The Forward began in New York City in 1897 as a Yiddish-language daily socialist newspaper that took its name from Vorwärts, a newspaper published by the Socialist Democratic Party of Germany. At its height, The Forward had a circulation of around 275,000 and featured esteemed writers like Isaac Bashevis Singer. Recently, the paper converted entirely to online, laying off its editor-in-chief and executive director but is still regularly publishing “news that matters to American Jews” as per their motto.
You can discover the rich history of The Forward at The Museum at Eldridge Street’s exhibition Pressed: Images from the Jewish Daily Forward. A collaboration with The Forward, which now publishes in both English and Yiddish, the exhibition features archival footage from the newspaper’s 120-year history as well as a selection of metal plates that were used to print photos in the paper.
Photo courtesy Museum at Eldridge Street
Nancy Johnson, archivist and curator of temporary exhibitions at the Museum of Eldridge Street, said in the exhibition’s promotional video that “by presenting this exhibition, we have a wonderful window into that time and place of decades past and also a sense of what led The Forward to be what it is today, it continues to be a vital voice in the Jewish community.”
The exhibition features many photographs of essential moments of The Forward‘s history, such as readers joyously receiving news of the end of World War II. From scenes of Jewish daily life to pictures of strikes over Jewish quotas and equal rights to athletic and artistic feats of Jewish figures, the exhibition reveals the dynamic history of the publication as well as changing Jewish politics and values, and the social life of New York City as a whole. Johnson and Chana Pollack, archivist for The Forward, worked to research The Forward‘s history and compile the photographs, metal plates, and original newspaper copies for the exhibition.
The first edition of The Forward, on display in the exhibition. Photo courtesy Museum at Eldridge Street.
Noteworthy photographs featured in the exhibition include one of hundreds of Jews lined up outside the Young Israel Synagogue to purchase matzah, one of the Forward building with a neon sign, one of MLB player Andy Cohen for the New York Giants, and one of their first publication back in 1897. The exhibition also includes many illustrations by Max Fleischer, famous for creating iconic images like Betty Boop.
Neon sign on Lower East Side. Photo courtesy Museum at Eldridge Street.
The exhibition is also a collaboration with the South Street Seaport Museum’s Bowne & Co. Stationers, which made new and clear prints for the exhibition using traditional equipment like a proofing press from 1958. Starting over 100 years ago, The Forward and many other newspapers used metal plates to transfer photos onto the newsprint, but nowadays many of the photos from which these prints remain no longer exist. Many of these original prints are housed in the exhibition next to newly printed photos.
Inside the Eldridge Street Synagogue
The Eldridge Street Synagogue on Manhattan’s Lower East Side features a vibrant mix of old and new that tells the stories of immigrants and New York residents for the past 120 years. Situated right in the middle of Manhattan’s Chinatown, the synagogue opened in 1887 and acted as the “spiritual home for immigrants from Russia, Poland, Lithuania and other Eastern European countries.”
The synagogue prospered until the passage of the 1924 Immigration Quota Laws, which led to the synagogue’s decline. In 1986, the Eldridge Street Project, the precursor to the Museum at Eldridge Street, led efforts to save the building, and over 20 years later, the synagogue finished restorations in 2007, which now features a stained-glained rose window added in 2010.
The exhibition is open to the public through spring 2020 and is open from 10 am to 5 pm Sunday through Thursday and from 10 am to 3 pm on Friday.
Next, check out the Top 10 Secrets of the Eldridge Street Synagogue.
Header photo courtesy Museum at Eldridge Street