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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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4. A Bintel Brief: Characteristics and Content


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4.  A Bintel Brief: Characteristics and Content

Behind the concept of A Bintel Brief stood Cahan’s carefully planned strategy with which he wanted to consider his readers’ needs and expectations. In the following chapter the characteristics of the A Bintel Brief column will be presented. Several general aspects of an advice column need to be considered in the analysis. First, the outline of the column and its outward appearance need to be discussed. What kinds of letters were published and how were they structured? What effects did its outward appearance have on the reader? Second, the main themes of the A Bintel Brief column will be discussed in order to identify the role of the column in the Forverts. In a next step, the information about the writers will be looked at. Who are the writers and how do they present themselves? However, as an advice column consists of a letter and an answer, the role of the editor reveals valuable information about the ideology of the column and will be therefore analyzed as well.

4.1  Main Characteristics of the Column

A Bintel Brief appeared on page five of the Forverts. Just like any other average newspaper, page one contained the headline news. The following two pages consisted of advertisements for merchandise, services from local stores, and announcements of (mostly socialist or union) meetings and lectures. The masthead and editorials were located on page four.232 Page five and six, then,...

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