The Chanukah issue of the JN from 1949 showcased celebrations throughout Metro Detroit but also dealt with larger issues during the post-war era.
While doing the research in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History for my last column about Chanukah, I ran across an interesting issue of the JN from Dec. 15, 1949, that not only had content about Chanukah celebrations but also larger issues that concerned Jewish Detroiters in the post-war era.
There were, of course, announcements for Chanukah events around the city sponsored by various local Jewish organizations.
The issue also had a slew of greetings and advertisements from a wide range of businesses. Many featured images of menorahs, such as the greetings from Lane Bryant, a store for women’s clothing, the Colony Shops of T.M. Demer and Robinson Furniture. The United Dairies advertisement featured both a menorah and a Star of David. My favorite ads were those for the “Perfect Hanukah Gift,” which was metal furniture from (go figure) the Metal Furniture store, and the very tempting ad for Sanders, which was celebrating its 75th anniversary.
However, this issue of the JN contained more serious content. Although it was four years after the end of WWII, Jews around the globe were still dealing the aftereffects of the war. For example, there were millions of displaced persons (DPs) — nearly a million were Jews. An advertisement sponsored by 21 different Detroit businesses featured a photograph of “two newcomers” to America lighting a menorah: a rabbi and 10-year old boy from Lithuania, whose family had been wiped out by the Nazis.
The story, “Sending Gifts to Friends Abroad,” displayed an image of newly arrived “Jewish DP Youngsters” sending presents to children still in DP camps in Europe.
There were also reports related to Israel. For the 1-year-old nation, it was the first Chanukah not celebrated during a major war. Israel declared itself a nation in May 1948 and was immediately attacked by the surrounding nations of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Major fighting continued until March 1949 but had subsided by December of that year.
The editorial page of this issue of the JN focused on Israel. The lead essay, “Hanukah 5710” noted that “For the first time since the Maccabees, we are able to witness miracles.” The political cartoon pictured Israelis, “modern Maccabees,” dancing around a menorah. On page 14, there is a photo of another menorah being lit on a hillside near Jerusalem. This menorah was made from combat helmets worn by Israeli soldiers, a somber reminder of the cost of miracles.
There was one Chanukah story from the Dec. 22, 1949, issue of the Jewish Chronicle that also deserves a mention. It was the year of the first celebration of Chanukah on Detroit television.
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.