ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY

The first Yiddish language socialist newspaper in New York, Di Arbetter Tzeitung (the Workers Newspaper,) enjoyed a life span of a mere seven years. In the Spring of 1897, it was succeeded by a daily known as The Forverts (the name was borrowed from Vorwarts a publication of the German Social Democratic Party). The aim of the Forverts was to provide a daily newspaper to appeal to the newly arrived Jewish masses that had settled predominantly in New York, their politics, as well as their lifestyle.

One Hundred and Twenty years later, the Yiddish publication is still being published, albeit twice a month instead of daily. It has anglicized its name to Forward and the circulation is less than 6,000 and falling. It would be interesting to see how many Yiddish Forvertz are mailed to Dallas… (I know of only one.)

There’s a certain irony to the Yiddish Forvertz. To be sure there are still Jews in this country, in Israel, and elsewhere whose lingua franca is Yiddish. With all but a precious few exceptions, contemporary Yiddish speakers are found in the Orthodox communities of Borough Park (Brooklyn), Crown Heights (Brooklyn), and Monsey (Rockland County N.Y.), who, if they do read a Yiddish newspaper, it is highly doubtful if it would be the Yiddish Forvertz. The Yiddish Forvertz places great emphasis on Yiddish culture, Yiddish grammar, and Yiddish orthography; the Orthodox community places great emphasis on their vernacular – grammar, spelling, and syntax be damned. The Yiddish Forvertz is concerned lest a Yiddish word is too “Deitshmerish” (Germanic) and at times, goes to great lengths to replace it. The Yiddish speaking Orthodox are concerned that they preserve Hebrew from becoming the lingua franca.

From its very onset, the Yiddish Forverts labeled itself as “progressive” when it came to politics. To be fair, the Yiddish Forvertz was pro-Israel even before statehood was proclaimed, but it is no secret that over the decades, those who published the Yiddish Forvertz longed for an Israel that understandably reflected their view of society. The Yiddish speaking Orthodox communities of today are far from monolithic when it comes to politics in this country, as well as their attitude toward Israel. Unsurprisingly, Orthodox communities tend to vote in blocs and will quite often cast their vote following the recommendation of the Rebbe (if the group is Hassidic) or Rabbi (if the group is non-Hassidic). There are Orthodox groups that strongly support Israel and have branches in Israel where they live in their own communities. Then there are other Orthodox groups that are vehemently opposed to the mere existence of a Jewish government in power in Israel, in that only with the advent of Moshiach (the Messiah), should Jews be part of a government overseeing the Holy Land. Some fifteen years ago, I encountered a member from an Orthodox community who refrained from offering up a prayer for the State of Israel at Shabbat services, because that community felt that a Jewish State ought to be governed by observant “Torah true” Jews.

Last but not least, the Yiddish Forvertz will publish articles that no “self-respecting” Orthodox publication would ever go near. Some time ago, the Yiddish Forvertz did an article about a Jewish woman who was raised and educated in a highly observant Orthodox community. This woman had abandoned her past and was now entertaining men at a Gentleman’s Club (see Merriam Webster for the definition lest anyone misconstrue), where some of her clients were from similarly observant communities. Such Jewish women do not exist as far as the Orthodox communities, as well as the Yiddish publications their constituents read, are concerned, nor do such clubs. (If such women are acknowledged at all, it is in hushed tones, whispered into the ear of the listener.) As for the Orthodox men frequenting such clubs, that’s a smear tactic on the part of a malicious press.

Alas, the very Jews the 120-year-old Yiddish publication sought to appeal to –those who were native Yiddish speakers, with politically progressive views, who sought to Americanize themselves in so many ways are pretty much extinct. Many of the less than 6,000 who do read the Yiddish Forvertz, learned their Yiddish in college and as our people in this country were once known to have intoned: “On such Yiddish, you shouldn’t depend for a conversation.”

SWASTIKA STORIES

You would think that we Jews would be used to it by now. As long as Jews walk the face of this earth, there will be those who abhor us. Yet, we seem to possess this innate need to focus in on Anti-Semitism. It’s as though we aren’t happy unless we are upset by incidents of Jew hatred. It came as no surprise therefore that a Jewish website began the New Year by reporting the Top Ten Worst Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel incidents of 2016.

Perhaps it’s time that those in the media begin reporting stories where the non-Jewish world goes out of its way to be there for us. That way, we can go through the day without being brainwashed by what we read, what we hear and what we watch that everybody hates us.

A few months back, Israel sustained substantial damage because of raging fires that were out of control. The Moriah congregation in the Ahuza neighborhood of Haifa fell victim to those fires, with its entire second floor and its roof going up in smoke…literally. Those in charge were fortunate to secure the services of a construction person who offered his services pro bono. As far as materials and supplies, the congregation was on its own. When the construction person went to get a quote for wood from Walid abu-Ahmed and Ziad Yunis his suppliers, the two Arab gentlemen took it upon themselves to donate enough wood to replace the ten tables that had been destroyed in the fire. “Jews and Arabs live together in Haifa and there is no discrimination. We must continue this coexistence and promote peace,” explained Walid abu-Ahmed.

Soon after I arrived in New York, my great-aunt was moved (against her will) from her Bronx apartment into her son and daughter in law’s home in Suburban N.J. In addition to having been cut off from her friends, my great-aunt was pretty much cut off from the world in that both her son and daughter-in –law worked full time. Unlike the Bronx, the Kosher Butcher, the grocery store and the pharmacy are not down the block in suburban N.J. But a newly retired Italian (Catholic) couple was down the block. And that couple always made sure to see if Mrs. Weinstein (my great- aunt) wanted to come to the super market with them. And that couple would call Mrs. Weinstein and make a special trip to take her to the kosher butcher so that he could get what she needed as far as chicken and ground meat and flanken (look that one up). Apparently, non-Jews going out of their way to help Jews is not news-worthy; non-Jews spray painting anti-Semitic graffiti is newsworthy.

Many years ago I received a 2 a.m. phone call on a Sunday morning from a nurse at a hospital where I served as the volunteer Jewish chaplain. An elderly Jewish man had just died and the services of a chaplain were requested. Truth be told, I was not a happy camper. But I got dressed and drove over to the hospital. When I entered the hospital room, here is what I saw: The patient lying on the bed, his wife totally distraught and Mary and Chris, neighbors of the elderly Jewish couple trying to provide comfort. Mary and Chris were newlyweds in their early to mid-twenties. Mary and Chris brought the wife to the hospital and sat with her until she was ready to leave. Mary and Chris then took the distraught wife back home but would not let her stay alone. Mary called me Sunday afternoon to ask me for guidance with regard to Shiva. Mary also wanted to know what foods would be both appropriate as well as kosher.

Anti-Semites are a fact of life. So too is the fact that there are everyday Christians and Moslems as well as all other non-Jews who go out of their way for Jews. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had some friends in the media who just might like printing stories about the latter? Wouldn’t it be nice if we had some friends in the media who do stories on non-Jewish contributions to local Federations, UJA and Israel? Who knows? It could very well plant a smile in our souls to replace that pain in our hearts that they are responsible for, thanks to their “swastika stories.”