Page 13 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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JACOB KABAKOFF
Introduction
A m o n g t h e l e a d i n g
literary and cultural events to be observed
in 1986 there stands out the 300th anniversary of the inception of
the Yiddish press. This occasion is deserving of special note be­
cause the Yiddish press can be said to reflect faithfully the history
of our people in the modern period and because it serves as a
record and barometer of the ideological transformations and
fluctuations that occurred during this period.
The first Yiddish newspaper,
Dinstagishe un Fraytagishe Kurant,
appeared in Amsterdam du r ing August 1686. Each issue
consisted of four two-column pages in a small format, fifteen and
a half by nine centimeters in size. Amsterdam has the distinction
of being the cradle of the Yiddish press because of the prominent
position it occupied in world affairs during the 17th century. As a
result of the freedom and prosperity enjoyed by the Sephardic
community in that bustling city, many Yiddish speaking Jews
from Poland, Lithuania and the Ukraine were attracted to it and
settled there. They were eager to keep abreast of world events
and of Jewish developments and the
Kurant
came to satisfy this
need. As early as in 1674 the Sephardic Jews had already begun
the publication in Ladino of their own newspaper,
Gazeta De
Amsterdam.
The Amsterdam
Kurant
marked an important beginning. Ad­
ditional Yiddish newspapers appeared on the European conti­
nent during the 18th and 19th centuries. In them is chronicled
the rise of various movements and ideologies that sprang up
among European Jews, including the Labor Movement, Zionism,
modern Orthodoxy, etc. But it wasn’t until our own century that
the Yiddish press came into its own, particularly in Russia and
Poland.
The statistics of growth are truly staggering. Russian Jewry,
which saw the establishment of the first Yiddish daily in 1903,
could boast during 1918-1927 of the publication of three hun ­
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