(Editor’s Note: Retro News is a new column that will appear every week as part of the celebration of the Chronicle’s 50th anniversary. Each week, Retro News will look at a past issue of the Chronicle, encapsulate the news reported that week and comment on how those items that pertain to today’s Jewish Pittsburgh.)
The cover photo of the Chronicle’s inaugural issue was not of David Ben-Gurion, Israeli soldiers on patrol, not even of local Jewish leaders engaged in some civic activity.
The honor of gracing this paper’s very first front page went to — Burt Lancaster?
That’s right. The lead story of the Chronicle’s first issue included a publicity photo of the famed movie star from a scene in the motion picture, “Judgment at Nuremberg.”
It’s not as unusual as you may think. In the film, which opened around the same time the Chronicle began publishing, Lancaster starred as a notorious Nazi judge on trial for crimes against humanity. So, for the paper’s first feature story, Michael A. Musmanno, then a justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, who once served as a judge on the Nuremberg tribunals, wrote a first-person account of the film.
Rarely in its 50-year history has the Chronicle published a movie review on page 1, but this was not your average review, nor your average reviewer.
“Every question that Spencer Tracy [who played one of the three judges on the tribunal] puts, every observation he makes, every rule of law he announces, turns another page in my book of memories,” Musmanno wrote, “and I revel in seeing him extract truth from untruth, justice from injustice, legality from illegality.”
Also on page 1 was an editorial — really a tribute — to Samuel Horelick, titled “May His Memory Remain A Blessing.”
Horelick, who died the Friday before at age 75, was an engineer, corporate executive and philanthropist, according to the piece.
“He worked hard at giving away his earnings, and enjoyed it,” according to the editorial. “Giving charity is a virtue. Giving and setting an example and a standard for others to give is a higher rung in Jewish virtue. In this, Sam Horelick stood out as a model.”
Chronicle Editor Albert W. Bloom began his long-running column, “People & Issues,” this week. In this piece, Bloom formally introduced the Chronicle to its readers. He noted it was the successor to two long-running, finally defunct, newspapers — The Jewish Criterion and the American Jewish Outlook. And he named the Pittsburgh Jewish Publication and Education Foundation (PJPEF) — an affiliate of the United Jewish Federation — as the publisher, which it still is. Since then, the PJPEF has become independent of the federation, making the Chronicle an independent Jewish newspaper.
“The Jewish Chronicle will be, in every sense of the word, a newspaper,” Bloom wrote. “It will not purport to speak for the Jewish community. But it is the policy of the publisher to make of the newspaper, a mirror of the community in its local, national and international aspects.
“Its columns will be open to all responsible voices and organizations,” he continued. “Everything of importance in Jewish life will be within its purview.”
The Chronicle still strives to live up to those words Bloom wrote 50 years ago.
Also this week, the Chronicle reported that Cantor Mordecai Heiser of B’nai Israel Congregation would join a famed Cleveland cantor and composer, Sholom Secunda, for a recital of Sabbath melodies at B’nai Israel . . . Judge Musmanno, who wrote the “Judgment at Nuremberg” piece, received the Brotherhood Month award at Beth Jacob Synagogue in New Kensington . . . Katharine S. Falk reviewed the book, “Notes from a Dark Street” in her column, The People and the Book, and Bernice Ellman Bluestone, in her society column, Social and Personal, sent back news of Pittsburghers vacationing in Florida and Arizona that winter — that’s right, snowbirds are nothing new — as well as other vacation spots. Among the Pittsburghers she named were Mr. and Mrs. Harry Perrins, Mrs. Rube Schmidt and Mrs. Felix Weil.
To celebrate the Chronicle’s first edition, the staff published letters of best wishes from President John F. Kennedy, Pennsylvania Gov. David L. Lawrence and Pittsburgh Mayor Joseph M. Barr.
“We hear much today of new frontiers in matters of national and international concern,” Barr wrote. “It appears that the Pittsburgh Jewish Publication and Education Foundation has opened up a new frontier in the field of journalism.”
— Compiled by Lee Chottiner
(For a more comprehensive look at the March 8, 1962, Chronicle, visit the jewishchronicle.net and click on “archives” at the top of the page. Back issues of the Chronicle are archived by the Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project.)