08 January 2008

Jewish Newspapers: Community resources

Jewish newspapers, nationally and internationally, are excellent sources for community information. In addition to current news, these papers' archives hold the history of a community, including engagements, marriages, births, deaths, obituaries and more.

There are a host of regional Jewish newspapers, some in major cities, some in smaller population centers. Almost all belong to the American Jewish Press Association, which lists member publications.

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently interviewed both Jonathan Tobin, editor of Philadelphia's Jewish Exponent and J.J. Goldberg, editor of New York's The Forward.

"This is the newspaper of record for the Jewish community of this region," continues Tobin, a native New Yorker. "Generations of people have had their births, engagements, weddings and obituaries published in our newspaper. . . . That's important."

If your ancestors lived for a long period in a community with a Jewish paper, accessing its archives may prove a very valuable resource. In fact, many Jewish genealogical societies have undertaken projects to index their community papers and make them accessible online. Pittsburgh, Houston and Seattle come to mind - there are others.

As 2008 begins, the Exponent, which hasn't missed an issue since debuting in 1887, comes off its 120th anniversary year in the black, with a circulation of about 50,000. The Manhattan-based Forward, having celebrated its own 110th anniversary as a Yiddish paper last year, continues as two weeklies: the Yiddish version, with a circulation "well under" 10,000, and the English-language version begun in 1990.

The Philadelphia community is some 200,000 strong, has 100 synagogues and schools in a five-county area; the Exponent often has more than 70 pages.

Robert Singerman, a University of Florida scholar whose "Jewish Press" article in "Jewish-American History and Culture: An Encyclopedia" surveys the field, writes that "approximately 2,500 dailies, weeklies, monthlies, quarterlies, bulletins and annual reports . . . have been published in most of the 50 states."

The oldest continuously published Jewish paper in the United States is Cincinnati's American Israelite, founded in 1854. Philadelphia papers have included Isaac Leeser's Occident and American Jewish Advocate (1843-69).

Read more here.

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