Page 71 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 19

Basic HTML Version

L
i p t z in
— T
h e
Y
id d ish
P
r e s s
65
writers included the dramatist Ossip Dymov, the poet Yehoash,
the leader of Reform Judaism and later first President of the
Hebrew University J . L. Magnes, the brilliant essayist and literary
critic Abraham Coralnik, the skilled editorial writer D. M.
Hermalin, the literary editor Tzivyon (Dr. Ben Zion Hoffman),
and many journalists until then affiliated with the
Wahrheit.
Two Million Yiddish Readers
By 1914, ten American Yiddish dailies had a circulation of
760,000 copies, and by 1916, shortly before America’s entry into
the War, the total circulation of the New York Yiddish dailies
alone was estimated at 646,000. Since each copy was read by an
average of about three members of a household, it may be
assumed that about two million American Jews felt the impact
of the Yiddish word every day.
No wonder, therefore, that the Yiddish press, far more than
the printed book, became the medium through which literary
men most easily reached their public. Women who had formerly
wept over
Tkhines
now shed no less copious tears while pursuing
the fictitious fates of imaginary heroes and heroines, villains and
victims in the serialized novels of newspapers. Youths pored
over philosophical essays, economic treatises, and esoteric feuil-
letons in weekly journals. Workers were roused to demonstrations
and fiery protests by political lyrics incorporated in anarchist,
Bundist, and socialist organs. Dramatists, unable to stage their
tragedies and comedies, could still get them to audiences far
larger than theater-audiences, through the pages of monthly
periodicals.
The Yiddish press was, therefore, not only a means of dis­
seminating information but also a stimulus to literary creativity
and a significant force in molding Jewish attitudes.
In recent decades, the Yiddish press has shared the fate of all
Yiddish cultural institutions. It flourished in Soviet Russia under
the leadership of the Moscow daily
Ernes,
until the liquidation of
all Yiddish cultural activities during the last years of Stalin.
Only an insignificant newssheet printed in a thousand copies,
Der Birobidzhaner Shtern,
has managed to survive in a remote
Asiatic region that was projected in 1934 as a large autonomous
Jewish territory but no longer harbors a Jewish majority.
In Poland, Rumania, and the Baltic States, Yiddish dailies
and periodicals continued to prosper until most of their readers
and writers perished in the Nazi holocaust. Only a single news­
paper—the Warsaw
Folks-Sztyme
—still glimmers in Gomulka’s
Poland.
In the United States, the decline of the Yiddish press set in
with the generation between the two World Wars, because of