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Focus on Issues Major Breakthrough for Women in Jewish Journalism in Recent Years

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One area in American Jewish communal service in which women appear to have achieved a major career breakthrough in recent years is Jewish journalism, according to the findings of an informal survey by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency of Jewish news publications in the United States and Canada.

An examination of the editorial staffing of 62 of the publications, representing all but a few of those media, showed that nine of the publications had women in the categories of editor-publisher, co-publisher, and publisher/executive editor. No fewer than 38 — nearly 60 percent — of the publications listed women as editors and managing editors.

In addition, 16 women serve as associate and assistant editors and six hold various subeditor positions. The list of women staff members includes 13 editorial assistants. More than a dozen women were listed as editorial contributors. The findings showed that only six of the publications listed no women in any editorial capacity.

BASIS FOR THE SURVEY

The survey was based on an examination of editorial mastheads, the membership list of the American Jewish Press Association (AJPA), and listings in the current American Jewish Year Book.

The current membership list of the AJPA lists 51 full members and 13 associate members among news publications, for a total of 64 Jewish news publications. The 1983 American Jewish Year Book lists 71 such publications in the United States and five in Canada for a total of 76, By either yardstick, the publications studied by the JTA represent an overwhelming majority of such news publications.

The presence of women in key editorial positions appeared to be totally unrelated to such factors as geographical location, ownership by either Federations or private individuals, or size and circulation of publications.

Women serve as editor and publisher, or as editors and managing editors, on both privately owned and Federation-sponsored news publications on weeklies with substantial numbers of pages and wide circulation, down to letter-head size private and Federation-sponsored publications ranging in size from four to 12 to 16 pages, published and circulated within a limited geographical area.

ROLE IN JEWISH ORGANIZATIONAL LIFE

Women have been emerging in recent years in growing numbers as presidents of Federations, major power centers in Jewish organizational life, and of Jewish congregations. But this is considerably less true of appointments of women to key executive positions. Women remain a rarity in decision-making high echelon presidential and executive posts of major national organizations which are not women’s organizations.

An examination of the 1983 Directory of the Council of Jewish Federations indicated that 32 of the presidents of the 225 Federations, Welfare Funds and Community Councils listed in the Directory — about 15 percent — are women.

Since these are volunteer elective posts, the number of women in Federation executive directorships, or their equivalent, was considered more meaningful. A total of 28 women, again slightly more than 10 percent, were found to be holding posts as paid executives. Sixteen are listed as executive directors, seven are listed as executive secretaries, two as secretary-treasurers and three in the categories of administrator, administrative secretary and treasurer.

Women also hold executive positions in affiliates of the national organizations and in local units of such organizations but precise data on their numbers and duties were beyond the scope of the survey.

But comparison of the percentages clearly demonstrate that the deepest penetration by women in formerly all-male preserves in American Jewish organizational professional areas has been made in Jewish journalism.

COMMENTS BY PUBLISHERS

Two publishers, one considered the dean of Jewish publishers, and one of the relatively young men coming into the field as publishers, commented on the survey at the request of the JTA.

Philip Slomovitz, veteran editor and publisher of the Jewish News of Detroit, and Jerome Lippman, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Long Island Jewish World, expressed gratification at the survey findings.

Slomovitz, a vice president of the Board of the JTA, commented that The Jewish News may have been one of the pioneers in opening its doors to women for key editorial positions. He declared that “one of our earliest city editors was a woman whose skills I would match with the best,” establishing a tradition maintained to the present.

Lippman, president of the AJPA, commenting that the six publications without any women editorial representation were “six too many,” said that the high proportion of women in key Jewish journalistic positions meant that opportunities in Jewish journalism are wide open for the competent journalist, male or female.

He said the findings indicated that any Jew, man or woman, who wants to work in the Jewish community can rise to the highest positions of responsibility in Jewish journalism and thus make valuable contributions to the community on a professional level.

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