First Published: Morning Freiheit, September 11, 1988.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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It is painful for us to inform our readers that this is the last issue of the Morning Freiheit.
We can no longer afford the huge cost of publishing the paper every week. So we must end our 66-year existence.
But although we have to call a halt – and at a critical juncture in history, we are proud of the Freiheit’s remarkable achievement since its inception in 1922.
In this achievement we happily extend full honors and our deepest appreciation to the pioneers, the builders, the activists – “wood hewers” and “water carriers”, the heroic donors who gave with a full heart and generous hand. Sixty-six years of a mighty effort of working men and women to ensure the existence of the Freiheit. Without it there is no way the paper could have remained in existence from 1922 to 1988 as Paul Novick, the paper’s editor-in-chief, has said.
And what words, except the most laudatory words, should one evoke to express the full personality of an editor who has just reached the rare plateau of NINETY-SEVEN YEARS YOUNG.
Perhaps the words of the editor of Jewish Currents – Morris U. Schappes – possess the eloquence we have in mind.
A year or so ago Schappes wrote:
It is what Novick has done in the, past 30 years of his long and dedicated life – and may he live to 120! – that is now most memorable. It is what is making young radical historians respect what the Freiheit stands for now, no matter what they may think of the first half of its 65 years. That is why, in the English pages, you have an article by Paul Buhle, “Paul Novick and the Morning Freiheit; Their Place in History.” Who is Paul Buhle? He is a radical historian (PhD from the University of Wisconsin), influential in a circle of radical historians. His specialty is popular culture, by which he means the culture of the masses, and, since immigrants have for generations made up the majority of the American working class, the culture of the immigrant ethnic groups. How did he come to the Morgn Freiheit? He is not Jewish, he knew no Yiddish, he had not heard of the paper. Then, at a Socialist Scholars Conference some 20 years ago, a speaker read a paper declaring that in this country poetry was divorced from the people, from the working class. In the discussion, I pointed out that this was certainly not the case with American Yiddish poetry, which was often written by shopworkers themselves or people close to the working class. Hearing this for the first time, Paul Buhle decided that he would study Yiddish so he could read Rosenfeld and Edelshtat and Winchevsky and Nadir – and the Morgan Freiheit. One of the fruits of his study is his very thoughtful article in our Morgan Freiheit today.
But the meaning of Novick’s new approaches and new conclusions in the past 30 years is also to be found far outside our radical circle. In the current issue of the distinguished quarterly, Jewish Spectator, there is a substantial article, “A Voice from the Jewish Left,” by a law professor at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Arthur J. Sabin, part of a book he is writing on the IWO-JPFO. Jewish Spectator has been edited for some 25 years by a brilliant, independent Jewish scholar. Dr. Trude Weiss-Rosmarin, who began her studies in Judaica in pre-Hitler Germany. This publication has a circulation of some 9,000, larger than the circulations of our Freiheit and Jewish Currents combined.
Let me quote from Prof. Sabin’s article: “. . .The Freiheit was not just a newspaper to its followers; it was a way of life. Singing societies; reading groups, yearly celebrations of its birthday and mass meetings called by the Freiheit were a way of life, and for the present few thousand reader-subscribers, it remains a central focus of their lives... the yearly campaigns... to keep the paper alive required. . . financial sacrifices from the readers...”
Prof. Sabin quotes extensively from an interview he had with Novick and closes with the following comments; “Listening to Novick. . . you come away with some clear impressions: their agenda is current;’ it’s definitely left-wing, but not pro-Soviet. It is pro-Israel, favoring the stance of the Peace Now movement.
“What is gone is the attachment to the Communist Party; what is there is the belief in detente, juxtaposed with their outcries against Soviet anti-Semitism and the destruction of Soviet Jewish culture. The lingering love-hate relationship with the Soviets is clearly discernible . . .
“The result is a Jewish group of secularists unashamed of where they have traveled and of the battles they fought, fervently believing that socially and politically active secular Judaism (read: Jewish secularism – MUS) has a rightful place in American Jewish life.”
And leading this group is Paul Novick in his 96th year! There is no other editor in the U.S. in any language who has been a newspaper editor for 48 years. (The only other within range is Philip Slomovitz, who for some 65 years has written a full tabloid-size page of socio-political and cultural comment, Purely Commentary, in Detroit Jewish weeklies, and is still producing those pages now each week, at the age of 91).
And Novick still has an agenda, a plan of work to be done. Prof. Sabin quotes Novick as saying last year, “At my age, it is a struggle, but I still have a couple of books to write and I have a responsibility to those thousands of readers that need the Freiheit to understand American and international Jewish life.”
May he have the years, as I am sure he has the ability and stamina, to write those books – autobiographies, I hope. With the careful nurturing that Shirley Novick has been lavishing upon him for decades, we confidently say, traditionally but not frivolously – biz 120!
Painful that the Freiheit has come to the end of its existence. Proud that it has lasted 66 years.