New York’s Thriving Yiddish Press

Dec. 19 2018

The early decades of the last century were a golden age for the American Yiddish press, when tens of thousands of Jews got their news regularly from that source—either instead of or alongside English-language publications. Now, despite the decline of both print media and the proportion of Jews who speak the language, Yiddish newspapers are experiencing a second golden age, but now almost exclusively among Ḥasidim. While Der Yid was founded in the 1950s to serve the Satmar community—one of the largest ḥasidic groups and one deeply committed to maintaining Yiddish—and remains one of the most popular Yiddish dailies, it now has several competitors, even as the non-ḥasidic Yiddish press has all but died off. Rose Waldman writes:

Der Yid’s success is a microcosm of the general burgeoning Yiddish print industry. Nowadays, besides Der Yid, two major newspapers—Di Tzeitung and Der Blatt—cater to the ḥasidic, Yiddish-reading demographic. Readers also have their choice of magazines: Maalos, a monthly established by Sarah Jungreisz in 1996 that attempted to raise the literary quality of ḥasidic publications; Moment, a glossy weekly (not related to the secular Jewish magazine of the same name founded by Elie Wiesel and Leonard Fein in 1975), the first to feature images of ḥasidic personalities on their cover pages in the style of secular glossies; Der Shtern, established by Shimon Rolnitzky; as well as Di VokhDer Blik, and Der Blitz. And for Ḥasidim interested in reading edgier pieces on less mainstream topics, there’s the [somewhat controversial] Der Veker. In the 60 years since Der Yid was established, the industry has come a long way. . . .

The topics discussed in ḥasidic print media have evolved over the years, gradually becoming more forthright about issues that would not have been discussed openly two decades ago. One such topic is the issue of mental illness, first broached by the conservative magazine Maalos. (Maalos was also the first to feature a column on Yiddish grammar and language, a subject previously considered the domain of [secularists].) Nowadays, mental illness is often discussed in both Yiddish- and English-language publications with ḥasidic readerships. . . . Moment frequently serves as a platform for therapists, doctors, and academics who speak about various mental disorders and illnesses.

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More about: American Jewry, Arts & Culture, Hasidim, Media, Yiddish

Why Israel Pretends That Hamas Fired Rockets by Accident

March 21 2019

Israeli military and political officials have repeated Hamas’s dubious claim that the launching of two rockets at Tel Aviv last week was inadvertent. To Smadar Perry, accepting Hamas’s story rather than engaging in further retaliation is but a convenient, and perhaps necessary, way of aiding Egyptian efforts to broker a deal with the terrorist group. But even if these efforts succeed, the results will be mixed:

The [Israeli] security cabinet has met in Tel Aviv and decided that they would continue indirect negotiations with Gaza. A message was sent to Egypt, whose delegation is going back to Gaza to pass on the Israeli demands for calm. The Egyptians also have to deal with the demands from Hamas, which include, among other things, an increase in aid from $15 million to $30 million per month and an increase in the supply of electricity.

The requests are reasonable, but they do leave a sour taste in the mouth. Israel must ensure that this financial aid does not end up in the pockets of Hamas and its associates. [Israel] also knows that if it says “no” to everything, the Iranians will step in, with the help of their Gazan friends in Islamic Jihad. They are just waiting for the opportunity.

Hamas also must deal with the fallout from a series of massive handouts from Qatar. For when the citizens of the Gaza Strip saw that the money was going to the Hamas leadership, who were also enjoying a fine supply of electricity to their own houses, they took to the streets in protest—and this time it was not Israel that was the focus of their anger. . .

[But] here is the irony. With Egyptian help, Israel can reach understandings for calm with Gaza, despite the lack of a direct channel. . . . In the West Bank, where the purportedly friendlier Fatah is in charge, it is more complicated, at least until the eighty-three-year-old Mahmoud Abbas is replaced.

As evidence for that last statement, consider the murder of two Israelis in the West Bank on Sunday, and the Palestinians who threw explosives at Israeli soldiers at Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem yesterday.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, West Bank