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June 14, 2012 - Image 37

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-06-14

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Moving Forward,

Looking Back

To our readers,


alking along the streets of
between the monumentally serious nature
Downtown Detroit on a recent
of world events and the need to live and
Sunday morning as part of
enjoy each day. You can read profiles of
a large group raising funds to combat
both men in our special 'anniversary sec-
multiple sclerosis, I glanced at many of
the buildings that continue to shape the
(By the way, Danny is still cranking out
Detroit skyline. Erected during a bygone
a weekly Best of Everything column, look-
era of prosperity and possibilities, some
ing for nightlife and politely correcting
of these structures are now only shells,
waitresses when they don't bring him a
with pigeons their omnipresent tenants.
clean cup with each refill of coffee.)
However, others are being brought back
The growth and maturity of the com-
to economic life, their guts chock-full of
munity and the Jewish News were inter-
21st-century amenities and their exteriors twined. The publication's content reflected
restored and buffed.
a community that was trying to balance
Looking at the stately Penobscot
its Judaism and Zionistic fervor while
Building, itself undergoing a mini-renais-
actively pursuing the American Dream
sance with a new owner and plans for
in the face of quotas and other forms of
some updates, I imagined the hustle and
anti-Semitism. The pages of the Jewish
bustle of Griswold Street in the months
News were also capturing the "stuff of
after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl
life" (engagements, weddings, births, bar
Harbor. I visualized a short, bespectacled
mitzvahs, anniversaries and deaths), syna-
man dashing through the crowd and the
gogue sisterhood teas, ZOA Balfour balls,
building's doors en route to his new Jewish Allied Jewish Campaign rallies and reli-
News shoebox of a space. Once at his desk, gious school graduations. And with a loyal
I pictured him pounding furiously on the
and more affluent audience, advertisers
keys of his battered typewriter ... ideas as found the Jewish News to be an important
input with commentary, context and reso-
place to market their goods and services.
luteness for a numb and frightened
When I arrived in Detroit
Above: The Jewish
Jewish community as output.
in 1986 to publish the
That little man, Philip Slomovitz, News started out
Jewish News on behalf of a
in a shoebox-sized
had big passions as the world
Baltimore-based group that
and especially its Jews were being space in Detroit's
had acquired it in 1984 from
Penobscot Building.
drawn into the abyss. Those
the Slomovitz family, the
passions were community and
Penobscot office was a dis-
Zionism. And with broad and deep Jewish
tant memory. Situated on the second floor
communal support, Slomovitz began
of a low-slung Southfield office building,
changing the face of Jewish journalism
the Jewish News reminded me initially of
while making the Jewish News a vital
my bubbie's apartment ... you know, the
partner in the development of the Detroit
one that had doilies, plastic slip covers and
Jewish community and a Jewish state.
always seemed to have a faint, but distinc-
From the outset of the Jewish News
tive odor ... one-part moth ball, one-part
enterprise, Slomovitz had a sidekick:
mildew, one-part herring. The now-blind
Danny Raskin. They were the Mutt & Jeff
"Mr. S." was still writing his weekly Purely
of the community. Danny tall, Phil short.
Commentary column with assistance
Danny the man about town, Phil burning
from his reader and driver, Percy Kaplan.
the midnight oil in the office. Danny writ-
Danny Raskin was still writing his weekly
ing the breezy Jewish Youth's Listening
columns and aggressively competing for
Post and then adding Best of Everything,
advertising dollars with account execu-
Phil crafting the scholarly and ponderous
tives one-third his age.
Purely Commentary. Danny puffing on
And it didn't take long for me to learn
long stogies and Phil squinting through
how connected you — our readers — are
Coke-bottle-thick lenses. To the com-
to the Jewish News. Within the first few
munity, they provided a counterbalance
months on the job, here's a sampling of

what you shared with me:
An unhappy reader called
to complain about a story (so,
what else is new?). I can still
hear her voice ... "Mr. Horwitz,
you're new here but you need
to understand that WE can't
have that kind of story in OUR
Jewish News!" WE? OUR? Then
it dawned on me as the butter-
flies took flight in my stomach;
I don't have a few business
partners from Baltimore; I
have thousands of business partners in
Detroit who are passing judgment on
every choice of word, every sentence, every
ad we accept – EVERY WEEK.
The.Achilles heel of our production
and distribution process is the U.S. Postal
Service. While it continues to perform
well, there is an occasional hiccup. And
when that happens, I got the call ...
"Hello, I didn't get my Jewish News
today. Here is my address, I'll be wait-
ing at the door for it," one reader said in
stressed tones. While placing her on hold,
I was able to determine that everyone in
her subdivision would receive the Jewish
News a day late. When I communicated
this information to her, she was relieved.
"Good, as long as no one else gets their
Jewish News here before me!"
During intermission at my first JARC
fundraising event, a group of attendees
welcomed me to Detroit and let me know
how the new Jewish News owners moved
the obituaries from the back of the paper.
However, after an outcry loud enough to
be heard at Baltimore's Harborplace, the
obituaries were quickly moved back to
their accustomed location. "We showed
them," they exclaimed, and were telling me
that they would be ready to show me, too,
if I messed with THEIR Jewish News.
For most of the next 15 years, our focus
at the Jewish News was looking forward ...
new opportunities to grow the business
... new opportunities to serve the com-
munity ... Always forward.
Then came that Sunday in January of
2002 that stopped us in our tracks, the day
the Jewish News offices were destroyed by
fire, smoke and water. Trapped in the col-

lapsed building were 60 years
of carefully bound volumes
of the paper. While we did
have off-site back up for our
business systems and access
to microfilmed copies of the
Jewish News, it was on that
day, and during the months
that followed, that we felt your
strong embrace. Your offers of
help, notes, letters, food trays
and ongoing advertising sup-
port reinforced for us that in
our moments of greatest need and vulner-
ability, you truly acted like our partners.
And it seemed you always wanted to know
whether the bound volumes of the Jewish
News were salvageable.
While the nature of our business, espe-
cially in this era of hyper-communication,
requires us to always look forward, the fire
also reminded us of our responsibility to
look backward ... to preserve and respect
our community's history and be sure it is
used to help inform the decision-making
of our current and future leaders. To sup-
port that task and the educational mis-
sion of the Jewish News, the independent,
nonprofit Detroit Jewish News Foundation
was formed in 2011. It is currently secur-
ing the resources needed to digitize and
make fully accessible, via a Google-style
search engine, the entire archive of the
Jewish News. The story of Detroit's Jewish
community that you and your families
continue to shape since 1942 — every
keystroke and every photograph — will
be preserved.
We look forward to continuing to serve
you, our valued partners, in the years
ahead with useful, unique and credible
information while providing leadership
that helps assure Detroit, our Jewish com-
munity and Israel are vital and vibrant for
generations to come.


Arthur Horwitz
Publisher/Executive Editor

June 14 • 2 012


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