A Bintel Brief

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A Bintel Brief was a Yiddish advice column, starting in early 20th century New York City, that anonymously printed readers' questions and posted replies. The column was started by Abraham Cahan, the editor of Der Forverts (The Forward), in 1906.[1] Recent Jewish immigrants, predominantly from Eastern Europe, asked for advice on various facets of their acculturation to America, including economic, family, religious and theological difficulties.[2] In Yiddish, bintel means "bundle" and brief means a "letter" or "letters".

It was a part of some people's lives to such an extent as are radio and television today. It has been the subject of books,[3] essays,[4][5] a graphic novel[6][7][8] and a Yiddish play.[9] Much as "to Xerox" could be described as a commoditization of a trademarked name, the term "A Bintel Brief" has been known to be used as a generic description.[10]

The original printed Yiddish format, which The New York Times described as "homespun advice .. which predated Dear Abby,"[11] continued at least until 1970.[12]


The column began as a response to a January 1906 letter-to-the-editor requesting assistance,[13] which he published under the name "Bintel Brief" (a bundle of letters). The range of topics was described as "from tough bosses to rough neighborhoods, from dating to marriage to love."[14]

Readers and the column shared the goal and "belief that a newspaper could ease" the pain.[15]

The focus of the Jewish Daily Forward's Bintel Brief column was "every aspect of the immigrant experience."[16] The goal was "Americanization." Just as immigrants needed direct help from others, there was also a need for indirect help: Some letters were written by more literate fellow immigrants, not always for free.[15] The concept is Biblical.[17]


Although leftist,[18] help was freely provided to Jews with beards [3]: p.43  as readily as with those whose had shaved them off or never had one.

Help was not limited to giving advice, but also "off the page"[18] by

  • hosting English language classes
  • sponsoring vaccination-day events in the newspaper's lobby[19]
  • sending speakers to rallies they publicized regarding Jewish immigration


  1. ^ "Bintel Brief – Tags – Forward.com". Blogs.forward.com. 2007-05-13. Retrieved 2012-07-05.
  2. ^ Steven Bayme, Understanding Jewish History: Texts and Commentaries, p.354
  3. ^ a b A Bintel Brief: Sixty Years Of, by Isaac Metzker, ISBN 978-0-8052-0980-8, published by Schocken 1990, reviewed by Amazon, New York Times Book Review, New Yorker and others
  4. ^ "Essay on A Brintel Brief: The Book of Letters". Direct Essays. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  5. ^ "A Bintel Brief". Essay Galaxy. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  6. ^ ‘A Bintel Brief’ Is Liana Finck’s Graphic Book of Letters New York Times Book Review
  7. ^ A new comic illustrates the desperate missives sent to an immigrant advice column in old New York Slate.com Book Review
  8. ^ Liana Finck, A Bintel Brief lianafinck.com
  9. ^ "This Week in History - Yiddish theater impresario Dora Wasserman receives Order of Canada | Jewish Women's Archive". Jwa.org. 1993-04-21. Retrieved 2012-07-05.
  10. ^ Siegel, Shael (2007-03-22). "Rabbi Shael Speaks...Tachles: A Bintel Brief". Shaelsiegel.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2012-07-05.
  11. ^ Sam Roberts (May 27, 2007). "The City, Framed: Jewish Life, Soaring Bridges, Fulton Market". The New York Times.
  12. ^ http://www.tcr.org/tcr/essays/EPrize_Bintel.pdf, p. 4, sourced from The Concord Review, p. 216. On page 221, under "IMPACT", it is claimed that "A Bintel Brief" is considered by many historians to be the precursor to the nationally syndicated Ann Landers column." Note: This item lists many primary and secondary reference resources.
  13. ^ Liana Finck (April 23, 2014). "The Beginnings of A Bintel Brief". MyJewishLearning.com.
  14. ^ "Bintel Brief". Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  15. ^ a b Clyde Haberman (July 3, 2014). "Book Review: A Bintel Brief". Moment Magazine.
  16. ^ ""Worthy Editor . . ." Selections from the Bintel Brief". Commentary. March 1, 1971.
  17. ^ Deut. 15:11
  18. ^ a b "About The Bintel Brief". "Unabashedly leftist in bent..." - this from the publisher of Bintel Brief!
  19. ^ Ruchel Jarach-Sztern (2017). Yankee Yinglish. p. 19. ISBN 978-1387365968.