Velvl Yedidowich, 83, Editor of Russian Paper

Vladimir (Velvl) Yedidowich, the founding editor of the Russian-language Forward, died July 23. He was 83.

By Sam Norich

Published July 29, 2009, issue of August 07, 2009.
  • Print
  • Share Share

When the Forward Association launched the weekly paper in 1995, it joined a crowded media market of two dozen Russian-language newspapers in the New York metro area alone and grew to be the third-largest in circulation. It was an outspoken Jewish voice in the Russian-speaking community, when only one other publication, the Lubavitch-affiliated paper, identified itself as Jews speaking to other Jews.

Vladimir Yedidowich:
Founded the Russian-language
Forward after serving as an
officer in the Soviet Navy.
Forward Association
Vladimir Yedidowich: Founded the Russian-language Forward after serving as an officer in the Soviet Navy.

The paper sharply criticized the Russian government’s suppression of independent and democratic voices in Moscow and beyond, when most other Russian-language publications still glorified Putin. It reported on local politics in Brooklyn, where many of its readers lived, as vigorously as it covered national, Israeli and historical issues. It served a highly literate and urbane readership, but one that was new to America and to the open discussion of Jewish culture, politics, religious life and recent history.

Yedidowich was a son of Jewish Vilna who fled to the Soviet Union at the outbreak of World War II and became a communications officer in the Soviet Navy, stationed in the Far East. Then, for 25 years, he headed a research institute on radio technology in St. Petersburg. When he arrived in New York in 1992, he sought a way to connect his fellow immigrants to the Jewishness he remembered from his years in interwar Vilna: a Jewishness that was fully conversant with the majority culture, yet fully comfortable in its distinctiveness. His yidishkayt was not of the synagogues and prayer but of the city and the public sphere. He created that connection — following the example of the Yiddish Forverts (which he remembered seeing in his parents’ home, and which he read up on at YIVO) — in the voice he gave to the Russian Forward. That voice continued to animate the paper under his successor, Leonid Shkolnik, who edited the Russian Forward from 2000 until The Forward Association sold it in November, 2004.

The last few years of Yedidowich’s life were a time of anguish and loss, with the demise not only of the Russian Forward, but also with the death in 2008 of his wife and lifelong partner, Olga, and, two months ago, of his 32-year-old grandson. But they were also years of deep satisfaction, surrounded as he was by his daughters and their families, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He lived to see the publication of “Nash Forverts” (Our Forwerts: Reminiscences and Memoirs of Journalists and Friends, published by Liberty Publishing House, New York), a collection of essays by many of the writers and some of the readers of the paper. The 159-page volume appeared only a few weeks ago. It was his last project.

Zol die erd im gring zayn.

Find us on Facebook!
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.