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March 11, 1988 - Image 98

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-03-11

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What Do Jews Want
From Jewish Press?






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Just East of Novi Rd., Novi

FRIDAY. MARCH 11. 1988



os Angeles — What
does the Jewish com-
munity want from its
Jewish press? Should
American Jewish newspapers
be providing more conflict in
their coverage or promoting
communal institutions — or
Those were among the
topics discussed during a free-
wheeling program by four
local panelists (two rabbis
and two communal leaders)
on problems with Jewish
newspapers and Jewish or-
ganizations. The session took
place at the annual American
Jewish Press Association
editorial workshop in Los
Angeles, held recently at the
Hillel House on the campus of
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller,
the outspoken Hillel director
at UCLA, told the editors he
wanted to see more reporting
of community conflict in their
newspapers. "You aren't real-
ly challenging us,' he said. "A
newspaper without conflict is
not healthy, and I want to
read a Jewish newspaper that
is interesting enough to make
me want to read it, not just
look through it."
The rabbi called for more
investigative reporting, and
urged the American Jewish
press to analyze and question
rather than simply support
the decisions of the organized
Jewish community. "You
should be serving as a check
and balance to the Establish-
ment," he said.
As an observer of Jewish
life on campus, Rabbi Seidler-
Feller suggested that Jewish
university professors are an
untapped resource to the
organized community, a
group that has become alien-
ated in its feelings towards
Jewish institutions and
causes. "We are losing the
best and the brightest of
American Jewry," he said.
"These academics are the
most distant from us and they
have the highest rate of inter-
marriage." He attributed this
in part to his belief that
"there is a strong anti-intel-
lectual tendency growing
among American Jews. Soon
we'll be totally dominated by
"Maybe I'm an elitist," he
added, "but I sense a great
level of mediocrity out there."
He said this can be seen on
the university campus, where
"Jewish students flee classes
with Asian students because

the Asians ruin the [academ-
ic] curve. We're getting soft on
Jewish brains."
Rabbi Seidler-Feller's most
radical suggestion was for the
organized Jewish community
to develop a body politic not
based on consensus, and to
take strong stands on issues,
even if they alienate some
segments of the community.
Taking a very different
point of view, Steve Huber-
man, the executive director of
the Los Angeles Jewish Fed-
eration, suggested that
Jewish newspapers should be
strengthening and support-
ing the goals of Federation,
while acknowledging that it
is healthier for the newspap-
ers to be independent of

"Maybe I'm an
elitist, but I sense
a great level of
mediocrity out

Federation in terms of finan-
cial support. (In Los Angeles,
the Federation recently sold
its newspaper to a group of
private businessmen who are
major lay leaders of Federa-
tion. About half of the 90
Jewish newspapers in the U.S.
are published or subsidized by
their local Federation.)

Huberman cited a study he
did in Los Angeles, which he
said is "ten years ahead of the
rest of the country," on who
needs and reads Jewish news-
papers, and among his find-
ings: readers of Jewish
newspapers are getting older,
with 17 percent elderly; there
are fewer nuclear families,
and more intermarried
couples; Jews are becoming
increasingly mobile, and it
takes up to five years to feel
connected to a new communi-
ty; Jews are second only to
Episcopalians in affluence; at
the same time about 15 per-
cent of the Jewish population
is poor.
"Jewish identity today is
like a cafeteria," said Huber-
man, "with people free to pick
and choose." He called on
Jewish organizations to. "go
out into the marketplace
rather than waiting for Jews
to come to us."
Neil Sandberg, regional
director of the American
Jewish Committee, called on
Jewish newspapers to in-
crease their attempts to
attract readers unaffiliated
with Jewish organizations
and to provide more coverage
of interfaith activities. "Half

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