Masthead of Der yud, vol. 1 (5 February 1899), “For all Jewish interests.” (YIVO)

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Yud, Der

Yiddish Zionist periodical. Launched by the Hebrew publishing company Aḥi’asaf in January 1899 to promote the political and cultural program of the newly founded Zionist Organization, Der yud (The Jew; pronounced Der yid) was edited in Warsaw but published in Kraków to avoid tsarist censorship. Under editor Yehoshu‘a Ḥana (Yoshue Khone) Ravnitski, it appeared bimonthly, then became a weekly by mid-November of that year, edited by Yoysef Lurie. The periodical served an appreciative readership in the absence of a Yiddish daily press and stopped publication in December 1902 when the Russian censor granted long-sought permission to Saul Ginsburg to start up the Yiddish daily Der fraynd.

The editorial policy of providing a place where Yiddish writers “could speak not only about, but with the people” made Der yud a catalyst for the development of modern Yiddish literature. It featured work by the best-known Yiddish authors, including poems by Shimen Shmuel Frug, stories by Sholem Aleichem including parts of Tevye der milkhiker (Tevye the Dairyman), neo-Hasidic tales by Y. L. Peretz, the first Yiddish poems by Ḥayim Naḥman Bialik, and the fictional autobiography of Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh (Mendele Moykher-Sforim). Despite the outspoken opposition of the leading Hebraist, Ahad Ha-Am, to the development of a modern literature in Yiddish, a number of Hebrew writers wrote for Der yud, including Mosheh Leib Lilienblum, David Frishman, and Yehudah Steinberg.

Der yud also published the first fruits of young writers who had earlier found no place for their work. One of the few contemporary women writers of fiction, Rokhl Brokhes, made her debut in Der yud, as did the poet-writer Avrom Reyzen, and the prose writers Sholem Asch and Hersh Dovid Nomberg. Der yud also published the folk poet Mark Varshavski, the critic Bal-Makhshoves (Isidor Eliashev), the playwright Mark Arnshteyn, and the later spokesman of Polish Zionism, Yitsḥak Grünbaum.

Normally a tabloid of 16 pages, with holiday supplements, Der yud reported mostly on the Russian Pale of Settlement, with summaries of world news and reports from Argentina, America, England, and Palestine. Special coverage was devoted to Zionist congresses and to debates within the Zionist movement. A liberal editorial policy permitted challenges to the paper within its pages. Correspondents in cities and towns throughout Russia pioneered an early form of Yiddish journalism. Feuilletons and personal columns often blurred the boundaries between fiction and reportage. The paper tried to strike a balance between belletristic literature and political commentary.

The literary historian Zalmen Reyzen stated: “Der yud created an era,” citing the way the periodical formed a community of writers and readers of different ages, varied levels of religious observance, and opposing political points of view. The paper tried to avoid factionalism between socialists and nationalists, but drew increasing criticism from younger contributors on that account. While encouraging Jews to go to the Land of Israel “to live rather than to die there,” Der yud stressed that its more basic goal was to enliven the spirit of dos pintele yid—the elemental spark that still smoldered in every Jewish heart.

Suggested Reading

Shmuel Rozhanski, “Der Yid,” in Pinkes far der forshung fun der yidisher literatur un prese, vol. 3, pp. 319–333 (New York, 1975); Ruth R. Wisse, “Not the Pintele Yid, but the Full-Fledged Jew,” Prooftexts 15.1 (1995): 33–61.