Bintel Brief

“The Bintel Brief” was an advice column in the Jewish Daily Forward. Founded by Abraham Cahan (left), The Forward was the most popular Yiddish daily newspaper in America at the turn of the 20th century. It was published at 173-5 East Broadway in the Lower East Side. The aptly named Bintel Brief, which means “bundle of letters,” published thousands of letters over the years from Jewish immigrants seeking advice about life – their new life – in America. From tough bosses to rough neighborhoods, from dating to marriage to love, the Bintel Brief became a favorite source of advice and wisdom for generations of Jewish immigrants.

Today, The Forward is published weekly in both English and Yiddish and online. The Bintel Brief is currently part of a blog where readers continue to send in questions and receive quality advice from the editors.

Discussion Questions

  • What questions do you think you would have if you were an immigrant in a new country? What topics of advice would you seek?
  • At the turn of the 20th century, newspapers played an integral role in helping immigrants assimilate to life in America. Do you think this is still true today? What other resources are available to immigrants in the 21st century?

Classroom Extensions

  • Have students think of a problem an immigrant might struggle with today and write a letter to an editor describing the situation. Students should exchange letters, and then write a response to a letter written by a fellow classmate. Explore the letters as a class and compare the questions and advice received today to those in the original Bintel Brief. Discuss the similarities and differences between the immigrant experience of the past and today.
  • Learn more about Abraham Cahan and the Bintel Brief by watching two film clips from The Jewish Americans on PBS.