From the Editor: The Jewish press

The printed press – including the Jewish press – cannot be allowed to become a casualty of corona.

A newspaper rack in the United Kingdom (photo credit: REUTERS)
A newspaper rack in the United Kingdom
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It was encouraging to learn that proposals had been made to save two Jewish newspapers in Britain, The Jewish Chronicle and The Jewish News, which in addition to the Canadian Jewish News recently announced plans to shut down due to the economic damage caused by coronavirus. The printed press – including the Jewish press – cannot be allowed to become a casualty of corona.
Jewish papers throughout the world perform two vital functions: they report on local and international news affecting their communities while caring for communal needs as well. It is not too late to save these papers, and especially in the age of coronavirus and rising antisemitism, every effort should be made to stop them from becoming corona casualties.
In a Facebook post, The Jerusalem Post’s Editor-in-Chief Yaakov Katz, sounded the alarm about the threatened newspaper closures in the UK and Canada. “This should serve as a warning of what is still to come,” he wrote. “Now, more than ever, journalism is needed. The world has been struck by a pandemic but without journalism our governments operate without transparency and accountability. Voices need to be heard, stories need to be told and most importantly, the democratic values we stand for need to be upheld.”
Katz noted that these newspapers are not alone. “All media today face significant challenges in weathering this storm – in Israel, the US, the UK and across the globe,” he said. “Wherever you live, now is the time to show your support. Buy a newspaper, get a subscription to your door or online.”
Researcher Alan D. Abbey writes in a study he conducted on Jewish journalists at Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute that the first publication recognized as a Jewish newspaper was the Ladino-language Gazeta de Amsterdam, begun in 1675. A Yiddish paper appeared five years later, also in Amsterdam, then the main center of Diaspora Jewry and home to both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.
“A Jewish press engaged in the kind of work we would recognize today as journalism only developed about 100 years later, with a series of publications in Russia and Poland in both Yiddish and Hebrew,” Abbey says. “The first American newspaper aimed at and written for a Jewish audience was Philadelphia’s The Occident in 1843.”
The Jewish media as we know them today, according to Abbey, emerged as European and nascent North American Jewish communities began to enter the mainstream cultural and political life of their societies, playing a significant role in their communities.
According to Yehuda Gotthelf, the famous editor of the now-defunct Israeli daily Davar, a Jewish newspaper “extracted the Jew from his lethargy and passiveness and gave him a measure of pride,” serving “as a sort of guide, mentor and institution to which Jews turned in order to pour out their hearts. It did not remain satisfied with the function of observer but fought the battles of the Jewish masses for their right to work, to a livelihood and to life itself.”
The Jerusalem Report, which was established almost 30 years ago – in December 1990 – by the prominent South African-born journalist, Hirsh Goodman, had what he called “ambitious” goals. “We are not afraid of opinions, provided they do not obfuscate our reporting,” Goodman wrote. “We want ideas, criticism, dialogue.”
Those remain our goals today. With advertising and subscriptions suffering, the Jewish press across the globe is bleeding. They need to adapt to the ever-changing media landscape, but they also need readers who appreciate their value. Now is the time to support local Jewish papers by buying or subscribing. As Katz wrote, “It might not seem like it, but it is an investment in the future.”