But If You’re Going to be Jewish About It…

Today’s mail included a cylindrical package from the Forward. In addition to a commemorative poster, said package contained the following “Dear Friends” invitation to advertise in their upcoming commemorative issue:

As you are undoubtedly aware, the Forward is a legendary name in journalism and a revered institution in American Jewish life. [Frankly, I wasn’t aware that the Forward was revered, but that’s not what prompted this post. Project Genesis should learn to write PR materials from these people. –YM] Launched as a Yiddish-language daily on April 22, 1897, the Forward helped safeguard the “American Dream” of Jewish immigrants for generations. The paper has been a force in world Jewry ever since.

We are proud of our legacy and we invite you to help us celebrate this significant occasion. Please consider placing an ad — either commercial or congratulatory — in a commemorative issue to be published on April 6, 2007. We are offering a substantially discounted rate for participating in this special issue.

I suspect that by this point, the writers of the above letter lost about 90% of their advertisers. If you’re commemorating a launch on April 22, then why are you doing it on April 6? True, it’s now a weekly, but why not April 20? But you’ve probably figured it out: although they don’t mention or explain this anywhere in the letter, the commemoration is indeed only two days before the anniversary — if one is going by the Jewish calendar.

Thus is recorded the very secular character of the Forward at its inception: it launched on the 20th of Nissan, at the end of Chol HaMoed Pesach [the Intermediate Days of Pesach]. Sad, no?

Perhaps things have changed — I think this is one aspect of the Forward’s legacy of which they are no longer proud. All materials for the commemorative issue are due March 23, a full two weeks in advance… and the Forward will be closed April 3, the first day of Pesach, and have only minimal staff present on the 4th. So I was assured by the Advertising Sales Director himself.

Nonetheless, considering the secular character of the Forward, it would have been better from all angles to simply do the commemoration according to the English calendar, and thus avoid the inadvertent emphasis upon the Chilul YomTov that assuredly accompanied the launch. [Do you think the then-daily Forward halted the presses the day after the inaugural issue, for the last days of Pesach?]

Unsurprisingly, neither the weekly Yated Ne’eman nor HaModia plan issues for Chol HaMoed. Considering the ongoing transformation in American Jewish life, how long will it be before the Forward joins them?

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6 Responses

  1. Ori Pomerantz says:

    The Forward started as a newspaper for Jews who left observance when they left the traditional Jewish society where they grew up. It might not be the proudest part of its history, but it’s worth remembering.

    Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. It might be a good idea for young Orthodox Jews to learn about Haskala and how a large portion of Jews decided to leave Torah uMitzvot, and why. It will tell them what not to do when they grow up and lead the community, so that the following generation will not leave.

  2. Jewish Observer says:

    ” It might be a good idea for young Orthodox Jews to learn about Haskala”

    – this can be a featured topic at the next Agudah convention

  3. Bob Miller says:

    Rabbi Menken said, “Unsurprisingly, neither the weekly Yated Ne’eman nor HaModia plan issues for Chol HaMoed. Considering the ongoing transformation in American Jewish life, how long will it be before the Forward joins them?”

    If this trend causes the Forward and other such papers to really join them, through mergers, we could then see some interesting compound newspaper names like those NY used to have (Journal American, Herald Tribune, World Telegram & Sun…) How about “Forverts Ne’eman” ?

  4. Micha Berger says:

    Mr / Rabbi Pomerantz,

    There are also many orthodox maskilim of some renown: the Maharatz Chajes (according to Beruriah Hutner’s PhD thesis), R’ Mendel (Leffin) Satanover (author of Cheshbon haNefesh) leap to mind.

    Moses Mendelsohnn, for whatever his beliefs turned into, personally was shomer Shabbos, kept kashrus and as far as we know taharas hamishpachah, and believed Maimonides’ 13 articles (although he didn’t believe one was obligated to).

    The truth of it most Orthodox Jews today are Maskilim… How many of us send our children to Elementary and High Schools that have secular studies — maths, sciences, the local language, literature? Even in Williamburg, Brooklyn or Gateshead. The Maskilim won!

    I wonder how many children we would have saved in the 19th cent had we taken this step then rather than our pulling up the drawbridge in a fight against Russification. Kelm had a gymnasia as a feeder High School, as long as the Alter was alive. Other yeshivos saw that the Russians turned such studies into an assimilation strategy, and therefore saw no alternative but to resist. Thus many were lost.


  5. Bob Miller says:

    Micha Berger,

    What is your definition of a Maskil?
    How does it apply or not apply to the Rishonim in “Golden Age” Spain?
    Or to the Central European “Torah im Derech Eretz” Orthodox communities (separatist or integrated) of the past?

  6. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Micha Berger & Bob Miller,

    I am certainly not a Rabbi. When I learned Jewish History is school in Israel, “Tnu’at HaHaskala” was used for the Jews who left off religious observance in the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Bialik. That was the sense I meant.

    This is a different sense than “Torah im Derech Eretz”, which seems to me to be just the common sense of the matter. G-d doesn’t expect us to rely on miracles for a living, and these days a lot of secular subjects are necessary just to get a good job.

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