JTA History

JTA History

On Feb. 6, 1917, a 25-year-old journalist named Jacob Landau founded the Jewish Correspondence Bureau, later renamed the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, in The Hague along with four colleagues from Belgium. The project began as a volunteer effort.

With major waves of Jewish emigration at the turn of the 20th- century, Landau’s company effectively disseminate information about relatives overseas, the need no doubt underscored by the advent of World War I.

The organization’s first Daily News Bulletin was published on Feb. 15, 1917.

On Oct. 15, 1924, the first issue of JTA’s reformatted Jewish Daily Bulletin was published with a 10-point summary of its mission, among them:

The Jewish Daily Bulletin will be independent. It will not propagate any particular philosophy or theory or tendency. It will limit itself to the presentation of facts, leaving to its readers the forming of their opinion.

JTA moved its headquarters from London in 1920 to New York in 1921. From both sides of the Atlantic, JTA correspondents continued to report pivotal events affecting the Jewish community and the global political landscape, including anti-Semitism in Europe and America, immigration to Palestine and the rising threat of Nazism.

In 1923, one correspondent was detained by Hitler during the Munich Beer Hall Putsch in 1923.

JTA soon began expanding its overseas coverage, with a publication called “The Palestine Daily Bulletin,” sold to JTA correspondent Gershon Agronsky in 1932. (The publication later evolved into the Jerusalem Post).

1934 marked the short-lived launch of an expanded Jewish Daily Bulletin, with the linotype ceremoniously set by Albert Einstein, Jacob Landau’s close personal friend who would serve as godfather to the JTA editor’s son one month later. With the expanded Daily Bulletin came new offerings, including a sports column, political and literary commentary, and even a fashion column. Despite these “lighter side” items, the growing influence of Nazism remained front page news. JTA counted the Associated Press and New York times as clients.

In the late 1930s, JTA’s offices in Berlin and Warsaw were the targets of Nazi raids; JTA’s editor in Poland, Mendel Mozes, guided his news staff to safety. During WWII, JTA formed a subsidiary called the Overseas News Agency (ONA), a move that facilitated non-Jewish correspondents’ access to Nazi-held territories in Europe.

After the War, JTA continued to report developments in Europe and Palestine, and later shared reactions to the founding of the State of Israel from around the globe.

In 1949 through 1960, JTA was supported in large part by operating support from the Council of Jewish Federations. Following an agreement with the Jewish Agency in 1960, JTA transitioned to a non-profit news agency by transferring ownership to a non-profit foundation in 1963.

Whether by telegraph, fax or the internet, JTA has consistently been a leader in transmitting “All the News Concerning Jews.” In 1933 the first phone call between the U.S. and Palestine was between Landau and Dr. Chaim Weizmann, former President of the Zionist World Organization and the Jewish Agency. In 1955, JTA pioneered the use of facsimile circuit in the United States when it linked its office with that of the Jewish Daily Forward and the Day-Morning Journal.  In 1960, JTA became the first news agency to transmit Hebrew characters across the Atlantic Ocean via radio facsimile circuit. During those years, JTA also expanded its wire service network through arrangement with Reuters, serving clients in the United States, England, France, South Africa, Argentina and Peru.

In 1978, JTA made the critical decision to create a microfilm of all its news bulletins from 1920 and on.

On May 3, 2011, JTA completed a multi-year effort to digitize and publish online the contents of its historical archive since 1923. Today, more than 250,000 articles — and growing — are free and accessible to the public through the JTA Digital Archive.