as agonizing as any physical
pain. Long hours of toil were an anodyne; activity in radical
movements for the betterment of society left no time for intro-
spection. Night schools offered an opportunity for education;
lectures and concerts, for self-improvement. And the Yiddish
paper supplied reading material in the mother tongue, keeping
one informed on current events and opening new horizons of
culture and knowledge.
The apparel trades attracted most of the new arrivals in New
York and a number of other big cities. As already noted, the
garment factories were a long succession of atrocious sweatshops.
The hours were long, the earnings low, the conditions of em-
And yet, it must not be supposed that life on the East Side
was all darkness and despair. Most of those who immigrated
here each year by the tens of thousands were young people.
Poverty was no novelty to them. At least here there was hope
for the future. The hours were long and the work toilsome, but
what you earned was your own. You could acquire the skills
and dignity of a craftsman. There were schools to prepare you
for college admission. You could become a doctor, a lawyer, an
engineer if this was your ambition. You could save enough to
bring your family over and furnish a new home-all on easy
payments. Then the gnawing loneliness would no longer tear
at your vitals; you would be a man among men, and your chil-
dren would enjoy the blessings of this new, strange and wonder-
fully contradictory country.
Young, robust, high-spirited, fun-loving, and thirsting for
culture and education-this was the audience to which the
Forward was to direct itself. How it anticipated their needs and
met their wants, how it led them toward achievement and fulfill-
ment, is the story of the Forward as it is the story of the in-
tegration of immigrant Jews on the American continent.
The Formative Years
T HE Jewish Daily Forward, at present housed in an imposing
edifice on the lower East Side of Manhattan, had humble
beginnigs. It occupied such premises as limited means per-
mitted-at first a basement, somewhat brighter quarters a year
or so later, then a down-at-the-heels store front, and finally the
The paper's mechanical equipment matched its living
quarters. At present, it has the very latest in composition, stereo-
type and printing machinery, but when the Forward began, its
entire equipment consisted of several cases of type and the
chases into which to lock the forms. After the columns had been
laboriously set by hand and locked into page forms, they were
carried by hand or by hired dray wagon to a commercial printer
--one who charged little and didn't demand prompt payment.
The first number of the Forward appeared on April 22,
1897. With the exception of issues missed because of production
difficulties, it has appeared regularly ever since.
This is no small achievement by any standard, and it is
almost miraculous when one considers the pitifully meager
capital with which it began. In the same period, contemporaries
in the English language field with almost limitless financial re-
sources have disappeared from the scene. In the Yiddish field,
the mortality rate has been proportionately even higher. With
the field more limited than among English-language papers, the
competition has' been much keener. Moreover, several papers
were founded for the express purpose of destroying the Forward,
maintaining a constant barrage from both right and left. The
Forward surmounted all these attacks and survived most of its
detractors. It outlasted even its colleagues in the Socialist field,
although their basic appeal was to the same sentiments and the
same ideology. The New York Call, for example, had an in-
finitely larger potential audience to draw on and yet did not
In the beginning, there seemed to be no prospect of material
success. Since the Forward had no press of its own, it was forced
to employ a commercial printer. The latter was located near the
Brooklyn Bridge, and it was necessary to set type and make up
forms as close by as possible. The editorial rooms, of course,
had to be as close as possible to the composing room. However,
the center of Jewish activity was more than a mnile away on the
lower East Side, and the Forward offices also needed to be close
to the center of potential circulation. The management met these
difficulties with various compromises. The first business office
was located in a store facing the site of the present Forward
Building on Rutgers Square. The editorial and composing rooms
were in a rented loft on Duane Street. The loft was partitioned
off with rough lumber into three rooms: one for the typesetters
and makeup men, another for the editorial staff, and a third for
the editor and an assistant.
The man who joined Cahan in the first editorial sanctum,
a narrow chamber in which two desks hardly left room to pass,
was Jacob Gordin. Gordin had already written several plays
when he joined the Forward, and he was to become the most
successful playwright of the Yiddish stage. On the Forward, he
wrote columns, fictional sketches and other features. Miller,
Zametkin and Winchevsky were regular contributors who wrote
at home. So was Dr. A. Caspe, who wrote popular science. The
editor himself was the paper's most prolific contributor. Shortly
after the founding, a talented arrival from Russia, Abraham
(Walt) Liessin, joined the staff and made his mark with editorials
and poetry. Mrs. Cahan helped with an occasional translation
from the Russian.
Yiddish newspapers follow the Continental style and lean
heavily on magazine features for their reading matter. The news
content is important, of course, but the main attraction has
always been the feature articles, short fiction, serialized novels
and similar material. In effect, the editor must provide a daily
magazine in the paper. This trend is now being followed by many
American evening papers with their multiplicity of columns,
woman's pages, and other entertainment features.
Cahan's special gift lay in creating a magazine of wide
reader appeal in a newspaper dedicated to essentially sectarian
propaganda. His constant injunction to contributors was to make
their writing simple, lucid and understandable to the readers.
He introduced "light" reading matter, involving human-interest
subjects from shop and home. Above all, he put a ban on party
polemics, the disputes and quarrels so dear to the hearts of his
colleagues. He insisted that these intramural fights were of no
real interest to the general reader and would eventually alienate
him; the best reply to the outlandish attacks on the Forward in
the Ovend Blatt was to ignore them, he said.
Few of the writers and active members of the Forward
publishing association accepted Cahan's point of view at the time.
Winchevsky wrote invective after invective against the De
Leonites and was indignant when the editor blue-penciled them.
Miller felt that Cahan was too "Jewish," too prone to nationalism
in that he wrote with respectful restraint of the religious faith
of pious Jews. Cahan was criticized for devoting space to "light"
articles when life was so sad and earnest. The volunteer sup-
porters of the Forward argued that they did not scrape up pennies
in order to publish '"foolishness" about some shop girl's frust-
rated romance with a foreman. Most of all, they were indignant
that Cahan refused to fight back when De Leonites ridiculed the
Forward in their paper.
To aggravate matters, De Leon now moved to avenge the
slight to his authority. He instituted charges of disloyalty against
nine leaders of the dissident group and demanded that they be
ousted from the party. At the time, founders of the Forward
were still fully qualified members of the Socialist Labor party
even though at odds with its head. A move to excommunicate
a member had to be approved by the central body of the SLP,
consisting of representatives of the various city branches. The
70th Anniversary Jewish Daily Forward d "P Y1111 ,,
. . . . . . . ... I . ...... . ... . . . . .
branches refused to accept De Leon's dictate, whereupon he pro-
ceeded to "reorganize" them. Some 300 members were thus
"reorganized" out of the party.
To Cahan, the task of editing the new paper under such
conditions was an agonizing ordeal. Before accepting the post,
he had already scored considerable success in the English-language
field. His novel Yekl, while not a financial success, had estab-
lished his reputation as a writer. Leading literary magazines
readily accepted his short stories and asked for more. It was
only out of concern for the Socialist cause and regard for his
comrades in the fight against De Leon that he had consented to
become editor of the Forward. Now he was being nagged and
harassed by his own friends and associates to pursue tactics he
knew would injure the paper. After eight months of struggle,
he resigned his post.
Nearly five years were to pass before Cahan was persuaded
to return to the paper. In the interim, he served an apprenticeship
in journalism on English-language newspapers. When the grind
of daily newspapering palled on him, he turned once again to
creative literary work. The experience and maturity he acquired
in those years were to serve the Forward well.
Cahan's absence nearly proved fatal to the Forward. Despite
the fact that immigration brought thousands of potential new
readers every month, circulation was stagnating. The paper lived
from hand to mouth, staving off disaster by last-minute appeals
to supporters. The editorship was filled by a variety of men,
none of them with much authority.
Several strokes of fortune did favor the paper, however.
Shortly after its sponsors had been excommunicated by De Leon,
a new light from the West appeared in Socialist circles. Eugene
Victor Debs had organized a movement he called the Social
Democracy of America. The Forward adherents expelled from
the SLP now flocked to the new group. The latter had its faults,
to be sure. Debs believed that utopian, communal colonies would
set an example of the Socialist way of life, whereupon everyone
would accept it. He also believed that, if the owners of great
wealth knew the evils perpetrated in their behalf, they would
set about correcting injustices. He even wrote a long letter to
John D. Rockefeller, urging him to embrace socialist concepts.
To the disillusioned SLP members all this was quite naive. The
Debs organization had the advantage, however, that it was of
American origin. For the Forward backers who had been de-
prived of their party home, it was a welcome refuge. They
embraced it, joined it and became its most active sponsors in
the East. Later, the loosely organized Social Democracy of
America, with its utopians and faddists, was converted into the
Social Democratic party, a political party with a definite form
and well articulated aims. Among those destined to give it
vitality were men closely associated with the Forward, such as
Morris Hillquit and Meyer London.
Another factor that favored the Forward was the sectar-
ianism of the competing Ovend Blatt. The Jewish De Leonites
took the attitude that any expression of specific Jewish sentiment
constituted "bourgeois nationalism" and was to be condemned
by all clear-minded "scientific" Socialists. This led them to make
offensive attacks on the faith and customs of orthodox Jews and
practically forced the latter to resort to the conservative Tageblatt
for their daily reading matter. In addition, De Leon's pacifism
caused the Ovend Blatt to oppose the Spanish-American War,
which historical memories of the Spanish Inquisition made
popular with American Jews.
In France, at about the same time, the celebrated Dreyfus
affair was coming to a climax. Emile Zola had published his
famous J'Accuse, in which he charged the French Army com-
mand with framing the Jewish artillery officer Alfred Dreyfus
on charges of selling military secrets to Germany. The real
culprits ultimately proved to be members of the reactionary
anti-Semitic General Staff itself. Jews the world over identified
themselves with Dreyfus, and the Forward responded with news,
articles and exhortations against the injustice perpetrated by the
French military aristocracy. The Ovend. Blatt, doctrinaire as
ever, remained aloof to all this and insisted that Jews must not
be stampeded into accepting Dreyfus's innocence merely because
he was a Jew. When anti-Jewish pogroms instigated by the re-
actionary military elements broke out in Algeria, the Ovend Blatt
ascribed them to the natives' resentment against "Jewish bankers"
and capitalists. (History repeated itself in a startling manner
in 1929, when the Communists' Yiddish-language paper in this
country justified the killing of Jewish seminary students by Arab
mobs in Palestine as a rebellion against "capitalist imperialism.")
To top all this, the Ovend Blatt continued its hostile tactics
against unions not affiliated with the Socialist Trade and Labor
Alliance. Union-busting and strikebreaking in the name of
socialism outraged even the "loyalists" in the Socialist Labor
party. They broke with De Leon and were read out of the party.
De Leon's epithet for these latter-day dissidents was "kangaroos"
-they jumped from one party to another. Among the "kanga-
roos" were two of the top men on the Ovend Blatt, Philip Krantz
and Benjamin Feigenbaum, who proceeded to establish a new
daily, the Yiddish Volkszeitung. The latter did not last long, but
it drew sorne circulation from the Ovend Blatt.
The Forward became the accepted spokesman of all the
Jewish unions then coming into being. It also had the support of
all the progressive social and cultural organizations in the
immigrant community. It still teetered on the edge of financial
collapse, but at the critical point there was always someone to
donate the additional few dollars needed to stave off the creditors.
The Ovend Blatt continued a feeble existence for several
years and ceased publication on April 23, 1902; five years after
the founding of the Forward. Its, weekly auxiliary, the Arbeiter
(froto e rom IA LeoM a len collectIOR, ILyrWUj
A SCENE THAT BECAME ENSHRINED IN JEWISH AGONY.-Bodies
of Triangle fire victims, strewn on the sidewalk.
Zeitung, expired the following November 1 5. A year earlier; the
so-called "kangaroos" had joined forces with the Forward
adherents and been admitted to the Social Democratic party.
In the meantime, the Forward's publishing group was
transformed from a federation of press clubs into a chartered
voluntary corporation known as the Forward Association.
Membership was open to anyone who was a member of a union
or who subscribed to the tenets of democratic socialism. Ap-.
plicants appeared before an admission committee which examined
their qualifications; their names were published in the paper so that
anyone who wished might register an objection. The Forward
Association could never become a "'House or Lords," as Cahan
had charged the De Leon publishing group with being. It was a
"House of Commons," drawn from the readers themselves and
responsive to the latter's needs and wishes.
The Forward Association's charter authorizes it to engage, as
a non-profit corporation, in education arid the promotion of
social democratic doctrine. At the time the charter was issued,
no one anticipated any profit from the undertaking. The prospects
were that the paper would always operate at a loss, and the
idealists who backed it -were prepared to make the necessary
financial and physical sacrifices. When .the Forward-grew and did
make profits, it used part of the money to. expand the paper and
extend-its usefulness. The rest went into donations to struggling
unions, to English-language publications in the Socialist move-
ment, and to social-service and philanthropic agencies.
At the beginning of the. 1900s, however, the lush and
prosperous-years of the Forward. were far- in the future. It was
still without funds, without- a competent editor, and without. a
circulation sufficient to insure its existence. In this-situation; the
70th Anniversary -Jewish Daily Forward- "AP ,yIl.,,
leading members of the Forward Association appealed to Abraham
Cahan to take over the editorship of the paper once again. They
assured him that he would have full authority to manage it
according to his lights. Moreover, his work load would be
lightened, so that he could continue his literary work in English.
If he could spare only a few hours a day, it would be enough to
get the paper going. Cahan acceded to their requests and returned
as editor in 1902.
CAHAN'S first task on his return as editor was to make the
paper readable. The Sunday words, the precious turns of
phrase, the pretentious and clumsy locutions he blue-penciled
mercilessly. The Germanisms with which "fancy" Yiddish was
larded in those days offended his ear, and he gradually replaced
them wherever possible with simple Yiddish counterparts. He
was even more adamant against the flossy Hebrew words and
phrases with which Yiddish writers often showed off their
As in other foreign-language papers, the news items and
much other matter that came into the office was in English. Cahan
instructed the staff never to translate, but to retell the story in
simple Yiddish. His dictum was: Read the clipping, put it away,
then.rewrite it in -your own words.
Cahan never hesitated to accept an English word that was
already adopted into American Yiddish. The immigrant popula-
tion had a great knack for picking up such words, often with no
compelling reason. Thus, "kitchen" is entirely acceptable Yiddish
and so is "chair," but, curiously enough, not "table," although
"table cloth" is good enough Yiddish. Similarly, "boy" is fully
naturalized. Yiddish (including the diminutives "boyele," "boy-
chick" and even "boychickel") but not "girl." Why this is so, no
one really .knows, and Cahan didn't care. His instructions were
to use the words commonly used in the American Jewish com-
At the same time that he insisted on simple Yiddish, Cahan
introduced another innovation-subject matter of general
interest to the non-party reader. Articles might be "light" or
serious in content, but they did not all have to be on Socialist
dogma or party doctrine. In the "light" category were so-called
human-interest happenings retold and interpreted from the
liberal Jewish point of view. More serious articles might deal
with a debate in Congress, the seasonal trend in a garment
industry, international affairs, or American history, government
and customs. Jewish holidays and religious observances were
treated with respect for the feelings of orthodox Jews, an attitude
unprecedented in the radical community. One early Forward
editorial was entitled: "Freethinkers, Don't Be Fanatics." To an
agnostic reader who asked whether he should oblige his mother
by attending synagogue to utter the memorial prayer for his
departed father, the Forward responded: "By all means! It will
not be considered hypocritical on your part if you extend solace
to your mother in her bereavement."
These articles on extraneous subjects did not sit well with
all members of the publishing association. They asked how
socialism was being advanced when the Forward preached
tolerance of contrary opinion or of religious faith, why they
should scrimp and save to provide money when the Forward
wasted valuable space on such nonsense as new skyscrapers
going up in Wall Street or profligate high jinks on the Great White
Way. Cahan's answer was that unless the paper was read, all its
sermons on Socialist doctrine would be wasted. Placated for a
day, his critics would return the next day with new complaints.
Sometimes, members of the staff were reluctant to take "light"
assignments and Cahan had to write the copy himself.
Under Cahan's direction, the Forward made enormous
strides. Circulation mounted steadily. Nothing like it had been
seen before in Yiddish journalism: a paper so clear, so simple, so
perceptive of the life and interest of its readers. Yet, the rising
circulation was not an unmixed blessing. Advertising did not
keep pace, and the newsstand price of one cent was not enough
to cover production costs. The Forward worked under handicaps
that did not apply to its competitors. As a party organ, it refused
all political advertising; as a labor paper, it refused all advertising
from non-union or strikebound firms. "Help Wanted" ads, an
important source of revenue for other papers, were practically
excluded because of union restrictions.
Meanwhile, the complaints about Cahan's innovations kept
mounting. At about the same time-late 1902-the '"kangaroos,"
having made-their final break with De Leon, offered to come to
the Forward. There was some money left from collections they
had made for the Ovend Blatt, and they had friends who could
contribute more. However, the "kangaroos" set certain conditions
for their aid. One was that the editor mend his ways and run the
paper along purer Socialist lines. Cahan refused. He already felt
that he was being imposed on. He had been promised a completely
free hand as editor and free time for his English literary work. He
expected no reward for the long hours he spent beyond the
agreement, but he could not accept the undermining of his editorial
authority. At a stormy meeting of the Forward Association, he
rejected the conditions set by the "kangaroos" and once again
resigned as editor.
This time, the rupture was not of long duration. He spent
the winter of 1903 in Woodbine, N. J. and the summer in New
Milford, Connecticut. Then the Kishinev pogrom in Russia roused
him to return to New York, and he resumed writing for the
Forward as a contributor. Leading members of the Forward
Association began pressing him to return as editor, assuring him
that the "kangaroos" would no longer intrude on his authority.
In the fall of 1903, he resumed his post, never to be challenged
again, to be re-elected year after year to the end of his days.
EARLY IN ITS CAREER, the Forward introduced features
that achieved tremendous popularity and persist to this day.
We have already mentioned Cahan's emphasis on simplicity
of language and subject matter touching the life and immediate
concerns of readers. One day in January 1906, his chief editorial
assistant, Leon Gottlieb, called his attention to three letters from
readers which he could not assign to any particular department
although they merited publication. Cahan decided to print them
together under the headline, "A Bintel Brief" (A Packet of
Letters). This became and still is perhaps the most popular
feature in the Forward.
Letters to the editor are, of course, no novelty. Bintel Brief
letters, however, were of a special nature. They were not the
"Advice to the Lovelorn" type, but they generally presented a
deeply felt personal problem on which readers sought advice. The
very first one was a peculiarly touching case. The writer had asked
her neighbor to mind her household while she went marketing.
Later, she discovered her watch missing and learned it had been
pawned. She didn't want to go to the police about it, for she knew
that the woman's husband was out of work and she was desperate
for money. She would appreciate it, however, wrote the owner of
the watch, if her neighbor left the pawn ticket where she could
find it so that it could be redeemed.
The response to this sort of letter was instantaneous and
enormous. Readers shared their troubles with the editor and found
relief in unburdening their hearts. They still do in the Forward.
Studies in the appreciation of literature were another stand-
ard feature. These consisted not merely of book reviews, but of
detailed analyses of the works under discussion. Cahan would
publish a short story by some newly discovered writer and invite
readers to comment. He would follow with a critique pointing out
the merits or defects of the story, dipping into general literature
for comparative evaluation, and stating the standards of literary
integrity a creative writer must follow and a discerning reader
observe. This may seem like heavy-bodied fare for a newspaper
of popular appeal, but not in this instance. Most Forward readers
in those early days were young people deprived of formal
education but eager for cultural advancement. The Forward
satisfied this need in many ways. They were quick to grasp
Cahan's disciplined requirements in creative literature.
Another of Cahan's concerns in the arts was the encourage-
ment of good Yiddish theater. In those days, some of the best
acting and most imaginative theatrical art in New York was to be
found on the East Side in Yiddish drama and comedy. This was
all the more remarkable in that just a few years earlier it had been
the tawdriest and most limited. It was no coincidence that good
theater had arrived on the scene together with a good newspaper.
With increasing immigration, an audience became available
whose craving for any sort of theater was insatiable. The producers
of those days offered no more than a kind of gypsy-band enter-
tainment. In place of a script, an ersatz playwright or a leading
member of the troupe would outline some sort of plot and indicate
to the actors the general drift of what he had in mind. Then he
"would go on stage, declaim whatever came to mind, perform
some sort of specialty, and reach a climax with the hero triumphing
over the villain. Comedy was even cruder than drama.
All this was changed by two circumstances: A playwright
of considerable. talent appeared, and- the Forward began setting
70th Anniversary--Jewish Dally Forward .... "PvIy iN,,
new standards for the theater arts. The dramatist in question was
Jacob Gordin, who, as we have seen, was a member of the For-
ward's first editorial staff. A product of the Russian intelligentsia,
he was familiar with the work of playwrights in other languages.
With a sure dramatic instinct and considerable skill, he adapted
the themes of other literatures to Jewish concepts and situations.
By present standards, his plays seem forced and artificial, but they
were infinitely superior to everything that went before. Gifted
actors at last had lines to read, characters to develop.
The Forward encouraged them in this, Cahan himself
serving as drama critic. As with his literary criticism, his reviews
were not mere synopses but thoroughgoing studies of the artistic
values of a play and the performance of the players. Soon a,
favorable review in the Forward practically guaranteed a play's
success, while an unfavorable one spelled its doom. Soon, too,
other playwrights appeared with more sophisticated talents than
Gordin's. The Jewish theater has been in decline for many years,
but in its better efforts it still abides by the cultural values the
The Forward's best feature, of course, is its writers. This
is particularly important in a newspaper whose chief attraction
is its magazine content. The Forward has always published the
very best Yiddish writers, welcoming those of established repu-
tation and developing gifted new authors. Cahan delighted in
discovering men of superior talent and invited them to join the
Forward even when he differed with them in doctrine or tem-
perament. Some of these were the poet Morris Rosenfeld, the
essayist M. Baranov, and men like S. Peskin, I. Ginsburg and
B. Hoffman (Zivion). They and many more wrote for the
Forward and made their contribution to the integration of Jewish
immigrants in the American community.
Beyond this, a perspective on developing world problems
was constantly being offered to Forward readers by leading figures
in the international Socialist and labor movements, Jewish and
non-Jewish alike. Among the Forward contributors over the
years were Emile Vandervelde of the Belgian Socialist party;
Leon Blum of the French Socialists, Eduard Bernstein and Karl
Kautsky of the German Social Democrats; Ramsay MacDonald
and Philip Snowden of the British Labor party, and such leaders
of the Jewish Socialist Bund as Mark Lieber, Vladimir Medem,
A. Litwack and Raphael Abramovitch.
Outstanding were the creative literary men the Forward
attracted to its ranks. Abraham Reisin, poet and short-story
writer; was a member of the staff. So was Sholem Asch before
he branched off on themes which the Forward felt to be anti-
Jewish. I. J. Singer, author of The Brothers Ashkenazi, first pub-
lished this and all his other best works in the Forward. His
brother, Isaac Bashevis Singer, author of Satan in Goray, The
Family Mooshkat and In My Father's Court, and the greatest
living Yiddish novelist, is currently a member of the editorial
staff. Earlier gifted contributors were Z. Libin, J. Adershleger
and Z. Levin, who wrote so-called "skitzen," short stories that
depended on character delineation for effect.
For lighter fare, the Forward also runs serial novels, whose
chief attributes are plot, suspense and dramatic incident. A popu-
lar feature for many years was the series of humorous skits
written byJ. Adler under the pseudonym "B. Kovner." The paper
still runs satirical pieces in the daily editions and a page of humor
on Sunday. The Sunday edition also contains a picture supple-
For years, a non-journalistic but vital feature of the Forward
was the annual Forward Ball. Primarily a fund-raising event,
this was an important source of revenue for the paper in the
early days. As times improved, the money was contributed to
various causes. It its heyday, the Forward Ball was a bright event
in the life of the immigrant community.
The editorial policy of the Forward, its response to social
problems, has remained basically unchanged in all .the years. of
its existence. There have been, however, changes in emphasis.
These began even in the early days, when the Forward, a Socialist
organ, dared swing away from doctrinaire Socialist orthodoxy.
When the IWW had almost stampeded the Socialist movement
into accepting violence as a means of achieving its end, the
Forward condemned such tactics as both immoral and ineffective.
As we have already seen, it urged tolerance and respect for the
religious beliefs of orthodox Jews. This was by no means a
popular stand to take, for the majority of young Jewish im-
migrants in those days were indifferent to religion. But the
Forward refused to surrender its fundamental principle of tol-
erance for differing beliefs.
This spirit of tolerance found expression in later years
during the events that culminated in the establishment of the
State of Israel. The Forward, like most Jews in this country and
elsewhere, was non-Zionist in conviction. It did not believe that
the establishment of a Jewsih national homeland in Palestine
was a cure-all for the countless evils that beset the Jewish people.
However, it did see a refuge for afflicted Jews in Palestine.- At
a time when most Jews were indifferent or even unsympathetic
toward the settlement of Jews in Palestine, the Forward aroused
its readers to an appreciation of the great transformation taking
place. First Abraham Cahan and then the editors who followed
him, Harry Rogoff and Dr. Lazar Fogelman, made visits to Pales-
tine and, after its formal proclamation, to Israel, and wrote with
great warmth of the strivings of the Jewish community in the
Middle East. Today, the Forward's coverage of Israel is the most
intensive to be found anywhere. Significantly, its circulation
invariably spurts forward when a crisis involving Israel breaks.
At such times, many former readers who have turned to the
English-language press return temporarily to the Forward in order
to get fuller coverage and to regain a sense of emotional kinship
with their own.
Forward With Labor
F ANTASTIC as it may seem, there was a time when Jewish
workers were regarded as an element unwilling to join
unions or abide by the disciplines of trade unionism. A num-
ber of the established unions at the beginning of the century,
including the Carpenters, the Painters and the Hatters, refused
to accept Jews as members. This was not an expression of anti-
Semitism; American unionists were simply convinced that these
immigrants with their strange customs and even stranger language
were "impossible" to organize, that they were naturally sub-
missive to abuse and exploitation, and willingly accepted low
pay and long hours.
Needless to say, this judgment was wrong. Jewish trade-
unionists proved among the most militant and devoted in the
entire labor movement. All they needed was an understanding
of the basic aims of trade-unionism, training in its organizing tech-
niques, and guidance toward its higher goals. The one agency
that gave them all three was the Jewish Daily Forward. It did
this not as a cursory undertaking, subsidiary to its general news-
paper tasks, but as its overriding objective. Indeed, it was to the
cause of the emancipation of labor that the founders of the For-
ward had originally dedicated themselves.
The unions in the apparel trades, now recognized as model
organizations in the American labor movement, all had their
beginnings in the Forward. The moral values that constitute the
ethical basis of American trade-unionism are those the Forward
promoted in the needle trades. Certain procedures now basic in
all labor-management relations, such as the machinery for adjust-
ing grievances, were originally sponsored by the Forward.
Today, much that occupied the minds and hearts of the
founders of the Forward is no longer a contemporary issue. Yet,
there is a striking consistency in the policies the Forward has
pursued regarding trade-unionism over all these years. Its basic
tenet is that trade unions are a desirable entity in themselves and
need not be, indeed must not be, an appendage of any political
party or ideology. It was on this issue, as we -have seen, that 'he
founders of the Forward broke with the De Leonites. It was on
this issue, too, that the Forward differed with the Anarchists at
a time when the latter had a substantial following in the ra ieal
community. The Forward opposed the IWW when that organi-
zation had captured the imagination of many Jewish workers.
Finally, with the same purposeful faith it successfully fddfht
Communist infiltration of the apparel unions.
An engaging tale of the early days of the American Federa-
tion of Labor concerns a meeting between Abraham Cahan and
the strongly anti-Socialist Samuel Gompers. The AFL President
had delivered a lecture before an antagonistic group of business-
men. Cahan, ever curious about what opponents had to say,
had attended, and it seemed to him that Gompers had had all
the better of the argument. He approached Gompers and told
him so. They joined for a bit of refreshment in a coffee shop,
then for a walk in the fresh air. The walk lasted practically all
night, and the two formed a lifelong regard for each other which
surmounted all the differences that later developed between
Gompers and the Socialists. The only time Gompers was de-
feated for President of the AFL was in the early days before the
founding of the Forward when the De Leon Socialists joined
with a. conservative faction to outvote him. Thereafter, he was
seriously threatened only in 1920, when John L. Lewis ran
against him. The garment-union Socialists of the Forward camp
stood with Gompers and he was elected.
Whether the garment unions would have come into being
70th Anniversary Jewish Daily Forward "'I'Yn11l,,
without the Forward is a moot point. There is no question, how-
ever, that the needle-trade unions which preceded the Forward
had no permanent existence, and those which came into being later
survived and grew with the aid of the Forward. To the extent
that the so-called Jewish unions contributed a new dynamism'
to the American labor movement, the leavening yeast was that
implanted among Jewish workers by the Forward.
The Forward often went beyond the printed word in ad-,
vancing trade-unionism. One of the very first Jewish unions,
that of the typesetters, was organized by Cahan. He was author-
of the first formal call to form the United Hebrew Trades, and
his name is subscribed as corresponding secretary. The first
functionary of the United Hebrew Trades was Bernard Wein-
stein, a founder of the Forward and early member of its editorial
staff. The list of Forward staff members is in many instances
interchangeable with that of the organizers of Jewish trade
unions. Men equally active on the Forward and in the labor
movement included not only Cahan but also Joseph Barondes,
Max Pine, Benjamin Feigenbaum, Louis Miller, Morris Hillquit,
Meyer London and Benjamin Schlesinger.
The mass movement of Jewish workers into unions of their
own creation is generally dated from the "uprising" of the waist
makers in 1909 and the "revolt" of the cloak and suit makers
a year later. Both of these strikes were truly mass upheavals,
and both were Forward projects. The Forward, practically
single-handed, created the atmosphere that enabled the abused,
exploited Jewish workers to break out into effective protest. The
chairman of the meeting at which the shirtwaist strike was de-
cided upon was Benjamin Feigenbaum, a Forward writer. The
leading figure of the cloak strike was Benjamin Schlesinger,
business manager of the Forward.
The strike of the men's clothing workers in 1913, another
mass uprising of Jewish workers, was almost entirely a Forward
undertaking, although official jurisdiction belonged to the in-
effectual United Garment Workers. Max Pine of the Forward
and the Hebrew Trades was chief spokesman for the strikers.
The Forward opened soup kitchens and headquarters for other
relief services. It was under Forward auspices that the strike
vote by secret ballot had been taken among the tailors. It was
to the Forward building that they streamed to see the results
tabulated on a screen. And it was there that they came in a
protest demonstration against an abortive settlement of the strike
that was not to their liking.
As the Forward prospered, more and more of its material
resources went into the building of the Jewish unions. During
major strikes, the Forward became virtually a house organ of the
unions, neglecting all other editorial interests to help the strikers.
It donated money from its own treasury and raised contributions
from its readers. Every union in the so-called Jewish trades today
owes its survival in these critical periods to the aid the Forward
gave it. Similarly, the strikes of non-Jewish unions-the coal
miners, steel workers, textile workers and others-received
generous moral and financial support from the Forward. Until
the advent of the English-language labor papers published by the
Typographical Union, the Forward was the only daily in the'
United States accredited by the American Federation of Labor
as a labor publication. To this day, it is first and foremost a
Modern trade-unionists can have only a glimmering of the
difficulties the Forward encountered in building the organizations
itbrought into being. It is still difficult today to persuade un-'
organized workers to join even established, functioning unions,
despite the fact that unions have long since demonstrated their
benefits and the country's laws and customs are no longer as
hostile to them as they once were. When the Forward was
founded, the law was against trade unions. Moreover, most of
the Jewish immigrants had never before had experience with
factory work or with unionism. Now they were asked to take
the initiative-and the risk--of forming a union. How could
they do so when all their previous experience had taught them
that the boss had the inalienable right to determine hours, wages
,and conditions of labor?
The Forward emphasized not only the tactical advantage
of belonging to a union, but, more important, its moral and
ethical justification. A union was an assertion of human dignity;
it was the expression of man's ancient striving toward freedom
and equality; it was the embodiment of the brotherhood of man.
To Forward readers, trade-unionism was thus part and parcel
of the higher morality. If it demanded sacrifices as it often did,
they must be borne with courage and tenacity. To those imbued
with the Forward's faith, the union was as holy an institution
as the synagogue had been to their fathers. Only this kind of
devotion could have carried them through the long and bitter
strikes marked by hunger, cold, and brutal assaults by police and.
hired thugs. .
The unions the -Forward sponsored have gone far beyond
the confines- of the East Side or the garment districts of other
large cities. Their ethnic element is no longer predominantly
Jewish. Yet, their moral tone is still the one set so many years
ago. The apparel-trade unions are among the most forward-
looking in the nation. They are also freest of the taint of corrup-
tion. They are conscious of their social responsibility .and gen-
erous in their aid to civic and philanthropic undertakings. Through
them, the Forward has made its contribution to the American
way of life.
Combat With Communism
E ARLIER than perhaps any other organization in America,
the Forward came to grips with Communism, condemned
its basic evil, exposed its maneuvers, and, within the paper's
large sphere of influence, routed it completely. During the 1920s
and 1930s, no other struggle engaged the Forward so fully or
was fought with such bitter persistence. The reward has been
vindication of the Forward's stand and, more important, the
cleansing of Communist corruption from the Jewish community.
In 1917, the Communists started the struggle with several
advantages. To Jews generally and to immigrants from Russia
in particular, the Tsarist system had been a despicable one. Now
the Romanov dynasty had been toppled and a new order insti-
tuted. The new order called itself socialist, and, even though
many questioned whether socialism could be achieved in an in-
dustrially backward nation, their .doubts were stilled by the
overriding joy over Russia's release from autocracy. The horrors
of the civil war in Russia reached America only in faint echoes.
SOCIALIST VOLUNTEERS aiding the cause by peddling the
N. Y. CAll at an East Side social function.
All opponents of the Bolsheviks were lumped with the Tsarist
White Guard, which was notorious for its anti-Semitic brutality.
At first, Bolshevik excesses were excused with references
to the turbulence of the times and the perils faced by the revolu-
tionary government. Not until a year or two after the Bolshevik
Revolution did some Jewish Socialists begin to recognize that
Communism was evil in itself, that dictatorship was destructive
of freedom even when it was the "dictatorship of the proletariat."
A struggle that was to reach epic proportions began in Socialist
circles in the United States.
Within the Socialist party and its Jewish-language federa-
tion, there had always been individuals who were dissatisfied
with the policies of the Forward. It put too much stress on popu-
lar reading matter; it was not sufficiently intransigent against
the American Federation of Labor; it was not "Socialist" enough,
according to their view. This group was now prepared to enter
into limited collaboartion with the Communists.
This left-right conflict was to bring a cleavage within the
Forward that nearly destroyed it. In 1921, the majority of the
Jewish Socialist Federation broke with the leadership of the So-
cialist party. They took with them six members of the Forward's
editorial staff. (One of them, Harry Rogoff, never followed his
colleagues into an alliance with the Communists, but returned
within a few months to the Forward to become one of its most
articulate opponents of Communism.) To counter the defection
70th Anniversary -Jewish Daily Forward "PvUlY13,,
of the Jewish Socialist Federation, leading members of the For-
ward Association formed the Jewish Socialist Verband. Heading
the new group was Nathan Chanin of the Cap Makers Union,
later secretary of the Jewish fraternal and welfare organization,
the Workmen's Circle. The Forward Association as a whole,
after a series of hectic meetings at which the theory and practice
of Communism were thoroughly analyzed, sided with the anti-
Communist group. Abraham Cahan, who had been abroad
during much of the early fight, threw himself heart and soul into
Unlike previous differences with the Anarchists and De
Leonites, this was an all-out war against a powerful enemy. It
was to reach into the trade unions which the Forward had helped
to establish and nurture to maturity, and into the Workmen's
Circle, with its great resources of membership and insurance
funds. The Communists were ruthless and resourceful, and they
had the financial backing or a foreign power. They knew that,
if they could destroy the Forward, the garment unions, the Work-
men's Circle, and institutions like the Rand School and the various
labor lyceums would fall into their hands as war booty. With the
garment unions, they would obtain leverage within the AFL.
With the support of the Jewish population, they could move into
political points of vantage. Only the Forward, constantly ham-
mering at the inherent evils of Communism, exposing Communist
maneuvers and reporting the true state of affairs in the Soviet
paradise, stood in their way.
The Forward was the first to report the man-made famine
in Russia accompanying Stalin's collectivization drive, in which
some 6 million peasants starved to death and countless more
were exiled to Siberia. Forward staff members Harry Lang and
M. Osherowich visited Russia at the time and brought back eye-
witness accounts. David Shub's definitive biography of Lenin,
a classic work in English in 1948, had its genesis in a series of
articles written for the Forward twenty years earlier.
The Forward also presented the most cogent analysis of
the purges by which Stalin consolidated his power. It was the
first to report the system of forced labor by which the Soviet
regime sought to bolster its economy. Long before the Hitler-
Stalin Pact, the Forward received information that Stalin was
making secret approaches to the Nazi regime. It was also the
first to report Soviet anti-Semitism-later confirmed by the sup-
pression of the Yiddish press in Russia, the anti-Semitic trials
in the satellite countries, and the celebrated "doctors' plot."
In this country, the Forward was the most expert, the most
discerning and knowledgeable of he opponents of native Com-
munism. At a time when the" Communists dominated liberal
opinion and had infiltrated the arts, Government and much
of organized labor, the Forward was virtually alone in exposing
their maneuvers and objectives.
All this was accomplished with relatively small resources
by a group of simple, hard-working men and women whose only
interest was their devotion to an ideal, their only reward the
service they rendered the cause of freedom and democracy.
CONTRARY to widespread belief, the Forward was never an
official part of the Socialist party. The Forward Association
by its very structure is an independent entity. Until 1936,
the paper gave editorial support to the Socialist party. Since then,
it has backed a variety of candidates and parties, including the
American Labor party, the Liberal party, and some Democratic
and Republican candidates.
The founders of the Forward were, of course, all Socialists.
In their eyes, the paper could fulfill its mission only as it effec-
tively presented Socialist ideals. Indeed, the Forward made its
impress on American politics far more successfully than did the
Socialist party. It refused to support the party when it felt the
latter was abandoning its traditional allegiance to democratic
methods. As in the break with De Leon, it would not follow the
Socialists into blind alleys of dogma and "united front" adven-
tures with the Communists. Events have vindicated the Forward
in its differences with the latter-day Socialist party just as much
as in its opposition to the old Socialist Labor party.
When the Forward was established, the political field to
which it set its plow was a worse morass, if possible, than that
in which the sweatshops had their being. A totally corrupt,
vicious Tammany ruled unchallenged. The Republican machine,
less venal only for lack of opportunity, aided and abetted the
Tammany sachems in return for an occasional sop.
'* The mass settlement of Jewish immigrants on the East Side
at first made no visible mark on New York politics. Most of the
newcomers had no vote, for the process of naturalization was a
slow one. Those who acquired citizenship could be absorbed by
the customary workings of the Tammany machine. A Jew who
won favor in the eyes of the local ward boss might be granted
the security of a street cleaner's job. Appointment of a Jew to
the police force was an exceptional reward and something of a
sensation in the community.
To counter these tactics of personal patronage, the Socialists
had only the force of an idea. Government, they said, belonged
to all the people and was not the exclusive holding of a political
boss or machTne. The people had the power to abolish slums,
to eliminate red-light districts, to insure the care of the sick and
the welfare of the healthy, to outlaw child labor, and to establish
. protective laws for all labor. Government could insist on a floor
for wages and ceiling for working hours. It could provide people
with enough work or pay to tide them over periods of unemploy-
ment and could secure them against" accident, illness and the
tribulations of old age.
The Forward promoted this program with all the skills of
agitation at its command. Slowly at first and then with mounting
force, the people grasped the idea, and before long the F6rward
had become a powerful instrument' of Socialist persuasion. At
the same time, it provided its readers with lessons in civics, in
the value of the vote, in election procedures. Young people
thronged the Socialist clubs in the Assembly districts of the East
Side. Tammany could no longer disperse Socialist street-corner
meetings with impunity. During election campaigns, Socialist
candidates attracted huge audiences. As more and more im-
migrants achieved citizenship, the Socialist vote increased. Soon
it was large enough to elect Aldermen, Assemblymen, a municipal
judge, even a Congressman. Twice and possibly three times,
Meyer London won election to Congress but had his victory
stolen by Tammany strong-arm men. Finally, there was a break-
through. Cloakmakers, dressmakers and other needle workers
volunteered as watchers and had it out with the Tammany slug-
gers just as they had done with the gangsters during strikes. Meyer
London was elected with a whole slate of Assemblymen, as tens
of thousands of people jubilantly thronged Seward Park to watch
the returns on a screen thrown across the Forward Building.
The Forward has exerted considerable influence on political
alignments in New York. It proved that Tammany was not in-
vincible. When Tammany discovered that it could not win elec-
tions unless it presented reputable candidates, decent elements
within the Democratic party won influence. Similar stirring were
afoot in the Republican party. Fusion could win for a progressive
administration when Tammany presented a hack for office. Both
parties, especially the Democrats, adopted some Socialist planks.
The disintegration of the Socialist party as a political force
in this country is too complex a story to detail here. The two
major causes would seem to be, first, the party. leaders' failure
to comprehend the nature of Communism, and, second, their
attempt to maintain a vested interest in radicalism against the
tremendous pull of the New Deal.
The Socialist party's decline started long before the election
of Franklin D. Roosevelt. As far back as 1919, it had begun to
split into left and right wings, the left wing helping to establish
the American Communist party. By 1922, the Communists in
the Jewish radical community were sufficiently entrenched to
start a daily, the Freiheit, in opposition to the Forward.
Communist infiltration of the needle-trade unions followed.
Election campaigns that had once brought exaltation to the radical
community now became mere exercises in sectarian wrangling.
Disaffected Socialist "militants" blamed the right wing, led by
the Forward, for the party's declining fortunes. If only the For-
ward agreed to a "united front" with the Communists, they felt,
radical strength would not be dissipated in internecine strife and
socialism would make headway. By the time Roosevelt was
elected, the Socialist party had ceased to be a major force in
New York politics.
In 1932, the Forward supported the Socialist ticket, as
usual. Then, in Roosevelt's first term, came the amazing innova-
tions of the New Deal, outdistancing anything the Socialist party
had offered in its election platform. For the first time in American
industrial history, labor received the full protection of the law.
The Wagner Act, the NRA, the WPA, the Social Security laws,
the Wages and Hours Law, the farm-relief programs-all this
and more was in process of formulation. The needle-trade unions,
exhausted from fighting the Cominunists and depleted in mem-
bership and finances by the Depression, took on new life. They
gave wholehearted support to the New Deal and were annoyed
by the Socialist party leadership's insistence on abiding by empty
70th Anniversary- Jewish Daily Forward "It? 1Y111,n
symbols when the substance of Socialist aspirations was already
One by one, the thinking men in the Jewish labor movement,
Socialists by conviction and long association, severed their con-
nection with the Socialist party. Unable to punish refractory
trade-unionists, the party apparatus tried to invoke sanctions
against the Forward. If the latter had been the corporate property
of the party, it would have been taken over at this point and its
fate would probably have been the same as that of other Socialist
party undertakings. Once again, however, the wisdom of the
Forward's founders in maintaining an independent existence was
vindicated. As a separate entity, the Forward could follow its
own convictions even if it meant breaking with the Socialist party.
The differences with the left wing cannot be dismissed as
mere intramural antagonisms. They were as basic as those which
led to the break with De Leon in 1897. In 1934, the Socialist
party inserted a plank into the party platform stating that, if
"the capitalist system should collapse in general chaos and con-
fusion," the Socialist party would not "shrink from organizing
and maintaining a government under the workers' rule." In
1935, the "militants" espoused a "single, united International
based on revolutionary Marxism" and, of course, including the
The "militants" had already shown in which direction they
were drifting. The year before, after taking over the party's
New York County Committee, they had joined the Communists
in a May Day parade. Now, at the Cleveland convention, they
threatened the right wing with expulsion. Finally, the opponents
of "militant" doctrine and tactics walked out of the convention.
Those Socialists who favored progress by democratic methods
were left without a political home.
. In August 1936, on the eve of a new Presidential campaign,
the-American Labor party was founded. Abraham Cahan and B.
Charney Vladeck of the Forward participated in the founding
conference that launched the ALP. Others were David Dubinsky
of, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, Sidney
Hillman of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, and Max Za-
ritsky of the United Hatters, Cap and Millinery Workers Inter-
national Union. Their presence meant that the Forward and
the trade unions that had been the backbone of the Socialist
party had determined to free themselves from its binding dogma.
The ALP achieved great success at the beginning. It helped
elect Fiorello LaGuardia in the Mayoralty election of 1937.
Herbert Lehman was elected Governor and Robert Wagner and
James Mead were elected Senators by the margin of votes on
the ALP ticket. Once again, the Forward demonstrated its hold
on its readers. The districts in which it had its largest circulation
went overwhelmingly for the ALP.
When the Communists infiltrated and finally captured the
American Labor party, the Forward led the break against them.
It gave full support to the new Liberal party under the leadership
of David Dubinsky and Alex Rose. Forward support helped the
Liberal party turn the tide against the Communist-dominated
Progressive party in 1948., It contributed to Liberal party vic-
tories in the campaigns that elected Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr.
to Congress, Rudolph Halley President of. the New York City
Council, and Averell Harriman as Governor of New York State.
The vote of the Liberal party was sufficient to tip the scales
in favor of John F. Kennedy in New York state in the presidential
election of 1960. Kennedy's plurality over Nixon in New York
wds 383,666. His Liberal party vote totaled 406,176. The
Liberal party vote thus surmounted the disparity on the Demo-
cratic line and brought New York's 45 electoral votes to Kennedy.
Without these votes the election would have gone to Nixon on
the Republican line.
A- notable incidental aspect of the election was that the
Literal vote for Kennedy was strongest in the areas of the largest
concentration of readers of the Jewish Daily Forward.
The reform Democrats had moral if not direct partisan
support from the Forward in their contests with the standpat,
machine-ruled elements of the party. The favorable atmosphere
that the Forward helped create for Mayor Robert F. Wagner aided
him in his primary battles with the Democratic machine of New
York City and led to his reelection despite internal opposition to
him within his party.
The political elements that had tried to capture control of
the Democratic party in New York by eliminating Wagner, made
a comeback in 1965 and nominated their own slate for municipal
offices. The Liberal party refused to accept this slate and entered
into fusion with the reform elements within the Republican party.
The Forward, after some misgiving, endorsed the stand of the
Liberal party, supported John V. Lindsay for Mayor, and he
THREE DISTINGUISHED BUSINESS MANAGERS
won even though others on the Fusion slate (also supported by
the Forward) failed of election.
The tradition of independence in political alignments and
of social vision in political activity is thus maintained by the
Forward to this day. Its influence in forming public opinion and
creating political sentiment is still a telling one.
The Business Management
M OVED essentially by idealism, the founders of the Forward
I never considered the profit aspects of publishing a news-
paper. They made great sacrifices of time and money
to support the paper, and it hardly occurred to them that it might
become self-sustaining or even make a profit.
At first, the accounts were handled in the haphazard manner
of volunteers rendering a service for a social organization. But
the Forward kept growing, and finally the business administration
--circulation, advertising, payment of bills, meeting of payrolls
--had to be placed in responsible hands. The office of manager
was created, and it has been the Forward's good fortune to have
men of exceptional ability and stature in that post. Marcus Jaffe,
Benjamin Schlesinger, Adolph Held, Baruch Charney Vladeck
and Alexander Kahn are those most worthy of mention.
Since the Forward has never been a business enterprise in
the ordinary sense, its business managers have never been con-
cerned exclusively with the dollar-and-cents aspects of their work.
All have been men active in communal affairs, men looked to
by the Jewish community for moral leadership.
Marcus Jaffe was a man of lively imagination and puckish
humor whose special talent was evading importunate creditors.
When the Forward bought its first office building, it was deep in
debt and Jaffe is said to have quipped that he had bought the
building because he had no money to pay rent. Indeed, the For-
ward frequently did make ventures it could not afford. It bought
linotype machines because it couldn't afford to repair the old,
decrepit equipment. It bought new presses because it could not
afford to pay commercial printers. As late as 1906-07, when the
Forward was already making substantial profits, it was on the
brink of bankruptcy because it lacked the capital for its greatly
enlarged operations. Fortunately, at this time it could show
substantial assets and could thus obtain a loan through regular
banking channels. Thereafter, the paper's circulation and busi-
ness grew apace, and it no longer had to fight for fiscal survival.
Benjamin Schlesinger was of a different temperament from
Jaffe. Volatile and dynamic, he performed everything he took
in hand with tireless energy. During his tenure, the Forward
ventured into book publishing, offering book premiums which
were great circulation builders and enhanced its prestige. One
was a history of the United States by Abraham Cahan which sold
25,000 copies. Following the cloakmakers' strike in 1910,
Schlesinger transferred his energies to trade-union work and
distinguished himself as president of the International Ladies
Garment Workers Union.
Schlesinger was succeeded by the energetic Adolph Held,
who had been active in the Socialist movement since his student
years and had also served as the Forward's city editor. Today, he
is at his old post of manager of the Forward again. In the interim,
however, the interim between his first term as manager and
'79th Anniversary -Jewish Daily Forward ..... "PIY111 ,,
his present one, he achieved a career and acclaim for himself as
one of the most able and resourceful leaders of the liberal Jewish
community. For several years after World War I, he served
abroad, deeply engrossed in bringing aid to the dislocated, dis-
traught, impoverished and hunger-ridden populace of East
European Jewry. As representative of the Hebrew Immigrant
Aid Society in 1920, he was in charge of 38 offices in war-devas-
tated Poland and other newly risen nations of the former Russian
empire. He thus helped thousands of distressed Jews find their
families or find a new home abroad. On his return here, he ac-
cepted office as president of the newly formed Amalgamated
Bank, an office in which he helped the bank ride the storm safely
during the critical days of the Depression and the bank "holidays."
Years later, he relinquished the office when he joined a protest
demonstration against Stalin's execution of the Jewish Socialists,
Henryk Alter and Victor Ehrlich. Thereafter he headed the
Social Welfare department of the International Ladies Garment
Workers Union, and finally returned to home grounds as
manager, once more, of the Forward. In the meanwhile, he
served as chairman of the Jewish Labor Committee and many
other organizations and endeavors in behalf of cultural and
humanitarian endeavors. Held's immediate assistant is Paul
Rubinstein, advertising manager of the Forward.
B. Charney Vladeck came to the Forward with a reputation
as one of the most eloquent exponents of socialism in Jewish
circles in Russia. In this country, he lived up to his reputation
as writer and speaker in both Yiddish and English. A man of
captivating charm, he was a kind of good-will ambassador to all
the Forward's adherents and associates. In the '30s, he served
with distinction in the City Council. An impressive East Side
housing project now bears his name.
Alexander Kahn, who succeeded Vladeck as manager of
the Forward, gave up the practice of law in order to accept the
position of chief administrator of the paper. He had reached
substantial eminence in the legal profession before he became a
Forward executive and had at one time been considered for a
judicial post in New York's Supreme Court. As a vice president
of the Joint Distribution Committee, he was recognized as the
voice and embodiment of the Yiddish-speaking Jewish com-
munity of America. In both his personal relationship and party
alignments, he was sympathetically attached to the pro-Zionist
segment of the community, and helped establish a mood of warm
regard for the Jewish struggle for independence in Palestine and
for full aid to the newly proclaimed nation of Israel.
No mention of the business administration of the Forward
will be complete without reference to its advertising policies.
Long before legal strictures were imposed requiring a modicum
of truth and integrity from advertisers and publications in their
paid announcements and promotions, the Forward had estab-
lished its own strict disciplines in respect to advertising. It sought
advertising, it needed the income from advertising, it welcomed
the patronage of advertisers, but never at the expense of truth,
integrity or the discipline of its principles. Thus it could never
accept anti-union advertising. It would never accept advertising
from any non-struck but non-union firm to which a recognized
union registered an objection. This meant that the whole spect-
rum of Help Wanted classified ads was closed to it, for with rare
exceptions, it was impossible to establish whether a telephoned
ad was acceptable or not for tomorrow's insertion. The highly
profitable want ads therefore went to competing newspapers.
Forward readers in need of a job had to turn to the competing
newspapers for their needs, with an undermining thereby of at-
tachment to the Forward.
Display advertising also suffered greatly because of the
Forward's espousal of the trade union cause. A celebrated case
was that of a prominent baking firm in New York, a firm catering
to Jewish trade with its breads and other baked specialties. The
owner of this company, a man of stubborn independence, refused
to accept the union in his bakery, and the union was never able
to breach his opposition. It couldn't do so because the firm paid
wages as good as or better than what the union demanded, and
offered other conditions equally favorable to its employers. The
owner's labor costs were thus at least as high as those in unionized
operations, and he was not a competitive factor in the union
market. Nevertheless, because he was non-union, .the bakery
workers' organization objected to his advertising in the Forward,
and the paper refused-tens of thousands of dollars yearly because
of the objection.
Similarly, the Forward also refused all political advertising
from the established parties. It did so out of loyalty to the so-
cialist cause. The rationale of this refusal was logical enough.
The Forward Association held, -logically if not judiciously
enough, that it would not print for money what it would not
publish for free. Inasmuch, therefore, as it would not support
a Democrat or a Republican for election in opposition to a So-
cialist party candidate, it would also refuse paid testimonials and
agitation in the opposition's behalf. It was only two years ago
that a change in this austerity program was effected by the Asso-
ciation. It discovered that there were degrees of variance and
sophistication as between one Republican and another, one
Democrat and another. Some you wanted to oppose, others you
wanted to support. In any case, fairness to all concerned dic--
tated that at least the advertising columns be opened to varying
political candidates. The Forward now does accept political ad-
vertising, although occasional complaints still come in from
patrons of the old-time strictures in socialist doctrine.
FROM its beginnings to the present, the Forward has faced
enemies who sought its destruction. The venomous hosti-
lity with which the De Leon forces met the Forward at its
birth has been matched over the years by various competing
journals, both conservative and radical.
For many years, the Tageblatt, orthodox in religion, con-
servative in politics, and anti-trade-unionist, fulminated against
the Forward as an immoral, atheistic detractor of the Jewish faith.
As the major paper in the Yiddish field for a time, it tried to
impose a boycott on the Forward, threatening to withhold the
Tageblatt from newsboys and newsstands if they also sold the
Forward. In its editorial columns, it ceaselessly harangued 'against
the "Godless Socialists" who were impairing the morals of Jewish
youth. However, the young immigrants attracted to the Forward
by its superior content evidently did not feel they were being
ruined morally or as Jews. The Tageblatt's influence slowly de-
clined, and finally it ceased publication.
A more formidable opponent was the Wahrheit ("Truth"),
which addressed itself to the same audience as the Forward. The
Wahrheit was established by Louis Miller, a founder of the For-
ward, a leading member of the Forward Association and personal
friend of Abraham Cahan. His break with the Forward came
in 1905 over a rather petty personal peeve. Miller had written
an eflusive defense of one of Jacob Gordin's plays; Cahan, as
editor, decided not to print it. Outraged, Miller started a ven-
detta which was to estrange him from all his old associations.
His explanation for the break was that the Forward was not
sufficiently Socialist; it was too nationalistic, too Jewish. In the
Wahrheit, however, he sought support from the Labor Zionists,
who were certainly more nationalistic than the publishers of the
Forward, and eventually he drifted away from socialism entirely,
becoming a Jewish mouthpiece of Tammany Hall. Without
moral backing in the Jewish community, the paper continued to
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70th Anniversary -Jewish Daily Forward
' *- -
E CURRENT HEADS OF THE FORWARD
lose readers. It ceased publication at the beginning of World
War I, and its assets were sold to Der Tog ("The Day").
A dignified competitor of the Forward was the Morgen
Zhurnal ("Morning Journal"). For a number of years, alone in
the morning field, it was a great commercial success, the "Help
Wanted" ads providing much of its revenue. But the rise of
trade unions brought stability to the Jewish trades, and job
placement no longer depended on classified ads. In addition, both
the Forward and the Day became morning papers. The Morning
Journal, deprived of revenue and readers, was merged with the
Day several years ago.
The most bitter opposition to the Forward comes from the
Communist Freiheit. The latter has never taken hold with the
Yiddish reading public and is now puny in both content and cir-
culation. The Communists maintain it only as an irritant to the
Forward; it could not survive without subsidy.
The Forward Today
INCE the founding of the Forward, only two newspapers in
the New York area survive in their original form and owner-
ship: the New York Times and the Forward. The number
of dailies which have been sold, merged, combined and amal-
gamated out of existence in the last six decades is legion.
In the struggle for survival, the Forward has possessed sev-
eral special advantages. No private owners drained it of income
in its peak circulation years. Though tens of thousands of dollars
were donated annually to struggling unions and other institu-
tions, substantial earnings were plowed back into the business.
The Forward owns its own building and up-to-date mechanical
equipment. It also owns radio station WEVD, and its income
bolsters that of the Forward. Securities which the Forward ac-
quired in its prosperous years help cover the operational deficits
that crop up from year to year.
More important than these tangible assets is the loyalty of
its readership, a depth of feeling usually reserved for one's family
or Alma Mater. Letters from readers testify to their unique
regard for the newspaper which, over so many years, has brought
them knowledge and an awareness of democratic rights and ob-
ligations. A frequent comment is that the Forward was honest
and straightforward with them in the years of turbulence, par-
ticularly in its consistent opposition to Communist dictatorship
and its sympathy for the Jewish settlement in Palestine.
As the Forward enters its eighth decade, authority is still
ultimately vested in the Association, but this body of some 100
persons is too unwieldy to make the hour-by-hour and day-by-
day'decisions. Thus the Association, democratically as always,
determines the broad outlines of policy; the Board of Directors,
the general manager and the editor are responsible for their im-
plemientation. The Board of Directors (like the manager and
editor) is elected annually by the Association. A constitutional
provision disqualifies Forward employees from service on the
Board, although some are members of the Association itself.
Board members serve voluntarily and without pay.
If the Association is the authority for the main directions
of the Forward, the navigation of the paper is under the helm
of its editor, and its operation is the task of its editorial staff. In
the Forward, much more than in the usual English-language
newspaper, the writers on the permanent staff supply the reading
content of the paper. There are.no prefabricated coluipins from
outside-sources, no syndicated articles. The prestige and the at-
traction the .papersholds -for its.readers is that./which the Forward:
earns by'dint-of its'own writers' effoits.'- Thisrassermb'ling of wotrk
involves a daily renewal of the creative faculties, a daily exercise
70th Anniversary Jewish Daily Forward"* "aIY,
of the arts of literature, and a constant application of the skills
of judgment and evaluation of the passing scene.
In respect -to originality and spontaneity of reading matter
the Yiddish reader thus gets much more from his Forward than
does his son or grandson from the average English-language
newspaper that comes into the home. Readers outside of New
York have frequently commented that their Gentile neighbors,
dependent on their local newspapers and TV bulletins for in-
formation, seek out their Yiddish neighbors for comment and
elucidation of current events. The reader of the Forward may
not have more news at his disposal, but he will have a greater
understanding of the significance of the news, its immediate
impact and its probable development. Forward writers, many
of them unusually gifted men in rhetoric, logic and style, provide
a daily fare of information, comment, diversion, entertainment
and literary enrichment such as no other newspaper, certainly
no English-language newspaper, can supply. An obvious effort,
of course, is made by the editors and writers to stress matters of
Jewish import, but the emphasis is rarely parochial in the Forward
and never jingoistic. The habit of tolerance is ingrained in the
Forward; its respect for humanistic values is a tradition that
persists from its founding days.
In a typical issue of the Forward today the front and back
pages will be devoted to news stories covering the events of the
current day. The news will be that which will appear in all other
dailies with deadlines similar to those of the Forward. By and
large it will come from the same sources as those the Forward
uses-the news tickers of central news gathering agencies-
except, of course, that the ticker clicks away in English and the
copy has to be translated into Yiddish. The Forward subscribes
to the several teletype serndces of United Press-International
News syndicate, and to the facsimile telephoto service of the
Jewish Telegraphic Agency, whose service comes in Yiddish.
In addition, the Forward maintains correspondents accredited
to the United Nations, and has arrangements for news gathering
and special articles with correspondents in Israel, France, England
and several Latin-American Jewish communities. Canada is not
merely contiguous but even native territory so far as reader-
interest and reader-service is concerned for the Forward. Labor
gets thorough coverage in the Forward in both its news and
feature sections, and the coverage is one of vital involvement
with the good of the cause and the welfare of working people.
The needle trade unions whose birth and development were at-
tended and nurtured by the Forward are institutions of prime
interest to the paper and its readers. News of what transpires
in these unions is avidly read. Out of a similar affinity for its
readers' special interests, the Forward devotes space and special
attention to the activities of the Workmen's Circle, the fraternal
order established by the same grouping that brought the Forward
into being; the Jewish Labor Farband, the pro-Zionist fraternal
order, and to the activities of an infinite number of social, cultural,
cooperative, mutual aid and religious societies and groups.
Important as is the news section of the Forward, the chief
attraction of the paper to its readers lies in its magazine content,
most of it grouped in a feature section on the inside pages. The
main feature page will begin with editorials on current inter-
national, national and local events and developments. A "light"
article on a human-interest theme will frequently adjoin it,
balanced by a weightier commentary on some aspect of national
or world affairs. The same page will usually carry a feuilleton
in a humorous or satiric vein.
On the opposite page, the Bintel Brief is the main attraction.
This feature is frequently derided by the non-professional critics
of the Yiddish press as being too steeped in bathos for comfort. Yet
over the years it has maintained its hold on readers' interest and
has reflected their way of life and changes of experience. When
recently the Jewish Museum in New York wanted to portray
the emotional and spiritual environment of the Jewish immi-
grants in America, it selected letters-to-the-editor from the Bintel
Brief for translated text which the actor, Zero Mostel, recited on
recorded tape. TV programs went further and spelled out Bintel
Brief queries and responses through action and lines on taped
skits produced by living actors. There was quaint charm in the
museum exhibits and TV productions, but never the intrusion
of mawkishness or exaggeration. The Bintel Brief reflected the
life of the people in its stressful moments with emphasis, but
never with distortion. A true token of its value and viability
lies in the fact that every Yiddish newspaper in America, every
competitor with hardly an exception, copied the Bintel Brief
feature and ran it without concern for the charge of plagiarism
leveled against it. There was mordant humor in this plagiarism
in that some of the competing papers would berate the Forward .
for its Bintel Brief at the very moment when they were aping the.
feature in their own daily.
On the Bintel Brief page will also be 'found a column of
women's household items, readers' letters of general comment,
an occasional humorous skit,. and a "human interest" article such.
as an account of a Jewish family court case. -
On other pages important features of the magazine section
will be correspondence from Israel-interpretation and elucida-
tion rather than straight news-and from various other countries;
comment or interpretation of political events in Washington or
in state capitals; a short story or serious fictional sketch; a feature
on medicine and health; a quiz ("5 Questions") on the news
of the day, and as many as three or four serial novels. Some of
the latter will be of the suspense-laden, "problem" or soap-opera
variety, frankly intended for capturing and holding the reader's
attention from day to day as much as the serial concoctions do
on TV and radio. However, for balance and recompense, the
Forward has always sought out, initiated and published the very
best in literature that is available in any language and any cul-
ture. At present, the works of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Elie
Wiesel which have found acclaim in English, were first published
in their Yiddish original in the Forward. Both of these literary
masters .are members of the editorial staff of the Forward. They
contribute not alone their fiction, but also general articles of
comment and journalistic endeavor to the Forward. So did
Sholem Asch. So did I. J. Singer, author of "The Brothers Ash-
kenazi" and a brother of Isaac Bashevis Singer. So did practically
every master of Yiddish literature since the establishment, of the
Forward. One commentator observed of this aspect of the
Forward in its relation to Yiddish literature that it was as if an
American newspaper had maintained Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen
Crane,: Theodore Dreiser and Mark Twain on its weekly salary.
Lst during their days of trial and hardship..
Early in the days of Abraham Cahan's editorship, the editor's
total 'responsibility and full authority- for the content of the
paper was firmly established. Queries. and criticisms, if any,
raised by members of the publishing .Association, had to be di-.
rected to him by parliamentary procedures., The editor's responses
would be heard at an open meeting of the Association which
would resolve the argument either by consensus. or by. a formal
vote. The ultimate authority to this day still resides in the Asso-
ciation, but the responsibility for the daily operation of the paper
is the editor's, a responsibility accompanied by a grant of great
Latitude in authority.
There have been only three editors-in-chief on the Forward
F'nce the days when Cahan chalked off the editor's rights and
prerogatives. Cahan held his title to the end of his days. He died
in 1951, but for some fifteen years before his death, the de facto
direction of the paper was in the hands of his disciple and chief
assistant, the managing editor, Harry (Hillel) Rogoff. The latter
held the editor's post with great distinction and retired from office
in 1962. His successor is the present editor, Dr. Lazar Fogelman,
who had served as aide and managing editor during Rogoff's
tour of duty.
Rogoff is a product of New York's East Side, with elementary
schooling in a yeshiva (Talmudic day school), middle schooling
in DeWitt Clinton High School and college training in City
College of New York,. from which. he graduated in 1906. Dr.
F6gelman gained his academic. degree in. the. University of
Warsaw, Poland, did' graduate work in the Petrograd .Psychologi-
cal' Iistitute, and studied law in this country in the Fordham Law
School. In him there, is thus an.amalgam of the cultures of Russia,'
Poland and America, as influenced and modified by a boyhood
in the Jewish pale of Russia, young manhood in the apocalyptic
days of the Bolshevik accession to power, and maturity in the
community of Jewish socialists in this country.
The rapport between editor and members of the staff is
generally on a plane of easy-going, sociability. The editor is
familiar with the special talents and capabilities of his several
contributors and will assign work to them in accordance with
the special needs of the paper-and the current developments of
the day. The writers, in turn, will suggest themes or offer already
written essays and feature material. Together,. from the writing
of the staff members, the dispatches of correspondents abroad,
and material of fixed assignment, the editor will compose the
magazine pages of the daily paper, with some extra features for
Saturday, Sundays, holidays and special occasions.
In the news room a special group of writers under the direc-
tion of a news editor will translate and rewrite the copy that
comes in English from the news ticker and from other sources.
' Every.ima.i. on tahis staff.
is gifted in literarr pur-
suits and doubles in brass
on the magazine pages of
the paper. With space
limited, the news publish-
ed in the Jewish paper
has to be selective and
tightly written. What ap-
pears in print is thus
sharper, more concise and '
informative than the.
copy in English-language
contemporaries. More- .,
over, inasmuch as the
Jewish papers exclude "
sports, Wall Street, Real
Estate and the plethora
of piffle that goes into
Women's Pages, there is
much more room propor-
tionately for news and
comment on current
events. The Forward is
thus a lively paper, one HARRY (HILLEL) ROGOFF
of great impact on the
Jewish immigrant community, with intellectual and moral tone
that is highly respected and cherished by its readers.
SThe writers are members of the I. L. Peretz Verein, known
by its English title of Jewish Writers Union. This is the oldest
union of editorial workers in the nation and concerns itself not
only with .the material interests of its members but also with
their literary and cultural excursions. The Verein maintains a
spirited contact with Jewish writers in Israel, in Latin America,
South Africa .and wherever communication with them can be
Other employees of the Forward in the administrative
offices are, of course, members of the American Newspaper Guild.
.An- attempt to amalgamate the6Verein with the Guild-was voted
down by the writers. Employees in the.printing. and .mechanical
departments are members -of .their several unions in their fields.
As always, the- editorial content of the paper is what con-
stitutes its great attraction to. its readers. This being true, no.
paper can exist merely on the strength of past glory. It must
daily sound a resonance to current events, daily bring new spir-
itual vigor to the content of the publication. The members of
the editorial staff who supply this extraordinary content in the
Jewish Daily Forward are currently as follows:
Dr. Lazar Fogelman, editor-in-chief; Morris Crystal, man-
aging editor; Moshe Elbaum, news editor ,and Irving Vogel, labor
editor. Staff contributors are: Shelomo ben Israel, Zevi Cahan,
Herman Ehrenreich, Benjamin Fenster, Menachem Flakser, Dr.
Jacob B. Glenn, Joseph Simon Goldstein, Jay Grayson, Louis
Hendin, David Liberson, Abraham Menes, Isaac Metzger, Asher
Penn, Samuel Regensberg, J. C. Rich (Ya'akov Reich), Hillel
(Harry) Rogoff, Saul Saphire, Baruch Shefner, Rose Shoshana,
David Shub, Abraham Shulman, Rabbi Aaron B. Shurin, Isaac
Bashevis Singer, Boris Smoliar, Isaac Shmulewitz, Eli Stolpner,
Simeon Weber, Elie Wiesel, Maurice Winograd and Nathaniel
Zalowitz. On the retired list but still contributing occasional
.work to the Forward -are:- Jacob Adler (B. Kovner)., David
Eihhorn, Mark Khino,, .-Harry Lang, Benjamin --Maimanr, Mark
Schweid and Zqlig Sher.
.In addition, there are the. regular contributors in Israel,
England, France Lnd Canada, and.oc.casional contributors in Latin
Atrerican countries, Australia, and South Africa. There is no
firn contact with what is left of the Jewish community in Poland,
and an impenetrable wall of censorship and hostility. surrounds
the Jews in Russia, a wall offering only an occasional peephole
to'tourists such as Shelomo ben Israel and Elie Wiesel of the For-
ward staff were in 1966, the late Leon Crystal wa-s in .1956.and
1958, and Harry Lang and the late M. Osherowitch in the 30.'s.
With all accommodation to the changing times, with the
ever changing turbulence in which a newspaper must hold its
course, the Forward today continues on the voyage charted by
Abraham Cahan and his colleagues seventy years ago. 'In both
its lively content and. bold moral outlook, it continues to be one
of America's great progressive newspapers. Thousands of "readers
still look forward to. its appearance every morning. Countless
thousands of others who have never read the Jewish Daily For-
ward benefit each day from its long, hard labors in behalf of
freedom of the spirit, in behalf of equality and justice and in
the furtherance of the good life in a democratic society.
70th Anniversary Jewish Daily Forward "Vvyin1 ,,