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The Jewish Daily Forward (Forverts) Newspaper
This book examines the
role the Jewish Daily Forward played during the heyday
of Jewish immigration to the United States, from 1897 to 1917. The
JDF was a focus point for the ‘Jewish street’
issues that were at the heart of Jewish everyday experience and
concern. Although previous research and observation brought to the
fore the inevitable policy and viewpoint contradictions expressed
throughout its columns, this book is the first critical assessment
of this eminent newspaper as its leader writers and columnists engaged
with the centenary transition that saw myriad political and social
The primary motivation for this investigation is the discrepancy between the paper’s declared socialism on the one hand, and the cooperation between Abraham Cahan, JDF’s editor, with the hard-line conservatives such as Jacob Schiff, on the other hand. By following Cahan’s cooperation with the American-Jewish plutocracy, Ehud Manor suggests that the JDF was actually conservative in outlook, rather than progressive. The importance of such an historical account is not only in the uncovering of the checks and balances between different Jewish groups and Jewish polity and media, but also serves as an insight into the mechanism of Jewish modern politics.
FORWARD is based on Yiddish sources, the Forverts ( JDF) issues, and other primary and secondary material. It is essential reading for all those engaged and interested in modern Jewish history.
|Hardback Price:||£49.95 / $74.95|
|Release Date:||September 2009|
|Page Extent / Format:||172 pp. / 229 x 152 mm|
List of Illustrations
Preface and Acknowledgments
1 “Seven Years of Famine”
2 “Jewish Question”, “Jewish Politics”
3 The Politics of Abstention
4 Great War, Lesser Deeds
5 “Americanization” and “Jewish Authenticity”
Manor explores the political role of the Jewish Daily Forward during the period of Jewish immigration to the US from 1897 to 1917. He examines the paper chronologically, considering the discrepancy between the paper’s declared socialist politics and the cooperation between Abraham Cahan, its editor, with conservatives such as Jacob Schiff, illustrating that the paper was actually conservative rather than progressive in its outlook and discussing why Cahan chose the conservative path.
Reference & Research Book News
Reviewed in German
by Frank Wolff in Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft (www.metropol-verlag.de)
The political role of the socialist Forverts, known also widely by its English appellation, The Jewish Daily Forward, surely merits a full-length historical study. So too the political vision and activities of its long-time editor, Abraham Cahan, deserve to be seriously analysed by an historian, in the context of local, national and global Jewish concerns. After all, this paper reigned supreme as the largest-circulating and longest-running Yiddish daily publication of its kind in the United States, and indeed in the world. It had one of the largest readerships of any ethnic or foreign language newspaper in America, and this despite the relatively small number of Jewish immigrants who lived there.
... These facts alone would make a scholarly study of the newspaper’s place in the political life of its community a worthy historical undertaking. Scholars have already produced a robust literature on the role of Cahan and the Forward in the development of the Jewish labour movement, in the flowering of Yiddish literature in America and in the efflorescence of the Yiddish theatre. In all of those crucial areas of east European Jewish life in America, historians and other scholars have shown that the Forward and Cahan functioned as much more than mere reporters of developments on the ground. But the paper and its editor had a hand in shaping fundamental developments which in turn influenced the life of that community. Scholars interested in the architecture and landscape of the immigrant enclave have noted convincingly that the imposing Forward Building on East Broadway served as a focal point for the neighbourhood, physically looming over it and functioning as a kind of informal ‘town square’ for the immigrant enclave, a place where women and men gathered and talked about the news, the theatre and particularly politics.
... Ehud Manor has attempted to take on this challenge in this slim book with the long and unwieldy title, Forward: The Jewish Daily Forward (Forverts) Newspaper, and then subtitled, Immigrants, Socialism and Jewish Politics in New York, 1890–1917. In terms of chronology, Manor ends his book with World War I, a transformative moment in world Jewish politics (although he never justifies the 1890 date, given that the newspaper did not come into existence until 1897). Manor’s thesis can hardly be missed and his perspective cannot be accused of being overly subtle or too nuanced. Cahan and his Forward, from its onset, maintained a political agenda and, Manor contends, contrary to its purported socialism, that vision advanced conservative ends. Cahan’s socialism, in this book, existed as a flimsy excuse to sidle up to the mainstream, assimilated American Jewish establishment whose only relationship to the immigrant community consisted of a desire to control it. Cahan allied himself with such individuals as Jacob Schiff and Louis Marshall, one a Jewish millionaire-philanthropist and the other a lawyer associated with such institutions as the American Jewish Committee. The three together, whom the author repeatedly refers to as the Jewish ‘plutocracy’, and in concert with a range of other conservative well-placed American Jews, opposed every progressive political innovation or plan which touched the lives of the east European Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side. So too in the larger world of global Jewish politics, with Zionism a particular concern of Manor, the Cahan–Schiff–Marshall cabal sought to undermine what the Jewish people wanted and what clearly, according to Manor, would have been best for them. As such the Forward’s socialism functioned as little more than a sham, or, perhaps, it would be more accurate to say that Manor sees socialism itself as a political force which had more in common with ‘plutocratic’ conservatism than with true liberation of the masses. Indeed, only in what functions as a kind of epilogue, Manor hails Cahan when he in the late1920s came around to an embrace of the Zionist enterprise and then by 1932 came out in support of Franklin Roosevelt. Only when Cahan dropped his opposition to Zionism and his commitment to socialist politics did the newspaper in truth become ‘the newspaper for all mankind’. Previously, while it had embraced that slogan, it never acted upon it: it had been a newspaper for the plutocrats.
Reviewed by Ross Bradshaw in Socialist History
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