From his studio in Edison, broadcaster Al Gordon sends his mix of Jewish music, religious programming, sports, news, and golden oldies out into the world.
Although radio station WJPR, found at 1640 on the AM dial, has just a three-mile radius and can be heard only in Edison and Highland Park and some parts of New Brunswick, East Brunswick, and Piscataway, it has an international reach through the Internet at 1640WJPR.com and Tunein radio.
Gordon, 56, said he gets listeners “from around the world,” in particular for the broadcast he does at night. “I have listeners from England and Eretz Yisrael.” How does he know? “They comment on social media.”
The station, he said, is a part-15 AM station, which means it is “low power.” That designation allows him to operate WJPR without a Federal Communications Commission license. Although there are still regulations and guidelines that must be followed, under FCC licensing rules, stations generally must stay on-air around the clock; WJPR does not broadcast on Shabbat and certain religious holidays.
In 2011, Gordon said, he was looking for a way “to do something for the local community.” Tapping into what he knew best to do, he launched WJPR. “I got a transmitter and a lot of equipment and got a location on the dial no one else had,” he told NJJN.
Gordon describes the station as having a “hybrid format,” with Jewish broadcasting during the day and early evening and rock and roll oldies through the night.
The broadcast day kicks off 5-6 a.m. with Daf Yomi, the daily study of Talmud, with Rabbi Moshe Elefant, the Orthodox Union’s director of kashrut. Gordon himself does a live show 6-10 a.m. on weekdays, featuring Jewish music, news, sports, and considerable local content. Jewish music is broadcast the rest of the day.
Monday to Thursday, 7-9 p.m., the station picks up Talkline with Zev Brenner — from the Talkline Communications Network, a Jewish radio and TV network based in New York — after which the oldies format begins.
On Sundays, after a day of Jewish programming, oldies are usually played starting at 6 p.m., but Gordon does offer some specialty musical programming in the evening.
During the upcoming three-week period of mourning preceding Tisha B’Av (this year on Aug. 13-14), when observant Jews don’t listen to music, Gordon will send out rabbinical lectures and Jewish a cappella music during the day, but keep the oldies format, which draws many non-Jews, at night. During the nine-day period where mourning is particularly intense, the day programming will drop all music and offer only talk, interviews, and lectures.
Gordon has a long background in radio, including 11 years at WMCA AM, beginning in 1994 when it was a talk radio station, working on its Jewish segment. Today it is a Christian format station.
In Gordon’s early years growing up in New York, he first became enamored with radio while listening to top-40 radio station WABC. However, his family moved to the Miami area, where he spent most of his childhood.
“I used to hang out at a radio station there,” said Gordon. “Then one day someone was out sick and they said, ‘You’re on.’ Ever since, I was hooked. I’ve done rock, soft rock, country, adult contemporary, every format you can think of.”
The music played on WJPR is sent to him by companies looking to promote their artists.
“I’ve had many guests in the past, some relevant to the community,” said Gordon. “I’ve had on many of the local rabbis. But, I also have musical stars,” including Baruch Levine, Yisroel Williger, and Rabbi Shmuel Brazil.
Gordon earned a degree at Miami Dade College, and also worked for radio stations in Miami, Orlando, Staten Island, and Monsey, NY.
He co-owns the station with his wife, Alice, and spends much of his off-air time programming the station. The couple live in Edison and have two children and two grandchildren. Gordon attends two Highland Park shuls, Congregation Ohav Emeth on weekdays and Khal Chasidim on weekends.
His only other employees are an engineer and advertising sales staff. “That’s one aspect of the broadcasting business I’ve never liked,” said Gordon. “I’ve done broadcasting, engineering, and programming, but I’ve always found sales difficult.
“I know I have loyal listeners because they tell me every single thing I say,” said Gordon. “Sometimes the best compliment is when they don’t say anything, because if I do something wrong, I hear about it.”