2: Response from the editor of the Jewish Daily Forward, 1914, and photograph of Abraham Cahan.
Here is the original editor’s response to the letter in resource 1 of this kit. As Abraham Cahan wrote in his autobiography, for the first couple of years of Bintel Brief, he answered all of the letters himself. Though later the feature ran with the help of others, the figure of the imagined editor continued to be, as Seth Lipsky has described it, a “sympathetic, seasoned voice, an enlightened cousin who had been in America just that much longer and could serve as a guide to the country’s strange ways” (The Rise of Abraham Cahan 85).
Suggested Activity: After students have read the letter in resource 1, but before they read the editor’s response, have them draft their own response to the letter. What would they have said to this woman, if they had received her letter?
Then have students read the editor’s response. Do any of their responses match? Do they think that this editor’s response was a helpful one? Why or why not? How do they understand the editor, the editor’s role, and the function of the Bintel Brief column more generally, based on this response?
Finally, have students study the photograph of Abraham Cahan. Ask them to go into as much detail as they can to describe what they see. What words come to mind when they look at the photograph? Does looking at the photograph change the way they think about the role of the editor, or of Bintel Brief more broadly?
Sources: Isaac Metzker, ed., A Bintel Brief: Sixty Years of Letters from the Lower East Side to the Jewish Daily Forward (Doubleday, 1971), 129-131. Reproduced by permission of Black Star Publishing.
Abraham Cahan, half-length portrait, looking down at printed material on desk / World Telegram & Sun photo. 1937. Photograph. New York World-Telegram and Sun, New York. From: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, https://www.loc.gov/item/97518250/.