21 November 2009

What makes a newspaper Jewish?

Is a Jewish newspaper intended only for a Jewish audience? Is its content only for "Jewish" topics and issues?Should local and regional newspapers be included?

According to the historical Jewish press database detailed below, a Jewish paper will be written and published by Jewish writers and editors, which will necessarily include local and international events impacting its audience.

In addition to local and international general and Jewish news of interest to its readership, there will be social announcements, along with local business and event news and ads. Some publications may be directed towards niche audiences - adults, children, young people, institutions or political parties.

Most importantly for Tracing the Tribe's readers, these papers are important sources for genealogy and name searches. Jewish papers from international communities provide a source for those of us interested in searching for information on our relatives and ancestors to reconstruct our family trees. And we also learn how our ancestors lived.

While searching in the French language Bulletin de l/Alliance Israelite Universelle, using "perse juif juives" as a search term, some 124 articles came up. One of them, from 1892, listed the 22 restrictions placed on Jews in Hamadan, including: a Jewish doctor may not ride a horse, all Jews must wear a red badge, a Jewish house must not be higher than a Moslem's and the door to a Jewish home must be low.

Searching for Isfahan or Isphahan produced no hits, it was necessary to write Ispahan, to find 118 articles. An 1890 article - by which time our Dardashti family had already been in Teheran for some 40 years, although some branches had remained in Isfahan - detailed an 1888 visit there by Sir Julian Goldsmid and Sir Albert Sassoon, representing the Anglo-Jewish Association.

While "big" papers tend to focus on "important" people, local community papers offer information on ordinary people, and include social announcements with information on births, engagements, weddings and deaths, information on court cases and business dealings, in addition to advertisements.
It also provides information on what items might cost, such as this 1932 bit (left) from the Palestine Post on what oranges sold for in Manchester.

What it means for family history researchers is that our families' details may be lurking in these pages, and for some of these details, it might be the only place to find that information.

However, for some communities, remember that countries and local geographic names have changed (e.g., Istanbul was Constantinople before 1930; where exactly was Prussia?), and searchers need to know the old names of places and where they were located at the time the paper was published. A quick bit of Googling will likely turn up the information you need to search more efficiently.

Tracing the Tribe has been writing quite a bit about historical newspapers in general, and this post details a site to help researchers interested in pre-/post-state Israel, France, Egypt, Morocco, Prussia, Poland and Austria.

This site contains a collection of Jewish newspapers published in various countries, languages, and time periods. Digital versions of each newspaper are displayed, so researchers can see the paper in its original format. Full-text search is also available for all content.

There are 11 newspapers in the interactive database (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and here (Tel Aviv University) (two access URLs for the same site). The papers are organized in three sections: the Jewish press in Arab lands, 19th-century Hebrew press, and the Yeshuv and State of Israel.

Each search must be performed in the language of publication. Caution: searching in Hebrew characters using the foreign (French or English) interface or searching in Latin characters using the Hebrew interface will not produce any results. And, for the linguistically challenged, there is only one English publication, the Palestine Post (forerunner of today's Jerusalem Post).

Some were published daily, weekly, every two weeks, monthly. The papers, language, years, pages and place of publication are listed below:

Palestine Post - Palestine/Eretz Israel
English - 1932-1950 - 32,745 pages

Bulletin de l/Alliance Israelite Universelle
- France
French - 1860-1913 - 10,774 pages

Paix et Droit
- France
French - 1921-1940 - 2,344 pages

L'Avenir Illustre
- Morocco
French - 1926-1940 - 3,335 pages

- Prussia, Poland, Austria
Hebrew - 1856-1903 - 19, 445 pages

Ha-Levanon - Palestine/Eretz Israel, France, Prussia, Britain
Hebrew - 1863-1886 - 7,629 pages

- Egypt
French - 1920-1939 - 3,158 pages

- Palestine/Eretz Israel
Hebrew - 1925-1996 - 97,707 pages

- Palestine/Eretz Israel
Hebrew - 1884-1915 -7,695 pages

La Liberte
- Morocco
French/Judeo-Arabic - 1926-1940 - 440 pages

La Voix des Communautes
- Morocco
French - 1950-1963 - 578 pages

For tips on searching, read the FAQ with more on the content and how to use it here.

The site also offers links to other sites with historical Jewish newspapers, such as Historical Hebrew Press (with titles from the beginning of the Hebrew-language press), Compact Memory (Jewish German-language periodicals, 1837-1938), Exilpresse (text database of some 30 Jewish German-language papers, 1933-1945), The Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project (Jewish papers from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and environs), The Occident and American Jewish Advocate (one of the first Jewish papers in the US, full text access but not scanned original images), The Jewish Chronicle (subscription site but search is free, oldest British Jewish paper (1841-today), and The Jewish Theological Seminary (periodical list related to Judaism on the Internet, historical/current).

For general historical press, see Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (Library of Congress, 1836-1922), The 19th Century British Library Newspapers Website (1 million digital pages via National British Library).

For sites with US focus, see The New York Public Libraries, Historical Newspapers, University of Pennsylvania, Historical Newspapers Online, Historical Newspapers and Indexes On The Internet – USA.

Of course, three excellent subscription sites for historical newspapers are NewspaperArchive.com, Footnote.com and GenealogyBank.com.

What have you found?
Thanks to Rose Feldman for this tip.

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