Cape Town, South Africa 390.
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Every weekend when the Jewish Report is delivered to synagogues across South
Africa an unusual routine occurs.
Instead of allowing members of the
community to pick up copies of the country’s only Jewish newspaper freely, some
religious leaders hide them until services are over.
“They don’t put it
out so that people don’t read it at shul,” said Avrom Krengel, chairman of the
South African Zionist Federation on Wednesday. “If they did some wouldn’t pay
attention [to the services].”
The interest with which South African Jews
read the weekly newspaper is a testament to its importance, but soon synagogue
disciplinarians might not have to work so hard. Last week the Jewish Report
published an editorial
denying widespread talk that its closure was
“The Jewish Report
is not closing down,” it declared. “We are
aware of rumors going around about the paper’s impending demise. They are not
In an e-mail sent to The Jerusalem Post
this week, the Jewish
’s Editor Geoff Sifrin was adamant his publication would not close but
admitted it faced serious challenges.
The decrease in advertising
revenues that have affected newspapers around the world, large and small, have
made it increasingly hard to balance his budget, he said.
simply do not spend as much as they used to on advertising, or spend it
differently,” he wrote.
“What the Jewish Report
offers them is a niche
market – if they want to reach the Jewish market, we can offer it. But the
readership is not big enough to attract the big advertisers, who will rather
advertise in the mass-circulation general press.”
As a result the paper
has had to reduce the number of its pages and carry fewer articles.
new sources of revenue are not found its existence may indeed be in
The Jewish Report
was founded 13 years ago to fill the void
left by defunct publications such as the Zionist Record
and the South Africa
Each weekend, 11,500 free copies are distributed to
synagogues, community centers and homes in Johannesburg, Cape Town and
Michael Jankelowitz, a former spokesman for the Jewish Agency
and a native of South Africa, recalled on Thursday how his late mother, Salome,
would wait with anticipation for the paper to come out.
Sandringham Gardens old age home [in Johannesburg] everyone looked forward to
when the Jewish Report
was brought,” he said. “They read the paper from back to
front and I know how much joy it brought to them. South Africa [Jewry] today is
an aging community and the paper let people know what was going
Krengel also spoke about the importance of the paper to the
“It’s a forum for discussion and it would be a great loss if
it closed,” he said. “Geoff has had a knack of putting together an interesting
paper to read.”
While the Jewish Report
shares some of its woes with
print journalism in general, others are more specific. The newspaper’s
readership, for instance, has been slowly shrinking for decades. During the
1970s there were about 120,000 Jews in South Africa.
Nowadays there are
about 70,000. Some members of the community known for its strong support of
Zionism have made aliya. Others have gone to the US, Australia and New Zealand
in search of better economic opportunities.
The rise in violent crime in
South Africa has reinforced both trends.
Sifrin said many community
members who might have supported the paper financially now live abroad. At the
same time, they might represent the paper’s biggest untapped market, he
“One of the important functions of our website is to connect us to
the thousands of expat South African Jews in other countries,” he
“Through this they can still be part of the SA Jewish
The embattled editor continues to seek financial solutions to
help keep the paper afloat – including asking community members for
“We regard it as important to stand on our own feet
financially, because it is important for us to be editorially independent,” he
wrote. “But there are times when donations might be necessary in extreme
situations, like now.”