William Frankel, 91, who for nearly two decades was the influential editor of the London Jewish Chronicle, died April 18 of a cerebral hemorrhage at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C. Frankel was the editor of the London Jewish Chronicle from 1958 to 1977.
In a 1990 article about the newspaper, which was founded in 1841, the Independent of London noted that its circulation was only 50,000 but that it had "the highest pass-on rate" of any newspaper in Britain. With four readers for every copy, it reached more people than synagogues, it said.
When Frankel took over as editor, he expanded the Chronicle's scope and vision. Instead of focusing exclusively on stories about Anglo Jewry, he hired a cadre of capable journalists from Britain, the United States and Israel and set them to covering international stories of interest to Jewish readers -- Vietnam, the U.S. civil rights movement, the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, among others.
Frankel was born in London's East End to impoverished Jews who had emigrated from a small shtetl in Poland. He spend his childhood in a sheltered religious life and knew nothing of the world outside his East End ghetto.
Eventually, two teachers encouraged him to sit for exams at a secondary school outside the East End; he passed the exams. He then held a series of jobs in London and then moved to Cambridge because of the blitz. He enrolled at the evacuated London School of Economics, received his law degree and practiced law in London for the next 10 years. He also was appointed the European correspondent for the American Jewish Committee, a position that occasionally took him to the United States and Paris.
Frankel retired from the editorship of the Jewish Chronicle in 1977 but continued to write for it. In 1991, he was appointed chairman of its board of directors and took an active and forceful role in efforts to stem falling circulation.