The Forward, a storied 122-year-old publication founded in New York City by Yiddish-speaking Democratic Socialists, recently announced that former New York Times editor Jodi Rudoren will oversee the newspaper’s editorial operations. Rudoren has impressive credentials, but the appointment announcement by publisher Rachel Fishman Fedderson has me worried.
The announcement notes the Forward’s “digital transformation,” a reference to the newspaper killing its print edition back in March. The media landscape is rife with ailing publications that for years touted “digital transformations” as their business salvations. Gannett, the flailing newspaper chain that boasts “data and digital” as being at the “core” of its technology and content strategy, just got sold for babkis because its digital strategy didn’t produce meaningful results.
Touting a digital strategy too often signals a move to so-called clickbait stories that are easy to digest and don’t tax the mind. Think “Top 10” lists, provocative headlines, and maybe an exploding matzo ball or two. The Forward has already gotten started.
I have an emotional attachment to the Forward because growing up in Toronto it was my responsibility to go buy the newspaper every day when my grandmother was visiting from Pittsburgh. Even as a kid I was fascinated by the Forward’s reader engagement. My grandmother read every single story!
Rudoren doesn’t start until September, so I thought I’d volunteer my Top 10 clickbait ideas that might help the Forward “drive traffic” in the interim.
10) Top Top 10 Reasons to Vote for Bernie Sanders
The Forward’s founders would be kvelling that one of their own was running for president and looking to lead the entire U.S. In their day, the founders couldn’t imagine leading anything beyond the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.
What better way to honor the newspaper’s socialist history than highlighting the most compelling reasons to vote for Bernie Sanders? Sponsor a fundraiser and let Bernie give a talk about what it was like growing up in America when the president wasn’t calling on immigrants to return to their home countries. Sanders likely has some great stories about hanging out with the Forward’s founders.
9) Top 10 Menschen Named Epstein
Can you imagine what it must be like to have the last name Epstein these days? I’d rather be called Fredo. Until recently, I immediately associated Epstein with the person who discovered and managed the Beatles and an elementary school classmate at the Toronto Talmud Torah Hebrew Day School who once questioned my religious observance.
The Forward should run a contest inviting nominations for upstanding persons named Epstein and list them. Restore the good Epstein name!
BTW: According to the Forward, mensch is a sexist term because there is no Yiddish female equivalent. I say “menschela” works just fine.
8) Top 10 Zohar Talking Points for Elizabeth Warren
I’m clueless when it comes to determining ethnicity, so maybe I’m the last to discover that spiritual guru Marianne Williamson is Jewish. How Jewish? Last year she attended High Holiday services at an Orthodox synagogue in Manhattan. Guess she’s like me in not wanting to take chances on that holiday.
Williamson is running for president and winning people over with her New Age insights. Alas, Williamson’s spiritualism is based on Christian teachings, but the great Rabbinic sages knew a thing or two about spiritualism.
They published The Book of Radiance, more commonly known as The Zohar. Unfortunately, the book was originally published in Aramaic, but Professor Daniel Matt has translated the first nine of 12 very dense volumes into English. (Matt was my camp counselor and I like to think that it was my intellect that prompted his heroic academic achievement).
Senator Warren comes across as too pedantic and could use some spiritual softening up. The Forward should interview Matt and compile Zohar talking points so Warren can beat Williamson at her own game.
7) Top 10 Yiddish Words That Don’t Translate Well
Yiddish is a richly descriptive language and many words have become mainstream English. My favorites are mensch, nosh, schmooze, tchotchke, shtick, chutzpah, zaftig, and if you’ll pardon the vulgarity, schmuck.
But some Yiddish words lose their power and meaning in translation. A mamzer is the Yiddish word for SOB, but the Yiddish word is so much more powerful as the proper pronunciation requires the clenching of teeth and a tightening of the jaw.
The Forward should compile a list of great Yiddish words that will never make it into the English vernacular.
6) Top 10 Yiddish Words to Describe Donald Trump
This one has viral potential. The Forward should poll its readers and ask for the Yiddish word that best captures our president. Good way to come up with Yiddish words that don’t translate well.
5) Top 10 Celebrities Who Spoke or Understood Yiddish
What can I say, great minds think alike! The Forward’s Jordan Kutzik already tackled this one. Who knew that tough guy James Cagney was fluent in Yiddish? Great series. Run it again.
4) Top 10 Yiddish Curse Words
America’s Yiddish forebears would have thrived on Twitter. The language has a treasure-trove of curses, most of them not suitable for a mainstream audience.
I didn’t get up early enough to stay ahead of the Forward’s Kutzik. She wrote this story with an insightful take nearly three years ago. As Mark Twain once said, there’s no such thing as originality.
3) Ilan Omar’s Top 10 Jewish Stereotypes
The Forward’s opinion editor Batya Ungar-Sargon made news a few months back when she goaded Ilan Omar on Twitter to admit the Minnesota Congresswoman’s comment “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” referred to the Israel-American lobbying group AIPAC having undue influence on U.S. foreign policy.
The Jewish money stereotype is centuries old and has long been popular with anti-Semites. Omar has since sponsored anti-Israel legislation likening Israel to Nazi Germany. Ungar-Sargon should invite Omar to share some of her other favorite Jewish stereotypes.
I’ll bet you a Benjamin she has plenty more.
2) Top 10 Jews Jews Wish Weren’t Jewish
I know I’m not alone reading about Jeffrey Epstein’s proclivities and thinking, “I wish his name wasn’t Epstein.” Judaism doesn’t allow for excommunication, but the Forward should come up with a Top 10 list of Jews who make a compelling reason to revisit the matter.
1)Top 10 Reasons to Support the Forward
The Forward has a long and storied history, featuring and supporting such writers as Isaac Bashevis Singer, who was awarded a Nobel Prize for literature. I’ll let Rudoren and Fedderson come up with the other nine.
Behatzlacha, Jodi and Rachel. Wishing the Forward great success and prosperity!