Amazing Abe: How Abraham Cahan’s Newspaper Gave a Voice to Jewish Immigrants

Holiday House. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823451647.
K-Gr 4–This picture book biography is an engaging tribute to Abraham Cahan (1860-1951) whose commitment to language, justice, and education left an enduring impact on the lives of Jewish immigrants in America. The story chronicles Cahan’s evolution from a natural linguist, with Yiddish as his favored language, to an advocate for newcomers trying to assimilate into a very different culture. Fleeing Lithuania to escape from the oppression of czarist Russia, Cahan found refuge in New York City, where his days working in factories were complemented by nightly English studies. His transition into a teacher, educating fellow Jewish newcomers, sets the stage for his pivotal role as the co-founder and editor of the Yiddish language newspaper, Forverts, or the Forward, a Jewish daily. This newspaper was the preeminent foreign-language newspaper in America, connecting Jewish communities with local and global news. In his dual role as a teacher and newspaper editor, he focused on filling the cultural gaps for immigrants, fostering their understanding of America’s customs, language, history, and the significance of voting. The narrative skillfully weaves in Cahan’s commitment to workers’ rights, portraying him as a champion of immigrants and an advocate for labor unions working in pursuit of improved working conditions and wages. The illustrations, painted in gouache, meticulously capture the characters and historic time period, adding authenticity to the storytelling. The back matter includes an author’s note, time line, bibliography, a further resources.
VERDICT A commendable addition to library collections focused on immigration, little-known historical figures, and the pivotal role of language and the written word in shaping the immigrant experience.

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