The Jewish State, an independent weekly newspaper covering central New Jersey, folded suddenly for the second time in its 14-year history, a victim of the economic downturn that has hit newspapers hard throughout the country.
The paper’s publisher, Elias (Elly) Ezra, of Eliyahu Publications in Green Brook, announced the closing to the staff on July 12.
He declined a NJ Jewish News request for comment.
“Obviously we’re all disappointed that it didn’t work out,” said managing editor Seth Mandel. “It was something we really loved very much. It was really a passion for every one of us. One of the great things about being involved with a local paper, Jewish or not, is that you really get wrapped up in the lives of the local community. You see ordinary people doing extraordinary things. You feel the community’s pain and celebrate its joys.”
The paper was initiated in August 1996 by Edison resident Ron Ostroff as a community publication based in Highland Park. It soon spread beyond Middlesex County to include coverage of Monmouth, Mercer, Somerset, Hunterdon, and southern Union counties as well.
The free publication was available in supermarkets, synagogues, and bagel shops and often was engaged in a friendly competition with NJJN in overlapping coverage areas.
“It’s a shame to see the end of any publication, especially a Jewish paper. A community benefits from diverse voices,” said Andrew Silow-Carroll, editor-in-chief of NJJN, which is published in partnership with Jewish federations in Middlesex and Monmouth counties and three other communities in the state. “We have an economy of scale that is helping us weather the downturn, but we know well the huge pressures niche publications are under.”
The Jewish State also took on publication of The Jewish Journal, a newspaper sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Ocean County, and The Speaker, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Somerset, Hunterdon & Warren Counties.
The papers were sold to NJ Bluefish Publications in October 2005, which closed them eight months later. They were resurrected in November 2006 by Ezra, who acquired The Jewish State name.
The paper tried to increase its coverage area into Hudson County through a special monthly section, hiring Jacob Kamaras as a freelancer to cover the community at the end of 2009.
“We stopped distributing because the experiment didn’t work,” said Kamaras, who was a full-time reporter by the time of the paper’s closing. “There didn’t seem to be the infrastructure in that community to support a Jewish newspaper.”
Kamaras is sorry to see the paper go. “I really enjoyed my time there and broadened my horizons in Jewish journalism. I think we provided a real service to the community,” he said. “We were a voice for community activities and really tried to go beyond the local stories by providing national and international news. It was a very versatile paper that way.”