In the spring of 1929, Jewish jurist Louis Brandeis was serving on the Supreme Court; Louis B. Mayer, Sam Warner and other entrepreneurial Jews were inventing Hollywood; the economy seemed healthy, with no sign of the stock market crash that would hit in October; and the country was at peace.
Indeed, it was a fascinating and optimistic time for American Jews.
Perhaps that’s why Sam Neusner decided it was a good time to publish a Jewish newspaper. And so, in April of that year, he co-founded the Jewish Ledger with Rabbi Abraham Feldman as a gathering place to bring Connecticut Jews together and strengthen Jewish identity. A powerful voice to keep the community well informed, and to ponder the pressing issues of the day that had the potential to impact their lives in profound ways.
Ninety years later the Connecticut Jewish Ledger is still fulfilling its promise. With antisemitism at a dangerously steep rise in the United States and throughout the world, the Ledger’s mission to ensure the welfare of the Jewish community and to serve as the tie that binds our community together remains of paramount importance.
To be sure, the Ledger was not the first Jewish newspaper in the state. That distinction goes to the Connecticut Hebrew Record, which began publishing on October 7, 1921. Founded by Dr. George H. Cohen, the Connecticut Hebrew Record may, in some ways, have led to Sam Neusner’s own distinguished publishing project, successfully unveiled eight years later.
When it was launched in 1929, the Jewish Ledger consisted of Hartford, New Haven and Springfield editions, with Stamford and Bridgeport editions added for a brief period during the 1990s.
Today, the Connecticut Jewish Ledger is one comprehensive statewide publication. In 2002 a Western Massachusetts edition was launched and, in 2013, when Central Massachusetts was added to the mix, the paper become known as the Massachusetts Jewish Ledger.
Through its publications – the weekly Connecticut Jewish Ledger, monthly Massachusetts Jewish Ledger, serving Western and Central Massachusetts, annual All Things Jewish reference guides published in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and annual Kosher New England magazine –the Ledger continues to record, share and celebrate Jewish life in New England and beyond.
One of the last independent Jewish newspapers in the country, the Ledger offers the community an extensive range of local, state, national and international news reports of interest and importance to American Jews, affirmative and often inspiring articles on the activities and issues of senior citizens and students, profiles of interesting Jewish personalities, political and religious opinions, cultural reviews, and communal announcements close to the hearts of Jewish citizens across the state.
“Like any newspaper, our job is to report the news,” explains Judie Jacobson, editor-in-chief of Ledger publications. “But we also see our mission as having several additional and equally significant components: to strengthen Jewish identity and to foster a Jewish lifestyle in our communities; to support and promote our Jewish institutions; and to advance the well-being of the Jewish community – locally, nationally, in Israel and around the world. Without exception, the welfare of the Jewish community trumps all. We are here to serve and support the Jewish community, and what we cover and how we cover it is always guided by that basic principle.”
For its efforts, the Ledger has garnered accolades and honors from the New England Press Association, the American Jewish Press Association and the Connecticut chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. In addition, many of its articles and columns are reprinted in often reprinted in Jewish publications all across the country.
Of course, while the Ledger mission has remained the same, over the years we have adjusted and readjusted the way in which we deliver news, creating fresh new looks, adding content, and ultimately adding a website.
Now, we’re at it again. This time the Ledger “evolution” is a full-fledged “revolution,” with the Ledger shifting its focus to a more timely online edition published weekly, supported by a print edition to that will publish twice a month. The Ledger’s new publishing plan, which will go into effect June 14, 2019, is not only necessitated by the financial challenges posed by rising printing & postage costs, it also takes full advantage of the rapidly changing world of digital media and its ability to reach out to the next generation of Jewish community leaders.
The Ledger’s foray into the cutting-edge world of digital media is in large part thanks to philanthropist and businessman Henry M. Zachs who purchased the publication in February 2014 and serves as the inspirational force behind the paper’s online improvements.
The Ledger has been and continues to be a family affair. In the earlier days that was quite literal, as many Neusner family members worked on the paper, as did managing editor Berthold Gaster’s wife, Adele, and his son, Jeffrey. Today, in keeping with that tradition,the staff still operates with the spirit and cohesion of a close family.
Like Jewish newspapers all across America, the Ledger has had to grapple with serious issues over the years, including several wars, Israeli independence, antisemitism and terrorism – as well as with such locally important fare as synagogue mergers, school closings, organizational fundraising drives; social issues impacting the community, intermarriage and the expanding role of women in religious life.
For 90 years, the Ledger has tackled it all with grace and good will by keeping the conversation open, honest and respectful. We expect to continue to do so for many years to come.
CAP: Rabbi Abraham J. Feldman