Page 51 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

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STARKMAN / YIDDISH PRESS AND LITERATURE
The Yiddish press in the New World had its beginnings in
1870, when
Kol Mevasser
was in the eighth year of its publica-
tion. The early Yiddish weeklies published in New York and
Chicago followed in many ways the
Kol Mevasser
and the later
Yiddish publications overseas, particularly in Russia. While the
American Yiddish weeklies printed original contributions in both
Yiddish and Hebrew, giving both tongues equal status, they re-
printed considerably from European Jewish periodicals which
reached the United States after many weeks en route to the New
World. The length of travel did no harm to the contents of the
European Jewish publications because they contained material
of lasting value written by authors known to many readers be-
fore their departure for the “Land of Columbus.”
In the last two decades of the 19th century, during years of
Jewish mass emigration from Eastern Europe, the Yiddish press
in America grew numerous and stronger. The first Yiddish dailies
were then established in the New World. Among the Jewish im-
migrants from Russia were young revolutionaries who organized
the first Jewish trade unions, and from whose ranks came new
journalistic forces as well as talented young people for literary
creativity. In addition to creating original literature, the younger
writers also engaged in Yiddish translations from world litera-
ture which widened the horizons of the Yiddish readers. They
had come to America with very scanty general knowledge, since
restrictive laws and adverse conditions in the Czarist empire made
it impossible for Jews to acquire secular knowledge in addition
to Jewish education.
The growth of Yiddish literature in America paralleled the
growth of the Yiddish press. Among those who rose to prominence
were Morris Rosenfeld and David Edelstadt in the field of poetry;
Jacob Gordin, David Pinski, Leon Kobrin, and B. Gorin in the
field of belles-lettres and the drama; Alexander Harkavy, J. A.
Maryson, Philip Krantz, I. Hourvich, Abraham Cahan and Joel
Enteen in the field of criticism and popular exposition.
The importance of the Yiddish press in the education and
gradual Americanization of the older and younger Jewish immi-
grants, is stressed in the autobiography of Morris Raphael Cohen,
the eminent thinker who for many years occupied the chair of
philosophy at the City College of New York. In his autobiography,
A Dreamer’s Journey
(New York, 1949), he wrote, “My intel-