Page 66 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 19

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THE YIDDISH PRESS: A CENTURY’S SURVEY
By
S
ol
L
i p t z in
I
N 1962, the Yiddish press will celebrate a century of existence
as a vigorous cultural force in Jewish life. This century may
be divided into a springtime of strenuous striving to establish
viable roots among the Jewish masses—the period from the
founding of
Kol Mevasser
in 1862 to the rise of the Bund and the
Zionist Movement in 1897; a summertide of intense activity and
colorful splendor, which continued until 1933; and an autumn
of utmost refinement and the garnering of ripened cultural fruit,
even while catastrophic storms ripped off golden-leafed branches
and tugged away at trunk and roots.
As the foremost educational medium for the Yiddish-speaking
masses on all continents, the Yiddish press brought to Jewish
homes in remotest towns and villages news of important happen­
ings throughout the world. It disseminated knowledge of natural
phenomena, scientific achievements, and modern ways. It molded
and directed Jewish public opinion. It was the vehicle for the
propagation of social, political and ideological movements rang­
ing from democracy, socialism, communism, and anarchism, to
Zionism, territorialism, and even to assimilationism. It made
possible the growth and efflorescence of literature of high rank
in the vernacular. It was a significant force in unifying Jews
dispersed throughout the Old World and the New.
Its origins go back almost three centuries. The first Yiddish
journal was
Die Kurantin,
published in Amsterdam during 1686
and 1687. It appeared twice a week, generally on Tuesdays and
Fridays, with reports of Jewish life in many communities.
In Eastern Europe, where the largest potential Yiddish reading
public was concentrated, the first Yiddish periodical did not
appear until 1823. It was a weekly,
Der Beobachter an der
Weichsel,
printed in Warsaw, edited by Anton Eisenbaum, and
subsidized by the government commission for popular education.
It had both Yiddish and Polish texts and included official reports,
foreign news, descriptions of Jewish life abroad, and business
announcements. It ceased publication after forty-four issues.
For more than a generation thereafter, all efforts to found a
Yiddish periodical met with a firm refusal on the part of the
Czarist authorities to grant permission, since these officials feared
the spread of subversive doctrines through such a mass medium.
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