Jewish Light’s ‘birth announcement’ in 1963

Robert A. Cohn, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the St. Louis Jewish Light

By Robert A. Cohn, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

As the St. Louis Jewish Light continues its celebration of 50 years as an autonomous publication with its own governing board of trustees, most of the Cohnipedia columns this year will explore the history of the Light as well as some of the stories the newspaper has covered over the years. 

Previously, we noted the crucial role of the late Morris Pearlmutter in the events, which led up to the creation of the St. Louis Jewish Light. From 1947 through early 1963, the paper was known as the St. Louis Light and was the Jewish Federation’s “house organ.” 

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Pearlmutter’s months-long work with other members of the Federation’s Public Relations Committee brought a proposal to the Jewish Federation’s board of directors in 1963, setting forth a vision of establishing an independent, nonprofit operating full-service Jewish community newspaper back.

The committee approved the concept with only one dissenting vote.

The official “birth announcement” of the St. Louis Jewish Light was published on the front page of the March 6, 1963 issue of the old St. Louis Light, as “A Message to the Reader,” by Milton Frank, the president of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. Excerpts of that announcement follow:

“Since it was born in 1947, the St. Louis Light has been devoted exclusively, until several months ago, to the activities of the Federation and its agencies.

“After a year of careful study by a committee of the Federation (chaired by Morris Pearlmutter), it became evident that our city is in need of a large circulation newspaper, which will inform our people of local, national and international events that affect them. It is our belief that a well-informed community will be a healthier, more progressive one.

“With this in mind, the Board of the Jewish Federation decided to convert the St. Louis Light into a full-fledged community newspaper with all that this term implies. In arriving at this conclusion we have taken into consideration the successful experiences of other large Jewish communities (most notably, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia).”

Interesting to note is the fact that Frank’s announcement made a major point of noting that the new publication, which took the name St. Louis Jewish Light, would begin to accept advertising to “defray the costs of publication.” He also indicated that the paper would continue to be published every other Wednesday (The St. Louis Jewish Light would start publishing weekly in 1982).

Frank’s statement concludes with a succinct summary of the paper’s ongoing commitment of solid journalism and community service: “the paper is pledged to report objectively the news of particular interest to the entire Jewish community. To help achieve this goal the Federation has turned over the management and control of the paper to an independent Board of Trustees.”

While Pearlmutter is recognized as the official founder of the Jewish Light, and later served as its third board president, the first to hold that post was the late Bernard Fischlowitz, who was president of Midwest Consulants, Inc., and a past president of the Jewish Community Centers Association (now Jewish Community Center). Fischlowitz served as Jewish Light Board president from 1962 through early 1963, when he was succeeded by the late Milton I. Goldstein, an attorney and past president of the Jewish Community Relations Council.

So who was the sole member of the Jewish Federation Board who cast the sole “no” vote on the proposal to create the St. Louis Jewish Light? Pearlmutter noted that it was the late Saul A. Dubinsky. “Saul actually favored the idea, but he did not believe that any Jewish votes should be unanimous. We later named him to the first Board of Trustees, where he was a loyal and enthusiastic member.”

In the March 20, 1963 issue of the St. Louis Light, the last under that name and structure, a page one story announced that the first issue of the newly named St. Louis Jewish Light would appear on April 3, 1963, offering expanded coverage of the news of he local, national and international scene.

And so it was, and so it goes, as the St. Louis Jewish Light continues its commitment to fulfill the visionary goals of those whose efforts made the creation of the publication possible 50 years ago.