Wednesday, September 14th, 2011...2:25 pm

Editorial: 100 years of the Jewish World

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On the front page of the print edition of the Sept. 16 issue — our Rosh Hashana special edition — readers will notice something remarkable under the “flag,” the American Jewish World logotype. We have arrived at “Volume 100 • No. 1.”

The Jewish World, which dates to June 12, 1912 (the first issue of The Jewish Weekly), is officially celebrating its centennial year of publication.

Reaching this milestone is something I had in mind when I formed a company in 2005, and signed up investors to purchase the assets of AJW Publishing, Inc., Rabbi Marc Liebhaber’s company. The transaction was successfully concluded, and in March 2006, Minnesota Jewish Media, LLC, a partnership comprised of local community members, took over publication of the American Jewish World.

I wonder what the paper’s founder, Rabbi Samuel N. Deinard, would think of the current incarnation of the publication he launched a century ago?

Deinard, a native of Lithuania, came to Minneapolis to serve as rabbi of Temple Shaarei Tov (which later became Temple Israel). He envisioned a newspaper that would help unify the different Jewish communities and streams in Minnesota, launched a number of short-lived publications, before he teamed up with Leonard H. (Leo) Frisch, who was the AJW’s publisher over six decades. (I am only the fifth publisher in the newspaper’s history.)

In the July 30, 1915, edition of the American Jewish World — a 52-page “enlarged number,” announcing the reborn version of his paper — Deinard asked the question: “Why this persistency on our part, after several previous discouragements?”

He continued: “There is certainly no rich compensation awaiting one, either in money or even literary glory, for all such efforts. If the same energy were spent by one in writing something for a secular magazine of wide circulation, there would be some satisfactory reward as a result. But what reward awaits the editor or even the publisher of a Jewish journal?”

Now, this is a question I mull over frequently.

In 1915, Rabbi Deinard, a visionary of Minnesota’s Jewish community, provided an answer: “Our reason for our repeated attempts is simply this: We are deeply convinced that a good local Jewish paper can do a great good to a Jewish community. It can serve as the community’s mouthpiece to speak its thoughts and sentiments on all matters of importance. It can serve as the mouthpiece of the leaders of the community in addressing themselves to their followers and uniting them for effective action. It can serve as the pleader for every worthy organization and institution when in need of support or greater appreciation of their services.”

Deinard also noted that a column in this “communal journal can reach all the people at the same time” — unlike “the preacher and teacher who can reach only a limited number of people at one time, and whose words vanish in the air as soon as uttered.”

As far as the AJW serving as a “mouthpiece” for the Jewish community and its leaders, I think that we prefer the metaphor of a bulletin board (or, in the Minnesota context, a smörgÃ¥sbord of news and views), as this newspaper functions as a sounding board for diverse opinions. We did change the themeline of the paper in 2006 — from “Voice of Minnesota Jewry” to “Voices of Minnesota’s Jewish Community” — to stress the participatory nature of this Jewish journalism enterprise.

I think that Rabbi Deinard, who died an untimely death in 1921, would be amazed to see how his newspaper has evolved. Perhaps he would be somewhat flummoxed to see how we do things in the digital age, with e-mail, Google and Facebook — and zapping the finished file of the newspaper to the FTP site of our printer in Madelia, Minn.

We are carrying on the tradition of community-based Jewish journalism. Deinard wanted to publish a periodical that is “Jewish in the broadest sense of the word. Nothing of Jewish interest will be foreign to it.”

Curiously, Rabbi Deinard promised that the American Jewish World would “concern itself less with the politics of the world, and the other troubles of the world, and more with the troubles and politics of the Jewish world of the Twin Cities.” However, this paper has always been both inward- and outward-looking. Deinard started out before the birth of the modern State of Israel, so Israel and its place in the Middle East has been an ongoing AJW story for more than 63 years. And the July 30, 1915, edition of the AJW included an essay by Dr. Stephen S. Wise titled “The War [World War I] and the Jewish Question”; another column on “True Americanism,” by Louis D. Brandeis, who would become the first Jewish justice on the Supreme Court the following year; and a report on the Zionist Convention in Boston.

As I note from time to time, we work hard here to produce a product that is informative and entertaining. Rabbi Albert I. Gordon, who served many years in the pulpit of Adath Jeshurun Congregation, wrote in his 1949 book Jews in Transition that the AJW’s “news columns are read by all elements of the community, and the fact that all Jewish organizations, religious and secular, seek to publicize their activities through its columns seems to indicate that it plays an important role in the Jewish community.”

We are grateful for the support of the synagogues, schools, Jewish agencies and groups in our community. And we extend sincere thanks to our readers and advertisers in the greater community, who help sustain the newspaper. As we journey through our centennial year, we would like to work with everyone in celebrating the history that has been recorded in these pages. Over the past 100 years, the Jewish World has chronicled wars, the Great Depression, the Holocaust, the birth of Israel and other events, both epochal and intimate.

Please let us know what the American Jewish World means to you. Please buy a gift subscription for a friend or relative (only $30 a year).

It’s your Jewish World. With your help, we can continue for another 10, 20 or 100 years.

The publisher and staff of the American Jewish World wish all our readers a Happy, Healthy and Sweet New Year.

— Mordecai Specktor / editor@ajwnews.com

(American Jewish World, 9.16.11)

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