‘Jewish Light’ celebrates 70th anniversary

The first edition of the St. Louis Light, a publication of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, as it appeared in 1947.

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Monday of this week marked the 70th anniversary of the first issue of the St. Louis Light, the predecessor publication  of the St. Louis Jewish Light, which first appeared on Feb. 20, 1947. 

The St. Louis Light was published directly by the Jewish Federation of St. Louis and placed primary emphasis on the Federation’s annual campaign. A photograph of Alfred Fleishman, longtime veteran leader of the Jewish community, accompanied a story announcing his chairmanship of the Federation drive.

The St. Louis Light served the local Jewish community during a challenging period in Jewish history. It was only two years after the end of World War II, and tens of thousands of Jewish refugees sought to start new lives in the United States. The United Nations in 1947 would approve the Partition Plan for Palestine, calling for a two-state solution: a Jewish State living alongside a Palestinian Arab State, the latter part of which remains an unfulfilled goal.

The first editor of the old St. Louis Light was Bernard Schram, who was followed by Harris Rossen, Charles Klotzer, Irving Litvag and, starting in 1961, Geoffrey Fisher, who had been on the staff of the Cleveland News before moving to St. Louis.  

In 1962, the Jewish Federation Public Relations Committee was chaired by Morris Pearlmutter, director of advertising and public relations at the Edison Brothers Stores. He convinced the high-powered PR committee that the local Jewish community deserved its own autonomous publication with a separate board of trustees. Pearlmutter traveled to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to study their community newspapers and suggested that St. Louis follow suit.

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

The result was the approval by the Jewish Federation of a  proposal to transform the original “house organ” St. Louis Light into a full community newspaper governed by its own board of trustees.

The first edition of the St. Louis Jewish Light in its present form was published April 3, 1963. Thus the Jewish Light marks two anniversaries: February 20, 1947, when the first issue of the old St. Louis Light was published; and April 3, 1963, when the first edition of the renamed and newly independent St. Louis Jewish Light was launched. 

Geoffrey Fisher became the first editor of the St. Louis Jewish Light in 1963, with Morris Silverman as general manager. I succeeded Fisher in 1969.

In 2013, the paper celebrated its golden anniversary with a 50th gala at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Clayton.

Seventy is a significant number to the Jewish people.  In Psalm 90, it states, “The days of our years are three score and 10, or if by reason of strength, 80 …” Seventy also was the total number of the family of the Patriarch Jacob, who came to settle in Egypt at the invitation of Joseph.

Seventy was the number of elders who served to advise Moses and relieve him of the pressures of judging every minor case brought before him. Seventy was the number of sages who served on the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Court that served in the days of the first and second Temples.

We also celebrate our 70th anniversary with fellow journalists at KSDK-TV (Channel 5), which started broadcasting in 1947, and with the Sunday talk show “Meet the Press,” the longest running show in U.S. television history. 

We hope the St. Louis Jewish Light continues to serve the 60,000-member Jewish community of St. Louis for another three score years and 10 — and beyond — in print, online and in whatever future means of communication come to pass.

‘Cohnipedia’ is a feature by Editor-in-Chief Emeritus  Robert A. Cohn chronicling St. Louis’ Jewish  history. Visit Cohnipedia online at stljewishlight.com/cohn