The following is a guest post by Robin Pike, Head, Digital Collection Services Section in the Serial and Government Publications Division. Robin conducted the following interviews with Ann Sneesby-Koch from History Colorado in Denver, CO, and Melissa Jerome from the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL.
Chronicling America* has grown its collection of newspapers by and for Jewish Americans under the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) through the contributions of state partners. It currently holds 11 Jewish American titles from 1878 to 1963, with the bulk of available issues from the 20th century. When reading about relevant topics and time periods, it is important to compare versions of the stories in the mainstream press with articles from the Jewish American press. Some mainstream newspapers chose to ignore Jewish communities in their newspapers while others, especially those written before World War II and the Holocaust, would print antisemitic articles and editorial cartoons. Including newspapers written by and for Jewish Americans in your research can provide a useful contrast to these articles as well as insight into what Jewish communities across the country found important.
The following interviews with NDNP partners from Colorado and Florida highlight titles that provide details of local life in Jewish immigrant communities (an excellent source for genealogy), the Colorado community’s role in a tuberculosis hospital, and news about persecution, the Holocaust, and both World Wars in Europe. We conclude by sharing some search strategies with you.
Can you tell me about the significance of the newspaper titles by Jewish Americans that Colorado has included in Chronicling America?
Beginning in 1903, The Jewish Outlook was the first Jewish affiliated newspaper published in Colorado and the unofficial organ of the National Jewish Hospital, a special charity hospital for the victims of tuberculosis who crowded into Denver for the curative powers of the Colorado air described as “an elixir to the breath and velvet to the cheek.” It was published in a magazine format, primarily promoting the work of the National Jewish Hospital and was especially vocal, under the editorial helm of Rabbi William S. Friedman of the Reform Temple Emanuel, in its opposition to the activities of the Jewish Consumptives’ Relief Society, which was a venture launched by Denver’s East European Jewish community leaders. The newspaper suspended publication in 1913.
The Denver Jewish News began its run in 1915. It was founded by the Central Jewish Council and was, at the time, the only Jewish newspaper in the state of Colorado. The paper’s first editor, Dr. Charles Spivak, was also a founder of the Jewish Consumptives’ Relief Society. The Jewish News was more of a traditional newspaper in that it reported on regional news, society happenings, and local entertainment. The publication also commented on world and national affairs. The paper called upon Denver’s Jewish community to undertake relief efforts for Jews persecuted in the pogroms in Poland and reported incidents of increasing anti-Semitism in Europe after World War I. The newspaper subsequently reported on nearly every significant Jewish event, including the Holocaust and Israel. It’s still in publication today as the Intermountain Jewish News, reflecting a readership that extends into the larger Rocky Mountain area.
What have you learned about these newspapers through the process of digitization?
I’ve learned that Denver, Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West had a vibrant Jewish community, which is reflected in the pages of The Denver Jewish News, especially. The Jewish News covered both sides of Denver’s Jewish population: the predominantly Eastern European Orthodox Jewish immigrants that had settled and flourished in West Denver and the Reform Jewish community situated in Denver’s more affluent Capitol Hill and Eastern neighborhoods. I also learned about the tensions between the National Jewish Hospital, of which Rabbi Friedman was a founder, and the Jewish Consumptives’ Relief Society, which was co-founded by the later editor of The Denver Jewish News, Dr. Charles Spivak.
Rabbi Friedman, in the pages of The Jewish Outlook, endorsed a moderate approach to dealing with the teeming numbers of tuberculosis patients moving to Colorado for “the cure,” by offering 90 beds for patients with the “intention to receive and treat only those for whom there is a reasonable chance for recovery, or sufficient improvement to enable the patient, upon his discharge, to become self-supporting” (The Jewish Outlook, November 24, 1905). However, the Outlook criticized the JCRS for propagandizing for funds to support their own hospital in a way which would result in “practically an invitation to the consumptive poor of the entire United States to flock to Denver” (The Jewish Outlook, January 27, 1905).
How have these newspapers been used for research?
I think that particularly The Denver Jewish News has been a great resource for genealogists. Early in our project we held a research “how-to” session for the Jewish Genealogical Society of Colorado, featuring the Jewish News because it was the newsier of the two Denver Jewish publications and carried regional news and society happenings. As our partners at the Colorado State Library have continued digitizing the Intermountain Jewish News beyond what we were able to digitize through the NDNP grant (up through 1969 on Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection), I’m confident that the research value and significance of the title has only increased, especially as the coverage includes World War II and the Civil Rights Movement.
Is there anything else you would like to share about these newspapers or the Colorado newspaper project? Where can readers find you online?
The Colorado Digital Newspaper Project is currently on hiatus; however our partners at the Colorado State Library maintain the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection (CHNC) which currently includes more than 3 million digitized pages, representing more than 660 individual newspaper titles published in Colorado from 1859 up through 2022. All the newspapers digitized for the NDNP grant are included in CHNC as well as Chronicling America.
Can you tell me about the significance of the newspaper title by Jewish Americans that Florida has included in Chronicling America?
The Southern Jewish Weekly was published in Jacksonville, FL, by Isadore Moscovitz from 1939 until 1992. Moscovitz, a Jewish American man, was a journalism graduate from the University of Florida who began the paper to serve the “American citizens of Jewish faith.” The Weekly was a strong promoter of the Jewish faith, frequently publishing information about Jewish congregations around the state and sharing information to educate readers about Jewish holidays.
From its onset, The Southern Jewish Weekly was published once a week, with each issue typically being eight pages. However, in October 1943, Moscovitz published an announcement noting a change in publication frequency due to World War II. The Weekly became The Southern Jewish Monthly, publishing a single issue every third Friday of the month. During this time, Moscovitz served in the war, leaving his wife, Ethel Moscovitz, to manage and edit the paper. The paper continued as a monthly until January 1947, when Moscovitz returned to the United States and resumed the paper’s weekly publication schedule.
The Weekly was “opposed to communism, fascism, and Nazism and dedicated to the ideals of American democracy.” It reported on World War II, providing readers with a unique perspective from the community most affected by the tragedies of the war. The newspaper often reported the murders and atrocities endured by the Jewish community. It also reported on activities of antisemitic hate groups in the United States, like the Ku Klux Klan.
What have you learned about this newspaper through the process of digitization?
Florida has consistently contributed content to Chronicling America since 2013. Our focus shifted solely to ethnic press in 2019. We have learned in working to build our list of ethnic papers that historically there was a lack of statewide effort to preserve newspapers from underrepresented communities. Through the NDNP, we have worked to rectify that by documenting and digitizing what we can, though this has proven difficult given the lack of content available.
During our time in the NDNP, Florida has been able to digitize one Jewish paper, The Southern Jewish Weekly. This is one of three Jewish newspapers for which we had microfilm that was not already digitized and met NDNP criteria for dates.
How has this newspaper been used for research?
Our project team has used this newspaper for instruction. We’ve highlighted content from the paper to teach students how to analyze varying perspectives in primary sources. We’ve also featured content from this paper when we presented at national conferences and events hosted by local historical societies. This newspaper provides a unique perspective for understanding a worldwide historical event. World War II and the Holocaust deeply and primarily impacted the Jewish community. This newspaper documents from the Jewish perspective how this community suffered while the atrocities occurred.
Is there anything else you would like to share about this newspaper or the Florida newspaper project? Where can readers find you online?
Thanks to funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and our partnerships with the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras and the University of the Virgin Islands, we have worked together across geographic borders to digitize and contribute over half a million pages of newspapers from all three areas for public access.
We share information about our project, the US Caribbean & Florida Digital Newspaper Project, through social media regularly. Folks interested in learning about Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. We also have a WordPress account where we share information about the project and share blog posts contextualizing content from our papers.
The fastest way to find Jewish American newspapers in Chronicling America is to go to the “All Digitized Newspapers 1777-1963” tab and select “Jewish” in the “Ethnicity” dropdown menu. This list of newspaper titles is populated using the subject headings added by catalogers; at the time of this blog post, it currently contains 11 titles from 7 states, though we are continuously adding new titles.
A researcher can then note the newspaper titles they want to search in, and then go to the Advanced Search tab and select only those titles. Select multiple titles to search at the same time by clicking while pressing the “Ctrl” key (on Windows) or “Cmd” key (on Mac).
When you click on a newspaper title from the list of all Jewish newspapers, you are taken to the title record for the newspaper, which includes a title essay. The title essay is written by each state partner and provides additional background information about the newspaper, its editor(s), information about the community it provided news to, and major events or themes the newspaper covered.
As a search strategy, when looking for events or terms, it helps to use historic terms that were used in the era in which the newspaper was printed. These terms may not be in use today because they have fallen out of fashion or because they are considered racist or insensitive. We recommend that a researcher first browse the newspaper issues to learn what terms may have been used in both Jewish American newspapers and the prominent white newspapers for the period they are interested in to find terms to help their search. Additional information about specific people/events in Jewish American history can be found in Chronicling America subject guides.
* The Chronicling America historic newspapers online collection is a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program and jointly sponsored by the Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Follow Chronicling America on Twitter @ChronAmLOC
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