Echo Żydowskie ("The Jewish Echo") was for a short period the organ of Agudat Yisrael (Agudas Izrael) party in the Polish language. This was the only publication in Polish among the Journals supported by the Agudat Yisrael movement and its affiliated organizations, published in Warsaw. It constituted a short lived attempt to bring the views of that movement, which enjoyed wide support in the Yiddish speaking Jewish public, to a wider, Polish speaking, audience.
The journal was published regularly for two short periods. The first attempt lasted about six months (4 March 1932 - 19 August 1932, Year I, 24 issues), and ended in an announcement about a short break for the holidays. The break lasted almost a year and a half, after which publication was resumed for about three months (24 December 1933 - 30 March 1934, Year II, 15 issues). The last issue offered no indication or explanation for the halt in publication. Beyond the total of 39 issues in both periods, no subsequent issues are known. The issues of the first period included a section for women (Kącik dla Pań), with stories about Jewish women in the past and a variety of recipes. The 15 issues of the second period included a page for younger readers (Echo Młodych, "The echo of the young"), with a letters from readers section.
Agudat Yisrael was at that time an active participant in urban and national politics, and the years of publication correlate with the period in which it controlled the Jewish community institutions in Warsaw and Lodz, and many other cities, facing fierce opposition. The weekly routinely ran articles by the political activists of the party. The first issue included articles signed by Eliyahu Mazur (Eljasz Mazur, 1889-1973), the Aguda appointed board president of the Jewish community of Warsaw (1931-1936), and by Jakub Lejb Mincberg (1884-1943), the head of the Jewish community in Lodz and Aguda representative in the Polish Sejm. As one of the issues that delayed Mazur's appointment in Summer 1931 was the question of his proficiency in Polish, the political relevance of the linguistic aspect at that time is evident.
The newspaper's last issues correspond to the implementation of the German-Polish press agreement (signed 24 February 1934, following the German-Polish non-aggression pact of 26 January 1934), and the consequent intensified pressure of Polish censorship. At the same time, party leaders came to realize that their attempts to influence Polish public opinion and national politics are nearly futile.
The newspaper was a subsidiary of the main daily newspaper affiliated with Agudat Yisrael, "Dos Judisze Togblat", which was a profitable newspaper with an independent economic base and wide circulation, published in Yiddish in Warsaw, that significantly contributed to shaping the party's positions and to its political achievements. The responsible editor of "Dos Judisze Togblat", who was named also as the responsible editor of
Echo Żydowskie, was Samuel Rothstein (Szmuel Icek Rotsztejn, 1902-1978), who held this office throughout the existence of the "Togblat" (1929-1939). Rothstein (who also used a number of pen names), was a prominent figure in the Aguda press in Warsaw, had participated in the movement's previous organ, "Der Jud" (1919-1929), in the literary monthly "Diglejnu", and from 1923 edited the literary monthly "Der Fłaker". The acting editor of the "Togblat" was David Flinker (Dawid Flinkier, 1897-1978), and the way he fashioned the newspaper was reflected also in the Polish publication. Flinker published serialized detective stories under the pen name "Der Umbekanter" (in Polish: D. U-er), which attracted many readers to the "Togblat", some also appeared in Polish.
The designated editor of
Echo Żydowskie was Dr. Mordechai Rosner (1899-1942), a graduate of Warsaw University and teacher at the Seminary for Teachers of Jewish Religion, who served as political and parliamentary assistant to Aguda representatives, drafting memos, bills and speeches in Polish. The actual editorial work was done in a small room in the "Togblat", by Hilel Seidman (1907-1995), who then started his studies at Warsaw University and inherited Rosner's functions as parliamentary assistant. Between 1934 and 1939 Seidman also published books in Polish on Jewish education, the Talmud, kosher slaughter, and Jewish oath in court, confronting anti-Jewish misconceptions. Heszel Klepfisz (1910-2004) and David Flinker also took part in the editing, as occasionally did other editors of the "Togblat".
Rothstein, Rosner, Seidman, Klepfisz and Flinker wrote regularly for the weekly. Occasional authors included other members of the "Togblat" editorial board, and other journalists and activists who contributed to various publications of Agudat Yisrael. The newspaper also printed articles of movement members translated from German to Polish. The subjects included: The Aguda political views, polemics with the Zionist and assimilationist positions, Jewish folklore, religious interpretations, history of Agudat Yisrael and its notable members, the state of orthodox Jews in other countries, the image of the Jew in Polish culture, international politics, as well as stories about historical figures, translations from foreign language literature, and jokes.
Publishing in Polish was not an obvious choice, and the first issue in each publication period explained the reasons and reiterated the primacy of Yiddish, ideologically defined as a barrier against assimilation. The reasons included the need for available responses in Polish to attacks by political rivals and enemies, and the need to present the Aguda political views, and appeal directly to Polish public opinion. This approach was part of a declared policy to try and convince the majority by presenting the Aguda's arguments, and demonstrating Jewish loyalty, integration in the state, and shared interests with the general population.
According to the newspaper's mission statement, the editors wished to give voice to orthodox Judaism, till then absent from the field of Polish-language Jewish press; to provide Polish readers with an appropriate image of Jews and Judaism in line with their views; and to assert orthodox Jewry as vital and cultured, not cut off from state and society, not backward, not fanatic, and not a negligible group, but rather forming the majority of Polish Jews.
Even though Non-Jewish Polish readers were clearly pointed out, Jews who spoke only Polish were also designated as the initial target audience. It soon became clear that a much wider Jewish readership showed interest in the newspaper, especially among the younger generation (who were educated in Polish), and among Polish speaking orthodox Jews, especially in Galicia. The expanding audience was reflected in the contents of the articles and sections, and in the commercial adds.
Dr. Shuki Ecker