The newspaper Ha-Modia —according to its subtitle—was an Orthodox Jewish weekly that succeeded the Orthodox monthly ha-Peles, which had also been published by Eliyahu ʿAqiva Rabinovich (1861–1917) in Poltava between 1901 and 1905. Each issue of the newspaper usually began with a signed editorial by Rabinovich, usually relating to internal Orthodox matters, such as the Council of Orthodox Rabbis, debates with other newspapers, various Jewish political movements (in particularly, Zionism), cultural trends (such as general education), and information about the situation of the Jews throughout the Russian Empire as seen from an Orthodox perspective. Rabinovich tended to sign other articles that he wrote in the same issue as ‘the editor’ or under a pen name, or sometimes left them unsigned.
Rabinovich himself served as an Orthodox rabbi in Poltava from 1893 until his death in 1917. At the start of his career, he was attracted to the Ḥovevey Tsiyyon (Heb. ‘Lovers of Zion’) movement. However he subsequently became disappointed with Zionism and eventually turned into one of its most bitter opponents. In addition to his status as an influential rabbi within the circles of non-Zionist Jewish Orthodoxy, he was also a philosopher and one of the founders of Agudat Yisraʾel (Heb. ‘the Society of Israel’).
Despite the fact that the newspaper was aimed at Orthodox Jews in general, its readers were primary from the city of Poltava (whose Jewish population numbered some twelve thousand Jews) and from its surrounding province (around 112 thousand Jews). There are no details available regarding the distribution of Ha-Modia, although judging from its style and its language (Hebrew), one must assume that it was not particularly large and that its target audience consisted of the Hebrew-reading Orthodox élite.
At the beginning, page numbers were absent from contents of each issue. Editing of the paper was fairly disorganised. It was never clear when one article concluded and another began or where an article continued, and sometimes lines of vertical text appeared—perhaps to maximise the use of the page in its entirety.
Most of the issues of Ha-Modia included between twelve to sixteen pages and they usually featured one or two articles in addition to the main editorial, such as a story emphasising the Orthodox values of the newspaper, a column of letters to the editor, of which the majority dealt with local religious matters, or criticism of the religious behaviour of various institutions and individuals in the style of responsa (for example, the opening of Jewish-owned banks on the Sabbath). The column of letters to the editor appeared frequently in RaSHI script, as did a few other articles in other sections. From the content, it is unclear why the editor chose to use this script sometimes and the regular square script at other times. Each of the main editorials that appeared at the start of each issue were printed in square script. The last page of Ha-Modia consisted of advertisements; most of these aimed at publicising rabbinical texts, the majority of which were published by Rabinovich’s own printing house.
Another column in the newspaper was dedicated to news relating to the Jewish people, which also included reports from Palestine.
The ultra-Orthodox (Heb. Ḥaredi) newspaper published by Agudat Yisraʾel, which began to appear in 1950 in Israel, preserves the name of Ha-Modia from Poltava.