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Fire-damaged Jewish Paper Vows to Publish on Schedule

January 29, 2002
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The offices of one of the largest Jewish newspapers in North America, the Detroit Jewish News, suffered extensive fire damage Sunday.

No one was injured in the blaze, which took three hours to quell. The fire started in the early evening, a time when no employees were in the sprawling one-story suburban office.

The cause was electrical, and the fire was deemed an accident by the local fire marshal.

Editor Robert Sklar said the experience had been “a nightmare.”

However, the Jewish weekly will publish this Friday as usual, he said, with staff — many of whom gathered Sunday night to watch the fire — working from their homes and a nearby hotel.

“We’re a very close-knit staff that really has regrouped,” Sklar said. “There are a lot of important, significant issues that are on the table in the Detroit Jewish community and we’re going to continue to follow them closely, continue to serve our readers and be a force in the community.”

“The Jewish News continues to live; it’s just the building that was taken from us,” he said.

The fire — whose flames, Sklar said, shot 20 to 30 feet in the air — gutted the company’s business and graphic design departments. The editorial department had water damage, but no fire damage.

Arthur Horwitz, the newspaper’s publisher, said he was working in the building until 2 p.m. on Sunday. He then received a call at home that evening, alerting him that smoke detectors had gone off and the fire department was on its way.

“Your first reaction is, Thank God nobody was inside,’ ” he said. “Your second reaction is a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, and your third reaction is, We’re going to get the paper out as we have for 60 years.”

Horwitz said he was relieved that the fire appears not to be arson.

“There are some people who were looking for darker motives of people in terms of what happened, and it’s good for everybody that that does not seem to be the case,” Horwitz said.

A bound set of all the issues ever printed by the 60-year-old newspaper was removed from the building, but it is not clear whether the volumes will be salvageable. However, the volumes are also archived at a nearby temple.

Danny Raskin, a columnist and advertising sales representative who had been with the newspaper since its founding, apparently lost files dating back decades, as well as several autographed photos of celebrities.

The newspaper, which has approximately 50 employees, had leased the office space since the early 1990s, and it is not clear whether it will now move to a new permanent location.

Owned by Jewish Renaissance Media, a company in which Jewish mega-philanthropist Michael Steinhardt is a partner, the Detroit Jewish News has a weekly readership of 50,000.

Jewish Renaissance Media also owns the Atlanta Jewish Times, and it recently acquired, a Jewish Web site. However, Horwitz, who is president of Jewish Renaissance Media, said neither of those publications will be affected by the Detroit fire.

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