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“We were spending too much of our investment income in order to maintain the principal intact,” Norich said. “We knew then that we would have to find other sources of earned and donated income in order to keep publishing the Forward newspapers.”
The association ceased publishing its Russian-language newspaper in 2004 and applied for 501(c)(3) status, which allowed it to begin accepting tax-exempt donations in 2010.
So far, that hasn’t been enough to balance the association’s budget. Between the beginning of 2008 and the end of 2011, the association’s net assets dropped to $59 million from $79 million. That drop was due, in part, to the financial crisis, but also to the steep operating deficits of the newspapers published by the association. In 2011 alone, the Forward Association’s net assets dropped by $6.6 million.
“Change is really hard, particularly for a Yiddish publication,” said Adam Whiteman, a former member of the Forward Association board who served as the organization’s treasurer. “There aren’t too many of them around.”
Norich said that ceasing print publication of the Yiddish paper was never seriously contemplated. But the Forward Association board did consider cutting printing to once a month before deciding on the less drastic shift to a biweekly schedule.
“The print readership is one that we don’t want to neglect,” Norich said. “We don’t believe that much of that print readership will become a digital readership.”
The print edition’s readers are largely elderly, Norich said. More than half of them came to the United States in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust.
Some board members argued strongly for maintaining the paper as a service to these older readers. “It’s been a heated topic of discussion,” Whiteman said. “On the one hand there’s the economy. On the other, there’s the emotional issue of a readership who is going to miss it every week if they don’t have access to some form of Internet.”