On behalf of the government of Israel and the Consul General of Israel in New York, I’m very honored to represent the State of Israel in remembering and celebrating the life and legacy of Gershon Jacobson.
Gershon was always dedicated to the Jewish cause in so many ways, but I also had the privilege of knowing Gershon personally for quite some years. I knew him in the late 70s and early 80s when I worked here in New York as a correspondent for Israeli radio, The Voice of Israel.
We would always meet at press conferences and at various Jewish events, which we both came to cover as journalists.
In the beginning, I didn’t know exactly who he was. He always looked different from the others with his beard and his kippah. He didn’t look like the rest of us young secular journalists, if you will. Initially my secular colleagues and I thought of him as a pseudo-journalist, a man whose religious persona could never allow him to be an authentic reporter.
It took me some time to get to know him, and to discover that not only was he more knowledgeable than the rest of us, and not only did he care for the subject matter that he wrote about more than the rest of us, but as a journalist, he was simply better and a lot more experienced than the rest of us.
The Gershon that I knew was actually Gershon the journalist. Perhaps some of you didn’t know that side of him as well as my colleagues and I. In that regard as well, he had very little competition; he was one of the great journalists of our time.
For a long time, Gershon was a well-known journalist in Israel. As a reader of newspapers, I remember well his by-line as “Gershon Yacobson, katav Yedioth Achranot, d’Artzot Habrit,” namely the correspondent for Yediot Achronot, Israel’s largest daily, in the United States.
He actually took over that position from Dr. Elie Wiesel. Gershon was a well-known name in Israel. He was often interviewed on the Israeli radio regarding New York issues. Around a month ago the Israeli press reported with sadness and rather extensively about his very sad departure.
Rejuvenating a language
But I think we should also remember Gershon in his capacity as a man who with the founding and editing of the Algemeiner Journal allowed the Yiddish language to continue and flourish here in the United States. As we all know, that language, unfortunately, is dwindling and disappearing with a few exceptions in places like Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Brooklyn, and maybe a few more, although many of us, including myself, were brought up in Yiddish-speaking homes. I myself didn’t speak anything but Yiddish until I was four years old, but my children don’t know any Yiddish, and certainly my grandchildren will not know any.
So I think Gershon deserves a lot of credit that through his paper, Yiddish continued to flourish as a living language, a language that can be used to write about and describe various modern phenomena, sometimes even inventing words just to cover the modern spectrum of events…
I can only join in the hopes of so many others that the Algemeiner Journal will continue to exist and flourish. All of us need that paper to continue not only for what it says — its content — but also for the language that it is written in.
Gershon Jacobson and Yitzchak Shamir
I also met Gershon many times during the late 80s when I would come here with Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir as his advisor. Anytime we came to New York, Shamir would insist that he needed to see Gershon. Mr. Jacobson would either come to his hotel or to the press conference.
Many time I heard great words of praise for Gershon from Shamir. The Prime Minister also liked Gershon because of another reason: Growing up in Eastern Europe, Yitzchak Shamir loved communicating in Yiddish. But I was about the only advisor in Shamir’s office who could speak Yiddish… So when Shamir saw Gershon, he was always happy to share his Yiddish experience with him.
To his dear family and friends: I didn’t know Gershon as well as all of you, but I knew him well enough to appreciate his contribution to the world and to share with you my humble words in celebrate the life of this unique individual, Gershon Jacobson.
(Excerpts from an address delivered on Tuesday, June 28, 2005 in the Park East Synagogue in Manhataan, at a shloshim-memorial gathring in in tribute to the life and legacy of Gershon Jacobson.)