29 March 2008

Texas: Heralding the history

The Centennial year of the Jewish Herald-Voice (Houston, Texas) is being celebrated with an exhibit of 101 front pages from the paper's continuous publication. The Greater Houston Jewish Genealogical Society has also been involved in preserving the paper's archive.

I've had the pleasure of meeting publishers Joseph and Jeanne Samuels several times at American Jewish Press Association meetings. We even lived in Teheran, Iran, when their daughter lived there, and I've written for the paper.

In celebration of the Jewish Herald-Voice’s Centennial, the JH-V has reproduced 101 front pages – one from each of the paper’s 100 years of continuous publication, including 2008 – for a special viewing at the Deutser Art Gallery at the Jewish Community Center of Houston. “Heralding the History of the Jewish Herald-Voice” opens Sunday, April 6, following the community's Israel@60 parade.

“This show, literally, was 100 years in the making,” said the JH-V’s Michael C. Duke, who, for the past four months, had been tasked with perusing the paper’s archives, selecting one front page to represent each year, scanning each page and finally printing copies for the installation. “The most challenging aspect of this project was not the daunting task of having to go through more than 5,000 individual issues of the newspaper, but, instead, was the challenge of staying focused on selecting front pages, avoiding being distracted by major and minor news items, and advertisements, that were published in the Herald over the course of an entire century,” Duke commented.

Pages selected mix local, national and international news.

Remarkably, the JH-V has a complete archive. The first three-and-a-half decades are loose-bound; the late 1930s to the present are collected in bound volumes, with the exception of 1936 and 1944 to 1947. Actual papers from these years are missing, although the JH-V does have digital copies of these issues – and of its entire archive, scanned from microfilm – thanks to the Greater Houston Jewish Genealogical Society.

“It was a phenomenal learning experience, putting this project together,” Duke pointed out. “The Herald has been there to chronicle the growth and development of Houston’s Jewish community – from the birth of new congregations, to the opening of new community centers, to the branching out of family trees. And, it also has chronicled the growth and development of the city of Houston – from the development of the Port of Houston, to the building of the first skyscrapers, to the creation of NASA – it’s all there in the JH-V,” he said.

Over the years, the paper has had several persona - The Jewish Herald, The Texas Jewish Herald and the Jewish Herald-Voice - and the pages also illustrate technology advances in newspaper production, from hot-type print to digital.

Jews came to Texas with the Spanish conquistadores, more than 60 years before the first Jews arrived in New Amsterdam. When Houston was founded in 1836, Jews were among the first to live there. In 1908, when the city's population was about 75,000, the Texas Jewish Herald was the first subscription weekly paper for the 1,000-strong Jewish community.

The longest-running Southwest Jewish paper, it is one of the oldest in the US.

Congratulations to the JH-V and the Samuels family!

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