WHEN FORWARD IS BACKWARD
Iwas terribly saddened and dismayed by a recent article in The Jewish Week which reported that after 121 years, the Jewish Daily Forward will cease publication of its print edition and rely solely on a digital version. The move would be accompanied by a 20% staff reduction, mostly consisting of its senior staff of experienced and renowned journalists. The decision was the final chapter of a money-losing epic that has been playing itself out since 1945, forcing the newspaper to sustain itself through asset sales consisting of its radio bandwidth and office buildings it owned. But the financial crisis of 2008, combined with the general downturn in print media and the dealings of our good friend, Bernie Madoff, were too much to endure and the downward slope became even steeper, ultimately forcing the Forward to take the step it recently took.
Now by this time you must be thinking: “Has Hell finally frozen over? Is that really Dave Feldman grieving over the demise of a newspaper distinctly known for its left-leaning, actually socialist, editorial policy?” No, despite the perils of climate change, Hell is still intact (please don’t ask me how I know) and I frankly could not care less about a left-leaning, actually socialist, newspaper biting the dust, although I would never cheer the prospect of 20% of its staff being put out on the street. Then why the tears, Dave?
The tears, my friend, are for what the Jewish Daily Forward meant to me growing up. It meant dropping in on my dear grandmother, my Bubbe, and finding her sitting in her chair by her second-floor window, always with the Forward in her hands. She could not read a word of English, but she devoured the Yiddish Forward, cover-to-cover, every single day. And when she was finished with the newspaper, she “recycled” it by covering her newly-washed floor with the newspaper to help the floor dry (never understood how that worked, but if Bubbe believed it worked, it worked). You might say she was way ahead of her time when it came to recycling to protect the environment. Wow, what a memory of a woman who offered me a nickel to teach her to read English, yet was so astute when it came to the issues of the day and her ability to intellectually dissect them. What a brilliant, caring woman, who raised four children, including an adopted daughter, alone, by scrubbing floors. What a woman, who escaped the misery and anti-Semitic violence of eastern Europe and was uncompromising when it came to her Jewishness. She taught me so much, mostly by example, yet what I will always remember so vividly is her sitting by the second-floor window, reading the Jewish Daily Forward.
They say that nothing is forever, and I certainly don’t dispute that. Admittedly, I never read the Forward, not even the English edition, but I always had a warm feeling whenever I thought about that socialistic newspaper; a warm feeling of remembrance of my childhood and of a woman who shaped me as a person; a woman who meant so much to me. It was always comforting to know that the paper was still around and that I could retrieve it from my memory bank whenever I wanted to have warm thoughts about that woman in the second-floor window. But now with the demise of the print edition and publication of only a digital version, I too will have to adapt and exchange some memory cells for imagination cells so I can picture Bubbe sitting by the second-floor window reading the Jewish Daily Forward, but now on her laptop computer. Wonder how that will work on the wet floor?
Dave Feldman, President