AMERICAN HEBREW, THE:
A weekly journal, the first number of which was published in New York city, Nov. 21, 1879. It was founded chiefly through the efforts of F. de Sola Mendes, who, together with Philip Cowen, the publisher of the paper from its first number, interested several other persons in the formation of a corporation to issue the paper,which corporation was named "The American Hebrew Publishing Company." In the third number of this periodical, its policy was declared as follows: "It is not controlled by one person, nor is it inspired by one. Its editorial staff comprises men of diverse shades of opinion on ritualistic matters in Judaism, but men who are determined to combine their energies for the common cause of Judaism." At the outset of its career, "The American Hebrew" was conducted—and is to this day—by a board of editors, in which only one change has been made—that change being rendered necessary by the death of one of its members. To insure absolute impersonality in all matters pertaining to the paper, the names of the persons forming this board have never been published.
During the persecutions of the Rumanian Jews that followed the signing of the Treaty of Berlin (1878)—which treaty, it was hoped, would alleviate, rather than aggravate, the condition of the Jews of Rumania—"The American Hebrew" published a number of important letters on the subject from European writers, which led the American Jews to exercise their influence on behalf of their suffering coreligionists abroad.
The persecution of the Russian Jews that began with the enforcement throughout Russia of the May Laws in 1881 caused a large immigration of these Jews to the United States. In England and America, immigration aid associations were formed; and "The American Hebrew" assisted in the formation in New York of the "Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society," which cared for the immigrants on their arrival in the United States; though this journal was not connected in any other way with the society.
Among the leading figures in Jewish life that "The American Hebrew" has introduced to American Judaism may be named Emma Lazarus, who attained distinction as a poet. Under the management of this journal, Miss Lazarus published her "Dance of Death," a fourteenth-century tragedy, based on authentic documents furnished through Prof. Franz Delitzsch. Subsequently Miss Lazarus contributed the first poem she translated from the original Hebrew, which appeared in the issue for May 11, 1883. In "The American Hebrew" Miss Lazarus advocated industrial education for the younger generation of Russian refugees; her efforts in this direction, together with those of other earnest writers, leading ultimately to the founding of the "Hebrew Technical Institute" in New York city, which was the first institution of its kind in the United States.
Special numbers of "The American Hebrew" have been published from time to time. A noteworthy issue was that of the memorial number commemorative of the death of Emma Lazarus. This was published in December, 1887, and contained tributes in prose and verse from the pens of Browning, Whittier, Warner, Stedman, Hay, Burroughs, Dana, Eggleston, Boyesen, Maurice Thompson, and Savage.Religio-Literary Symposium.
Three years later (1890), "The American Hebrew" published a unique religio-literary symposium, entitled "A Consensus on Prejudice." Among the contributors to this number were such prominent educators as President James McCosh of Princeton University, President Charles W. Eliot of Harvard University, and Prof. Crawford H. Toy. The Christian Church was represented by Bishops Potter, Littlejohn, and Coxe, and Doctors Vincent, Dix, Crosby, Chadwick, Newton, Buckley, Hale, and Gladden. Literary men also contributed to this number; and among the leading ones were Holmes, Curtis, Burroughs, Howells, Hay, and Higginson. Zebulon B. Vance, Robert G. Ingersoll, and many others represented the public men. These persons all gave their views on the causes of the existing prejudice against the Jews, and suggested means for its dissipation. Among the more important literary contributions published in the columns of "The American Hebrew" must be instanced Max J. Kohler's edition of Judge Daly's work on the "Settlement of the Jews in America." There, too, many important discussions bearing on the development of Judaism in America have been carried on.
Since its publication "The American Hebrew" has absorbed several Jewish periodicals, among which have been "The Jewish Chronicle" of Baltimore, Md., in 1880; "Jewish Tidings" of Rochester, N. Y., in 1895; "The Jewish Reformer," a weekly journal conducted for a time by Kaufmann Kohler, I. S. Moses, and Emil G. Hirsch, in 1886.Active in Matters of Public Interest.
Among other matters of public interest in which "The American Hebrew" has taken an important part are the establishment in New York city of the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the dispatch, in 1900, of a special commissioner (David Blaustein) to visit Rumania for the purpose of ascertaining the condition of the Rumanian Jews. Mr. Blaustein contributed a series of comprehensive reports on the subject of his investigations; and in them he also discussed the question of emigration, which had then already begun. These reports appeared in the October and November issues of "The American Hebrew" for 1900.
Editorially, "The American Hebrew" stands for conservatism in Judaism. Nevertheless, the columns of this journal are ever open to the discussion of views with which it can in no way accord, but which may be of interest to its readers. Nearly all the prominent Jewish writers and communal workers in the United States have been contributors to its pages. "The American Hebrew" has always avoided the publication of purely private or social news, thus resisting an almost universal tendency among modern American newspapers.