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Introduction: Map of Jewish Holiday Notices in Newspapers

In my last post, I summarized why Jewish holidays would ever be announced in a newspaper in the United States, pre-1865, in a place like Wheeling, West Virginia or Olympia, Washington. Newspapers reported news and news came from the “outside.” This “outside” reached these seemingly far-flung places because these towns had a post road, or a railroad depot, or a canal that passed through. News would carry, allowing for new article topics, such as an upcoming Jewish holiday.  Newspapers from other cities would also be delivered and articles would be copied and reprinted (see Viral Texts for more on this if you are interested). Many of the articles, in fact, are reprints of one another.

Here is a cartodb map with a post road layer (you can remove if you so choose) with a heatmap layer demonstrating the density of the announcements over time:

Jewish Notices and Newspapers Methodology

This projects specifically looks at Jewish holiday notices for three different (and arguably the most important) Jewish Holidays. These are the days that Jews, even the most non-observant, tend to celebrate because they are that important.

  • Passover or Pesach – Usually in March or April. Celebrating and recounting the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt.
  • The Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashana – Usually in September or October.
  • The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur – Comes 10 days after the Jewish New Year. The most important day of the year in Jewish calendars.

Using Chronicling America, I did an advanced search and compiled the articles that were relevant to each holiday:

  • Passover or Pesach – I used the box “…with any of the words:” for my search terms (see below), and searched between the years 1836 (the earliest) and 1865 (the end of the Civil War).
    • Passover, Pesach, Matzah, Matzoh, Matza, Matzo
  • The Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashana -I used the box “… with the phrase:” for my search terms (see below), and searched between the years 1836 (the earliest) and 1865 (the end of the Civil War).
    • Rosh Hashana, Rosh Ha Shana, Rosh HaShauna, Rosh Ha Shauna, Jewish New Year, Hebrew New Year, (I also found results when I filed through the Yom Kippur results because many of the articles would mention both holidays)
  • The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur – I used the box “… with the phrase:” for my search terms (see below), and searched between the years 1836 (the earliest) and 1865 (the end of the Civil War).
    • Yom Kipur, Yom Kippur, Yom Kipour, Yom Kippour, Yom Kipor, Yom Kippor, Yom Kipoor, Yom Kippoor, Day of Atonement

I then went through each result and added them, if they were relevant, using the Zotero extension for Chrome to my Zotero repository. Their relevance was based on whether they fell during the time of year the holiday occurred and whether their content was a notice or description of the holiday. The only bug with this process was the fact that I had to enter the titles of the articles, the publication’s name, and the place of publication manually because Zotero doesn’t read the metadata correctly for Chronicling America. Please note, the article titles that are in brackets [ ] mean that there was no title for the article. I created the title in brackets. I then exported each Zotero collection to csv (download them through my Github repository, link below).

I then added coordinates to the data based off of the place column using a basic geocoder. I also created a csv with all of the data combined. This csv had an additional column which identified the holiday that each article centered around.

I then uploaded each of the csv’s to Cartodb. I used their SQL API along with a leaflet library and called the table I had created from the “Combined Jewish Notices” csv. I used the call to create this comprehensive map where you can filter by the holiday which the article announced. Each point offers a link to the newspaper page where the announcement is located and (most of the time, depending on Chronicling America’s OCR) highlighted.

The Map!

Click here to see the map in a larger version!

A Favorite Article

The first article that I thought was particularly fascinating was from Passover of 1865. I didn’t realize that President Lincoln was assassinated during the holiday. The New York Herald published an article entitled “How the News was Received in the Jewish Synagogues.” The article describes the mourning rituals of three congregations in New York City. It is interesting to read the different descriptions, and also to think about what the author (who may not have been Jewish) noticed and detailed regarding the different synagogues.