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Painting a Portrait of a Political, Literary and Journalistic Powerhouse

Biographer Seth Lipsky talks about Abraham Cahan, his political sway, and the evolution of the Jewish press

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Abraham Cahan(Library of Congress)
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For most of its first 50-plus years, the Yiddish language Jewish Daily Forward (now 116 years old) was edited by its founder, Abraham Cahan. Cahan was a Lithuanian immigrant and socialist who came to this country alone at the age of 22, in 1882. Within five years, he’d established himself as a leader of the Jewish immigrant community and as an industrious reporter with friends like the muckraker journalist Lincoln Steffins and the literary critic William Dean Howells.

How Cahan climbed the political, journalistic, and literary (he wrote the critically acclaimed novel The Rise of David Levinsky) ranks of 20th century America is the topic of The Rise of Abraham Cahan, a new biography by Seth Lipsky. In 1990, Lipsky founded the English-language Forward. He joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to discuss how Cahan managed to wear the seemingly conflicting hats of political activist and newspaperman, Cahan’s love of Tolstoy, and what fearlessness he possessed when it came to feuding publicly with rivals. [Running time: 26:10.] 

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Painting a Portrait of a Political, Literary and Journalistic Powerhouse

Biographer Seth Lipsky talks about Abraham Cahan, his political sway, and the evolution of the Jewish press

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