The Newark Jewish Chronicle, the predecessor to NJ Jewish News that closed down in 1943, is now being resurrected with an on-line pay-per-view archive.
Researchers and browsers can discover lost aspects of Newark’s rich Jewish culture — from the powerbrokers of Newark’s German-Jewish elite to the life-cycle events of the landsmanshaftn, the benefit societies for working-class Jews from Eastern Europe.
The newspaper has been digitized on GenealogyBank.com, a for-fee website.
“This is a gift from the gods,” said Linda Forgosh, executive director of the Jewish Historical Society of the MetroWest. “It is Newark’s story. It is Jewish Newark’s story. It is New Jersey’s story. It puts what was considered ancient history into a modern-day context.”
The weekly newspaper printed its first edition on Oct. 14, 1921, and continued publishing until Jan. 8, 1943.
Its publisher was European-born Anton Kaufman, a blind man who began his career as a reporter in Berlin. Kaufman moved to Detroit in 1905 and began publishing the Detroit Jewish Chronicle before coming to Newark in 1921 and opening the Newark Jewish Chronicle.
The Chronicle reported marriages, births, deaths, bridal showers, even unveilings.
The newspaper’s editor was Rabbi Solomon Foster of Temple B’nai Jeshurun, the High Street synagogue that is now located in Short Hills.
“Foster was the most influential rabbi in Newark at the time because his members were the most influential Jews in Newark,” said Forgosh.
Advertising came from businesses run by members of Newark’s elite German-Jewish Progress Club, as well from beyond Newark’s borders — across the river in New York City to as far south as Asbury Park.
“That is how important Newark’s Jews were,” Forgosh said. “You were appealing to people to come to your hotel or your restaurant in a day before airplane travel was common.”
Regarding politics, “the Chronicle was not Right, Left, Zionist, or anti-Zionist,” Forgosh said. “Kaufman had no desire to alienate any of his readers, who represented a vast range of opinions regarding all things Jewish. Let’s just say that if something was good for Newark, it was left to Rabbi Foster to say that it was.”
Things were not all good for Kaufman, however: Thirteen years after founding the newspaper he ran afoul of the law. He was arrested along with his son, Theodore, for attempting to steal a fermentation formula from a noted winemaker, Sandor Alexander Balint.
The elder Kaufman was paroled.
As Hitler’s armies began rampaging through Europe, the Chronicle’s front page became dominated by reports on grim developments overseas as well as drives for Jewish relief in Europe and local UJA campaigns.
But by 1943, three years before the founding of the Jewish News — now New Jersey Jewish News — by local philanthropic leaders, the Chronicle’s advertising dried up.
On that New Year’s Day — one week before the newspaper’s final edition — Kaufman leaped to his death from his eighth-floor room at Newark’s Robert Treat Hotel.
More than six decades later, he leaves an on-line legacy that includes coverage of important events to tidbits of social news that Forgosh believes “are worth looking at even if you had no family in Newark.”