Machsike Hadas - מחזיקי הדת
About this newspaper
This newspaper appeared on behalf of the ‘Maḥziqey Ha-Dat society founded by the great and righteous rabbi and teacher Shimʿon Sofer’, and was printed at the press of Karl Budweiser in Lwów. For most of its years, it appeared under the title Maḥziqey Ha-Dat (‘The Upholders of religion’), but from 1886 to 1895, it appeared alternately, as two seemingly separately Bi-Weekly papers, under the names Maḥziqey Ha-Dat and Qol Maḥziqey Ha-Dat (‘The Voice of the upholders of religion’), apparently as a consequence of the difficulties in obtaining a permit to publish a weekly. Each issue contained eight pages.
At the top of each issue, the publisher printed a ‘warning and request’ as follows: ‘to treat with respect this journal as with all holy books, and not to treat them as though, Heaven forfend, they are profane, but to gather them and safeguard them. And once the pages have become numerous, the honourable readers should bind them [in volumes]’.
The newspaper was dedicated to surveying ultra-Orthodox life in Lwów and Galicia as a whole. The earliest articles were usually signed ‘dos wohl komitet Maḥziqey Ha-Dat (the Maḥqziqey Ha-Dat chosen committee)’. From time to time, the bottom section of the page consisted of feuilletons that were essentially long essays under titles such as ‘Replying according to Halakhah’ or ‘The Question by one rabbi to his colleagues as to the matter of the holy corporation of Maḥziqey Ha-Dat and his esteemed answer’. Among the authors who contributed frequently to the newspaper in the feuilletons and articles was the prolific journalist Mordekhay Weisman-Ḥayyot (1831-1914) under his pen name, MOʾaḤ (Heb. ‘brain’, an acronym formed by his Hebrew initials). From time to time, Maḥziqey Ha-Dat published poems, such as the one published on the occasion of the wedding of the royal family of Belgium (10 May 1881), a comic poem on the evil Haman (Purim 5642/1882), and a composition on the persecution of Jews by Hillel ben ShaKHaR, the pseudonym of Judah Leib Landau (issue 16, Av 5639/July–August 1879).
In the early years, the newspaper concentrated on the happenings in Lwów, mostly matters relating to religion and its preservation. With time, its circle of interests expanded to include news about world affairs, reports about Jewish journalists in Europe (such as one on the Ḥaredi weekly in Frankfurt, Der Israelit), and also announcements on ‘chained’ women (Heb. sing. ʿagunah), doctors, sales of citrons (Heb. sing. etrog), and more. In the years 5656/1896 and 5657/1897, historical books translated from Der Israelit (such as ‘The Youth Benjamin of Trieste’) appeared in its pages. A large number of its writers, particularly during the first years of Maḥziqey Ha-Dat, signed their names using their initials and, for this reason, it is difficult to identify them. With time, a change took place in this respect and more and more authors signed using their full names. One of the frequent contributors was Mosheh Aryeh Leib Hermelein (MALaH, 1826-1893), the editor of the Ḥaredi anthology, Sefer ha-ḥolets (Lwów, 1861).