Regardless of how they have evolved, the High Holidays have survived for centuries and a pandemic won’t stand in their way, not now or in the future.
I read an article with a good line that summed up Rosh Hashanah in 2020/5781 — “The Shofar will be heard in new ways.” Indeed, the High Holiday season this year will be during a still-to-be-conquered COVID-19 pandemic. There will be new ways of celebrating, including Zoom services on your computer and masks on the end of shofars. Regardless of how they have evolved, the High Holidays have survived for centuries and a pandemic won’t stand in their way, not now or in the future.
Every year, over the past century, the JN (since 1942) and the Detroit Jewish Chronicle (1916-1951) have published Rosh Hashanah stories and announcements. So, I thought I would visit the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History to see how the front pages from Detroit’s Jewish newspapers devoted to Rosh Hashanah have evolved with the holiday over the years.
I began with 1920, after the last surge of the Spanish Flu and two years after WWI had ended. The front page of the Chronicle for Rosh Hashonah 5681 was simple (note the spelling used), with a greeting, and a poem, all in black and white, of course.
Rosh Hashanah 1945/5706 was another step in the evolution of Jewish reporting in Detroit. First, the spelling changed, and the JN’s front page also featured a large photo of the shofar being blown and a poem by Dr. Noah Aronstam, which welcomed the promise of a New Year, but with an emphasis on peace and freedom. WWII had just ended.
I thought maybe Rosh Hashanah in 1948, during the year of the founding of Israel might be interesting. The front page of the JN used the same photo as in 1945, but the message had changed reflecting the cause of the new nation: “Blow the great shofar of our freedom to gather our exiles, and bring our scattered ones from among the nations and assemble our dispersed from the ends of the world.”
By the 1970s, there was a minor evolution: just a bit of color began to be seen on front pages of the JN. The 1973 front page featured an illustration by Saul Raskin wishing everyone a happy new year for Rosh Hashana 5734 (another spelling difference). It also featured color, a bit of green ink. However, I could not help but think that, within a few days, the High Holidays that year would end with onset of the Yom Kippur War in Israel.
A major revolution in the JN’s Rosh Hashanah coverage occurred in the late-1980s. Henceforth, with only a couple of exceptions, the front pages of the JN became works of art, in full color. Visually speaking, the JN had moved out of the dark ages forever and the art on front pages during the last three decades has been wonderful.
As I write this, I am looking forward to a New Year, to a new cover page for the JN, and hopefully, the eradication of COVID-19. That would indeed make 5781 a happy and sweet New Year. From Arthur Horwitz, Tessa Goldberg and me at the Detroit Jewish News Foundation — L’ Shanah Tovah.
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.