A Chronicle of The Chronicle : The Jewish Chronicle of England, A Mid-Century View

A primary source of information for many of the posts that have appeared on this blog (let alone those that have yet to appear…!) has been The Jewish Chronicle.  Similarly, numerous posts pertaining to Jewish military service in the First World War have presented the full text of items published in the Chronicle

Sometimes, however, it’s intriguing to learn the history, behind the history. 

Such is the nature of this post:  A discussion, from the Jewish Frontier of June, 1954, of the news coverage, content, format, and especially the editorial policies of the Chronicle, in terms of the periodical’s cultural, literary, and political centrality within British – and not just British – Jewry.  As such, the Frontier’s article, by English writer and poet Herbert Howarth, offers a fascinating mid-twentieth century perspective of the Chronicle, and indirectly, British Jewry.

But, who was Herbert Howarth?  Born on April 26, 1917, he studied at Oxford University, and became a translator of Arabic poetry.  He served as assistant Public Information Officer for the British Government in Tel Aviv from 1943 through 1945, from which position he resigned in December of 1945, in protest of Great Britain’s “palestine” policy.  (The Nebraska State Journal, February 9, 1946) 

Subsequently, Mr. Howarth served for a one-year-appointment as a Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, having been brought to that University by Chancellor Edward H. Litchfield in support of the University’s new Humanities Division.  The head of Britain’s National Book League for five years, he, “…became a leading figure in the study of modernism and a visiting professor at many American universities.”  Apparently, he was subsequently a member the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania, where he chaired 15 Doctoral Dissertations which were completed between 1966 and 1972. 

His books include The Irish Writers (1959), Notes on Some Figures Behind T.S. Eliot (1966), and The Tiger’s Heart (1969). 

A search of the database of the National Library of Israel reveals other items by or about Mr. Howarth, which appeared in The Palestine Post:

Mr. Howarth’s Resignation (Reader’s Letters) – (From Ester Frankenstein, Kfar Ganim, December 18, 1945) – December 26, 1945

Background to Resignation – January 6, 1946

A Gentile’s Approach to Zionism – January 15, 1946

Koestler’s First Play – February 22, 1946

Lawrence of Arabia – March 15, 1946

India and the British Conscience – March 29, 1946

An Age Has Passed – September 6, 1946

Year After Bournemouth: A Message to My Friends in Palestine – November 13, 1946

Anti-Semitism in Britain – February 16, 1947

Mr. Howarth’s literary oeuvre includes these additional works, published in Commentary:

Culture & Civilization / Literature / Memoir: An Evening with Israel’s Poets: Creative Voices in a Time of Trouble
Nov. 1, 1949

Art / Culture & Civilization / Judaism: Jewish Art and the Fear of the Image: The Escape from an Age-Old Inhibition
Feb. 1, 1950

Culture & Civilization / Israel / Literature: Israel’s Modern Poetry: New Voices, New Modes of Speech
Aug. 1, 1950

Culture & Civilization / Literature: Flecker: The Poet and His East: “Shall I Never Be Home . . .?”
May 1, 1951

Law, Government & Society / Media/Politics & Ideas: Behind Winston Churchill’s Grand Style: Britain’s Prophet of Doom and Defiance
June 1, 1951

Israel/Law, Government & Society / Terrorism: The Revolt: Story of the Irgun, by Menachem Begin
Dec. 1, 1951

Israel/Literature / Military: Unambo, by Max Brod
May 1, 1952

Literature: Poet Out of Israel: The Odyssey of Pinhas Sadeh
Aug. 1, 1956

Religion: Bible and Sword, by Barbara W. Tuchman
Apr. 1, 1957

Culture & Civilization: Discords in the Music of Time
Jan. 1, 1972

Herbert Howarth died on July 5, 1971.  He is buried at Har Jeuhda Cemetery, in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.


To place the history of the Chronicle in a deeper perspective, this post also includes a synopsis of the history of the publication from 1841 to 1941, transcribed from the Chronicle of November 14, 1941. 


University of Pittsburgh – History of the Department of English – 1950s Faculty (at University of Pittsburgh)

Herbert Howarth Biography (at University of Pennsylvania)




The Jewish Chronicle of England
by Herbert Howarth

Jewish Frontier
June, 1954

THE JEWISH COMMUNITY in England perfectly well fulfills that favorite Jewish paying: “Two Jews – three opinions,” and its natural extension into “Two Jews – three political parties.”  But to one phase of its corporate existence no charge of plurality can apply.  It has only one newspaper.

               In the course of more than a century – throughout the period, that is, in which the community has formed like a coral reef through successive immigrations – other papers have risen, but they have also fallen.  The Jewish Chronicle, surmounting challenges from outside and the internal problems that come with changes of ownership or editors, has remained.  There is only one Jewish Chronicle, and it is the recognized common bond of the community.  When a new front-page heading was established in 1937 (the designer for it being the distinguished young typographer, Berthold Wolpe), the claim “The Organ of British Jewry” was inserted, to become a regular part of it; and that claim is valid.

               The Chronicle (or rather as it is referred to colloquially as the J.C.) is a weekly.  In its postwar form it is normally made up of 32 pages, and is published every Friday at sixpence.  In many typical households it is briefly read on Friday evening, then on Saturday passed ground and read intensively by every man, woman, and alert growing child.  What are the contents, or what their characteristics, that they compel the loyal and devoted reading that this fact implies?

               The front page selects from the main worldwide events of the week those which relate directly to Jewish life, and reports them objectively, generally under the by-line “From our own correspondent.”  Whatever is of predominant interest each week in Israel’s affairs will most frequently take the chief position, but news from Germany, and sometimes from elsewhere in Europe, is often prominent at this time; and not infrequently there are reports from U.S.A.  The headlines and presentation are as markedly free from color as the paragraphs of reportage below them.  It might be said with much appearance of truth that the editor has modelled himself on The Times in an effort to avoid tendentiousness, or even any emphasis at all, in the style and wording of the first page with its master-news.

               One should only add, in order to give the feeling of it in full, that the editor usually allocates one column on this page to a piece of British community news.  Sometimes the community item has more or less comparable weight with the international news around it – as when, for instance, Sir Hartley Shawcross made a political speech at a British dinner in aid of the Haifa Technion and was duly reported in the first column.  But when an item linked with international matters is not available, then the editor quite candidly finds a place on the front page for whatever seems to him of “splashable” community interest that week, whether it be a debase in the Council of the United Synagogues or a rally of Jewish ex-servicemen.  Similarly a photograph of prominent community personalities is often chosen to go on the front page among those of Moshe Sharett, Abba Eban, General Bennike, Dag Hammarskjold, or whoever of international size may naturally figure there in the current week.

THERE IS LITTLE in what has been described so far to explain why the Jewish Chronicle is such an effective, compelling, and deeply-rooted family paper.  But turn it over, and pages two and three supply the answer.  These are the most-studied parts: they are solidly made up of “Small Advertisements,” announcing births, bar-mitzvahs, engagements, deaths.  Page four contains small ads of a more commercial sort, offering houses for sale and rooms to let.  Page seven, the star page in this class, consists of advertisements much more expensive and accordingly printed as if they were news, under the heading “Social and Personal.”  Here, by paying four pounds for the first 45 words, a further pound for each nine words thereafter, the more fortunate families tell each other of the felicity of their children.

               “With rejoicing, with envy, with delight, malice, and anger, these pages are analyzed by the women of the community at the weekend.  The tumults of emotion and the corresponding comments that they elicit are a theme for Israel Zangwill’s pen rather than mine.  In Grandchildren of the Ghetto, dealing with those families that have grown to love grandeur and lost touch with the piety that was part of the ghetto’s poverty, he has indicated what he might say were he still here to say it.  But as regards the stability and magnetism of The Jewish Chronicle, there is no doubt that at present – I would like to underline these words and to return to them shortly – they are bound up with the regular recurrence and accumulated prestige of these pages.

               These small notices provide an all-over faithful readership: and in return they assure, I would assume, a strong array of applicants for the larger general advertisement space; and so in turn they enable the J.C. to support correspondents all over the world and to buy excellent reporting and distinguished features; and so in turn to appeal by these latter to a different, possibly less numerous, more discerning class of reader who cares not much for the matrimonial union of houses.

               To which pages then, do readers of the more discerning kind turn?  Above all, to the middle spread.  On the left hand page they find the responsible emphasis on literacy in the community – a book review.  On the right hand page they have the main feature articles.  There can be no question of the steady merit of the features in The Jewish Chronicle.  The writers of the newspaper’s history (a centenary volume, or sefer zikaron, which the war delayed, but which was successfully published in 1949 under the firm’s own imprint) stress that the earliest nineteenth-century editor set a high standard in seeking serious and scholarly contributors; at no time has that tradition lapsed very far; and it is well in evidence today.  Similarly, wherever a reader looks in the paper he is likely to find, even in these overtly bourgeois surroundings, the same concern for tarbuth that one finds in Israel and notably in Israel’s kibbutzim.  The work of Jewish musicians, writers, artists, and the work of non-Jews where it becomes contingent on Jewish interests, is brought before him: the latest book of Edmund Fleg, shall we say; the controversy over Sholem Asch; the history of Jewry in a city like Mantua; a new television symbol designed by Mr. Games; the researches of a palaeographer.  All matters of these or analogous kinds are well covered.

NOT SUCH DECISIVE praise can be paid to the editorials.  At first reading they may appear imposing.  They are well-groomed in style; they are reasoned and reasonable; they are careful and moderate.  Sometimes they strike a fine and positively inspiring note; an editorial that definitely did so was that on Mr. Ben Gurion’s withdrawal from public life to the soil: “Amid all the extraordinary vicissitudes which have overwhelmed the Land of Israel he has displayed pre-eminent gifts of statesmanship and has become the foremost architect of the new State.  Yet, as is eloquently attested by his private and public life, he has never lost the common touch nor failed to preserve his warm-hearted sympathies with ordinary folk.”  It was not hard, however, to be editorially appreciative of Mr. Ben Gurion’s striking action; even The Times, (the editorials of which, by the way, are recently more vigorous than they were, also more unpredictable, being sometimes greatly humane, sometimes otherwise) succeeded in commending the Premier’s retirement in warm terms, likening him to Cincinnatus.

               To write a tribute in noble form, then, is natural and easy to The Jewish Chronicle.  And on the other hand, it knows its metier when it comes to writing a straightforward, factually-based condemnation of, say, Dr. Adenauer’s recruitment of Nazis for a new Cabinet.  But is there ever a word in the editorial matter of the J.C. which will come as a surprise to the readers?  To strike out a new thought, to speak in a ringing voice, to precipitate its readers into a state of salutary shock – the J.C. of today is unlikely to venture into these.

               This is nearly enough in keeping with that comfortable condition in the community which once incensed, and is still apt to incense, visitors from Israel, who are accustomed to more spirit and to a rhythm of pioneering which inevitably calls for unconventional ideas and an eternal readiness to make ventures.  “Nothing venture, nothing win” is an old proverb here.  But it has not a very great appeal for the Chronicle’s able team of managers-and writers.

               If he chances to read these remarks, the editor might well reply “What does Mr. Howarth (who in any case has no particular business to interfere) want us to do?  Can he point to a single editorial in which we have failed in our duty?  Can he tell us anything that we clearly ought to have said, that we have nevertheless omitted to say?”- Such a retort would be fair and would leave me, and any others who may think as I do, silent.  But it would not erase the feeling, so strong, that the J.C. breathes an air of satisfaction with its own reticence and rectitude, and reclines beatifically , on the knowledge that it is “the organ of British Jewry,” as if the fixed audience for it “smalls” and its “Social and Personal” were purely land simply the seal of success.  The fact is; that the huge and devoted audience records the success of previous generations of editors, and for the present generation it should really mean a responsibility and an opportunity. 

               Yes, that was the point I had in mind when hinting a little way back that the relationship between the standing of the paper and its social attractiveness may be a phenomenon of the present only, not a permanency like Mount Sinai on which the managing-board can count forever.  The courage and when necessary the aggressiveness, of previous editors made the paper a powerful and influential one, and thus assured the readership that now sustains it as a medium for the social panoply of pre-nuptials and post-nuptials.  But if the paper becomes shot throughout with the vanity of social esteem, and if, whether as a result of that circumstance or for any other reason, the lead to the community should cease to be a challenging one, then the readership may falter, turn, and decline.  The One newspaper might even cease to be the One.

THE YOUNG PEOPLE are impatient, some of them at least, with the family-ideology in which they are reared in this country.  Like Raphael Leon in Grandchildren of the Ghetto, they conceive of more invigorating things.  As no enduring rival to the J.C. has yet come along, they eventually settle down to the old dispensation, unless they pack up and go to Israel or to the U.S.A.

               It might do the Jewish Chronicle good if a rival became strong enough to force its pace.  At the moment Jon Kimche’s Jewish Observer is attracting interest, but it remains to be seen whether or how quickly it can grow, or whether, like others before it, it may in the end quit the field.

               There is, of course, more than a possibility that those in whose hands the direction of The Jewish Chronicle lies feel that they should take thought not only for the manner in which they influence the community, but also for the immediate repercussions and the long-term influence of their treatment of problems on the listening non-Jewish, public, particularly the Government.  In the official sefer zikaron, referred to above, there is reproduced a postcard of 1877 from Mr. Gladstone to Dr. Benisch, then editor of The Jewish Chronicle: it is symbolic of the tradition by which this organ mediates, either actually or potentially, between politicians or other leaders of the nation and the community which it represents.  In the light of this consideration it may be felt that a judicious tone is of all desiderata the most desirable.  Such a viewpoint could well be understood; yet even so, it might, as construed in practice, be mistaken.  For the Chronicle could possibly be more vigorous without abandoning its virtues of rationality and good taste.  By and large, the newspaper that is to be a light to the Gentile will begin by being a flame to its own community.

               If in the preceding paragraphs I have allowed expression to a feeling that The Jewish Chronicle is not the active force it once was and deserves always to be, I would not have anyone suppose that, for want of being perfect, it is not good, and very good at that.  Sound, solid – it definitely has these qualities, to which I have above ventured to attach the out-of-date adjective of “bourgeois.”

               And it is in fact more than that.  It is rich in information.  It carries the living annals of the Jewish people not only in these islands but also throughout the world.  This consideration alone would justify, and more than justify, its existence.  Yet again and conversely, the Chronicle is one of those instruments which can rightly be said to justify themselves by continuing to exist – in the sense that if ever need arises, they will be there to serve; they will be there to convey the message that the hour occasions, and their public will be there to serve as the hour requires.

               Having survived its first century, and enjoying the devotion of a reading public unequalled by almost any other Jewish publication in the world, the Jewish Chronicle of England has become the envied model (as well as an enigma) for many an editor of a Jewish periodical who would like to find out the secret of its longevity and success and emulate them.  In the following article Herbert Howarth, noted English writer, describes what makes the J.C. go round.


The Jewish Chronicle
November 14, 1941

1841 – 1941

A Chronological Synopsis

1841, November 12
               “The Jewish Chronicle” is founded as a weekly by Isaac Valentine, under the leadership of Moses Angel and David Meldola, whose names however do not figure until later on.  It is a quarto, of four pages; the editorial offices are at 132, Houndsditch, London; the price is 2d.

1842, May 6
               “New Series” begins, an octavo of 16 pp.

1842, May 20
               Last number of the new series” appears; publication is suspended for a year and a half.

1842, October 18
               Publication by Joseph Mitchell as “Proprietor” in collaboration with Isaac Valentine of the first number of “The Jewish Chronicle (new series) and Working Man’s Friend.”  The paper is now a fortnightly consisting of eight quarto pages, and the price is 2d.  The sub-title “and Working Man’s Friend” is omitted after the twentieth issue.

1846, April
               Offices removed to 24, Houndsditch.

1847, October 8
               “The Jewish Chronicle” becomes a weekly, and remains a weekly henceforth.

1848, October 4
               Marcus Heymann Bresslau, who had assisted Mitchell at the beginning but subsequently quarreled with him, formally becomes Editor.

1850, October 11
               Beginning of the publication of an “enlarged series” in folio size priced at 3d. a copy.

1854, June-August
               On Mitchell’s death, Bresslau becomes Proprietor as well as Editor

1854, December 22
               Title changed, with the premature beginning of volume xi, to “The Jewish Chronicle and Hebrew Observer,” having been amalgamated with “The Hebrew Observer” founded by Dr. Abraham Benisch at the beginning of 1853.  The size is enlarged to double demy.  The offices are moved to 7, Bevis Marks.

1855, January
               Benisch becomes Editor and Proprietor.

1865, February
               The offices are moved to 11, Castle Street, Houndsditch.

1868, July 3
               Sixth “new series” begins, in newspaper folio, an abridged penny edition being published simultaneously to meet cheap competition.

1869, April 2
               Control having been acquired from Benisch by L.L. Cohen, S. Montagu, and L. Van Oven, a further (and final) “new series” begins under the editorship of Michael Henry, the words “and Hebrew Observer” being omitted from the title henceforth.  The Penny Edition is discontinued, and the price of the Main Edition reduced from 3d. to 2d.  The size is again reduced to the former measurement, and the number of pages (generally sixteen or twenty-four) is no longer fixed.

1870, March
               The offices are moved to 43, Finsbury Square.

1875, June
               On Henry’s death, Benisch resumes control and editorship.

1878, July
               On Benisch’s death, he leaves “The Jewish Chronicle” to the Anglo-Jewish Association, from which it is purchased by Israel Davis, Sydney Montagu Samuel, and Asher Myers, the last of whom becomes Editor.

1880, June
               The offices are moved to 2, Finsbury Square.

1891-1892, July
               Publication of “Darkest Russia” as monthly supplement.

1902, May
               On the death of Asher Myers (who had been predeceased by S.M. Samuel) Israel Davis becomes proprietor and henceforth controls the publication, Morris Duparc being the working editor.

1907, January
               “The Jewish Chronicle” passes into the control of L.J. Greenberg, who becomes Editor.  It is subsequently turned into a Limited Company.  “Young Israel,” the children’s supplement, is introduced.  The Company acquires the “Jewish Year Book,” up to then the property of L.J. Greenberg, who founded it.

1913, April
               “The Jewish Chronicle” buys up the “Jewish World” (founded in 1873) which is published henceforth from the same offices and is also edited by L.J. Greenberg.

1916, July
               Price increased to 3d.

1918, March
               Priced increased to 4d.

1921, January 28
               Beginning of the publication of the monthly “Jewish Chronicle Supplement,” which continued until August, 1939.

1931, November 15
               Death of L.J. Greenberg.

1932, January 1
               J.M. Rich becomes Editor.

1934, February 9
               The “Jewish World” is incorporated with “The Jewish Chronicle” and ceases separate publication.

1935, July
               The offices are moved to 47-49, Moor Lane.  Mechanical type composition replaces the hand-setting which had been employed up to this date.

1936, December
               Ivan M. Greenberg, son of L.J. Greenberg, succeeds J.M. Rich as Editor.

1937, February 26
               The “Jewish Chronicle Supplement” issued in new format and pinned separately.

1937, November 12
               Typography of the paper altered to the new Times Roman.

1939, September
               Owing to war conditions, the format is changed, the cover being abandoned, and emergency offices are taken over in High Wycombe.

1940, December 29
               The London offices in Moor Lane are totally destroyed with all contents and records in the course of a German air raid on London.  The temporary offices subsequently occupied in Mansion House Chambers, Queen Victoria Street, are similarly destroyed on the night of May 10, 1941, fresh offices being taken at 88, Chancery Lane.

1941, November 12


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