Blog Archive

Another Look at the “Forverts”


Last year, the acquisition of a 1911 issue of the Yiddish daily Forverts enriched our story of the Rogarshevsky family at 97 Orchard. As historian Tony Michels pointed out as a guest on our blog, the Forverts (or Forward), launched in 1897, was a major force in New York immigrant life, read widely for its impassioned reports on labor activism and the American socialist movement.

We don’t know for sure whether the Rogarshevskys read the Forverts or one of several other Yiddish newspapers available to them, but discussing the Forverts on our Hard Times tour creates connections between this Jewish immigrant family and their lives and concerns beyond the tenement.

Newsboys waiting for copies of the Forward, 1913. Photo by Lewis Hines. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Now, as we prepare to open our “Shop Life” exhibit, the Forverts might be used to suggest another cultural connection at 97 Orchard: between the Rogarshevsky family and two of their predecessors, German immigrants John and Caroline Schneider, who ran the 1870s-era saloon recreated in “Shop Life.” The saloon was one of many local gathering places where immigrants talked politics and shared old and new customs.

Although the Schneiders closed their saloon in 1886, well before the Rogarshevskys moved in upstairs around 1907, the Forverts is one example of the neighborhood’s significant German legacy. As Tony Michels, again, pointed out, even the title of the Forverts—a Yiddish spin on the German word for “forward”—reflects the influence of German socialists who lived in large numbers on the Lower East Side when eastern European Jews began arriving in the 1870s.

Historic photo of the Forward building from our collection.

In the spirit of continuing education, Education Associate Sarah Litvin recently organized a staff trip to the former Forward building on the Lower East Side. Following a tour of an exhibit about founding editor Abe Cahan, the staff talked with the Forward’s current editor about the state of Yiddish publishing, and how the paper can continue to carry out Cahan’s vision for the voice of American Jewish culture.

You can learn more about the intertwined history of Jews and the American Left, at our Tenement Talk with Tony Michels on December 5. Tenement Talks are free, open to the public, and take place at our Visitor Center at 103 Orchard Street. You’ll find details about this Talk, and others, on our website here.

—Posted by Amanda Murray