Constant hardships, joys mark 100 years of local Jewish news

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Anti-Semitism, Jewish community groups and Israel have all been well-represented in the Jewish Bulletin over the last 100 years. And all three have, for better or worse, forged a bond among Jews.

Researching the Bulletin's past 100 years was an eye-opening history lesson for this 18-year-old Jewish woman. Reading through past volumes dating back as far as 1896, I saw in black and white the obstacles and hardships that have haunted Jews throughout the past century. It seemed that every issue, from any year at all, had stories about Jews in some country or other — Russia, Poland or Shanghai — fleeing anti-Semitism, discrimination or injustice.

On the other hand, I realized that these hardships themselves helped create the Jewish community I rely upon so much today.

While the "persecuted Jew" has always been prominent in these pages, so have the charitable community groups whose efforts consistently provide tzedakah for needy Jews.

While much of Jewish unity can be attributed to perseverance through unfriendly circumstances, the last 100 years have also brought a steady stream of joyous events. I read plenty of articles about Jews gaining recognition, getting their own state and celebrating births, b'nai mitzvahs and weddings.

Let us not forget the hard times, but rather look at how they have shaped the community of which we are all so proud.

I would not call myself a religious Jew, but rather a committed Jew. I attended Jewish camps, studied in Sunday school for 10 years, celebrated my bat mitzvah at age 13 and went to Israel in 1994. I attend synagogue as often as possible. At each religious milestone, I have encountered companionship and understanding from those around me. On the Israel trip I easily made a lot of friends; so many of us knew people in common and shared memories of Camp Tawonga.

And at the synagogue I always find familiar faces offering security and support.

Probing the past 100 years of Jewish journalism showed me that this encouraging sense of community is nothing new. The Bay Area's Jewish community was in full force in 1896 and I can say from experience that it is still strong today.

At the turn of the century, women of the Emanu-El guild helped Jews find jobs, housed Jewish orphans and sponsored social events. The synagogue's rabbi, Jacob Voorsanger, published his religious thoughts for the edification of the community. The Jewish Bulletin, which was then called the Emanu-El, ran a social column announcing that Mr. and Mrs. Goldstein from next door had just returned from a trip to the Sierras and that Vashti the hairdresser was expecting a baby.

Name changes and graphic-design overhauls notwithstanding, the Jewish Bulletin still bridges, informs and enlightens the local Jewish community. The only thing that has changed is the price — now 75 cents, up from 10 cents per issue in 1896.