Hillel Rogoff, managing editor of the Jewish Daily Forward and just turned fifty, does not find the half-century mark in his life of any more than calendaric significance.
He does not feel any different now than he felt ten or fifteen years ago, the prominent journalist, lecturer and Socialist leader told this interviewer, when questioned concerning his 50th birthday, celebrated this week at a gathering of friends and colleagues.
We met in his private office on the ninth floor of the Forward Building. A busy building, a busy floor and a busy room, although its only occupant is the managing editor. Men and women kept coming and going. Mr. Rogoff did not seem annoyed by these disturbances, answering the queries of these people as well as of mine in a calm and composed manner. I could not help but compare his quiet demeanor with that of other executives whose occupations took far greater toll of their nervous systems than do the tasks of the managing editor of the world’s greatest Yiddish daily.
From a biographical sketch of Mr. Rogoff in Rezen’s “Lexicon of Yiddish Writers”, I discovered that Mr. Rogoff came to this country at the age of 13 and that he studied in a Yeshiva. Substantiating this detail, Mr. Rogoff said that he was one of the first students of the nucleus of the Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Yeshiva, organized in about 1906, when he and several other boys outgrew the Yeshiva of Etz Chaim.
His Yeshiva education, Mr. Rogoff said, made him the real Jew he is today. In fact, he added, no Jew can be a real Jew, in the moral sense of the word, without a Jewish education.
He was a candidate on the Socialist party ticket in 1926 for Congress. He recalled his early activities in the Socialist movement and traced his Socialist work from the time he was a student at the College of the City of New York and joined a Socialist club on the East Side. His membership in that club led also to his joining the staff of The Forward. Several members of the club, including Adolph Held (now president of the Amalgamated Bank), and Henry Greenfield (now advertising manager of The Forward), told the editor of The Forward, Abraham Cahan, about the young leader and writer and Mr. Cahan invited him to become a member of the staff.
The Socialist Party in America, Mr. Rogoff said, is now attracting a younger element and is once again strengthening its ranks, which underwent internal changes in a manner similar to that of Socialist parties in other countries.
When our conversation drifted to the subject of the Yiddish press in America, Mr. Rogoff asserted that this press is still strong. Ten years ago, when immigration into this country was practically stopped, the foreign press, including the Yiddish, became nervous concerning its future. Predictions regarding the life span of the Yiddish press did not, however, materialize. There is no reason why the Yiddish press in America should not go on for many, many years, if the way in which it has held its own during these ten years of limited immigration is at all indicative, Mr. Rogoff asserted. He said, in conclusion, that among his future projects is the writing of a history of American Jewish literature.
Hillel Rogoff was born in Berezin, in the province of Minsk. He studied at the Yeshiva and at City College, taking his degree in 1906. He has edited and contributed to many Socialist periodicals in English and in Yiddish. In 1915 he published a three-volume history of the United States (in Yiddish), and has written a number of other books. Mr. Rogoff is one of the most popular personalities and lecturers in the Socialist movement and has twice held the presidency of the Jewish Writers’ Club.