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“It’s a return to a daily newspaper,” said Boris Sandler, editor of the Forverts, speaking in Yiddish through a translator. “We’re also opening a path to younger readers, and we will adapt to their tastes and interests.”
Part of the planned appeal to younger readers will consist of an effort to market the paper to Hasidic Yiddish speakers. Yiddish-speaking Hasidic communities are growing rapidly, but Hasidic Jews read their own ultra-Orthodox Yiddish newspapers. The Forverts, which has secular and socialist roots and a Zionist orientation, has traditionally been shunned in Hasidic communities.
“There have always been outliers within the Haredi world who have recognized the distinction of the Forverts and have read it, sometimes underneath their Haredi newspaper so that nobody should see,” Norich said.
Among other things, the new Forverts website will include a blog written pseudonymously by Hasidic writers in Hasidic Yiddish, which is slightly different from the standard Yiddish employed by Forverts writers.
“These two sides were always separate, antagonistic — and the Forward helped to antagonize,” Sandler said. This new effort to bring Hasidic readers to the Forverts website could begin to change that, he said. “I welcome the brave Hasidic writers who have entered into the treyf kitchen,” he said, using the Yiddish word for “nonkosher.”
Except for its shift to biweekly status, the print edition of the Yiddish paper, meanwhile, will remain largely the same. The 16-page print product includes original Yiddish-language news, columns on Yiddish culture and ideas, and some articles translated from the English Forward and the JTA. There’s also a Yiddish-language word search puzzle.
The Forward Association has undertaken the cuts to the print edition after years of consideration.
“We were intentionally slow in making changes,” Norich said. “But we see an opportunity to grow the audience on the digital side, and we finally decided to focus our resources there.”
The Forverts was profitable until the 1940s, amassing large real estate holdings and a New York City radio station. The Forward Association has subsisted for decades off the sale of those assets. With the sale of the radio station in 2003, however, the association ran out of things to sell, and its leadership began to seek a new business model.