And I mean that salutation literally.
After all, we’ve known each other a long time. You know me by reading this column and getting to know my views on a range of issues, and from what I’ve shared of my personal life. And I know you by meeting many of you over the years, reading your comments in letters and posts, taking your phone calls, listening to you and respecting your interests and concerns. You’ve given me advice, insights, criticism and compliments, all of which I’ve appreciated. Perhaps most importantly, as readers of The Jewish Week, you’ve shown your involvement in Jewish life and community, and I am so grateful for that engagement.
So here we are.
The end of the Jewish year, on the cusp of a new one. A fitting time for me to step down from this remarkable perch as editor and publisher after 26 years and make room for new leadership, ideas and direction.
I am so glad to welcome Andy Silow-Carroll into this space as editor, and Rich Waloff as publisher. Andy has had a sterling career in Jewish journalism over the last three decades as a reporter and editor for local and national publications, and most recently for the last three years as editor of JTA, the leading source of global Jewish news. His experience with digital and social media is sure to be an additional asset going forward. Beyond those tangible qualifications, he brings with him a deep commitment to both the Jewish community and journalistic excellence with a blend of wisdom, wit and an unruffled composure.
Rich Waloff has been the heart of The Jewish Week as associate publisher and chief revenue officer for the last 25 years, the steady engine that keeps all the parts in place. Despite the major financial challenges we and virtually all media organizations continue to face, he and our sales staff have kept The Jewish Week in the game, and Rich somehow finds time to be there for everyone in the office.
Fortunately for all of us, Rob Goldblum, our managing editor and quarterback of the newsroom for the last 26 years, will remain in his post and continue to make magic through his thorough and thoughtful work with the reporters, making assignments, shaping stories and brightening the writing.
I will miss the close contact and camaraderie with my colleagues and staff members who are devoted to helping The Jewish Week continue its vital work of informing — and connecting — our remarkable Jewish community. The same is true of the board of directors of The Jewish Week, led by Stuart Himmelfarb as president and Peter Wang as chair. I am deeply grateful for the board’s support and encouragement and trust over the years, displaying a commitment to this enterprise that is inspiring.
I plan to stay connected to staff and board members, and you, by continuing to write this column each month in addition to other reporting, and to stay involved with several of our educational projects, including Write On For Israel, which helps prepare young people for the challenge of the Mideast campus debate, and The Conversation, an annual retreat that convenes Jewish thought leaders for open-ended discussions about Jewish life.
Can We Remain United?
Looking back, the year 5779 was a hard one in many ways.
Not too long ago we thought anti-Semitism in this country was in decline, but it has become an increasingly real threat. A dozen Jews were murdered during Shabbat prayer services at synagogues in Pittsburgh and in Poway, Calif., in the last year, and anti-Semitic incidents have increased dramatically. American Jews, reflecting the larger society, are more deeply divided today — between generations, over Israeli politics and between a growing Orthodox cohort, much of it moving to the right politically and religiously, and the rest of the community, which is moving in the opposite direction. Israel, which once helped bind us together, has become the great divider. And as assimilation increases, I worry about whether there is enough of a sense of shared history and belief in a common fate that will hold us together as a people.
Each month, in the prayer to mark a new moon, recited before Rosh Chodesh, we pray that God will “redeem us soon, and gather in our dispersed people from the four quarters of the earth, so that all Israel may be united in friendship.”
The irony strikes me that the seeming impossible has been accomplished in our lifetime: Jews from around the world have been freed from persecution and have a state of their own to take them in. But being united in friendship? That still eludes us.
‘Too many of us live in Jewish silos, unaware or dismissive of those who are different from us in practice or belief.’
Still, on the eve of a new year, our tradition instructs us to look to the future with hope, to believe, as the daylight fades at Yom Kippur’s end, that we will be inscribed in the Book of Life.
One of the countless blessings I’ve had over the last 26 years at The Jewish Week, and the prior 19 years as editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times, is the chance to interact with people from so many elements of the Jewish community; and I value that diversity. Too many of us live in Jewish silos, unaware or dismissive of those who are different from us in practice or belief. We could all benefit from the passion for social justice and devotion to repairing the world that animates the liberal denominations, and the deep faith and commitment to Torah study, prayer and acts of chesed essential in the Orthodox community. Discovering the goodness in each other can go a long way toward uniting all Israel in friendship, as called for in the Rosh Chodesh prayer.
‘Returning’ To Each Other
Jewish tradition marks closure in varying and instructive ways. On completing each of the five books of the Torah in the synagogue on Shabbat, we say aloud, “chazak, chazak, v’neeschazak” — be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened.” Less known, but particularly tender and expressive, is a brief prayer recited on the completion of one of the 63 tractates of the Talmud. Known as “hadran,” from the Aramaic word for “return,” one who has spent significant time in study expresses a kind of love and friendship for the text; it is inanimate, but a powerful and instructive presence nonetheless. He or she recites: “We will return to you (and names the tractate), and you will return to us; our mind is on you and your mind is on us; we will not forget you — not in this world and not in the World to Come.”
The prayer speaks to me. And I feel its pull and poignancy when I substitute “The Jewish Week, its staff, board and readers” in place of a Talmudic tractate. May we continue to “return” to each other for many years.
Wishing each of you a healthy, sweet year of peace and fulfillment, and may we be, at long last, united in friendship.
Beginning in November, “Between The Lines” will appear the first week of the month. Read more from his column here.