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How to Become Jewish Americans?

The «A Bintel Brief» Advice Column in Abraham Cahan’s Yiddish «Forverts»


Magdalena Ewa Bier

Created by Abraham Cahan in 1906, the advice column A Bintel Brief ran as the most enduring feature of the New York Yiddish newspaper Forverts for over seven decades. This study takes a closer look at the letters and responses to A Bintel Brief thereby revealing the hardships of uprooted Eastern European Jews. In an uncharted environment they turned to the column for guidance. In his answers, the editor of The Bintel Brief was always sympathetic, yet pragmatic, encouraging assimilation and ethnic group solidarity, thus paving the way for the readers to become accepted Jewish Americans.
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3. The Forverts – Origins and Ideology


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3.  The Forverts – Origins and Ideology

3.1  Creating a New Form of a Yiddish Press

The success of the Forverts is strongly connected with the journalistic vision of its first editor-in-chief, Abraham Cahan. He created and published the newspaper according to his own concept and insisted on supervising its content until he retired. With his strong determination Cahan influenced the public opinion of the Yiddish speaking community in New York and beyond for more than five decades.

How powerful the combination of a skilled community leader and a newspaper at his hands can be, is thoroughly discussed by sociologist Walter Lippman in his 1922 book on public opinion:

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