Jerusalem Post's oldest and most veteran staff member dies

Alexander Zvielli, the paper's historian and archivist, passed away aged 96.

By
May 7, 2017 19:31
3 minute read.
Alexander Zvielli

Alexander Zvielli. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Three nonagenarians closely associated with The Jerusalem Post passed away this year.

The first was former co-editor- in-chief Ari Rath, who died in January a week after his 92nd birthday. The second was iconic photographer David Rubinger, a former photo editor at the paper, who died in March, three months ahead of his 93rd birthday, and the third was Alexander Zvielli, the paper’s historian and archivist, who passed away just over a week ago at 96.

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Born in Warsaw, Zvielli joined the paper in December 1945 and remained in its employ for 72 years. He initially worked as a Linotypist in the printing department and knew just about everything there was to know about printing machines, having learned the business in his father’s printing press in Warsaw, where he was also a proofreader who proofed the works of Poland’s great Yiddish writers, including Isaac Bashevis Singer. Zvielli subsequently became the paper’s chief archivist and historian, plus a regular contributor to the editorial pages and the weekend magazine.

Notwithstanding his age, Zvielli was as modern as tomorrow, which is why he was chosen to grace the cover of the special supplement celebrating the Post’s 80th anniversary in December 2012, with one hand resting on a bound volume of the paper and an iPad in the other.

When Rath, who had moved back to his native Vienna, came on a visit to Jerusalem in November 2015 and was invited to visit the Post, never having set foot before in its current premises, an editorial meeting was held in his honor, to which Rubinger and Zvielli were also invited, and the three of them had a fine time reminiscing about shared experiences and mutual friends and acquaintances. The paper’s photographer, Marc Israel Sellem, did not realize at the time that he was taking an historic photograph. Earlier in the year, Rubinger had visited the paper on Zvielli’s 94th birthday, but it had been a very long time since all three nonagenarians had sat at the same table.

Zvielli had become head of the archives in the days when every journalist and every subject had their own file into which clippings were pasted. Today it is easy to trace stories by simply googling the title or the subject matter. But in those days, there was no index and when foreign journalists came to the Post looking for information; it was Zvielli’s amazing memory for detail that saved them lots of research time.

Prior to joining the Post, Zvielli served for three years in the British Army. After his discharge, he had the choice of becoming a bus driver or working as a Linotype operator at the Post. Happily, he took the latter option.

He was a quick adapter to change, and as more modern printing methods were introduced into the system, he adapted to them with ease.

After the Post no longer had its own printing press, and when typewriters became obsolete, Zvielli could be seen daily working on his computer. When iPads were introduced, he took to them like a duck to water.

On the subject of water, he was a keen swimmer and swam almost daily until the last year of his life. He was also keenly involved in community and international affairs and was a member of the Jerusalem Rotary Club for well over three decades.

A modest man, he didn’t talk or write about himself unless prodded to do so, and he was often a target for young writers who wanted to know more about Jerusalem as it used to be.

Zvielli was a mine of information.

It was extremely rare when he was asked a question for him to reply that he didn’t know.

He always did know, and after providing the answer, he often supplemented what he had said with press clippings on the subject.

He was invariably spot on.

Few people in this world can boast of working in the same place for 72 years, especially in an era of redundancy and rapid change. Zvielli was most definitely the exception to the rule.


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