The Jewish press in the United States has appeared primarily in English and Yiddish but has also sustained publications in Hebrew, German, Ladino, and Russian. The major nineteenth-century American Jewish newspaper was the Israelite (later known as American Israelite), founded by Reform rabbi Isaac M. Wise. Characteristic of the Anglo-Jewish press, it offered local, national, and international news, editorials, feature articles, and general serialized fiction. Ellen Price Wood's Lady Adelaide's Oath (1877) and Amelia Edward's Debenham's Vow (1879) were two fictional works it presented in serialized form.
In the twentieth century, Jewish communal weeklies such as the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent added more local news. Their reports on synagogues and their auxiliary sisterhoods and religious schools and their coverage of benevolent organizations and local chapters of national Jewish women's groups have provided an important source for the study of women and culture. Deborah, the German-language weekly (and then monthly) supplement to the Israelite, was the most notable publication created to serve the German-Jewish immigrants who arrived in the United States in increasing numbers in the mid-nineteenth century. Its focus was on a female readership interested in the home, school, and community.
Yiddish-language newspapers have been the largest and most influential arm of the Jewish press. The golden age of Yiddish journalism peaked in 1915-16 when five dailies in New York City alone boasted a circulation of five hundred thousand readers — many of whom were women. The Hebraic Section [of the Library of Congress] holds microform of the major American Yiddish newspapers that expressed the new immigrants' idealistic yearnings even as they moved headlong into full citizenship.
In addition to national and international news, the papers devoted considerable space to labor issues — especially strikes in the garment industry, which employed a great number of women — and to efforts to improve the conditions of all workers. From 1923 to 1927, during a period of rivalry with communists, the anarchist group within the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America published the Yiddish-language newspaper Der Yunyon arbayter (The union worker). Di Fraye arbeter shtime (The free voice of labor), the Yiddish-language anarchist monthly, provided a forum for female writers and poets.
Among the New York Yiddish dailies, the foremost newspaper that supported both social activism and Americanization was the Forverts (Jewish daily forward), published for more than a century in New York City. The most widely read feature, the “Bintel Brief” (Bundle of letters), was a daily personal advice column that began in 1906 to give immigrants the opportunity to pour out their hearts about their problems with husbands, wives, in-laws, children, poverty, and work, responding with advice. One newlywed American-born woman wrote to ask if she should leave her Russian-born husband because her friends scoffed at his being a “greenhorn” and she was beginning to think like them. The editor assured her that her bridegroom would learn American history and literature as well as her friends and be a better American than they. Today, Yiddish readers in New York, many of them survivors of the Holocaust and observant Orthodox, can subscribe to Di Tsaytung and Der Algemeyner zshurnal [Algemeiner Journal].
Owing to a fresh readership, the small Hebrew press in the United States, most notable for ha-Do'ar, a weekly that first appeared in 1922, has generated new publications in recent decades. The Hebrew-language New York newspaper Yisrael Shelanu is geared to the two hundred thousand Israelis who now live in this country. Its “Ezrat Nashim” section (named for the women's gallery in the synagogue) offers recipes, shopping tips, and biblical commentary. A newspaper that appeals mainly to traditional Jews, Yated Ne'eman, began publication in Monsey, New York, in 1989. Among its features in the “Home and Family” section are “Mother to Mother” and “Letters to Bubby” (or letters to grandmother) columns.
Jewish Women's Periodicals
Sources: Library of Congress