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Mr. Katz’s departure coincides with the Forward’s transition to a fortnightly print publishing schedule because of financial pressures and falling circulation, in favor of a more robust, daily presence on a newly redesigned website. More important, though, it marks the end of a generation of long-serving Yiddishists, from Isaac Bashevis Singer, who contributed to the Forward for more than 50 years, to Rabbi Aharon Ben-Zion Shurin, who for 60 years wrote a column on religious affairs.
“The Forward has this élan and this stature in the world of Yiddish-speaking, Yiddish-writing literati in the 20th century that no one else had, and I think it kept people working there,” said Norich, who is publisher of both the Yiddish and the English newspapers. “The fact that people kept working there contributed to the fame and significance of the publication.”
Mr. Katz began his Forward career operating one of more than a dozen 3.5-ton linotype machines on the 10th floor of the Forward building, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. “Linotype are big monsters,” Mr. Katz said, as he described how he would punch out copy on a Yiddish keyboard that would be transformed by the whirring and clacking machine into lines of hot metal type.
According to union rules, members of the typographical union were the last people to make changes to copy before it was printed. And so it was, several years after Mr. Katz started working at the Forward, that he began his relationship with Singer, one of the newspaper’s most famous writers.
One day, in 1964 or ’65 — Mr. Katz does not quite remember when — the typesetter who usually set Singer’s work went on vacation, so the foreman asked Mr. Katz to step in. Mr. Katz noticed a stylistic error and corrected it. “Maybe if I had known at that time that [Singer would become] a Nobel Prize winner… I wouldn’t have the guts to do that,” Mr. Katz said.
Singer wanted to know who had corrected his copy, so the foreman brought him to Mr. Katz.