From the beginning, its mission was clear: The Baltimore Jewish Times sought to uphold and uplift the Jewish community.
“A Jewish paper must seek to promote the highest ideals and best traditions of our people,” wrote the paper’s first editor, Dr. Charles Rubenstein, a Latvian immigrant and a rabbi with the Har Sinai Congregation.
For the past 100 years, the JT has done just that. Published every Friday, its scribes and type setters first worked from the Equitable Building, what once was the city’s tallest skyscraper and is now home to luxury apartments.
The first issue reached readers shortly before Rosh Hashanah in September 1919. It was 32 pages and cost 10 cents.
It was the second newspaper founded by Pittsburgh businessman David Alter, a Romanian immigrant and former engineer. He eventually oversaw a chain of seven Jewish newspapers from the Mid-Atlantic to the Midwest. There is no debate that the JT was the strongest of these.
The paper was first printed in Pittsburgh and brought by rail to Baltimore, where readers received it on Saturdays.
Over the years, the JT has shared the news of thousands of bar mitzvahs, engagements, weddings and deaths. It has shared coverage from around the world on important events and provided commentary from writers in the community. In 1929, for example, Joseph Brainin warned Baltimore’s readers of the growing hostility toward Jews in Germany.
By the end of the Great Depression, Alter’s chain was reduced to only two papers, the Pittsburgh Jewish Criterion and the JT. The 1940s saw ads in the JT for new Fords, information about the effects of war rations on kosher food supplies, and sadly the news of Alter’s death. His wife, Sadie Alter, a political activist in Pittsburgh who had served as president of the city’s Urban League and also as a delegate to the League of Nations, managed the papers for three years.
In the 1950s, Bert Kline was named as editor and general manager. He brought the paper’s printing operations to Baltimore and was succeeded by Sadie Alter’s daughter, Geraldine Alter Buerger, who later remarried and took the last name Jacobson.
In the 1960s, the JT covered the Six-Day War, the Orioles’ chances in a pennant race, and local developer Joseph Meyerhoff’s efforts to raise $72 million for the United Jewish Appeal. The Alter family sold the Pittsburgh Jewish Criterion, making the JT its only publication. The newspaper reached 10,000 readers then and was considered the Jewish paper of record.
In 1972, Charles “Chuck” Buerger, Geraldine Jacobson’s son and David Alter’s grandson, took over the paper and brought on editor Gary Rosenblatt. They expanded the paper’s coverage and its reach, building relationships and growing this weekly paper to 200 pages and a circulation of 20,000. In 1989, the staff also started Baltimore Style, a regular insert that became a standalone magazine which will celebrate its 30th anniversary this November.
Buerger remained with the JT until his death in 1996, and the newspaper struggled in the years afterward. His son Andrew Buerger led the paper until 2012, when it was sold at bankruptcy auction and purchased by Route 95 Publications LLC, owner of the Washington Jewish Week. The company became known as Mid-Atlantic Media.
Today, the JT continues to be owned by the Owings Mills-based company, which also provides editorial and design support for the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, among its many clients, continuing the link between these two Jewish communities. Over the years, the Jewish Times has won hundreds awards from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and the American Jewish Press Association.