Gary Rosenblatt, considered the “dean of Jewish journalism,” who shepherded The Jewish Week into the digital age, nurtured two generations of reporters and established the paper as perhaps the country’s preeminent Jewish weekly, announced this week that he plans to step down as editor and publisher at the end of September.
“For the last 26 years I’ve been so fortunate to fulfill a dream in covering and being a part of the greatest Jewish community in the world, working with such talented and caring colleagues on both the staff and board of the paper,” Rosenblatt, 72, wrote in a memo to The Jewish Week’s lay board. “And now it’s time for me to make room for new leadership.”
The Jewish Week board announced that Rich Waloff, associate publisher and chief revenue officer for the past 25 years, will become publisher, and Robert Goldblum, managing editor for the past 26 years, will continue in his post.
A new editor is expected to be named by the board in the coming weeks.
Rosenblatt praised Waloff and Goldblum for their talent, professional commitment and friendship. “It has been an honor and privilege to work as a team with Rich and Rob for all these years. They are the best at their jobs of anyone I know, and like brothers to me. I am so glad they will carry on in serving our readers and community.”
Waloff was the business director of the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia for 14 years before coming to The Jewish Week. He was also president of the American Jewish Press Association. Goldblum was associate editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times, working with Rosenblatt for two years before coming to New York. Before entering Jewish journalism, he was an editor at The National Sports Daily, worked for newspapers in Richmond, Va., and taught in the English department at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“Gary’s role at the paper is more than as a journalist — and he’s a courageous one at that, often uncovering stories the Jewish community would have preferred to keep buried,” Goldblum said. “He is a kind of moral center for the paper. He has taught us all how to be aggressive but fair, tough-minded but respectful. It is an ethic that demands that we see ourselves as part of the community we are covering, that we are both outsiders and insiders. It’s a journalistic high-wire he walked.”
The president of The Jewish Week board of directors, Stuart Himmelfarb, called Rosenblatt “the premier Jewish journalist in America. His combination of editorial and reporting skills, and commitment to strengthen Jewish life has enabled us to achieve The Jewish Week’s dual mission of journalistic excellence and community building. His retirement is bittersweet for us all: while we wish him all the best as this new chapter begins and express our deep thanks for all he did as editor and publisher, we will miss his steady hand, sense of humor, moral compass and leadership.”
The board’s chairman, Peter Wang, added that “Gary’s writing has modeled behavior that we all should heed: that we can bring to light troubling issues and disagreements but do it with honesty, fairness, respect and an unshakeable commitment to the truth. We will miss Gary but we all have gained — as has The Jewish Week — from his talent and warmth, and we hope his inspiring words and clear reporting will continue on our pages and our website.”
The ethic of seeing The Jewish Week as part of the wider Jewish community that it reports on fueled the legacy projects Rosenblatt helped found.
Write On For Israel, an educational/advocacy program to prepare high school students for the Mideast debate on campus, was launched in 2002. Three years later, Rosenblatt helped create The Conversation, an off-the-record retreat that has, on a yearly basis, brought together a new group of accomplished, thoughtful and creative Jews, from a wide range of viewpoints, to discuss major issues facing American Jewry. More than 700 students have completed the Write On program, and The Conversation has more than 800 alumni to date.
Rosenblatt will continue to contribute to The Jewish Week through his writing and involvement with several of its educational projects.
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In a business that has changed drastically over the years, Rosenblatt’s career spanned nearly a half-century and was a model of loyalty and consistency: He worked for just two publications: The Jewish Week and the Baltimore Jewish Times. Along the way, he remade both of them.
Rosenblatt came to The Jewish Week as assistant editor from 1972 to 1974, and was named editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times in 1974, a position he held for almost 20 years. During his tenure in Baltimore the publication was widely considered the leading Jewish weekly in the U.S. He returned to New York to assume his current positions in June 1993.
Early on, Rosenblatt’s reporting set a standard for Jewish journalism.
His investigative report on the Simon Wiesenthal Center — thought at the time to be an untouchable sacred cow in the Jewish community — was one of two finalists for a Pulitzer Prize in 1985, the first time an article from a Jewish newspaper was cited in the competition, which dates back to 1917.
Rosenblatt’s investigation in 2000 into the actions of a well-known rabbi accused of abusing teens in his charge for more than 30 years — now seen as a watershed in the effort to alert the community to speak out on sexual abuse — led to the rabbi’s arrest and conviction.
Rosenblatt helped launch Fresh Ink for Teens, The Jewish Week Investigative Journalism Fund and The Jewish Week Forums, which feature interviews with politicians, newsmakers and leading cultural figures as well as panel discussions on the central issues facing the Jewish community.
“The world of American Jewish journalism will not be the same without Gary,” said Brandeis University historian Jonathan Sarna. “He has set the standard for quality in American Jewish journalism throughout his career. Because he himself cares so deeply about the Jewish community, Judaism and Israel, readers understood that the criticisms he sometimes published and the scandals he periodically uncovered aimed, above all, to strengthen Jewish life — to make ours a better, fairer and more righteous community. He also showed that a Jewish newspaper could knit together communal fractures: his papers appealed to the full spectrum of Jews and helped Jews of various streams understand one another better.”
A collection of Rosenblatt’s weekly columns, “Between The Lines: Reflections of the American Jewish Experience,” culled from pieces he wrote in his first 20 years at The Jewish Week, was published by the newspaper in 2013. In those columns — about 1,235 of them since coming to the paper — Rosenblatt, more than any other Jewish journalist, acted as a kind of barometer of Jewish opinion as he tacked left and right, trying to find an elusive center — and a place for Jewish unity — in a community that was becoming increasingly polarized.
In the end, in a work life that seemed more of a calling than a career, Rosenblatt managed to bring Jewish values and journalistic values into close contact. Almost miraculously, neither was sullied.