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Jewish Newspapers at the New York Public Library: Introduction

Masthead for the Jewish Morning Journal, showing a stamp from the New York Public Library

Masthead of the Morgen Zshurnal, or Jewish Morning Journal, available through JPress

How to use this guide

The Dorot Jewish Division holds many Jewish periodicals, including scholarly journals, popular magazines, and newspapers. The focus of this guide is newspapers.

There is no single definition of a Jewish newspaper. But for the purpose of this guide, Jewish newspapers are newspapers that are produced by Jewish journalists and publishers, intended for a Jewish audience, and typically cover topics of Jewish interest as well as broader local, national and international news. They can be in any language, and may be daily, weekly, or less frequently. Some are affiliated with a particular political party or movement, or with a denomination of Judaism. For more, see "What Makes a Newspaper a 'Jewish Newspaper'?" from the Historical Jewish Press project.

This guide is arranged according to the main categories of Jewish newspapers you may encounter at the Library:

  • Current newspapers: newspapers that have been published recently and are still in their original format (like what you'd find at a newsstand)
  • Historical newspapers on microfilm: older newspapers that have been reproduced onto a reel of film, requiring special readers to view 
  • Newspapers available online: newspapers that have been digitized and uploaded to a database for online reading and searching

We also have a significant collection of books about newspapers, which researchers often use alongside the newspapers themselves. A few good sources to jump-start your research are highlighted on the righthand side of this page.

Each section of the guide contains the answer to frequently asked questions on the topic, and this page highlights some frequent research scenarios when working with Jewish newspapers. If your question isn't there, or if you would like to discuss your research further, please email us at dorotjewish@nypl.org. 

This guide is designed to be used alongside the New York Public Library's catalogs and website, rather than in place of them. We suggest bookmarking the following frequently used links:

  • Research Catalog - AKA "Shared Collection Catalog," catalog of research materials from NYPL and select items from Columbia, Princeton, and Harvard that are deliverable to NYPL. Use the blue "request" button to request scans of eligible items
  • Legacy Catalog - AKA "Classic Catalog," catalog of NYPL research materials only. Particularly for serials such as newspapers, it is sometimes easier to tell which items we hold by using this catalog
  • Articles & Databases - Main page for databases. Start your search here if you are looking for a specific database, e.g. JStor, or a general type of database, e.g. historical newspapers

FAQs

I'm looking for news coverage about a specific event or person. How do I get started?

Start in the Newspapers Available Online tab -- a keyword or date search in one of the databases listed there is the best place to begin. Keep in mind that the spelling of a person's or place's name may vary, especially if you are searching in Yiddish. If you don't find any results when you search for a person or event that you would expect to be covered, try using a browse by date function to find the newspaper from a specific date. Then, read through it manually looking for articles about the person or event. Once you have found the spelling that the newspaper uses, try copy/pasting it into the database's search function.

My relative's photograph or obituary may have appeared in a newspaper. How can I find it?

Obituaries for ordinary people were not typically published in the U.S. Yiddish press during the early 20th century, though some papers may have printed brief death notices. That said, you may still find valuable genealogical information about your ancestors in a newspaper. This guide on Newspapers in Genealogy Research will help you get started. In general, unless you have reason to believe that an obituary or death notice appeared in a specific paper, on a specific date, doing a search in a database will be a better use of your time than looking through a newspaper.

If you are looking for a photograph of an ancestor, start with Images of our Ancestors: A guide to finding images of people online and at The New York Public Library.

I want to browse a list of Jewish newspapers published in a particular U.S. state or city.

Start with the U.S. Newspaper Directory, part of Chronicling America from the Library of Congress. However, be aware that the "Libraries that have it" information generally dates from the 1990s and is not an accurate reflection of current library holdings. Instead, search current holdings in WorldCat.

I want to browse a list of Jewish newspapers published in a particular country outside of the U.S.

Consult a directory, such as the Directory of World Jewish Press and Publications. See the Secondary Sources tab for more ideas.

How can I distinguish between multiple newspapers that have the same title?

When you see multiple newspapers with the same title in NYPL's catalog, you may find the city of publication in brackets next to the title. If you don't, open the catalog record and scroll past the list of items. There, you might find information like the publisher, the place of publication, the language or languages the newspaper was published in, the frequency of publication, the dates it was published, etc. 

To find bibliographic information about a newspaper, consult a directory.

How do I know which newspapers were actually important in the time period I’m researching? What was the readership?

Many directories include circulation statistics, which will help you determine how many people bought a paper in a given year. The actual readership was likely larger, because multiple people may have shared a single paper within a household or community.

For a directory of Jewish media in the United States as of 1970, see The Joseph Jacobs directory of the Jewish press in America.

For circulation statistics for U.S. Yiddish newspapers from earlier in the 20th century, see Mordecai Soltes, The Yiddish Press: An Americanizing Agency.

Some mainstream directories of American periodicals, such as the Ayer Directories, will also include Jewish newspapers.

For the circulation of international news sources, see The Jewish Press of the World.

My family members are from [Country]. How did they get their news?

Secondary sources such as academic books and scholarly journals can help you answer that question. If your family is from Europe, The Jewish press that was : accounts, evaluations, and memories of Jewish papers in pre-Holocaust Europe provides a strong overview, with individual chapters on a number of countries and regions of Europe.

I remember my parents or grandparents reading a Yiddish newspaper at home. What was it?

Some questions that may be helpful to consider are: where did they live? Did they belong to a certain political party? What year would it have been? The U.S. Newspaper Directory, mentioned above, may help you find a list of newspapers that match your criteria.

Because the Forverts, or Forward, is so well-known today and was printed for such a long time, some people assume that must be the newspaper they are looking for, but this is often not the case. Along with the ForvertsDer Tog and Der Morgen Zhurnal were widely-read in New York City and beyond.

The Forverts published editions in various cities. We have the New York City edition here, so if the paper you are thinking of was from another city, it may differ from our copies.

I'm looking for a specific article that appeared in a newspaper, but I don't have an exact citation. How can I find it? Can NYPL staff find it for me?

Start with the tips in the next tab in this box, Finding an Article without a Citation.

If you can't find the article online and are unable to come into the Library yourself, you may wish to engage our fee-based research service. Reading Room staff members cannot conduct research on your behalf.

I can't read Yiddish, but I want to read articles from the Jewish press. Can NYPL staff assist with translation?

NYPL does not offer translation services. YIVO and the Yiddish Book Center maintain lists of translators that may be helpful.

I want to browse a list of all the [Yiddish/Hebrew/Ladino/English] newspapers published in [Argentina/Brooklyn/Egypt] held by the New York Public Library.

Though not exhaustive, the World Jewish Periodicals on Microfilm lists are the closest way to do this. See this section of the guide for more information on how to use them.

For newspapers that were never microfilmed, or that are part of the shared collections (materials from Columbia, Harvard, or Princeton) browsing by subject headings (see the secondary sources tab for ideas) will be helpful. 

How do I know which years of a newspaper NYPL has?

Currently, we recommend using the Legacy Catalog to answer this question. The default Research Catalog is undergoing updates to make the display of periodical dates clearer. Select the option to search by Journal Title for the most accurate results.

Be aware that many newspapers have multiple catalog records associated with a single title. This may be due to a merging with another paper, a change in publisher, or some other factor. If you only look at one record, you may not see all of the dates we have. Make sure to look carefully at all the results of your search. 

I need a specific newspaper but I can't find it in your catalog. What are my options?

First, check the Union List of Digitized Jewish Historic Newspapers, Periodicals and e-Journals to determine if it is available online. If it is not, we also recommend checking the catalog of the Center for Jewish History to see if they hold the item you need. Finally, Interlibrary Loan may be able to borrow a copy from another institution for your use.

You can check WorldCat to see which libraries hold the newspaper you are looking for. The Periodical Center at the American Jewish Archives is another place to look.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether we have a certain newspaper at all, or which dates we hold. You can always email dorotjewish@nypl.org for assistance. If we don't have the paper you need, we can recommend next steps.

How do I request books?

You can request books by emailing us at dorotjewish@nypl.org, or by booking an appointment to view it in our reading room. If you don't have a library card, you'll need to apply for one first.

I found a book I want to read. Can I take it home?

Books from NYPL's research collections can only be used in the library. We will be happy to help you reserve a seat to read your book in our reading room.

One common question we hear about Jewish newspapers goes something like this: “A photo of my relative appeared in a newspaper years ago. Can you find it?” Or: “I have this newspaper clipping but I lost the citation. Where did it appear?” Often, somebody knows or believes that an article on a specific topic appeared in a certain Jewish newspaper, but they don’t know how to go about finding it.

Here are some steps we recommend taking:

Make a list of basic facts

Start by writing down everything you think you know about the article you’re looking for. For instance, you may have some idea of the following:

  • Language

  • Newspaper title

  • Date

  • Subject of the article

  • Words or names that would likely have appeared in the title or article

  • Section the article likely appeared in

Any other information you can think of about the article (like that a picture accompanied it, or that it came out on a Wednesday) may come in handy later, so write it all down.

Try a preliminary search

Is the newspaper you’re thinking of available online? Check this tab for tips on how to answer this question.

If the newspaper is available online for the dates you’re targeting, you may find your article with a keyword search. If you thought of a name or proper noun that would definitely have appeared in the article, try searching for that first, limiting your search by date if possible.

If you don't get the result you’re looking for, don’t worry: this is normal. First, if you’re searching in Yiddish or another language written in a non-Roman script, the spelling you used may not be the same as what appears in the paper itself. Or there may be so many 

Check your facts for assumptions

Sometimes people tell us they are looking for an article that appeared in the Forverts. But when they think about it more, it turns out they only assumed it was the Forverts because that’s such a well-known paper. In fact, there were a number of New York daily newspapers written in Yiddish throughout the 20th century, each with a distinct political and/or religious slant, and therefore different types of people tended to read each one. 

Furthermore, some of the major Yiddish dailies actually merged into one, so someone might believe an article was published in Der Tog when, at the time of the event they’re researching, that newspaper had actually become the Morgen Zhurnal

Likewise, there were newspapers published for a Jewish audience in languages other than Yiddish (or Hebrew or Ladino). Some Jewish immigrants may have spoken or read a language like German, Russian, or Hungarian, and chosen to consume their news in that language. Also, some mainstream, English-language newspapers also reported on events of Jewish interest. Unless you know for sure that the newspaper you are looking for was in Yiddish, leave open the possibility that it was in another language, or not in a Jewish newspaper at all. 

The directories linked in the Secondary Sources tab can help you find other papers your article may have appeared in.

Narrow down the date range

Knowing an exact date will help immensely with trying to locate a specific newspaper article. You may not know the exact date of an event, but you can often get more specific than just “a Sunday in the 1940s.” In the case of a family story, if you are able to ask questions of the relative who told you about the newspaper article in the first place, here are some you might try:

  • Who was mayor and/or president?

  • What was the weather like? Were people wearing coats?

  • Did any big life events happen that could narrow down the time frame? For example, if somebody associated with this event died or moved in a certain year, the event probably happened before then

  • What about big historical events? Was the war over? What news stories dominated the papers at the time? 

  • What day of the week was it? For example, maybe your family only got the newspaper on Sundays

Even if it’s not possible to ask more questions of a relative, you can still try to think through some of these questions yourself and figure out if it’s possible to narrow the date range down any more.

If you’re researching an event that would have been covered in multiple sources, try to use the internet to find other accounts of it. Assuming that news about this event appeared in the English-language press too, you will often have more luck narrowing down a date that way. For instance, if you were looking for a specific article about a certain writer’s visit to New York, you could search for their name in a general New York City newspaper database and see if you can find a date that way. 

Contact a librarian

For more help finding an article that appeared in the Jewish press, please email us at dorotjewish@nypl.org.

For more on this topic, see our blog post: Help! I Know This Article Was Published In a Jewish Newspaper, But I Can’t Find It! 

Reference Librarians

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Dorot Jewish Division Reference Librarians
Contact:
476 Fifth Avenue (42nd St and Fifth Ave)
First Floor, Room 111
New York, NY 10018
(212) 930-0601
Website
Subjects: Jewish Studies

Highlighted Resources

Kesher - available in print and online

This academic history journal focuses on the worldwide Jewish press. Articles are in Hebrew, with abstracts in English.

Historical Jewish Press ("JPress") - online

This searchable database contains digitized Jewish newspapers from around the world, including from NYPL's own collections.

Union List of Digitized Jewish Historic Newspapers, Periodicals and e-Journals - online

This online resource lists Jewish periodicals that are available online, both for free and through subscription databases.

The Jewish press that was : accounts, evaluations and memories of Jewish papers in pre-Holocaust Europe - in print

This edited volume contains historical essays of the Jewish press in various European countries.

The Jewish Press in the U.S. - in print in The Ethnic Press in the United States and online

This scholarly article by Arthur A. Goren provides an excellent historical overview of the Jewish press in the United States. See also the bibliographic notes for further reading suggestions

Media Decentralization: The Case of Israel's Local Newspapers - in print 

This scholarly book by media and communications scholar Dan Caspi examines the political and social impact of the local press in Israel.