The High Holy Day season is a reflective time, but for my colleagues and me at NJJN, this year bears an added significance. On September 15, we celebrated the first anniversary of the handoff of publishing duties of our paper from the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ to the Jewish Week Media Group.
It feels like it was just a few months ago that I was sweating over my inaugural column, and here I am, a year later, sweating over my 26th.
What a year 5777 was to be in the newspaper business. Weeks after the handoff, I witnessed two unprecedented events — NJJN endorsed Hillary Clinton, the first time in its 70-year history that the newspaper backed a presidential candidate, and then came Clinton’s resounding defeat in November to Donald Trump, who remains a national lightning rod at the center of unprecedented presidential controversy, pro and con.
In that first column I wrote that the NJJN hoped “to inform and entertain our readers…uniting them in ways that make them aware of what’s happening in nearby communities as well as their own…[and] to produce stories that are thought-provoking and increase the dialogue among us, both locally and away from home.”
Have we succeeded? First, I should commend our small — but talented — editorial staff who work double time to cover the overwhelming number of worthy stories. Though biased, I believe their work has been exceptional.
Among the standout reports: the Maplewood man who received a letter of apology from the granddaughter of Nazi sympathizers who took over his home in Germany after his family was expelled; a claim that anti-Semitic and racially motivated incidents were ignored by the East Brunswick school board; boisterous town hall meetings where embattled Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Dist. 11) would not meet his constituents; and the controversy surrounding Jewish efforts to resettle Syrian refugees throughout New Jersey.
Highlights of our Jewish community coverage include a look at our remaining roots in Newark; a first-person walk through 1950s Maplewood; Garden State expats who are part of the LGBTQ community in Israel but still in the closet at home; and the poignant closures of Temple Emanu-El in Livingston and Temple Beth Ahm in Verona.
I wrote that I intended to provide our readers with “a mix of solid reporting, thoughtful analysis, balance, humor, and genuine emotion.” In the last 12 months I’ve written about Yom Kippur appeals; a stuffed bunny and baby doll who travel to Israel; the enduring pain for parents who lose a child to terrorism; and President Barack Obama’s callous decision to abandon Israel to UN Resolution 2334. And, of course, I wrote often on our new commander in chief.
While anecdotal evidence suggests we’ve had success in increasing the dialogue between members of different communities, readers haven’t been shy about calling me out for my views on the president, which have been, admittedly, less than charitable at times. I’ve been called anti-Israel (I’m an unabashed Zionist), anti-Orthodox (I’m Orthodox), anti-Semitic (you guessed it), and a kapo, which is too offensive to joke about. And though I continue to encourage your continued feedback — positive and negative — it’s troubling to see how often people resort to ad hominem personal attacks when they disagree with my opinion.
Early on several of our loyal readers expressed concern that NJJN, under The New York Jewish Week, would cease to be a community newspaper. We’re ever cognizant of this and since Day One we’ve worked hard to allay those fears and demonstrate our commitment to covering the Greater MetroWest community. One example of these efforts was a program, cosponsored by The Jewish Week and the MetroWest federation, in which Yossi Klein Halevi and Bret Stephens discussed the impact of the 1967 Six-Day War, now 50 years later. More than 400 members of our community crammed into the Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus in Whippany to hear these top-flight journalists.
For all the changes in look and content, our commitment remains, as I wrote last year: “NJJN is and has always been a community newspaper.”
Thank you for sticking with us to see how it has evolved, and we hope you’ll join us for the inevitable roller coaster ride of 5778.
Shana tova umetuka—wishing you and yours a sweet new year.