Texas Jewish publisher dies at 85

NEW YORK, Jan. 28 (JTA) — Jessard "Jimmy" Wisch, a journalist and businessman who ran the Texas Jewish Post for 56 years, died in his sleep Saturday at the age of 85. As publisher and editor, Wisch was a fixture in the local Jewish community. Wisch and his wife, Rene, founded the Texas Jewish Post in 1946, working from their one-bedroom apartment in Fort Worth, near Dallas. During his tenure, Wisch supported the civil rights changes that took root in Dallas, which had been a Ku Klux Klan town in the 1920s and 1930s. He was also a dedicated Zionist in a city not known for its strong support of the State of Israel in its early years — and wasn´t afraid to disagree vociferously with those who criticized Israel. Indeed, say longtime friends, he wasn´t shy about quarreling with those who didn´t share his views — whether the subject was Israel or a change in the bylaws of the American Jewish Press Association, of which he was a past president. "Even if people disagreed openly with him, he still held to his own opinion," said Miriam Goldberg, the publisher and editor of the Intermountain Jewish News. His outspoken attitude occasionally got him into trouble with fellow AJPA members, and with the Dallas federation. But beneath that temper was a man with a "good soul," said Marc Klein, the publisher and editor of the Jewish Bulletin of Northen California. Even though they hadn´t seen each other in a while, Wisch would call Klein two or three times a year with business or journalism questions. Wisch´s death "truly marks the end of an era," said Robert Cohn, editor/publisher of the St. Louis Jewish Light and a former AJPA president. "Jimmy was a tireless advocate for a strong and independent Jewish press throughout his career." Wisch, who served as AJPA president from 1969 to 1972, represented the Jewish press on President Nixon´s historic visit to the Soviet Union in 1971. Wisch was born in Brooklyn in 1916, and his father died a few years later. Hard times hit the family during the Depression, and Wisch was forced to steal milk cartons from the back of trucks to feed his mother and brother, one of his sons, Steve, told the Dallas Morning News. One of his proudest moments was when he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in Israel at the age of 62. He hadn´t been able to have his at age 13 because of the Depression. Wisch served in the Merchant Marines during World War II, and met his wife while they were docked in Boston. After the war, the two married and moved to Fort Worth. The launching of a new Jewish paper in Dallas in the past few years threatened the family-run Texas Jewish Post, but Rene Wisch has vowed that she and some of their five children will continue to produce the paper. Keeping the paper alive is exactly what Jimmy Wisch will be remembered for, said Joseph Samuels, the publisher of the Jewish Herald-Voice in Houston. "He kept a weekly issue going, regardless of what it cost him. That will be his legacy."

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