I joined the board of the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) in 2004 and am now in my third year as president. For more than 90 years, the JTA has been the definitive supplier of national and international news to Jewish print publications (as the AP is to local newspapers). Today, however, while we remain dedicated to serving our media partners, our main growth is online, as we reach more and more people directly via JTA.org, our daily e-newsletter and social media.
In print or online, we are uniquely focused on covering the issues and developments impacting Jews in the United States, Israel and worldwide. We do so with high-quality reporting from journalists around the world, without political or denominational bias. JTA keeps Jewish leaders informed, which is a great and important service. But there is something even more compelling about the JTA that is worth explaining — our ability to help keep Jews and Jewish communities connected in an age of increasing geographic, religious, political and sociological separation.
We are a people whose very identity is rooted in the concept of minyan, having long lived in ways that formed community. Before the concept was defined, we had created and made use of multiple layers of social networking. These networks did a good job of keeping us informed about communal news and evolving community customs, and, from time to time, alerted us to existential threats.
Our world has changed dramatically. Demographic studies continually show strong patterns of disaffiliation among Jews. I won’t try here to explain the multiple reasons for this shift, but it is clear we as a people belong less and less to synagogues. Across the country, most Federations and other communal organizations are facing significant challenges.
This brings me back to JTA.org. JTA is not the sole solution to disaffiliation in our community, but it is part of the solution. If we don’t have a method for communicating or for listening and reading and commenting about our people, we will stop existing as a community, as a people. All of this is happening within an identity that doesn’t have a central press office. There is no Vatican and there is no Vatican press.
Of course, our community does have access to news sources that, similar to the secular press, are advocating an agenda and pushing their respective beliefs. There are voices for righties, lefties, orthos, conservos and reformos. All good and fine, but the JTA.org is a different minyan: We strive to keep Jews and Jewish communities informed and connected by providing credible, balanced reporting on Jews of all religious, political and cultural stripes. We’re not here to choose sides, but to tell all of the stories.
JTA board is committed to doubling its readership in the next three years, while staying true to our editorial standards and values. Right now, we know that our core audience includes the leadership of North American Jewish organizations and Jewish activists who generally read us on a daily basis. Our board and staff’s goal is to expand readership beyond these groups. We believe this is not just “nice to do.” Rather, our ability to reach a significantly wider and younger audience — to create a Jewish mechanism for communicating with each other online — is critical for each of us, to the causes that are most important to us and to the greater Jewish community. We have to be able to know about each other, to talk to each other. We have to be able to go deeper than an occasional story in the New York Times and we need to hear the complete story of our people.
So help us to help ourselves. Check out the new JTA.org website. Go to jta.org/subscribe to sign up for one of our newsletters and social networking feeds. Tell your friends to subscribe too and make sure that the organizations you are involved with are using JTA to tap into the bigger story of Jews today.
And if you share our dedication to keeping Jews informed and connected, please make a donation today to support our mission.