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Dr. Abraham Benisch as Newspaper Editor

J. M. Shaftesley

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Dr. Abraham Benisch as Newspaper Editor JOHN M. SHAFTESLEY, O.B.E., B.A. EDITORS do not usually receive such agreeable testimonials as did the Editor of the Nonconformist (Mr. Miall, m.p.) last week, when Mr. Kell handed him a cheque for ten thousand guineas in testimony of his services on behalf of Civil and Religious Liberty. The Jewish community of England take a different view from the Dissenters' body, and favour their Editors with more? criticisms?than halfpence. This heartfelt cry, wrung from the pen of an Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Michael Henry, in the issue of 25 July 1873, may perhaps serve as an introduction to this sketch of the profes? sional work of Henry's immediate predecessor and again, in a sort of leapfrogging operation, later successor in office, Dr. Abraham Benisch. I do not mean to imply that the life of a Jewish Chronicle editor is of necessity all kicks and no halfpence, but at least it gives me a platform from which to show that, if his financial rewards were not great, one editor of the paper at least, allowing for criticisms, emerges from examination as a moral millionaire. Before entering into more detail, I give the simple chronological table of Benisch's news? paper career, in order to establish his order in history: Joint Editor with Moses Angel of the Voice of Jacob (which briefly combined with the Jewish Chronicle) for an unknown period from 1842; proprietor, December 1853 to December 1854, and possibly Editor also from August to December 1854, of the Hebrew Observer, which had been founded in January 1853 by one Abraham Pierpoint Shaw;1 Editor of the Jewish Chronicle (into which he incorporated the Hebrew Observer) 1854-1869 and again from 1875 to 1878, the year of his death. If Benisch had had his modest way, this is perhaps most of what would be known of him, as his wish was when he died?a wish that was respected by his paper?that there should be no obituary notice of him. If one were to take a cosmonaut's-eye view? it is presumably now quite out of date to speak of so simple a thing as a bird's-eye view?if, as I say, one were to take a cosmonaut's-eye view of the history of the development of the British newspaper, one would discern a pattern of division into four parts corresponding roughly with the four centuries since the 1600s. I am disregarding the news-letters to politicians and merchants and the news ballads for more ordinary folks in the sixteenth century. To estimate rather better the work of Dr. Benisch, it is useful to see a background that is not confined to his own Jewish group, useful to skim across the general newspaper story of those centuries. The tendency in a great deal of Jewish history?a tendency not, neverthe? less, confined only to Jewish history?is to treat its subjects rather in isolation instead of relat? ing them more closely to their outside influences and environment. FOUR ERAS IN NEWSPAPERS The first part of the four, that of the begin? nings of the newspaper as we know it, took the form in the seventeenth century of news-books or 'corantos', in which the chief role was played by the writer-cum-printer of usually stale and not necessarily accurate foreign news. The repressive blanket of the Star Chamber up to 1641 effectively smothered the open pre? sentation of 'home' news, but the abolition of that instrument of Government censorship permitted the appearance of what were en? titled 'Diurnalls' and, even better known, 'Mercuries', which existed largely on news of the Royalist versus Roundhead Civil War. It was to these conditions that we owe the existence of the present-day London Gazette, which began life in 1665 on the plan of the 'Mercuries', but whose first 23 numbers were entitled the Oxford Gazette, as it was published in that city because that was where the Royal Court had removed during the Great Plague in London. Incidentally, it achieved the com 214</page><page sequence="2">PLATE XVI *f ^/"-df ^r^^sd*L*^ &gt;?r^^^^^^ ^ ^4^U^\J One of the few instances in which Dr. Abraham Benisch seems to have aroused irritation in one of his friends. Part of a letter written by Professor Tobias Theodores, of Manchester, to Jacob Frank? lin, on November 7, 1841, during correspondence referring to Franklin's successful efforts to launch the Voice of Jacob and the rival efforts which almost simultaneously produced the Jewish Chronicle. (By courtesy of Jewish Chronicle Ltd.) [See p. 220</page><page sequence="3">Dr. Abraham Benisch as Newspaper Editor 215 mendation of Samuel Pepys because, as he said, it was 'full of newes and no folly in it'?the absence of 'folly', we are given to understand, meaning that it contained no leading article.2 The second phase, in the eighteenth cen? tury, might loosely be described as the 'printers' period', although the paramount influence in its earlier days resided in the famous men of letters, beginning with Daniel Defoe and in? cluding Sir Richard Steele, Joseph Addison, Jonathan Swift, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Henry Fielding, Oliver Goldsmith, Tobias Smollett, John Wilkes, and others. Wilkes, I might argue, although he himself would never have dreamed of the connection, planted the seed which ultimately led to the political emancipation of the Jews in this country, a cause in which Benisch was one of the foremost protagonists as an editor and which he had the rare pleasure in pioneers of seeing to fulfilment. John Wilkes had a chequered career; he founded and wrote in newspapers in order to satirise Parliament, twice became a Member of Parliament himself, was outlawed for 'seditious libel', became Lord Mayor of London, and as a magistrate in 1770 discharged a printer who had been arrested on Parliament's command for publishing insulting reports of its proceed? ings, which technically were privileged. It was Parliament's last challenge of the reporting of its debates, and thenceforward public interest was tacitly accepted and the way thus paved, however unwittingly, for the public agitations which led to the Reform Acts and the franchise for Dissenters, Roman Catholics, and finally Jews (even more finally, I suppose I should add, and long after, women). It was in this eighteenth-century period, too, that not only did the first English daily news? paper (the Daily Courant) appear but advertising began to assume that supreme influence on newspaper finance and stability that it has since secured. Generally speaking, however, although fam? ous literary names continued to be associated with newspapers, the latter part of this era saw the dominance of the man who was printer first, often with a jobbing establishment and stationery shop, to whom the publishing of a newspaper on his existing plant offered not so P much influence as, he hoped, a lucrative source of income, with news and not opinion as the staple. Then, in the nineteenth century, when news? papers became a commonplace, the era arrived of the great editors, in both London and the provinces. A mere list of names suffices to identify the age as one of the emergence of the editor with an opinion, respected or reviled in accordance with one's party loyalties, but never neglected or despised. From John Walter I, coal merchant, Lloyd's underwriter, and enterprising printer, who founded the Daily Universal Register in 1785, which changed to The Times in 1788, and his equally enterprising son John Walter II, we come to the first of the really famous profes? sional editors, Thomas Barnes, of The Times, who assumed office at the age of 32 in 1817 and remained there till he died in 1841. It was a Lord Chancellor himself, Lord Lyndhurst, who in 1834 exclaimed: 'Why, Barnes is the most powerful man in the country!'3 Barnes was. succeeded by a man of 23, John Thadeus. Delane, who became equally famous and influential in the position and who reigned till he retired in 1877. GREAT EDITORS To the student not only of newspapers but also of the social history of England there are resounding echoes in the mention of the names of editors of the nineteenth century: Edward Baines, sen., and Edward Baines, jun., of the Leeds Mercury; John Edward Taylor, of the Manchester Guardian; Archibald Prentice, of the Manchester Times; Alexander Russel, of the Scotsman; Dr. Charles Gilchrist Russell, of the Glasgow Herald; Robert Leader, of the Sheffield Independent; James Montgomery, of the Sheffield Iris; William C. Leng of the Sheffield Telegraph; Samuel Smiles, of 'Self Help' fame, but also editor of the Leeds Times from 1839 to 1842; and, at least on a level with the great Barnes and Delane of The Times, Charles Prestwich Scott, who began his; 57 years' editorship of the Manchester Guardian in 1872. There is hardly one of these, and others,, from which the Jewish Chronicle did not quote at one time or another.</page><page sequence="4">216 John M. Shqftesley It is only necessary to add as a rounding-off that the fourth great newspaper period, the twentieth century, our own, opened with the rise of the popular enterprisers, not editors but in effect a reversion to the businessmen-printers now armed also with acquired journalistic techniques and given an impetus by the effects on the masses of such measures as the Educa? tion Act of 1870, which imposed compulsory schooling on all. The archetype of this popular press enterpriser was of course Alfred Harms worth (1865-1922), who became Lord North cliffe and may be credited?or debited, according to your point of view?with the creation of the present-day predominance of management in the newspaper business. But this goes beyond our immediate scope, and we must, in considering the place of Dr. Benisch, return to his own period, mid Victorian England. He undoubtedly belonged to the category of his time?a great editor among great editors, and it is in this capacity rather than in that of owner of his paper that we must consider him. Fortuitously, perhaps, he began when Barnes of The Times was finishing, and finished when Scott of the Guardian was beginning. His ownership of the Jewish Chronicle was, it can be said, incidental to his status as an editor?it was the vehicle through which he expressed his talent as both writer and editor, and pursued his social and spiritual aims, and if fortune had not enabled him to acquire that particular newspaper he was quite prepared to start his own paper. The measure of his accomplishment is all the greater when it is remembered that he was not English born and actually only came to this country from Austria when he was 29 or 30. He was born in Drosau, Bohemia, in 1811. (But Dr. N. M. Gelber gives his date of birth as 1817.)4 The story of his arrival in London and the reasons behind it has frequently been related by friends and contemporaries and by later historians, and it would not have close interest to a study of him as an editor were it not for the fact that the object which brought him here was to remain a directing passion for the rest of his life and was always reflected in his work, contacts, and aspirations?that of the return of the Jews to Palestine. Abraham Benisch was, in fact, a Zionist of Herzlian mould before Theodor Herzl, also a newspaperman, was born. Briefly, and in order to explain Benisch's attitude, it may be related that as a student in 1836, first at Prague, with Moritz Stein? schneider, and then as a 'Mediziner' at Vienna University, when their secret 'Unity' group was joined by Albert L?wy, Wilhelm Oesterreicher, Julius Barasch, and others, he espoused the ideal of a solution of the Jewish problem by a properly organised system in Palestine of Jewish colonisation, under the protection of a Western Power, preferably Britain. Benisch came to Britain to pursue this scheme, after encouragement by Adolphe Cremieux, the famous French Jewish statesman, the English? men Edward Gibbon Wakefield and the Rev. Mr. Grimshawe, of the British Bible Society, and, it is said, of the Rothschilds. Albert L?wy had preceded him to London (becoming a minister at the Reform Synagogue), but had reported back unfavourably on local reactions. Nevertheless, Benisch came, and was favourably received by Sir Moses Montefiore, at whose home he met William T. Young, the British Consul in Jerusalem, who was also in favour of the idea and at whose instance he submitted a memorandum to the British Government. But, like many another idealist, Benisch could make no headway against at best cautious and at worst apathetic Cabinet Ministers and similarly apathetic wealthy Jews in London and elsewhere. Yet, as Professor Salo Baron remarks, his 'efforts were not altogether futile', and he quotes Albert L?wy's comment that 'from the humble beginnings of the "Unity Society" [at Vienna University] originated much later the "Anglo-Jewish Association" '?of which, I may add, Benisch beyond all others was the archi? tect, and which, although it may come as a surprise to those who know only of the modern criticism of that organisation for its alleged insularity, was one of the formative influences in the development of the Yishuv in Eretz Yisrael, as the pages of the Jewish Chronicle for several years from 1871 onwards will testify, not least in the constant long letters on its behalf from Dr. Benisch in the interim period between his two terms as Editor.</page><page sequence="5">Dr. Abraham Benisch as Newspaper Editor 217 FOUNDING OF JEWISH PAPERS Dr. Benisch was evidently a good publicist from the moment he set foot in England. His appearance in London almost coincided with the founding of the two rival papers in that same year, 1841, the Voice of Jacob (in whose original advisory group he appears) and the Jewish Chronicle. He had established good relations quite soon with that energetic extro? vert Jacob A. Franklin, the editor-proprietor of the Voice, and we find in its first issue, for September 18415, an article on 'What Are the British Jews? And What May They Become?' by 'A Foreigner', disclosed by Franklin, writing as Jacob' in a letter on the Jewish Press in the Jewish Chronicle on 6 November 1868,6 as a pseudonym of Benisch. (Benisch was now Editor of the J.C. and published this letter himself.) In this article, the author has no doubt about the indestructibility of the Jewish mission to carry forward to the world the light of moral truth; he believes that British Jewry could represent the golden mean between the extreme unchanging rigidity of some 'Eastern' communities on the one hand and the errors of their German brethren on the other. And he urges at the same time a 'gallant' struggle for the removal of all civil disabilities on Jews everywhere. In this one short article he sets the unswerving tone of his later editorial declara? tions. That he impressed Franklin with his ideas on the Jewish restoration is seen also in No. 3 of the Voice,7 where an anonymous article headed 'Syria and Conversion', attacking certain British Christian missionary pretensions in Palestine ('Syria' was the formal term in those days for that area), introduces Benisch's plan: . .. may we not appeal as Englishmen to our government to take the poor persecuted Jews of Syria, as Jews, under its protection. . . . The Jews, as Jews, have already a status in Syria, the home of their fathers, the haven of their future hope: the Jews of England have capital, enterprise, and patriotism; and though it is not generally known, a scheme for colonising their brethren in Syria is even now exciting their attention, could but the elements of European protection be included, and those of unscrupulous conversion ex? cluded. In the next issue8 the scheme is set out in full, Jewish colonisation in 'Syria' to be based rather on loans for land purchase than on donations. Almost a year later, the same theme occurs in a report on the leaving for New Zealand of Abraham Hort and his family,9 in which is insinuated, among the good wishes and an expression of satisfaction that the paper would now have a correspondent in New Zealand, the following exasperated reference: It was once hoped, that the apathy of our English brethren might have yielded to the appeals made to them (by capitalists as well as sufferers abroad), and their attention have been turned to the establishment of a refuge nearer to our fathers' home?the patrimony which must again be ours?on the coast of Syria (vide page 22 and the outlines of a specific plan in your No. 4); but then also it was said 'y?u are before your time'. . . . It needs no deductive talent to conclude that the reporter and writer of this lament was Benisch?in the paper of which by then he had become joint editor with Moses Angel, ex editor of the Jewish Chronicle. JEWS AND PALESTINE The reoccupation of Palestine by the Jews as a self-reliant and united people in a viable economy of their own building, free of the enervating curse of Halukah (alms sent to the Palestine Jews by Jews abroad), was a recurrent motive throughout Benisch's career, and he omitted no opportunity of fostering it and keeping it alive. This whole paper could be filled and to overflowing with an account of the articles, letters, and reports which played, without variation, on this theme. Imperishable names in this sphere, both Jewish and non Jewish, cropped up with regularity as cor? respondents or in reports, or even, in one case, that of Rabbi Yehuda Alkali, of Hungary, as an advertiser appealing for support for his own scheme of Jewish colonisation, with the aid of Christian sympathisers. Rabbi Alkali's adver? tisement appeared on 11 December 1857,10</page><page sequence="6">218 John M. Shaftesley but well before that his ideas had been publi? cised in the paper, not only by Benisch but also, to give him his due, by Benisch's predecessor as Editor, M. H. Bresslau, who printed Alkali's first letter on the subject, on 4 June 1852.11 Rabbi Hirsch Kalischer, of Thorn, another famous early propounder of a scheme to colonise Palestine, first appeared in the columns of the Jewish Chronicle on 14 August 186312, and his Drishat Z^on had a very sym? pathetic review in the issue of 30 November 1866.13 Noted Christian proponents of the Zionist vision whose views were given space included Colonel George Gawler, and later his son, Colonel J. C. Gawler, Dr. Thomas Clarke, and Henri Dunant, whose letter on the subject of Palestine for the Jews of 13 December 1867 has been quoted by many but who is even more famous for his founding of the Red Cross (about which more later). I have argued, I think correctly, in my article in the Jewish Chronicle of 28 February 1964, that Benisch in fact was the senior of the two editors of the Voice of Jacob, and at this point it will probably be helpful to recapitulate the cir? cumstances. The Voice of Jacob was launched by Jacob Franklin in September 1841, and the Jewish Chronicle by Isaac Vallentine, its owner and printer, a little later, November 1841. The Chronicle was edited by a Sephardi minister, the Rev. David Meldola, and Moses Angel, a school teacher who soon after became head? master of the Jews' Free School in the East End. Franklin was his own editor, although he had also thought of acting only as publisher and putting the editing into the hands of two people, the Rev. Morris J. Raphall, who had already had experience with a former paper of his own, the Hebrew Review, and the Rev. David Aaron de Sola (like Meldola, of the Sephardi Congregation). Franklin, in his letter in the Jewish Chronicle quoted above (6 Novem? ber 1868), revealed this and added that these two gentlemen 'shrank from the risk after all'. Rivalry persisted up to May 1842, when the Jewish Chronicle retired temporarily from the fight after an exchange of personal insults in print (in a pleasant exchange of paragraphs, Franklin refused to consider the Chronicle even as an 'opposition' paper, and Vallentine and Angel scorned Franklin as a colleague, Angel adding that he refused to 'think myself your inferior, by acting as your subordinate'). Words are, it would seem, easier to swallow than swords, for only a week later the Chronicle was incorporated in the Voice, including its Editor, owner, and staff. This decision was announced in both papers (Voice of Jacob, 27 May 1842; Jewish Chronicle, 22 May 1842).14 THE MAN FOR THE OCCASION The sudden end to the cross-fire of insults and the resultant coalescence of the two papers, in my estimation, must have been due to Franklin's producing as joint editor the man to meet the occasion, persona grata all round, Dr. Benisch, who was to be assisted, as the relevant announcement had it, as joint editor by Moses Angel, of the Jewish Chronicle, whose staff and contributors were to come with him. Benisch had been persuaded, it seems, to forgo his own plans for a Jewish monthly paper, although the Voice still spoke later of producing a monthly magazine as well. Incidentally, these mentions of Dr. Benisch in the very early Chronicles show both Asher Myers (Benisch's successor in 1878) and the centenary history of the paper to be at fault in asserting that Benisch's name did not appear until 22 November 1844.15 Franklin resigned as editor of the Voice but stayed as proprietor-publisher, with Vallentine?for only a few issues?as co publisher, and for a time letters to the Editor and statements issued on editorial affairs emphasised the plurality of the position by being superscribed 'To the Editors . . .,? Gentlemen,?' It was, however, not many months before a reversion to the more ordinary singular 'Editor' and other internal signs pointed to a return to control by the irrepres? sible Franklin. He coolly, if a trifle irascibly, replied to an inquirer in the issue of 17 February 1843,16 under 'Notices to Correspondents': Query.?The proprietor does share the labour of editing the paper, and many other labours besides, for which the subscription fund and sale returns do not warrant the engagement of the usual auxiliaries.</page><page sequence="7">Dr. Abraham Benisch as Newspaper Editor 219 That Benisch, therefore, actually edited the Voice of Jacob for more than a few months is doubtful, in spite of some statements to the contrary. Jacob Franklin's own final words on the matter seem to be those he wrote, again to quote his 6 November 1868 letter, on Benisch's part in his old paper (and it must be recog? nised once more that this letter appeared in the Chronicle when Benisch was editing it): He [Benisch, after the first issue, to which he contributed his article as ?A Foreigner'] remained a valued and fertile contributor to the Voice of Jacob, either as essayist, reviewer, translator or sub-editor, even for a time co editor, during the whole five years of its existence. There has scarcely been an inter? mission of his labours in the Anglo-Jewish press since he assisted at its birth; and thus he represents its continuity, accepting in these columns the occasional contributions of his pioneer, even as his own were accepted in good will at the beginning. This last sentence is at once a true historical statement and a clue to the character of Abraham Benisch as an editor. Historically true because Benisch played an almost continuous role in this early story of the Anglo-Jewish press. As we have seen, he was attracted to the Voice of Jacob almost as soon as he reached England and certainly as soon as the paper was launched; according to Franklin, above, he remained connected with it for its five years under the Franklin regime (actually, Franklin was being a trifle disingenuous; he certainly gave up control in 1846, its fifth year, but the Voice went on for another couple of years or so, under the flamboyant Haim Guedalla). Benisch, as owner of the Hebrew Observer in 1854, amalgamated it with the Jewish Chronicle when opportunity gave him the control of the latter paper at the end of that year. Thenceforward, till his death in 1878, he was, except for the six years of Michael Henry's editorship?and even then its pages hardly ever lacked mention of his name or a contribution from him?the personification, as Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, of the 'Jewish Press'. There were, it is true, several short-lived rivals, and the Jewish World, which was to last for 61 years and then in its turn be swallowed by the Chronicle, was founded in 1873. But none of them came near to the stature and influence of the Chronicle in those years, and, although he was not its first but in effect its fifth editor, Benisch was the founder of its greatness. MANY QUALIFICATIONS The qualities he possessed for this status were many, and he brought them all to bear in his conduct of the editorial function. He was, to begin with, a learned man, in both secular and Judaic fields. In 1842, for instance, we find reported his dissertations?he refused to call them sermons?on the Sidra of the week (Biblical reading) in the Hall of the New Synagogue, and he advertised as a school master and language teacher. And one of the brightest ornaments himself of the ministerial ranks at that time, the Rev. Aaron Levy Green, of the Central Synagogue, and a witty, audaci? ous, but eminently knowledgable contributor of long letters to the Jewish Chronicle under the pen-name of 'Nemo', at a time when Benisch was not the Editor, described Benisch's lecturing at Jews' College as 'learned and thorough'. Benisch was a Hebraist and general linguist of no mean order; one may take at random a couple of examples of the subjects in which he engaged in correspondence during Michael Henry's editorship: a reply to an inquiry by Sir George Bowyer and Samuel Sharpe on the meanings and possible derivations of ^TO^) and D1TT, in which Benisch managed to introduce references in English, German, French, Latin, and Greek17; and a long explanation of Biblical euphemisms arising from an item on the word in Job ii. 9.18 So erudite and correct was Benisch considered that on one occasion19 Michael Henry pub? lished in the weekly 'Notices to Correspondents' the following blunt reply to 'Dr. A.' (who was probably Dr. David Asher, of Leipzig, and a former Secretary to the Chief Rabbi): The letter, as now worded, cannot be pre? sented to English readers. It requires modification, especially as it is written in opposition to the views of such a great scholar as Dr. Benisch.</page><page sequence="8">220 John M. Shaftesley As a writer, Benisch has an immense number of articles, signed and unsigned, to his credit, in quite vigorous and clear style, on a wide variety of topics, and a long list of scholarly books on Biblical and cognate subjects, of which copious details may be found in, among other sources, the Bibliotheca Anglo-Judaica of 1888. It is sufficient to say here that, if an editor needs an ability to write and write knowledgably, then Abraham Benisch would never have failed the graduation test. Si monumentum requiris . . . It might be convenient to insert here a find I have recently made, not simply because it throws an amusing light on the age-old friction that occurs among scholars but because it shows that Benisch was obviously known and treated as a scholar himself when he first came to England as a young man. Among some letters to Jacob Franklin which have been acquired for the Jewish Chronicle archives, I dis? covered one from Professor Tobias Theodores, the distinguished philologist, of Owens College, Manchester, dated 7 November 1841, in which he has this to say of Benisch: I am sorry that Dr. Behnish appears cut up because I cannot lend him books which I partly have not got, and partly cannot spare. But if he will be offended, he must. Rather than send books to London, I will totally renounce those claims on reciprocal services from Behnisch, of which I have hitherto made so sparing a use. His manner of doing it appears to me such an easy way to pick a quarrel with a man, that I will note it down to use it on the proper occasion. (Plate XVI.) The necessity to conserve expenditure com? pelled Benisch for a long time to do most of the leader and feature writing himself in the Chronicle (marked, it has to be admitted, always by sound sense in religious or polemical subjects and by wide knowledge in factual matters), but he did draw on other scholars, especially German-Jewish scholars, for import? ant contributions. MIXING WITH HIS PUBLIC It will be obvious, too, from what has been related, that Benisch was a sociable man, able to get about and influence?and perhaps be influenced by?people. He engaged in work for his community by attaching himself to various Jewish organisations and societies, and if there was no society in existence for which he felt there was a need, he was foremost in en? couraging its formation. This is revealed by, at one extreme, his efforts in his early years in England, in 1842, to be exact, to get set on foot a popular 'Association for the Promotion of Jewish Literature5?he was not the first or the last to pursue that particular mirage!?to, in his last years, his successful endeavours, with a few friends, to establish the Anglo-Jewish Association. As Israel Davis, later to become the owner of the Jewish Chronicle also, put it in the Jubilee Supplement of November 1891, Dr. Benisch himself kept many promising institutions alive in their younger days by fomenting them with tea. We used to meet at his house in Northumberland Terrace, near Chalk Farm Station, and gradually the project which some younger head perhaps had started, would mature into workable shape under the presidency of that judicious organizer. The Anglo-Jewish Association Benisch looked on as a means of direct contact by English Jewry with their brethren of France through the famous Alliance Israelite Universelle, with American Jewry through the Board of Dele? gates (of synagogues) and the B5nai B5rith, and with the newly formed communal union (Gemeindebund) in Berlin, for united action and co-operation in aid of persecuted Jews in any country abroad. DEPUTIES' LIMITATIONS Nor was this, in spite of arguments to the contrary, conceived in a spirit of opposition or rivalry to the Board of Deputies. Benisch was never derogatory about the Board of Deputies? usually he paid it every respect?but, as he had been by birth and upbringing a Conti? nental, and as a newspaperman was never out of touch with his friends and correspondents in other countries, he understood rather more fully</page><page sequence="9">Dr. Abraham Benisch as Newspaper Editor 221 the needs of Jews abroad. He appreciated also, even though he did not agree with, the strict limitations imposed in those days on the Board by its own rigid constitution, its chronic lack of funds (there was a pretty frequent item in the Board's reports: ?arrears of subscriptions'), which often caused the Board apparently callously to refuse heart-rending appeals for financial as well as diplomatic aid from Jewish communities in places of persecution and natural catastrophe. The Deputies, with one foot embedded in constitution and the other in protocol, had in those mid-Victorian years acquired the popular but undeserved nickname of 'The Board of Congratulation and Con? dolence', and it was in that atmosphere that Benisch laboured with such success for the freer organisation denoted in the scheme for the A.J.A. As early as 13 September 1867, a lead? ing article20 suggested an 'Anglo-Jewish Alliance' on the model of the French Alliance to take international action over a report of particularly gross atrocities against Jews in Persia. On the occasion arising during the Franco-Prussian War, when the Alliance was naturally in eclipse, Benisch pushed forward vigorously with his close friends to found the English equivalent, and the comment appeared with some justice when the A.J.A.'s first annual report in 1872 was reviewed21 that 'not only the occasion but the man for the occasion was at hand'. Furthermore, the A.J.A. proved another pathway along which to work for his old passion, the return of the Jews to Palestine as dignified and productive colonisers and agriculturists. This was one of the reasons for his special fondness for news of the Mikveh Israel agricultural school founded near Jaffa. Vocational training for Jews everywhere, from the East End outwards, was in any case one of his favourite subjects. He was not insensible, either, of the value of outside publicity in these matters, and we find a record of at least one letter from him explaining the objects of the A.J.A. in the Morning Advertiser in May 1871. INFLUENCING UNITY On the desirability of what he always re ferred to as 'unity' among Jews?the continua? tion of the 'Einheit' society of his student days? Benisch propagandised almost obsessionally, as a panacea for Jewish ills, and the remarkable thing, when we consider the schismatic ten? dencies of our 'peculiar people', is that he was so often successful in persuading a united course of action on groups smitten with the inertia of vested interest. Such, for example, was the setting up of the Rumanian Conference, in which English, French, German, American, and Rumanian Jews joined for the first time internationally in Vienna to try to ameliorate the terrible oppression of the Jews of Rumania in the early 1870s; and at home the founding of the United Synagogue in London at the same period, a step he had urged for years on the Metropolitan synagogues under the juris? diction of the Chief Rabbi. It is not too much to say also that it was due to his prodding that the Deputies extended representation to more and more congregations. In his attitude to the question of the correct approach as an editor to public life?whether, as it has been posed, an editor is a better editor for moving among his public or, contrariwise, cultivating a cloistered aloofness?his reply is self-evident. He belonged undoubtedly to the school of his distinguished contemporary John Thadeus Delane, Editor of The Times, of whom it is recorded that he 'was very sociable and very welcome in the best society. "He felt it to be a duty to consort with the inner circle of cabinets and to mix in the great world"; and "he was in the confidence of everybody of both political parties". He had, therefore, sources of information and of influence which were denied even to Barnes [his great predecessor]. . . . When Delane retired in the autumn of 1877, "Who", asked Lord Beaconsfield, "will undertake the social part of the business ? Who will go about in the world and do all that Mr. Delane did so well?" It was a shrewd ques? tion.'22 To substitute 'Benisch' in a Jewish context for 'Delane' would be but to do pro? fessional justice to him. The writer of the Jewish Chronicle's centenary history gives some brief details on this score, especially his correspond? ence and meeting with Gladstone in 1877.23 He had, in fact, an important interview with</page><page sequence="10">222 John M. Shaftesley Gladstone in 1876 (published on 3 November), when he corrected some of the statesman's wrong and antagonistic impressions concern? ing the Jewish attitude to the opposing sides in the Balkan war, when Servia, Bulgaria, and others rebelled against their Turkish masters. Gladstone publicly expressed a sort of reserved antisemitism, which persisted into the period of the following Russo-Turkish War, based on his fixed idea that it was unpatriotic of Jews to prefer the Turkish Moslems (who persecuted their brethren less) to the Russian Christians (who persecuted them more). Benisch strongly attacked the philo-Russian attitude?he per? sistently gave warnings of Russia's expansionist designs?and Gladstone's grudging with? drawals were due to Benisch's unremitting stand, backed by Jewish politicians, such as, for instance, Serjeant John Simon, m.p., who dwelt on the same theme in a speech delivered at the Jewish Working Men's Club in the East End which was reported extensively in the Jewish Chronicle of 23 November 1877, and also in the general press. It must be assumed that Benisch went on as he began in his public life?going to influential men and statesmen direct, as he did when he arrived, a thirty-year-old, with his political plan for Palestine. CHAMPION OF EMANCIPATION The reference to political parties in the extract above brings us by association to another very important aspect of Benisch's belief and practice. He was a stout champion in the struggle for Jewish political emancipa? tion, and he used his paper constantly and consistently in support of the political fight by Jews for their civil rights, in all countries, be it added. I feel that, while due recognition is given in studies of the era to Jewish politicians who ultimately won through to Parliament, full merit is not really accorded, for the significant part it played, to the Jewish Chronicle of the period, both before and during Benisch's editorship (it was while he was in control of the paper that the victory was gained in Parliament). Histories of the Jews in England naturally lay great stress on this extended episode in Jewish life and offer deference to the men who bore the brunt on the hustings, but the name of Benisch?whose paper was, after all, about the only Jewish vehicle, apart from pamphlets, available for the regular ex? position of the Jewish case?is rarely invoked on this subject. Of course, some of the histories refer to Benisch when dealing with the Jewish press, particularly that of James Picciotto, Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History, first printed in serial form in the J.C. in Benisch's lifetime, 1873-1874, but even Picciotto has no word to say about him in the emancipation story. There is a slight redressing of the balance, perhaps not surprisingly, with its benevolent suspicion of pro domo sua, in Asher Myers's leader in the November 1891 Jubilee issue of the J.C, where he writes, in gratefully acknowledging the English Jews who fought for emancipation: They did their part nobly, those Roth? schilds, Goldsmids, Mocattas, Adlers, Cohens, Benisch, Salomons, and ... Sir John Simon, with the rest, whose names we bless today as the pious founders of our modern prosperity. On the political level, Benisch published vigorous refutations of the view, which was then widely canvassed (even Gladstone succumbed to it) and still crops up today, that there was such a thing as a 'Jewish vote', by the weight of which usually, it was supposed, the Liberal as against the Conservative candidate would gain the day. He strongly opposed the suggestion that Jews as Jews combined to vote irrespective of individual preferences. But his own enthusiasms repeatedly seeped under the other? wise sturdy wall of conviction. While professing impartiality and still resisting the conception of a 'Jewish vote', he openly espoused the cause of the Liberal Party, especially when he was reporting General Election news in 1868. He ran this news as a feature for many weeks before the elections, including the activities of non Jewish as well as Jewish candidates. On this occasion, in the issue of 20 November 1868, he wrote his oddly contradictory declaration of independence: By way of introduction we will state that although in politics these columns, exclusively devoted to the religious, moral, intellectual and social interests of the Jewish community,</page><page sequence="11">Dr. Abraham Benisch as Newspaper Editor 223 are neutral, we belong from conviction to the Liberal party; and we trust that our pages have and will at all times reflect these sentiments. RELIGIOUS ORTHODOXY To continue the list of Benisch's qualifica? tions, I now come to his attitude to Judaism, in itself as well as vis-?-vis Christianity. His own Jewish learning, as I have already indicated, was beyond question, and he had a gift for its lucid exposition, true, in the heavier style we associate not only with Victorian times but also with the Teutonic mould of his earlier life. Nor did he always obey, in length at any rate, one of his own obiter dicta laid down in a reply he wrote in the Voice of Jacob on 15 April 1842 opposing the synagogue certification demanded by Benjamin Elkin, one of the doughtiest champions of the new Reform Synagogue: . i . the simple logical rule, that not the quantity but the quality of the words, decides their value; and that the quality is often the better, the less is the quantity. (Daunting words, I may interpolate, to the writers of papers to be delivered before his? torical societies!) His Continental legacy did not, however, lead him into the extremes of German Jewish Reform, and there were from time to time quietly sarcastic comments attached to reports of the even more violent aberrations that so frequently marred American Jewish practice in their 'temples'. Nevertheless, and despite his constant respect for the Chief Rabbi and ecclesiastical authority, he regularly pressed, for example, for such alterations in the synagogue services as the omission of a number of piyutim which he, with others, considered outmoded and out of place, and he urged con? ciliation and reconciliation with Berkeley Street. If his advice had been followed, it is very likely that there would have been a return, on accepted terms, to the Orthodox fold. Benisch was a great believer in the popularising of the synagogue service in ways that would not cut across the Hebrew tradition, and he was very much in favour of the exten? sion of the sermon in English and interchanges of preachers among the various synagogues. He campaigned tirelessly for the intensifica? tion of Jewish education and the provision of Jewish school textbooks and a 'Jewish' transla? tion of the Bible, free of Christological refer? ences or bias?his own translation of the Old Testament was published in 1851. Nobody who read Benisch's Jewish Chronicle regularly could fail to learn and learn again the difference between the regular Hebrew meaning of the word n?*?S7 (almah), 'sl young woman', in the famous verse of Isaiah vii. 14, and its Christo? logical gloss Virgin'. On translation he had decided views, which he afterwards expounded at length in a debate with a critic who, under the pen-name of 4"OS', had found fault with one of his own translations in the Jewish Chronicle, with particular reference to Ecclesi astes iii. 21, as compared with the Anglican Version. Briefly, Benisch argues that a trans? lator must adopt an objective and not a sub? jective view, and must always 'prefer the rendering which is in consonance with lexicon and grammar ... to one which would approve itself better to his mind but which it would be more difficult to reconcile with the clear mean? ing of the words'.24 ATTACKS ON CONVERSIONISTS A great deal of time, money, and effort, for ludicrously small results, was expended in those days by various Christian missionary and conversion?Benisch scornfully called them 'perversion'?societies in attempts to convert the Jews to Christianity. These activities never ceased to provide field days for the paper, where the conversion societies' reports were lashed in leading articles, together with declarations of the superiority of the codes of Judaism over those of its would-be supplanter, and the accounts of conversionist meetings were decked out with gusty quantities of sarcasm. Every reported case?and there were many?of the abduction and secret baptism of Jewish children in any country was paraded with justifiable indignation, and if anyone wishes to follow the long sad history of the most notorious of all such abductions, that of the seven-year old Jewish boy, Edgar Mortara, in Italy, who</page><page sequence="12">224 John M. Shaftesley was kidnapped and baptised by Catholic priests in 1858 and was never surrendered again to his grief-stricken parents, he could not find a more detailed and relentlessly continuous account over the years than in the Jewish Chronicle. It was the Mortara case, by the way, which led to the founding in 1860 of the Alliance Israelite Universelle, of which there was no more enthusiastic supporter than Dr. Benisch. And it was argued, too, with cogency, that it was the world's moral reaction to the stubbornness of the Papacy over Mortara that as much as anything else ultimately led to the Pope's being shorn of his temporal power when the Italian States acquired their independence and unity. Britain itself was not free of such cases, and Benisch gave much indignant publicity to one in Cardiff, where a Jewish girl of 18, Esther Lyons, was enticed away from her father's home for conversion by a Nonconformist clergyman and his wife. Neither the Board of Deputies nor the Beth Din, in this case, un? fortunately, measured up to the action expected of them, but their hesitation can be put down to the uncertainties of the legal case. The father, Barnett Lyons, fought a long, individual fight through the law courts for damages. In a rueful letter published in the Jewish Chronicle on 2 July 1869,2 5 Lyons thanks two people for standing by him, Joel Emanuel, his solicitor, and Benisch. SOCIAL BENEFACTORS The newspaper editors I have referred to earlier were described by Richard Cobden in 1863 as 'pioneers of political progress'.26 In this phrase he linked them as leaders of social pro? gress, equal in service to the great inventors, in the days of the Industrial Revolution. Benisch's name may not be left out in this same context. In some respects, he went what is referred to in certain military citations as 'beyond the call of duty' and engaged his paper in several campaigns for social reform and welfare affecting the whole nation, not only Jews. That same group of leading newspapers has been described as the 'middle-class re? formers',27 a category into which Benisch's Chronicle admirably fits. Space and time limit the description of Benisch's social reform interests to a few headings rather than an analysis: the model lodging-house movement, which led to the erection, as an early slum clearance measure, of the model dwellings in the East End; sanitation and other health measures to combat the recurrent epidemics of cholera and other fearsome diseases (the opportunity being taken at the same time to emphasise the superiorities of the Mosaic Code); middle-class schools in addition to the free and working-class schools (he encouraged the school which, non-denominational, became familiar to generations of London Jewish boys as Cowper Street); the Sunday opening of museums and art galleries (in his first year as Chronicle Editor he published a leader28 sup? porting the agitations of the National Sunday League); the five-and-a-half-day working week (here he encouraged the Saturday half-day closing movement, and at the same time agitated strongly for the legal opening of the shops of Jewish Sabbath-observers on Sundays instead); the abolition of compulsory church rates for non-Protestants; and he even pleaded, in the issue of 25 December, 1868,29 for a national rating system to iron out inequities as between one parish and another. When Henri Dunant, mentioned above, came to London from Switzerland in pursuit of his eccentric scheme to form a 'Society for Relieving Wounded Soldiers on the Battlefield'?the characteristically cumbersome title ultimately gave way to the simple 'Red Cross'?Benisch immediately welcomed his mission in the issue of 7 April 1865.30 ANTI-SLAVERY When the American Civil War was about to break out, Benisch printed a leader31 on the threatened disruption of the States and con? centrated on the question at issue: slavery. It should be remarked here that, in its brief history in 1932 (already quoted), The Times candidly confesses:32 'Only in one great matter . . . did Delane and The Times take what is now seen to have been the wrong side. When civil war broke out in America in 1861 the</page><page sequence="13">Dr. Abraham Benisch as Newspaper Editor 225 paper, with nearly all upper and middle class England, sided with the South.' The Jewish Chronicle was not to be numbered among them, for, while its news dealt impartially with Jewish soldiers and other matters on either side, this leading article of Benisch's set its tone on the moral plane. It argued Christianity's inadequacy on the question and stressed Judaism's opposition to slavery. The following month,33 advantage was taken of an oppor? tunity again to point the moral in a review of a reprint of two anti-slavery sermons, 'Moses versus Slavery', by the Rev. Dr. Gustav Gottheil, then in Manchester and later of New York. Jewish Defence', as it has been entitled this century, for want of a better description, the tactic of pursuing and refuting anti-Jewish attacks, especially in the press and in books, had an early and trenchant exponent in Benisch. He declared outright34 that he would attack such antisemitism wherever he found it, and he engaged regularly in polemics with antisemites, alike of the religious, political, economic, or sheer pathological hate variety, producing important and informed material, some of it afterwards reprinted as pamphlets or books, which, among other things, stoutly opposed the growing entrenchments of the Higher Criticism. Nor did any paper, from 'the Thunderer' downwards, found guilty of the pernicious habit of gratuitously bringing in the Jewish faith of defendants or witnesses in court cases escape his censure. At one particular time, that of the 1868 General Election, when there were several Jewish candidates for Parlia? ment, the J.C. deplored the antisemitic refer? ences that were allowed to appear in the election news in several papers, and in the issue of 9 October that year,35 the following note, ornamented with heavy sarcasm, appeared: THE PRESS AND THE JEWS. Certain Liberal papers are running a Malay muck against the Jews. We are re? solved to notice and censure their insolence whenever we meet with it. The following piti? ful paragraph appears in the Western Daily Mercury, a Liberal Plymouth organ, purport ing to be from the Paris Correspondent (save the mark!) of that tremendous organ of public opinion [here the J.C. quoted the offending report, which referred sneeringly to Jews in Paris on Yom Kippur, bankers especially, standing 'in great need of the greatest pardon' on the 'feast of the Great Pardon'. The Chronicle finished with:] We are sure the editor of the Western Daily Mercury should be grateful to us for affording, by means of our columns, a publicity his journal might not otherwise have obtained. Benisch's sympathies were obviously in favour of some form of legal control over racial incite? ment, for he reported constantly cases of what we should call 'community libel' and recalled legal proceedings in such cases abroad. JOURNALISTIC INNOVATIONS To the journalist, the technical conduct of a newspaper is especially interesting, and in this respect Benisch was of course a product of his times, although he turned the paper, typo? graphically as well as in other ways, from a parish magazine into a newspaper and he introduced features which are still copied today, albeit in more sophisticated form. Like all editors?like all people?this editor had his idiosyncrasies. Some of them were idiosyn? cratic of the newspapers of the period, some were strictly his own. He began a 'Gossip Column', very heavy-footed by our standards, which lasted from the end of 1855 till early in 1865, and then finished only because, as an unembroidered announcement stated, the copy had not been received that week! Whether the anonymous gossiper had been run over by a horse and carriage or just forgot to continue is one of the minor mysteries unfortunately never to be solved. A sort of successor appeared for a brief period late in 1868 in a series of letters to the editor, with the signature 'A.' (possibly Moses Angel or Dr. A. Asher), under the impossible heading of 'HOTCH-POTCH', and later again, in similar form, by another old friend, 'Jacob' [Franklin], under the Hebrew heading of TVHNW. Equally heavy-footed was his attempt to cater for the children, to whom he offered, in 1868, a weekly 'lay</page><page sequence="14">226 John M. Shaftesley sermon'?perhaps Victorian children expected undiluted didacticism. But at least it was an attempt, and his successor continued it spas? modically for a time. He tried a financial section also, in 1868, largely based on the companies?I do not know if they were all well founded!?which advertised their prospectuses in his columns, but as it neither possessed panache nor presumably led to fortunes, it soon ceased. (Both his children's column and financial section were, however, anticipated in the Hebrew Observer of 1853.) Benisch's 'Notes of the Week', a sort of page of leaderettes, which he introduced on resuming command in 1875, had a better fate?they continued after his death right up to 1939, when the war forced a complete change of make-up. (Michael Henry tried, briefly, in 1874, to run a series of such 'notes' under the bizarre title of 'Various Views by Various Eyes', but presumably it did not catch on.) I omit, in the present instance, details of Benisch's endearing custom of giving his readers, in the form of leaders, an annual account of the undoubted progress of the paper, as it was based not so much on editorial considerations as on those of business, the growth of circulation and finance. I am not ignoring the unarguable proposition that good editing frequently leads to bigger circulations! EXPLAINING EDITORIAL ATTITUDES The anonymity of the gossiper and the children's writer, too, was in keeping with the newspaper convention of the time, which was carried to excess in the correspondence columns, where the numerous pen-names ranged from the Marathon type, such as 'An Ardent and Young Admirer of the Many Good Deeds of Sir Moses Montefiore', to the worse than laconic, such as a simple dash, a question mark, or an asterisk. The too-frequent use of pseudonyms led occasionally to irate protests from correspondents who appended their proper names, as affording (they argued) too much latitude and licence to backbiters or cowards with an axe to grind. Benisch, however, de? fended the usage, for example, in a leading note on 17 November 1877,36 in which he argued that a real wrong might go uncorrected, because of spiteful reprisals, unless the genuine grievance could be aired without fear under the protec? tion of the Editor. He likened the safeguard to the secrecy of the ballot box. Frequently, Benisch employed footnotes to letters to explain editorial standpoints of a professional as well as communal kind. When the redoubtable Samuel Montagu (later the first Lord Swayth ling) intimidatingly challenged his publication of a letter from a butcher whom Montagu accused of trying to evade his duties to the Shechita Board, Benisch wrote:37 'Does Mr. Montagu mean to say that insertion should be refused to letters from individuals who con? sider themselves wronged by the action of public bodies ? Or is the Editor to sit in judg? ment on the justice of the complaint? An impartial Editor will do no such thing. When a complaint is made in good faith and duly authenticated on a subject of public importance and general interest he will duly insert it, leaving the refutation or justification to the aggrieved party. The Jewish Chronicle is just as open to the advocate of the policy of the Shechitah Board as to its opponents.' Benisch once explained the current practice on an aspect of 'letters to the Editor' which is still the subject of professional argument: whether an editor is justified in cutting cor? respondence without consulting the writer first. In a footnote to a letter on a contro? versial subject, he declared, in relation to a protest about personalities: 'We would will? ingly have excluded from our columns any term verging on personality, if the recognized prac? tice of journalism had left us any option other than to print signed letters in their entirety or to exclude them altogether.'38 It was perhaps fortunate for the Chronicle's capacity that so many of the letters in those days were pseudony? mous. Another problem, that of the admission of the press to meetings?which is not yet satisfactorily solved?found a relentless pursuer in Benisch, who campaigned for the right of his reporters to attend communal meetings. He was successful with the conservative Board of Deputies, with the lusty new infant the United Synagogue, but had a long struggle with another</page><page sequence="15">Dr. Abraham Benisch as Newspaper Editor 227 institution he had consistently encouraged from before its birth, the Jewish Board of Guardians. 'QUACK' ADVERTISING BARRED 'Quack' advertising, in spite of the financial inducements, was refused, as Benisch took the occasion to emphasise in 1865,3 9 when he supported the medical journal the Lancet in its campaign for what it called 'purification of the press'; he added that years before its con? temporary began its agitation, the J.C had turned down such advertising on ethical grounds, at a time when it could really have done with the money. He was right?his earlier notice to the same effect had been on 25 February 1859.40 It is true that there was very little advertising of this type in the Jewish Chronicle, but it would be interesting to secure Benisch's explanation of an advertisement permitted in an issue two years later, on 30 August 1867, in which a Dr. Hilton Howard offered curative treatment, 'without operation or pain', for various types of eye disease, and listing?not exhaustively?'amaurosis, hermi opia, hirmeralopia, nyctalopia, diplopia, staphyloma, opacity of cornea, rheumatic ophthalmia, conical and dropsical eye, catar? act, etc., etc.', as having been successfully treated. Newspapers generally, it must be confessed, and for whatever reasons, seem to have a strong reluctance to printing corrections of errors in previous issues, and often when they bring themselves to do so they are so disguised as not to appear corrections at all. Michael Henry, in his short tenure at the Jewish Chronicle, was no exception to this apparent rule. Would anyone suspect, for example, that an innocent-seeming paragraph, on 7 Novem? ber 1873, reading 'Mr. Israel Bloch has been elected President of the Norwich congregation' was in reality a correction of an item which appeared the previous week, reading, 'Mr. I. Besch has been re-elected president of the Norwich congregation'? Or that the news on 30 January 1874, that 'Messrs. A. Harris and A. Grose having resigned their offices as wardens of West Hartlepool, Messrs. C. Lotinga and G. L. Abrahams have been elected in their stead', was inserted to correct the news the previous week that 'Messrs. L. Montagu and G. L. Abrahams have been elected Wardens of the West Hartlepool congregation'? In this practice, Henry departed from the lesson of his mentor Benisch (under whom he had worked as a writer for some years). Benisch anticipated a healthy, regular practice adopted by The Times within recent years, but, I think, by few other papers, of publishing a paragraph directly drawing attention to the correction of errors, under the plain heading 'CORREC? TIONS'. The Times drops this in, it seems, wherever space offers, but Benisch's practice was an improvement on that; he published occasionally necessary corrections always in the same place, above the first leading article, under the heading 'Errata*. He made one proviso, that the correction must not refer to any error more than a week old! But no explanation, however ingenious, ever appeared of an unusually fascinating experiment with time not evident to the ordinary reader: the printing of the answer to a correspondent named Hyman on 19 February 1869 to a question he asked in a letter printed on 26 February, the week after! The Errata feature was symptomatic of Benisch's integrity, of which other proofs peeped out, such as his reply to a correspondent which touches on another problem still troubling the newspaper world:41 'Mr. Aaron Cohen could not possibly wish us to commit the indiscretion of publishing conversations, which from their nature could only have been private.' ECCENTRIC REPORTING The twentieth-century journalist finds, how? ever, odd modes of practice in some depart? ments. Take reporting. Nowadays, the tech? nique of 'who, what, where, when, how, and why' is considered the ideal, but in Benisch's time there was a cheerful disregard of any one or more of these desiderata. 'Who', for example, often seemed not to matter at all; it was treated as an irrelevance, the substance of a news item residing in, say, the action alone, especially if it had a cautionary flavour. Here is an example:</page><page sequence="16">228 John M. Shaftesley A common, but very dangerous, feat of boys, called in polite phrase a somersault, but in ordinary parlance 'tumbling over head and heels', has had a fatal result; a young school boy of Tottenham broke his neck while thus tumbling.42 The tragic young schoolboy of Tottenham rests for ever nameless in the mouldering newsprint crypt of the Jewish Chronicle. Or this, on 12 November 185843: EXETER.?DISTURBANCE IN SYNA? GOGUE.?We have been appealed to in this matter, each party giving the regrettable occurrence a version of its own. As we have not heard of any such disturbance having taken place before in the Exeter Synagogue, and as the matter was settled before it was brought into court we decline taking any further notice of it. Could a scandal-hungry readership suffer a longer list of frustrations than that inflicted by this one small paragraph? Or this, on 20 November 186844: UNITED STATES. It is pleasing to record facts which show how ministers of the synagogue know how to endear themselves to their fellow-citizens of all religious denominations, and to obtain universal respect. The minister of one of the synagogues of St. Louis accepted a call to the pastorate of one of the largest congrega? tions in New York. Before leaving, as the local papers report, he was serenaded by the 'Germania Band', and the Mayor of the city, in a neat speech, gave expression to the regret of his fellow-townsmen at his depar? ture. We need not say that the minister reciprocated these friendly feelings in his reply. Who was this worthy minister, and from which synagogue in St. Louis did he go to which synagogue in New York? 'News-sense', if the phrase was known in Benisch's day, certainly conveyed a vastly different meaning from today. We must not imagine that Benisch lacked a sense of humour in the midst of his many serious preoccupations. It was not displayed obviously, but it could only have been a charming sense of the ridiculous that permitted him to accept an advertisement 'knocking', as we should now say, another which had appeared the week before. The two front-page announce? ments were, on 23 August 186145: FOR THE NEW YEAR.?Madame Rutten has now on view for the Hebrew Ladies a splendid show of BONNETS and HEAD? DRESSES, from Paris, suitable also for the Day of Atonement. Orders punctually attended to. The hour if required. 64 Berners street, Oxford Street. and on 30 August, in exactly the same position: A HEBREW LADY, observing Madame Rutten's advertisement in the 'Jewish Chronicle' respecting head-dresses for the Day of Atonement, begs to know whether such head-dresses are composed of sackcloth and ashes, as those alone would be 'suitable' for that day of humiliation and repentance from sin; any other being in direct opposi? tion to the Holy Scriptures.?Brighton, August 25th. It will cause no astonishment to learn that Mme Rutten does not seem to have advertised in succeeding issues. What will surprise, how? ever, especially when the columns of today's papers are studied, is the Editor's declaration of 10 March 1865,46 in answer to an inquiry, that it is 'not our practice to note family announcements', whatever he meant by that, as the advertisement columns had certainly included births, marriages, and deaths for years. What he refused to note also were 'personalities', as he termed them, in letters to the Editor. It is difficult to determine how he construed 'personalities', but he announced time and again that such letters would not be printed?unless, and here he relented, they were paid for and the word 'Advertisement' appeared at the top. Numerous correspondents accepted this condition, and it is impossible to reckon how much more personal some of these are than some of the others inserted free. In the same category he placed 'resolutions' and 'addresses', and there was a regular announce</page><page sequence="17">Dr. Abraham Benisch as Newspaper Editor 229 merit reading, 'Resolutions of any kind, as well as addresses, can be inserted only when paid for as advertisements'. 'Addresses', in an age when illuminated addresses were presented at one might say the drop of a hat (if the figure of speech may be forgiven in a Jewish connection), one can understand, but there was, fortunately from the news point of view and for such inveterately resolution-minded bodies as the Deputies and the synagogues, less insistence on this alleged rule. Despite his small faults, however, Benisch's news-sense was actually acute, if oddly dis? tributed, and his establishment of correspon? dents abroad?whether they were paid is another question?was pretty extensive, making the Jewish Chronicle, within the limits of its function, a goldmine of information. Many reports were simply 'lifted', as the technical term has it, from other papers, and other papers returned the compliment, but no one objected unless the courtesy of mention of the source was omitted. Benisch's personal predilections are sometimes obvious, of course, as may be judged from the Index of the paper which I have been engaged in compiling for some time from the first volume in 1841. In foreign news, for example?and naturally I do not claim that news occurs by proportion?the entries for Germany are far and away the most numerous, the U.S.A., which began slowly, is the runner-up, France (the home of the Alliance Israelite Universelle) is third, and Austria-Hungary fourth. Palestine, Australia, Italy, and Poland have a fair representation, but Russia has not yet, in spite of its large Jewish population, acquired quite the un? enviable reputation?although it was bad enough even then?it was soon to gain for persecution of the Jews. BENISCH'S MAGNANIMITY I have come rather a long way from my hint of a 'clue' to Benisch's character in Jacob Franklin's letter. I may recall that Franklin had gratefully acknowledged Benisch's accept? ance of his literary offerings for old times' sake. The clue here is to Benisch's equability and magnanimity. A good example is in his insist ence, when writing a letter to the Jewish Chronicle, published by Henry on 30 June 1871,47 on the public meeting which was to set the seal on his efforts for the Anglo-Jewish Association, on paying tribute to the prior efforts in the same field of Dr. Jacob L. Levison (a dental surgeon by profession, prolific letter-writer; and most active communally), whom everyone else had ignored. Many writers have, in their own individual way, testified to those qualities of Benisch, who never appeared to bear malice towards anyone?in spite of Professor Theo? dores ! So caustic and headlong a controversial? ist as 'Nemo', whose debating instruments were the rapier in one hand and a cutlass in the other, dropped these weapons when facing Benisch, whom he described in 187148 as 'the learned Doctor, whom I regard as the Ulysses of debate'. The week before,49 Manuel Gastello, a Warden of the Spanish and Portu? guese Congregation, who also engaged in wordy strife with 'Nemo' and others over the question of the alleged rivalry between the Board of Deputies and the A. J. A., accused them all generally of personalities and offensiveness, but of Benisch he said: One of your correspondents is Dr. Benisch, and his criticisms are only such as might have been expected from a scholar and a gentleman; they are severe and candid, but neither personal nor offensive. Or, as it was put on 21 July 187650 by 'Hertz ben Pinchas', of Manchester (a most learned, witty, and frequent correspondent whose identity has seemingly never been pierced), '. . . Dr. Benisch, who is known as a gentleman and a scholar both among Jews and Gentiles'. Graetz, Schechter, and others all paid similar tributes to Benisch, in varying measure, in their particular articles in the November 1891 Jubilee Supplement of the Chronicle. His lifelong friend, the Rev. A. L?wy, in the same issue, remarks on his aversion to praise, which was, says L?wy, 'implied in one of his favourite sayings, "Life is only worth living so long as we pursue the good objects which are placed within our reach. These objects are our all in</page><page sequence="18">230 John M. Shaftesley all. The mere individual disappears in the background of his own action." This estimate of man's mission he was fond of connecting with the old adage of our Sages, whose advice was: "Never treat any man disdainfully, for there is no one who has not his hour when he can be useful." ' The then Chief Rabbi, Dr. Hermann Adler, added his own recollection in that issue: 'a favourite motto of the late Dr. Benisch', he wrote, 'was Tmy? mD^H *]in? D?Xn "By means of discussion the truth will be elicited" '. It is a fair estimate with which to end a sketch of a man who, in my opinion, was Anglo-Jewry's first real professional journalist. *** This paper was delivered before the Jewish Historical Society on 11 March 1964. Several people were kind enough to suggest various lines of research on Dr. Benisch or actually provided source material, and among those I should particularly like to thank are Mr. Edgar Samuel, Mr. A. Schischa, Mrs. Beth-Zion Abrahams, Dr. V. D. Lipman, Mr. C. C. Aronsfeld, and Miss Ruth Lehmann (Jews' College Library). NOTES 1 It has always been assumed by writers on the Anglo-Jewish Press?and the assumption is sup? ported in The Jewish Chronicle 1841-1941 [J.C., 1949)?that Dr. Benisch founded the Hebrew Observer. I have, however, found contemporary evidence, which I hope to publish in due course, that the real founder was a man called Abraham Pierpoint Shaw, and its first Editor was M. H. Bresslau, at a time when the history-books state, wrongly, that Bresslau was editing the Jewish Chronicle. At that time, the Chronicle's Editor was its owner, Joseph Mitchell. Shaw sold the Hebrew Observer to Benisch after one year's ownership. 2 British Journalists and Newspapers, by Derek Hudson (Collins, 1945), p. 15. 3 The Times, Past, Present and Future. The Times, 1932, p. 16. 4 The matter is touched on in, among other sources, The Jewish Chronicle 1841-1941, the paper's centenary history (1949); by the Rev. A. L?wy in the Jubilee Supplement of the Jewish Chronicle, 13 November 1891, p. 30; by Nahum Sokolow, History of Zi?nism, 1600-1918 (Longmans, Green, 1919), Vol. II, pp. xxix-xl; by Albert M. Hyamson in Palestine (Sidgwick &amp; Jackson, 1917), p. 67; and more lengthily by Dr. N. M. Gelber, Zur Vorgeschichte des Zi?msmus (Phaidon Verlag, Vienna, 1927), pp. 203-209, 305-308, and by Professor Salo W. Baron in his essay, 'Abraham Benisch's Project for Jewish Colonisation in Palestine (1842)', included in Jewish Studies in Memory of George A. Kohut, 1874-1933 (Alexander Kohut Foundation, New York, 1935), pp. 72-85. 5 Page 3. 6 Page 7, col. A. 7 29 October 1841, p. 22. 8 No. 4, 12 November 1841, pp. 28-29. 9 16 September 1842, p. 12. 10 Page 1243, col. C. 11 Page 278, col. B. 12 Page 2, col. B. 13 Page 3, col. A. 14 This last issue of what was described as already the 'Second Series' of the paper had been deemed 'missing' since at least the beginning of the Second World War. It was not in the Volume I of the paper consulted by the centenary historian of the Jewish Chronicle (The Jewish Chronicle 1841-1941), and in any case the copies of Volume I in the Chronicle's own library and in the Mocatta Library were destroyed in the German blitz on London, together with the run, in the Chronicle's case, of the whole hundred years. The historian, on the facts as gathered in the other numbers of both papers which he had been able to see, had correctly deduced the existence of another issue, which he dated 'May 20', logically, as the weekly publication day was Friday and the previous issues in that month were dated 6 May and 13 May. As Editor of the Jewish Chronicle after the war I published several appeals for volumes from readers in order to try to build up the set again, but Volume I, of which there is no copy even in the British Museum, eluded me. I happened to pay a visit to the U.S.A. and Canada in 1952 and, through the good offices of Rabbi Charles Bender, of Montreal, I was enter? tained to lunch by members of the Executive of the Canadian Jewish Congress, under the chairman? ship of Mr. Harry Bronfman, and I mentioned the volume in my speech after the meal. There was, surprisingly, a copy of Volume I of the London Jewish Chronicle in the Canadian Jewish Congress Library, and with rare generosity they presented it to me and it is now in the Jewish Chronicle library in London. It includes, at the very end, the hitherto 'missing' copy, which is dated, not 20 May but 22 May 1842, a Sunday instead of Friday. Either it was due to a typographical error or to a pedantic insistence on the true date of issue, as two working days had been lost through the inci? dence of the Festival of Shavuot that year at the beginning of the previous week. In later years,</page><page sequence="19">Dr. Abraham Benisch as Newspaper Editor 231 issue dates were occasionally likewise altered when a Festival broke the working week. 15 Asher I. Myers, 'A Sketch of the Early History of the "Jewish Chronicle" Jubilee Supplement of the J.C., 13 November 1891, p. 35, col. B; The Jewish Chronicle 1841-1941, p. 59. 16 Page 120, col. B. 17 14 June 1872, p. 51, col. A. 18 8 October 1869, p. 3, col. B. 19 29 December 1871, p. 2, col. B. 20 Page 4, col. A. 21 16 August, p. 281, col. A. 22 The Times, Past, Present and Future, 1932, pp. 18, 26. 23 Page 78. 24 See Jewish Chronicle, 3 December 1869, p. 4, col. A. 25 Page 3, col. B. 26 Quoted in Press and People 1790-1850, by Donald Read (p. vii), 1961, from The Life of Richard Cob den, by J. Morley. 27 Press and People, supra. 28 21 December 1855. 29 Page 4, col. A. 30 Page 2, col. C. 31 1 February 1861, p. 4, col. A. 32 Page 24. 33 15 March, p. 5, col. G. 34 11 September 1868, p. 5, col. B. 35 Page 2, col. A. 36 Page 3, col. B. 37 28 December 1877, p. 5, col. A. 38 14 August 1868, p. 3, col. A. 39 9 June, p. 6, col. C. 40 Page 7, col. B. 41 12 October 1866, p. 4, col. A. 42 2 October 1868, p. 3, col. C. 43 Page 5, col. A. 44 Page 2, col. B. 45 Page 1, col. A. 46 Page 4, col. 4. 47 Page 3, col. A. 48 17 November 1871, p. 10, col. A. 49 10 November, p. 3, col. A. 50 Page 253, col. A.</page></plain_text>

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