NEW YORK (Dec. 29)
Jewish newsmen and community leaders, voicing shock and dismay, tried to shed some light today on the permanent darkening last night of the Day-Jewish Journal. One of only two surviving general-circulation Yiddish-language dailies in the nation, it ceased publication as of yesterday’s issue after 57 years in business, the first 39 as simply the Day.
The final issue, dated Dec. 28, did not indicate the paper’s impending demise. Although plates were in place for today’s issue, it never appeared, and the “Tag’s” own readers were suddenly deprived of their morning reading without notice. But even by today it was unclear just how unexpected the Tag’s closing was.
According to city editor Philip Sandler–in comments echoed by other staff personnel–the closing “came suddenly, without explanations.” B.Z. Goldberg, a Tag columnist for 50 years, was quoted as saying: “Only yesterday (Monday) the publishers were consulting me about putting more features in the paper. A newspaper that is going to fold just doesn’t make plans like that.”
Philip Slomovitz, editor and publisher of the Jewish News in Detroit, said the Tag’s closing was not expected for at least another 10 years. The “tragic” development, he said, means that “the demise of Yiddish, which we deplored for many years, has reached a deplorable but hopefully not final stage.” (See Page 4 for Special Analysis.)
Paul Novick, editor-in-chief of the Morning Freiheit, the Communist-oriented Yiddish daily here, called the decision “very sudden and unexpected.” Neal Kozodoy, executive director of the magazine Commentary, published by the American Jewish Committee, voiced “shock” at the news.
HANDWRITING ON THE WALL
On the other hand, I. Kaufman, public relations chief for the Newspaper Guild of New York, said he was “sure” the paper’s personnel had known what was coming. He recalled that a year or two ago, when publisher Arthur L. Jacobs’ father-in-law died, Jacobs “gave the impression” that he wanted out. (Because of reported financial difficulties at the Tag, which had a weekly payroll of $18,000, Jacobs and the other two officers have waived their salaries for the past seven years.)
Even blunter was a very knowledgeable source who declined to be named. He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: “I knew the handwriting was on the wall six months ago. There was not anyone there who didn’t know it would happen. They didn’t want to know.” As for the future of the Tag’s 110 employes, the source said “Everything is up in the air.” (The guild represents only the 25 clerical personnel. Kaufman said he foresaw no difficulties in obtaining their severance pay, but commented: “We’re not cheering.”)
Jacobs was quoted as attributing his paper’s demise to increased labor costs and to reduced revenues despite the paper’s achievement of being “all things to all men”–Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews, even radicals. But Novick saw that status as, in fact, the cause of death. “They didn’t have any principled basis.” he told the JTA.
“Their editorials, in spite of their columnists, were for the Indochina war,” Novick said. “There is a time when chickens come to roost.” The Tag’s closing was “unfortunate, of course,” Novick stated. (The Tag’s circulation at its death was down to around 40,000; the Freiheit’s is around 78,000.) Freiheit city editor Chaim Suller cited the Tag’s “racism” and “support of the Nixon war policy” as a cause for its dwindling readership.
WILL BE GREATLY MISSED
Gershon Jacobson, a Tag editor, rejected these charges. He said that his paper never espoused a pro-Vietnam war policy in its editorials. He attributed the Tag’s closing to “the unions–especially the mechanical unions–strangling the paper with their constant demands.” Union power, he asserted, was the reason for the suddenness of the close-down–if an announcement had been scheduled for publication this morning, union personnel would have acted to prevent distribution of copies of the paper. Jacobson added that in phone calls to him this morning from long-time readers, “people were crying” and offering to contribute money to keep the paper alive.
Philip E. Hoffman, president of the AJCommittee, said of the Day: “Its highly competent reporting, lively and informative columns and dedication to the welfare of Jews in the United States and around the world will be greatly missed. More importantly, it represented a link with Yiddish culture, a tradition that has bound Jews together for centuries and that now is more in danger of extinction than before.”
Seymour Graubard, national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said it was “particularly disappointing that the paper has ceased publication on the eve of what appears to be a renaissance of Jewish cultural identification among young people, including the revival of Yiddish-language studies.” Commentary’s Kozodoy reflected the feelings of many in one sentence: “As each such institution goes under, we are all that much the poorer.”