The newspapers of the Machzikei Hadat organization: their contribution to the consolidation of orthodoxy in Galicia
This research project seeks to explore the consolidation of Orthodox Judaism in Galicia by the Machzikei Hadat organization through their journalistic activity.
Machzikei Hadat (literally “Keepers of the Faith”) was established in 1879 and was active until the first World War. Its establishment took place in parallel to the liberal Jewish organization Shomer Yisrael. When it came to political Jewish activism, the goals of both organizations were largely identical, with each representing a different sector of Jewish society. When it came to internal Jewish matters, however, there was a mighty struggle between the two on the proper way to preserve Galician Jewry and fashion its future.
The activities of both organizations were made possible thanks to opportunities granted by the Austrian constitution. As such, and in the spirit of the historical period, the activities of both organizations and the means they utilized were fairly modern, and occasionally quite innovative. This study focuses on the two newspapers, Machzikei Hadat and Kol Machzikei Hadat, which served the Orthodox organization Machzikei Hadat throughout its years of activity. This type of journalism was considered an innovation in the Orthodox world and was the first of its kind in Galicia.
After acknowledging the historical background that gave rise to Machzikei Hadat and its goals, in this project, I aim to examine, through the lens of its newspapers, the activities of the organization throughout its existence: where its activities were centered and whether and to what degree it succeeded in its goals. I will try to understand all these through a systematic reading of the hundreds of issues and thousands of pages of these newspapers, which are located in various archives.
Alongside the focus on the relationship between Machzikei Hadat and its newspapers vis a vis its goals and actions, it is noteworthy that the organization was a pioneer of Orthodox journalism in Galicia. In terms of this goal, it seems that the organization integrated within the social norms that the competing organization, Shomer Yisrael, had already established with its paper, Israelit, which was published in Lviv. I draw additional comparisons to other Orthodox newspapers in both eastern and western Europe, particularly with the Orthodox Der Israelit, which was published in Germany. On surface level, it appears that Machzikei Hadat, as a pioneer in Galicia, walked in the footsteps of the Orthodox journalism that preceded it in other locales, but was more conservative.
I also attempt to examine the role of Machzikei Hadat’s newspapers as agents of education and knowledge – how conservative they were and to what degree they properly represented Orthodoxy and its various facets.
Machzikei Hadat’s newspapers were published, as mentioned, for 35 years, throughout the entire lifespan of the organization. This research project examines each decade of the newspapers’ activity on the backdrop of life in Galicia toward the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th.
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