A story came across my desk today discussing the fact that Jewish newspapers are fighting to stay alive in a world dominated by the internet. At the recent American Jewish Press Association conference, journalists asked themselves:
How vulnerable are Jewish newspapers to the economic and social forces buffeting daily papers? Does having a reliable niche audience shield the Jewish press from ruin? Might Jewish papers fade in this age of Google and blogs? (MORE)
I thought to myself, what year did this conference take place? 2000? For nearly a decade now, the journalism world has been redefining itself in the context of the web. Those that have not adapted, have not survived. Darwinism at its best.
We really do have some first-class Jewish papers that have set a new standard for Jewish journalism,” he says. “There are significant stories that broke in the Jewish press because it was doing its job of probing Jewish organizational life. … I have a sense the mood is not good in the field,” adds Sarna. “Within Jewish journalism, we haven’t seen models that have truly captured young Jews. The question is whether Jewish newspapers will be able to survive.”
He’s right. Jewish journalism has not developed means to captivate younger audiences. Traditional journalism has been addressing this issue, slower than some would like. But few newspapers and TV stations, if any, haven’t added significant online content. But as in management, marketing and other professional strategies, the Jewish world is again a few steps behind the mainstream.
If it has any hopes of retaining a respected place in our culture, Jewish journalism, like the greater press, must embrace technology and innovate. Those who do, will survive and perhaps thrive, but in new, creative forms.
And like the larger field of journalism, there are two opinions about the survival rate of newspapers:
“Anyone who feels the Jewish press in America is safe is grossly misinformed,” says Arthur Horwitz of Jewish Renaissance Media. “While Jewish publications constitute a niche, and while niche publications tend to be less vulnerable to the broader trends impacting the industry, anyone who feels they’re immune from those trends is going to find themselves without a community to serve.”
“Says Cleveland‘s Rob Certner, President of AJPA, “We do something nobody else does and nobody else is likely to be interested in doing. [The dailies] are not going to do the local coverage that we do. As such they will miss large pieces of information relevant to our community.”
I guess there is one last theory of survival for Jewish newspapers:
â€œAs long as there are Shabbat services and restaurants with bathrooms, Jewish newspapers distributed in the community for free will always have an audience,â€? says Avi Frier, Publisher of the Florida Jewish News.
In Exit Wounds, Modan (a frequent contributor to the New York Times and the New Yorker, and a former editor of the Israeli edition of MAD magazine) tells the story of Koby, a taxi driver from Tel Aviv who has been estranged from his father for two years when Numi, a female soldier, brings him word that his father may have died in a recent Palestinian attack. (MORE)
You can see sample pages from the graphic novel here.
- Now is the time to strike a deal with the Palestinians, says Yossi Beilin, because â€œthe Palestinians have a pragmatic leader who is perceived as weak.â€? (Haaretz)
- But Fatahâ€™s willingness to negotiate is an illusion, says Nadav Shragai, because its only a tactic toward â€œthe realization of the right of return.â€? (Haaretz)
- Aluf Benn is concerned about the â€œgrowing consensus in Israel that a withdrawal from the West Bank is no longer possible,â€? a position which has says, â€œcomes at a cost – in growing calls for an academic and economic boycott of Israel, in perpetuating the conflict with the Arabs, and in a growing gap between declarations and actions.â€? (Haaretz)
- CAROLINE GLICK says that â€œFatah â€¦ is a dead horse rigged to a land mine,â€? and that no deal with Fatah should even be attempted. (The Jerusalem Post)
- Did Abbas actually orchestrate the Hamas takeover, in order to increase his ability to make a deal with Israel? (Haaretz)
- B. Michael argues that â€œthe systematic pounding of the Palestinian Authority’s forcesâ€¦the persistent and humiliating mitigation of Mahmoud Abbas’ authorityâ€? was all done â€œto embolden Hamas among its people.â€? But it did not produce the type of â€œAltalena affairâ€? showdown between Hamas and Fatah that Israel wanted. (Ynet)
What eventually came out of the discussion, was my long-standing and rather peculiar belief that schnitzel, breaded chicken breast, is nearly always unkosher.
To make schnitzel, even according to our web site’s own recipe, one generally must:
Dredge [chicken] cutlets and tenders in flour, then egg, then bread crumb mixture.
One of the most basic tenants of kashrut is “do not cook a kid in its mother’s milk.” In the case of schnitzel, we are cooking the mother in what could have been its child.
Now I am not deeply dedicated to the cause of animal rights, nor am I a vegetarian. But there is something that deeply disturbs me about the practice of cooking a chicken breast in egg.
It seems that in all of the clarifications and trivialities of kashrut, there are ways to keep kosher yet still go against the intentions of the law itself.
“Games, projects, songs and sometimes relay races,” makes Maryland-based JEWEL Hebrew School appear to be similar to its peers. However, as Gazette.net explains, JEWEL is no ordinary Hebrew School:
Unlike many Sunday school programs, JEWEL is unaffiliated with a particular synagogue, which encourages more involvement. (MORE)
A non-denominational, unaffiliated Jewish education program that incorporates games and singing seems like a healthy learning environment for all Jewish children. Perhaps the unfettered environment at JEWEL is more conducive to Jewish learning?
But wait, there’s more! JEWEL has a “highly effective” and innovative program to get its students excited about Judaism called “Just Jew It!”
Through it, students accumulate points for good behavior, such as cleaning their bedrooms, as well as celebrating Jewish traditions, like helping set the table for Shabbat. Students with enough points earn a trip to Six Flags amusement park. (MORE)
I wonder, does this system encourage students to continue to live an active Jewish life after Six Flags is no longer the goal? While instilling Jewish values in children on a regular basis at a young age is important, students might be disappointed when they stop receiving rewards for being Jewish. Maybe the focus should be on the inherent rewards in being a practicing Jew?
I’m all for innovative ideas and experimental education, but bribery has been around for thousands of years and Judaism expressly forbids it: “And thou shalt take no bribe; for a gift blinds them that have sight, and perverts the words of the righteous.” (Exodus 23:8)
(Matt Ring is the summer intern at MyJewishLearning.com)
Yesterday, for the second time in a week, Pope Benedict XVI reversed positions of the Second Vatican Council, which in the 1960s instituted several Catholic reforms, including moves that paved the way for Jewish-Catholic reconciliation.
On Saturday, Pope Benedict eased restrictions on the Latin Tridentine Mass, a move already seen as troubling for intergroup relations.
Amid opposition from other Jewish groups, the Anti-Defamation League condemned the change on Saturday, calling it a â€œbody blow to Catholic-Jewish relations.â€? While an earlier reference to â€œperfidious Jewsâ€? was removed officially from the Tridentine Mass just before the council, which set the stage for progressively better relations between Jews and Catholics, the group condemned a remaining prayer on Good Friday calling for Jewsâ€™ conversion. (MORE)
But yesterday’s move, in which the pope declared that “other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches and Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation” is even more troubling.
It’s a small step from believing you are theologically superior to thinking you’re just plain superior.
The moderating interpretations of Vatican II were, to some extent, a response to the Holocaust: a recognition that anti-Semitic teachings helped forge a Christian culture that could perpetrate genocide. In a world that has seen a revival of religious fundamentalist violence, its sad (and scary) to see the Catholic Church begin to reverse course.
The Conservative hechsher tzedek, Hebrew for “justice certification,” will attest that a particular food was produced at a plant that meets ethical norms in six areas: fair wages and benefits, health and safety, training, corporate transparency, animal welfare, and environmental impact. (MORE)
The goal is to get measurable standards in place by the High Holidays this year and beginning labeling packages in the subsequent year.
Said Rabbi Morris Allen of Mendota Heights, Minn., head of the committee drafting the rules
“We’re not trying to muscle ourselves into the business that others have developed” of certifying kosher foods. “We do believe that most Jews, if given a choice between ‘This item is kosher’ and ‘This item is kosher and also was produced by a company that respects its workers and the environment,’ that most Jews will choose the latter.”
While I think that this hechsher is an innovative approach to modernizing halacha, the larger question, in my mind, has to do with the motivation of the Conservative Movement.
Of the three main branches in American, Conservative Judaism is the only one not to have a Washington, D.C.-based policy office. Both the Religions Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) and the Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs work to bring about legislative initiatives that the reflect the needs of its constituency.
In fact, in a recent speech, presidential candidate Barack Obama sited the heads of both of these organizations (Rabbi David Saperstein and Nathan Diament, respectively) as key influentials at the crossroads of policy change and religion.
This brings me back to the justice hechsher. Perhaps this is USCJ’s first serious move into the realm of public policy. If so, it would be a step in the right direction for an organization that, in the opinion of many, struggles both to keep up with its fellow movements and to maintain the support of its constituents.
In an effort to get smarter and diversify my knowledge, I’ve recently decided to try and read Wikipedia’s daily featured article.
By diversify I mean, de-Judaize. That is, force myself to read about intellectual areas unrelated to Judaism. So just my luck, then, that yesterday, when I decided to initiate this ritual, Wikipedia featured an article on an ancient Jewish-Christian sect, the Ebionites:
The Ebionites (from Hebrew; ×?×‘×™×•× ×™×?, Evyonim, “the Poor Ones”) were an early Christian sect that lived in and around the land of Israel in the 1st to the 5th century AD. It is assumed that they took their name from several religious texts, including a verse in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”. The Ebionites are believed to have been Jewish disciples of Jesus who dispossessed themselves of all worldly goods and lived in religious communes. (MORE)
While this article wasn’t the math, science, or Nigerian literature study-piece I was hoping for, it was particularly interesting in light of a talk I heard my cousin, Rabbi Yehuda Septimus, give this past weekend.
Yehuda spoke about the famous Talmudic text that suggests that the Second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred (Sin’at hinam). Yehuda made the connection between this “hatred” and the extreme sectarianism that existed during the late years of the Temple.
But he asked an interesting question: The disputes between the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, etc, wasn’t baseless at all. These were profound theological/ideological disputes, important to the administration of the Temple and the future of Judaism.
So perhaps it’s no surprise then that an earlier version of the Talmudic text, the version found in the Tosefta, just says that the Temple was destroyed because of hatred not baseless hatred. So why was this text adjusted?
Yehuda suggested one possibility: The Talmudic tradition was likely composed several hundred years after the destruction of the Temple. With this many centuries passed, most debates that seem crucial at the time will seem somewhat petty. The practical teaching? Some debates are fundamental and critical, but we can always use a dose of long-term perspective. We should ask ourselves: Will these communal disagreements seem petty in the future? And if so, how can they be tempered today?
Be sure to check out the new face of The Lilith Blog.
Recent posts include:
Launched last week, it promises lots of time spent browsing video classics such as “My two grandkids enjoying their toys on Pesach,” Borat spoofs (its own section), and an animated, rhyming version of the Hannukah story.
Says Jeremy Kosen, the founder:
My vision is for the site to create a community of filmmakers, musicians and artists who share Jewish themes. (MORE)
But don’t worry. The site will have some more educational uses as well, as Ha’aretz reports:
JewTube has already attracted interest from Beth Hatefutsoth, the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora in Tel Aviv. The museum’s director, Hasia Israeli, met with Kosen and asked permission to use his site to upload footage from the 1920s and 30s taken by Jewish amateur photographers in East Europe. “Such a site would allow me to set up a virtual museum, accessible to all Jews all over the world,” she said.
I’m just thankful that my parents aren’t technologically savvy enough to upload my Bat Mitzvah video.