NEW YORK -- Simon Weber, 77, the retired editor of The Forward, a Yiddish-language newspaper that helped guide thousands of Jewish immigrants and published the work of Nobel Prize-winning author Isaac Bashevis Singer, died of a lung ailment Dec. 1 at Beth Israel Hospital here.

A native of Poland who came to this country as a teen-ager, Mr. Weber joined the newspaper 48 years ago and worked his way up from reporter to top editor. He retired last summer.

For Mr. Weber, The Forward's mission was to preserve the remnants of the great Yiddish culture of Eastern Europe that was devastated by Hitler. Many of its articles examined Jewish culture, philosophy, religion and tradition.

"This way the readers will have some idea of who their grandparents were," he told The New York Times this year.

The Forward is still the first place to read the stories of the Polish-born Singer, who won the 1978 Nobel Prize for literature for his works, written in Yiddish.

The newspaper, a victim of its own success in helping immigrant Jews assimilate into the middle class, was a daily until five years ago when it switched to weekly publication.

It once had a circulation of 238,000, but now goes to only about 20,000 readers as the number of people reading Yiddish dwindles.

Mr. Weber, who started at the paper in 1939, recalled hurrying downtown to pick up early editions of morning papers, which contained accounts of the futile efforts of the ship St. Louis to find a haven for its German Jewish passengers fleeing Hitler. Then he would rapidly rewrite the stories in Yiddish.

"The story of rewriting in Yiddish is that it should sound original, not a translation," he said.

Mr. Weber said it had become increasingly difficult to find writers in Yiddish -- a mixture of a medieval German dialect and Hebrew, written in Hebrew script -- who have something to say.

He is survived by his wife, a sister, a daughter, a son and four grandchildren.