The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), a news agency that has been covering news of the Jewish community worldwide since 1917 has released a searchable archive, dubbed the JTA Jewish News Archive, of their news releases going back to 1923. This archive is free to use.
The archive is really an amazing snapshot of the modern history of the Jewish community in the United States and worldwide. The archive can be browsed by date or topic, or searched.
A look at the earliest date in the archive, January 2, 1923, shows 9 stories covering mostly not-so-nice topics including restrictions on Jewish admission to universities in Hungary and Romania, a false blood libel in Poland (the police search house-to-house and found the alleged victim alive), the banning of a Jewish sports club in Poland, banning of private synagogues in the Ukraine, a note of two Jewish leaders elected to the Council of People’s Commissaries of Soviet Russia, announced Jewish immigration to Palestine (802 in November 1922), a new pogrom in Kishineff, and a dinner honoring the fifth anniversary of Colonel Ronald Storrs as Governor of Jerusalem.
It should be noted that the JTA covered the Holocaust as no other news wire at the time. It was more willing to detail what was going on in Europe than the mainstream news wires. It also covered in detail the plight of Soviet Jewry and the Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement in the US.
With such weighty topics it is perhaps easy to overlook the fact that the JTA archives also cover the day-to-day details of what was going on in Jewish communities over the years. I’ve discussed the use of historical newspapers to research one’s family before (it’s a good article, read it), including pointing to several local Jewish community newspapers that have archives online, but many towns either didn’t have local Jewish papers, those papers were not archived, or those archives are not yet available online. The JTA archive fills in part of that gap for people who want to understand what the communities their families lived in were like over the years. These articles will not, of course, have the birth announcements and obituaries of everyone in every community like the local papers, although obituaries of famous Jews are present.
A random sampling of towns shows I searched shows wide coverage, with 145 articles on Savannah, GA, 46 articles mentioning Palo Alto, CA, 46 articles mentioning Knoxville, TN, 22 articles mentioning Tarrytown, NY, and and 180 articles that mention Brookline, MA.
The coverage of communities outside the US is also extensive, with articles on what was going on in communities across Europe as well as detailed coverage of life in Israel even before it was the modern State of Israel. As a sampling, there are over 9000 articles that mention Paris, 10,000 that mention London, 1000 articles that mention Baghdad, 500 that mention Antwerp, 900 that mention Cologne, 1000 that mention Krakow, etc.
As an interesting experiment I searched for the organization whose archive was put online earlier this week, the JDC, and there are over 7000 articles that mention the JDC in the JTA archives. If you wanted a better understanding of what the JDC has done over the years, searching this new JTA archive will give you a detailed look at all the different programs the JDC carried out.
In summary, the JTA Jewish News Archive is a welcome addition to the online resources available to the Jewish researcher, or anyone interested in Jewish history over the past century.