Cour­tesy of the author

Short­ly after I took over Moment in 2004, I made a pil­grim­age from Wash­ing­ton, DC to meet the magazine’s founders, Leonard Fein and Elie Wiesel. Elie was teach­ing at Boston Uni­ver­si­ty and I remem­ber being ush­ered into his spa­cious, wood pan­eled, book-lined office. I was ner­vous to meet the famous Elie Wiesel, the man who had writ­ten Night. When he began to talk his accent was so thick and his voice so soft, I found that I had a hard time fol­low­ing him. That made me even more nervous.

Even­tu­al­ly I became accus­tomed enough to his voice that I was able to com­pre­hend that he was talk­ing about Moment’s East Euro­pean ori­gins — the inde­pen­dent Der Moment (The Moment in Yid­dish). He remem­bered the paper sit­ting on his family’s kitchen table in his home­town of Sighet, Roma­nia before the town was annexed to Hun­gary, occu­pied by Nazis, and its Jews deport­ed to Auschwitz. I was struck by that while he had observed his father read­ing the news­pa­per every day, he him­self had nev­er touched it, since as a yeshi­va stu­dent non-reli­gious top­ics were for­bid­den to him. Yet after the Holo­caust, his mem­o­ry of Der Moment was one of the things that led him to choose a career as a journalist.

I also learned more about how ear­ly twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry War­saw was a hotbed of Yid­dish journalism.

Years lat­er, I went to War­saw and tracked down the spot where the office had stood before the Jew­ish ghet­to was razed. I also learned more about how ear­ly twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry War­saw was a hotbed of Yid­dish jour­nal­ism. Thir­ty-eight per­cent of the city’s inhab­i­tants were Jews, most of whom read only Yid­dish and a smat­ter­ing of Hebrew; at one time there were eleven Yid­dish dailies pub­lished that were their pri­ma­ry sources for news and enter­tain­ment. Among them, Der Moment was the most pop­u­lar, par­tic­u­lar­ly for its Rab­bini­cal Court sec­tion, which was full of juicy and some­times explo­sive sto­ries. Did you read about the fist­fight between 45-year old Mar­sha Beck­er and her sec­ond hus­band, 25-year-old Yit­skok Lern­er, a wait­er?” began one report. Beck­er, a restau­rant own­er, was pur­port­ed­ly treat­ing Lern­er as a ser­vant,” so Lern­er took Beck­er to rab­bini­cal court to demand that she sign over the busi­ness to him. Der Moment described the scene: Words were exchanged and Lern­er slapped his wife. This didn’t seem to both­er her at all and she black­ened his face with the con­tents of an inkwell. No agree­ment was reached.”

Cour­tesy of the author

More impor­tant to Der Moment’s founder and edi­tor, Zwi/​Tsvi Hirsch Pry­luc­ki was that Yid­dish jour­nal­ism be a vehi­cle for Jew­ish edu­ca­tion and for spread­ing a Jew­ish renais­sance. A native of St. Peters­burg, Pry­luc­ki start­ed Warsaw’s first Yid­dish dai­ly, Der Veg [“The Way”], just after the 1904 – 1905 Pol­ish rev­o­lu­tion removed legal obsta­cles to an eth­nic press. Der Veg closed in Jan­u­ary 1907 because of com­pe­ti­tion from a cheap­er news­pa­per focused on vul­gar sen­sa­tion­al­ism. Two months lat­er Pry­luc­ki launched Unz­er Lebn (Our Life) where he began his unsigned col­umn on polit­i­cal events, titled Der Moment.”

Words were exchanged and Lern­er slapped his wife. This didn’t seem to both­er her at all and she black­ened his face with the con­tents of an inkwell. No agree­ment was reached.”

When Prylucki’s old­est son, Noah, arrived in War­saw in 1909 with his law degree from St. Peters­burg, he urged his father to strike out on his own and cre­ate a pub­li­ca­tion free of fal­si­fi­ca­tions and crude­ness that he and oth­ers believed were the hall­marks of a new pop­u­lar dai­ly, Haynt [Today]. The new pub­li­ca­tion took its title from his pop­u­lar col­umn, but was nev­er finan­cial­ly sta­ble. Due to finan­cial tur­moil, it became a revi­sion­ist Zion­ist enter­prise to sup­port hard­line Zion­ist Ze’ev Jabotin­sky. Zwi con­tin­ued as the nom­i­nal edi­tor of Der Moment until its last issue in the fall of 1939 when the Ger­man inva­sion made it impos­si­ble to continue.

The sto­ry has a sad end­ing. Noah was shot by Nazis in 1941 and Zwi died in May 1942 in the War­saw ghet­to, after he wrote and hid his mem­oirs in milk cans (which, when found, migrat­ed to Yad Vashem). But for­tu­nate­ly, Der Moment lives on in micro­film at YIVO in New York, and the new Moment, a lega­cy pub­li­ca­tion, lives on. I know Elie was proud of what Moment has become – of its impor­tance to the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty and the role it plays in pro­vid­ing a plat­form for thought­ful, in-depth con­ver­sa­tions. In a tumul­tuous world, it’s an hon­or to pub­lish some­thing he helped found.

Nadine Epstein is edi­tor-in-chief and CEO of Moment Mag­a­zine, founder and exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Cre­ative Change, and founder of the Daniel Pearl Inves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ism Ini­tia­tive. An award-win­ning jour­nal­ist, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Wash­ing­ton Post and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. She has co-writ­ten three books and a doc­u­men­tary, which was short­list­ed for an Acad­e­my Award.