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 for many Jewish businesspeople (the stock market wouldn’t crash until October); and the country was at peace. It was an interesting, emergent and, in many ways, optimistic time for America’s Jews.
Perhaps that’s why Sam Neusner decided it was a good time to publish a Jewish newspaper. He co-founded the Jewish Ledger with Rabbi Abraham Feldman in April of that year for fellow citizens who, in his words, “should have and would welcome a vehicle of expression, a journal of Jewish public opinion, a record of its likes and events.”
Eighty-five years later, the Jewish Ledger is still fulfilling that promise.
When it was launched in 1929, the Jewish Ledger consisted of Hartford, New Haven and Springfield editions. Stamford and Bridgeport editions were added for a brief period during the 1990s. Today the Connecticut Jewish Ledger is statewide.
In 2002 a Western Massachusetts edition began and published until 2013 when it added Central Massachusetts and became the Massachusetts Jewish Ledger.
Through its publications – the weekly Connecticut Jewish Ledger, monthly Massachusetts Jewish Ledger, serving Western and Central Massachusetts, and annual All Things Jewish reference magazines published in Connecticut and Massachusetts – Ledger publications 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.
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, the economic realities of publishing make that a significant and ongoing challenge. Rising postage costs and competition from the web are just two of those challenges. Still, the paper is a welcome presence in Connecticut’s local Jewish communities, big and small, often serving as the tie that binds and as a powerful voice in strengthening Jewish identity. “Of course, like any newspaper, our job is to report the news,” explains Judie Jacobson, editor of the Connecticut Jewish Ledger. “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.”
This year, along with the arrival of a new owner – philanthropist and businessman Henry M. Zachs, who bought the paper in February 2014 – the Ledger is preparing to launch a new look and has, over the last few months, introduced several new features, including a sport column, arts and entertainment column, and more. In addition, this fall the Ledger will roll out a new and improved, interactive website, that will include a blog and other state-of-the-art features. As always, Ledger readers and friends can follow the Ledger on Facebook and Twitter, and can sign up to receive a weekly e-page update and calendar listings for Connecticut.
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, for many years. Today, although the masthead has changed, the staff still operates with the spirit and cohesion of a close family.
As venerable as the Connecticut Jewish Ledger may be, it 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.
Indeed, Ledger publishers, as well as other Jewish newspaper publishers have had to grapple with some serious issues over the years, including several wars, Israeli independence, anti-Semitism 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 85 years, the Ledger has tackled it all with grace and good will by keeping the conversation open, honest and respectful. And we expect to continue to do so for many years to come.