Goldberg, Edgar (1876–1937)


By: Bryan Edward Stone

Type: Biography

Published: January 26, 2021

Updated: January 28, 2021


Edgar Goldberg, founding editor and publisher of the Texas Jewish Herald (now the Jewish Herald-Voice) in Houston, son of Moses and Caroline (Mannheimer) Goldberg, was born on December 2, 1876, in Delta, Louisiana. His parents, Jewish immigrants from Germany, both died before he was seven, and his uncle, a Confederate Army veteran, enrolled him at the New Orleans Jewish Orphans’ Home, one of the nation’s premier Jewish benevolent institutions, where he lived until the age of fourteen. Upon his discharge from the home, Goldberg apprenticed to a jeweler in Jackson, Mississippi, and learned the printing trade in Memphis, Tennessee, where he worked for one of the South’s first Jewish newspapers, the Jewish Spectator. He probably also gained his first professional experience in writing and reporting. In 1899 he moved to St. Louis, worked as a printer and compositor, and married Esther Ruppin, the daughter of a cigar merchant, in July 1900. The first of the couple’s three daughters, Carol, was born in St. Louis the next year.

In 1905 the Goldbergs moved to Texas and settled first in Lufkin, where Edgar probably worked as a reporter. Seeking a larger Jewish community, they moved to Houston in 1907. Houston was then home to about 2,500 Jews, two large congregations, and a variety of Jewish social and fraternal organizations. Houston Jewry was highly assimilated, solidly middle-class, ideologically diverse, and growing rapidly—a community Goldberg perceived immediately provided an ideal clientele for an English-language Jewish newspaper. He envisioned and guided his project as a platform for a range of Jewish views and interests. “We have been accused of being anti-Zionistic—of being Zionistic—of being too much in favor of reform [Judaism]—and of giving only Orthodox news,” he noted in 1910. “Well, at any rate, we have not been accused of being un-Jewish.”

A one-page trial issue in April 1908 proved successful, and Goldberg established the Herald Printing Company to publish the paper and to operate a contract printing business to help assure a reliable income as his family grew; daughters Miriam and Edna were born in 1910 and 1912 in Houston. The first full issue of the Jewish Herald, eight pages long and four columns wide, appeared on Rosh Hashanah, September 24, 1908. Publishing weekly thereafter, the editor set his sights on a statewide readership—there was as yet no other Jewish publication in Texas—and he recruited stringers in at least fifteen communities as far away as El Paso to supply local content for a “Texas News” section. “From the local [Houston] publication which it was at its inception,” he wrote in 1914, “the Herald has become the organ of all Jewry in Texas.”  To solidify that statewide outlook, he changed the paper’s name to the Texas Jewish Herald and adopted what became a long-standing motto: “Texas News for Texas Jews.”

Thus Goldberg overtly presented the Herald as an alternative to national Jewish papers published in New York and Cincinnati. “As we have frequently stated, it is our purpose to make the Jewish Herald the family paper for the Jews of Texas,” he asserted in an early message to readers. He carried wire stories from around the world and regularly reprinted content from other American Jewish periodicals, but his focus remained squarely on developing a Texas perspective on Jewish events and ideas. He provided space for Texas Jews to announce births, weddings, and social events; enlisted Texas rabbis, including Galveston’s Henry Cohen, as columnists and contributors; summarized meetings of local Zionist groups, Jewish literary societies, and women’s clubs; and often criticized national Jewish leaders for presuming to speak on behalf of their coreligionists in Texas. His efforts to grow a readership were successful. Within the first four years circulation grew to 1,150 subscribers, then to 3,500 in 1920 and 6,600 in 1933.

Considering himself more a businessman than a journalist, Goldberg regularly used his pages to boost the commercial potential of Houston and Texas and to promote them as destinations for immigrants. He was, for example, an avid and immediate supporter of the Galveston Movement, which sought to divert Jewish immigration from New York to Texas, and he reported and commented on its activities in detail. The Herald gave extensive coverage to the International Order of B’nai B’rith, a Jewish fraternal society, and most especially to its southern district, of which its editor was a lifetime member and frequent officer. Goldberg relentlessly encouraged his readers to donate to a variety of Jewish charities, especially the New Orleans orphanage of which he was an alumnus and, later, relief programs for European Jews following World War I.

In keeping with his nonpartisan editorial stance, Goldberg generally ignored electoral politics. He reviled former governor James E. Ferguson, whom he considered anti-Semitic, but he never endorsed candidates until the 1920s, when a resurgent Ku Klux Klan became important in Texas political life. A self-conscious Southerner and Democrat, he endorsed anti-Klan Republican candidates. Ever attentive to anti-Semitism, as early as 1928 he warned his readers of the rise of German “Hitlerites,” whose activities became a personal preoccupation and staple of his coverage. “One of my friends says you give too much space to the Nazis,” he wrote in 1933. “Give us something else for a change. Well I'd like to, but when 600,000 Jews can do nothing but wait the coming of death, and when the insidious serpent multiplies in our midst, someone should awaken Jewry.” On one front page in 1934, ten out of fifteen items related to Nazism, Germany, or anti-Semitism.

Goldberg worked with a series of associate editors and collaborators over the years, most importantly his wife, Esther, who managed the Herald’s offices and finances. He remained, however, the driving editorial force behind the business he called his “Pet Baby” and selected the paper’s content, designed its pages, and, after 1926, supplied weekly commentary under the byline EGO, a pun on his initials. Edgar Goldberg died from cancer on September 23, 1937, in Houston. Esther Goldberg subsequently sold the newspaper to David H. White, a former employee and coeditor, who had recently started a competing paper, the Jewish Voice, in Houston. White merged the two journals in 1938 to establish the Jewish Herald-Voice, which was still published in the 2020s as one of the longest-running Jewish periodicals in the United States.

“Houston,” Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities (https://www.isjl.org/texas-houston-encyclopedia.html), accessed October 26, 2020. The Jewish Herald, September 24, 1908; July 1, 1909; February 10, 1910; June 13, 1912; November 26, 1914. Bryan Edward Stone, The Chosen Folks: Jews on the Frontiers of Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010). Bryan Edward Stone, “Edgar Goldberg and Forty Years of the Texas Jewish Herald, Houston, Texas, 1907–1937,” Western States Jewish History 30 (July 1998).

Categories:
  • Business
  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Publishers and Executives
  • Peoples
  • Jews
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Great Depression
  • Texas in the 1920s
Places:
  • East Texas
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • Houston

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Bryan Edward Stone, “Goldberg, Edgar,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/goldberg-edgar.

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January 26, 2021
January 28, 2021

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