In 1867 the Poles of Galicia were granted the right to self-rule. Thus Polish became the official language of internal government institutions and education. In earlier periods the Jews of Galicia, especially those who perceived themselves as progressive and identified as liberal Austro-Germans, had emphasized their kinship to German language, literature and culture. However, dating back to the 1870's, there were already parts of Jewish society in Galicia with a strong affinity to Polish language, literature and culture with the aim of strengthening ties between Jews and Poles. The publication of "Ojczyzna", a bi-lingual periodical, was one of the avenues to promote these goals. As can be seen here, in one of the first issues, in the newspaper's Hebrew section, "HaMazkir":
To get closer to our Christian brothers in the social life, to learn and speak their language, as if we were one of them. So that they will start loving us loyally, so that we shall cease condemning each other for our beliefs, so that we shall cease being strangers in our home land […] all nations will follow their god, and we will follow our god and our faith, for which our forefathers have been fighting for ages. We shall worship our god, and we shall love our mother land and the people living here for eternity ("HaMazkir Document", 16.8.1881).
The emblem of the newspaper- the Polish eagle with the Star of David on it- was designed to underline the idea of integration which the publication's founders sought to promote. While Ojczyzna rapidly gained a reputation as a promoter of assimilation, its founding editors, Landau & Bernfeld, had been part of the Hebrew Maskilic circle in Galicia. Ojczyzna, published continuously for over a decade, was not the first Jewish periodical in Galicia to promote forms of cooperation between Poles and Jews; several years prior to its appearance, a periodical named "Zgoda" had been published, but did not last long. In 1882, after Ojczyzna had already started to appear, Alfred Nossig and Adolf Lilien founded the "Agudas Akhim" organization (Przymierze Barci). In an article that appeared in HaMazkir they described the organization's goals, declaring that the foundation of the organization at this point was meant to symbolize the need to move from theoretical articulation into action, and to expand the number of people supporting the ideas propelled in the newspaper: "True lovers, seekers of our good faith that will be willing to help us carve a path" ("Agudas Akhim", 2.7.1882).
For six years (1881-1887) the newspaper appeared as a bi-lingual. Its two sections, the Polish and the Hebrew, were not identical, as they dealt with different matters. The articles published in the Hebrew section demonstrated various types of contemporary cooperation between Poles and Jews, and also prefigured this trend with examples from the recent Polish past, both prior to the era of partitions of Poland and during the Polish revolts. In addition, joint ventures undertaken by Poles and Jews were often reported, such as the cooperative fund-raising effort to erect a monument commemorating the Polish national poet, Adam Mickiewicz. Moshe Yisakhar Landau, the newspaper's publisher & editor, called upon his readers to honor Polish national holidays and important events, such as the 3rd of May (Constitution day). The Polish section also published articles promoting Polish-Jewish cooperation, but also covered Jewish communities of Galicia, with self-promoting reports on the achievements and activities made by Agudas Akhim in Jewish society.
In its first years the newspaper adhered to a rather moderate editorial policy and avoided criticizing figures and institutions active in the Jewish public sphere . But this policy changed, primarily due to the activities of "Makhzikey ha-Das" (מחזיקי הדת) organization, which represented the orthodox faction in political life and public sphere, as well as "Agudas Mikra Kodesh", an organization, which promoted the notion of Jewish nationality in Galicia. Thus in 1886 the proposal of Agudas Akhim members to cease publishing the Hebrew section leaving only the Polish one was accepted.
Between the years 1887-1892, now published solely in Polish, the policy of the newspaper drifted further away from its earlier moderate stance. The articles were more critical and pungent, as they gave exclusive voice to the agendas pushed for by Agudas Akhim and its constituency, especially the younger generation, which pushed for full integration into Polish society while advocating Poles' demands of the Habsburg rulers regarding Galicia.
At the peak of its circulation the newspaper was published in 500-700 copies. The outline and design were the same from day one until the last issue in 1892. As was the division into sections, which included commentaries, columns, short stories, poems and chronicles documenting the Jewish world. Advertisements and announcements were printed only on the back cover, like in other contemporary Jewish newspapers. Amongst the advertisers there were also several non-Jewish commercial entities, but these were scarce, and did not have a significant economic impact.
In its first years Ojczyzna also enjoyed a small readership amongst non-Jews, but their numbers decreased during the 1880's. In the early 1890's it became harder to persuade the Jewish society to support the idea of integration between the Jews and Poles. The articles about the organization's activities essentially confirmed its lack of accomplishments, while cause of Jewish nationalism made further inroads in a society which had previously supported the ideas promoted by Agudas Akhim. In 1886 Alfred Nossig- one of the founders of the organization- began supporting and promoting the notion of Jewish nationality; Gymnasium and University students which were initially Agudas Akhim supporters and readers of Ojczyzna turned to support the Jewish national movement activities of "Agudas Kodesh Zion", and replaced Ojczyzna with the Polish language " Przyszłość" (Future), published by Zionists in Galicia at the end of the 1880's and the early 1890's. The editorial board of Ojczyzna and the members of Agudas Akhim could no longer ignore the rise of anti-Semitism and the ever chauvinicstic nationalistic trends in the Polish press, especially regarding the Jews. By thenit seemed as if, ideologically speaking, both Agudas Akhim and Ojczyzna reached a "dead end". This stance can be seen in an article printed in early 1892: "The concepts of equality and tolerance are just empty slogans" ("Our stance", 1.1.1892). Herman Feldstein, the newspaper's editor, retired in the beginning of that year. The readership slipped constantly and this led to a financial crisis. On June 1st of 1892 the last issue appeared, and Ojczyzna had reached its end.
Dr. Ela Bauer
**Each Issue (up to 1886) was divided into 2 sections, in Polish and in Hebrew. We separated them, in order to make them both searchable (with the Hebrew section appearing as an additional issue a day after the Polish section).**
• Feldman, W., Asymilatorzy, syjoniści i Polacy z powodu przełomu w stosunkach żydowskich w galicyi, Krakow 1893, pp. 9–16.
Jasnowski, J., "Failure of Integration of Galicia Jews According to Lvov's Ojczyna (1881–1892)", Scripta Judaica Cracoviensia, 13 (2015), pp. 55–65.
• Kopff-Muszyńska, K., "Ob Deutsch oder Polonisch: Przyczynek do badań nad asymilacją Żydów we Lwowie w latach 1840–1892", in A. K. Paluch (ed.), The Jews in Poland, I, Krakow 1992, pp. 187–203.
• Manekin, R., "Die hebrä ische und jiddische presse in Galizien", in H. Rumpler and P. Urbanitsch (eds.), Die Habscurger Monarchie 1848–1918, VIII/2: Politische Öffentlichkeit und Zivilgellschaft, Vienna 2006, pp. 2341–2365.
• Manekin, R., "The Debate over Assimilation in Late 19th Century L'viv", in R. I. Cohen, J. Frankel and S. Hoffman (eds.), Insiders and Outsiders: Dilemmas of East European Jewry, Oxford and Portland 2010, pp. 120–130.
• Maślak-Maciejewska, A., "Działalność towarzystwa Agudas Achim i jego związki z synagogami postępowymi we Lwowie i Krakowie", Kwartalnik Historii Żydów, 1 (2014), pp. 173–202.
Mendelsohn, E., "Jewish Assimilation in Lvov: The Case of Wilhelm Feldman", Slavic Review, 28 (1969), pp. 577–590.