Y. K. BUKHNER
He was the editor and publisher of the first Yiddish newspaper in the New World. He likely hailed from Poland or Galicia. The only source we have for his biography is a letter he wrote, dated September 28, 1894. In it he writes, inter alia: “I’ve also never once tried nor have I anything to show for my toils. I have lost my possessions and wasted my time, and futilely have I over the course of thirty years suffered in Germany, France, England, and in this very land as well.” Bukhner probably came to the United States in the 1870s. The first issue of Di yidishe tsaytung (The Jewish newspaper), “published and edited by Y. K. Bukhner,” appeared in New York on March 1, 1870. Inasmuch as not there was no Yiddish compositing in New York at the time, his newspaper was lithographed, four pages, in folio format. Publication was, apparently, subsidized by the Democratic ringleaders of Tammany Hall in New York. In its first issues, Di yidishe tsaytung were presented as a weekly, later—as can be seen from a printed copy which has been preserved—it was designated as a monthly. In truth, Di yidishe tsaytung appeared for the most part only the evening before local or general elections. In his Folks-kalendar (People’s calendar) for the year 1900, A. Harkavy first noted Di yidishe tsaytung and provided a photograph of its first page. In the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, there is a printed copy of issue no. 12 (165), dated October 31, 1873. Subsequent numbers remain unknown. The language of Bukhner’s newspaper was stiff with many calque translations. Aside from political election propaganda, Bukhner also seems to have aimed at spreading Enlightenment ideas among Jews in New York. The general contents and advertisement section of the newspaper—so far as one can tell from the few issues that have been examined—are not terribly important for the cultural historian of Jewish immigration.
In the Yiddish section of the New York Public Library, there is a printed copy of Telefon (Telephone), a second publication that Bukhner edited. Telefon was published in miniature format, dated January 1898. Its subtitle reads: “A Monthly Periodical for Tolerant Israelites.” The text comes entirely from Bukhner. More than a single issue of this “periodical” appears not to have been forthcoming.
In 1880s Bukhner tried to found an aid society for Jewish tradesmen, and in general he carried around with himself ideas for improving the social condition of Jewish immigrants at the time. For a time he held the top leadership position in the “Hebrew Institute” and was a leader of the managing committee of a Talmud Torah. In the 1890s, he had a publishing house in New York on Norfolk Street. The last years of his life, he spent in Green Point, Long Island. Information about his death is unknown.
Sources: E. R. Malachi, in Zaml-bukh tsu der geshikhte fun der yidisher prese in amerike (Anthology, toward a history of the Yiddish press in America), ed. Y. Shatski (New York, 1934), pp. 13-15; Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (January 1940); Y. Khaykin, in Yorbukh (Annual) (1945); Geshikhte fun der yidisher arbeter bavegung in di fareynikte shtatn (History of the Jewish labor movement in the United States), vol. 2 (New York: YIVO, 1945).