Der Momenṭ - דער מאמענט
About this newspaper
Der moment (Yid. ‘The moment’) was one of the two oldest and most important Yiddish-language daily newspapers published in Warsaw. Its first issue appeared on 05 November 1910 and it continued to appear even following the outbreak of the Second World War, ceasing publication on 22 September 1939. The founder of the newspaper was Noach Pryłucki (1882-1941), the leader of the Jewish People’s Party (Yid. Yidishe Folkspartei, alt. Folkist Party) in Poland, which advocated cultural national autonomy as a desired solution for the continued Jewish existence in the countries of the Diaspora. The official editor of the newspaper throughout the duration of its appearance was the father of Noach Pryłucki, Zvi (1862-1942), who was a pioneer of the daily Yiddish press in the Warsaw and the founder of the newspaper Der Veg (Yid. ‘The Path’, 1905-1907).
In its first years, the newspaper maintained an apolitical orientation, even as it revealed, on the one hand, a clear pro-Zionist tendency and, on the other, opposition towards assimilationist trends. Hillel Zeitlin (1871-1942) was the newspaper’s most prominent columnist. The writer Sholem Aleichem (born Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich, 1859-1916) contributed regularly to Der moment in its first two years of existence. Others who wrote for the periodical in its early years included writers and well-known cultural figures and their contributions aided the new paper in the rivalry with its veteran and more successful competitor, Haynt (‘Today’, 1908-1939).
The newspaper’s dimensions were fairly modest, much like other periodicals that appeared at the time. Weekday editions generally contained four to eight pages in its early years and reached as much as ten pages during the Interwar period. Der moment doubled its size in issues that appeared on Friday and on the eve of holidays. In addition to current events, which focused on both Jewish and general matters, the newspaper printed regular commentaries on the news, current affairs, and various literary matters. As was common with the press of the time and in order to reach as broad a readership as possible, the editorial staff of Der moment sought throughout the years of its existence to publish simultaneously two daily serialised novels. Usually, one novel was written by a famous and talented writer (such as Zalman Shneour, 1886-1959), while the other was by an anonymous author, the point of which was merely to attract readers through its convoluted and suspenseful plot. The weekend and holiday editions also included supplements dealing with culture, literature, theatre, sport, home and family, humour, and more. Unsurprisingly, the bulk of the newspaper’s focus was on happenings inside the borders of Poland and especially in the city of Warsaw. As a result, Der moment represents a very significant resource for close examination of the lives of the Jews in the largest Jewish community in Europe.
The newspaper’s success and its distribution, which reached twenty to twenty-five thousand copies each day during the 1920s, encouraged the editors to produce an afternoon tabloid, comprising only four pages, called Varshever radio (Yid., ‘Warsaw Radio’, 1924-1939), which attracted a wide audience and became quite profitable.
By 1916, Der moment became the unofficial organ of the Jewish People’s Party (whose head, as stated above, was Noach Pryłucki). As such, Pryłucki made it his goal to fight first and foremost for the right to Jewish cultural autonomy (first, from the German régime at the end of the First World War, and then from the Polish government), for the recognition of Yiddish as a national Jewish tongue, and for a modern educational system that would be conducted in that language. On this cultural aspect, there was a point of convergence and co-operation between the demands of the Folkists and those of the Jewish socialist party, the Bund. However, unlike the Yiddishist socialist and avowedly anti-Zionist press, Der moment revealed a favourable attitude towards Zionism, towards the settlement in Palestine, and even towards the Hebrew language. Throughout its years of publication, the newspaper dedicated ample space for reports and commentaries on the events taking place in Palestine and throughout the Jewish world. On a national political level, the newspaper frequently warned against anti-Jewish policies enacted by the Polish government, especially in the economic sphere, and against incidents of anti-Semitism in Polish society. As the mouthpiece of a political party identified with the petite bourgeoisie, Der moment gave broad expression to the interests of the merchant class (particularly small merchants) and tradesmen.
Owing to poor financial management of the newspaper and in the wake of the global economic crisis, Der moment collapsed financially in 1931 and the only possible solution was converting it into a co-operative called Di Prese (Yid. ‘The Press’). Nevertheless, the paper never fully recovered from this crisis. The declining position of the Jewish People’s Party within the Jewish public, the constant competition with Haynt, and various unsuccessful publications forced Der moment to a crossroads. From 1935, the newspaper became the organ of the New Zionist Organisation, the Revisionist movement headed by Vladimir Zeʾev Jabotinsky (1880-1940), whose articles appeared thereafter in Der moment on a regular basis. By 1939, one of its most prominent columnists would be the poet and journalist Uri Zvi Grinberg (1896-1981), a Revisionist Party supporter, who was then living in Warsaw. In 1937, a receiver (himself also a Revisionist) was appointed for the newspaper and working relations reached their nadir, finding expression in a general strike declared by the chief editor, Zvi Pryłucki, and the senior newspaper staff, who were not identified with the Revisionist movement. A forced compromise between the parties enabled Der moment to continue to appear regularly until its headquarters’ building burned down after being hit by a German shell on the eve of Yom Kippur, 22 September 1939.
Der moment is indexed in the database, ‘Index of Yiddish press’, which contains all articles printed in the newspaper and being signed by an author—whether using his or her real name or a pseudonym. The database has a detailed index organised according to topic, which, in combination with the search engine on the Historical Jewish Press website, facilitates easy access to the vast material tucked into the pages of this important newspaper.
Prof. Nathan Cohen
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