Wednesday was an emotional day for current and former employees of the Jewish News. The announcement that the newspaper – a beloved fixture in Shabbat shopping bags for 23 years – along with the Jewish Chronicle, the world’s oldest Jewish newspaper, had been put into liquidation shocked the community and trended on social media. Had the synagogues been open it would have been the only kiddush conversation this Shabbat.
Like most newspapers, Jewish News and Jewish Chronicle have struggled to remain viable in the face of high costs, low advertising and online news. Jewish News was only able to give the community a newspaper, website and events thanks to its owner Leo Noe’s support. Some months we broke even, at Pesach and Rosh Hashanah we even made a profit, but relied on Leo to keep the presses rolling year round. Event advertising was our matzah and butter, so the virus lockdown has pushed us and the JC over the edge.
Of course, in these digital days a newspaper shutting isn’t news. Indeed, the 60-year-old Canadian Jewish News also closed its doors this week. Newsprint is at the mercy of market forces like any other business. But newspapers, especially communal ones, aren’t like any other business – they are immeasurably more than profit and loss. They are the heartbeat of those who read them. They are where lives are charted, good times celebrated and bad times shared. When a newspaper dies part of the community it served, often for a century or more, dies too.
My first newspaper article appeared in the esteemed Viewpoint section of the Wembley & Harrow Independent in 1988. I still have the letter local MP Rhodes Boyson wrote congratulating a 17-year-old for his powerful polemic on counterfeit t-shirt sellers at a T’Pau concert at Wembley Arena. I put my heart and soul into that piece. Thirty years on I still recall the sinking feeling when the Wembley & Harrow Independent folded. It felt like I’d been silenced.
If next week’s Jewish News is to be the last, sincere and heartfelt thanks are due. To journalist Matthew Kalman and businessman Michael Sinclair for founding the then London Jewish News in 1997. To the editors who came before: Matthew Kalman, Stuart Brodkin, David Garfinkel, Charles Golding and Zeddy Lawrence.
To all the loyal and talented professionals I’ve toiled alongside in my 11 years in the editor’s chair. And, especially, to news editor Justin Cohen, who merits an MBE, if not a knighthood, for dedicating 18 years to the community and publication, starting as an intern.
The JN’s achievements are numerous and unique. Proudest among them are the Duchess of Cambridge’s photographic tribute to Holocaust survivors, getting Sir Nicholas Winton on a Royal Mail stamp, our Jewish Schools Awards, dazzling Night of Heroes and 12 joyous annual simcha shows.
For all of us, producing a weekly Jewish newspaper has truly been a labour of love. So many memories. So many stories (and press night kosher takeaways) shared.
I am pleased to say there are positive efforts to fund a future title, one hopefully as free from vested interest as the JN and JC proudly were. Our community dearly needs a vibrant, independent and secure newspaper. Like a synagogue, it’s where we turn to feel part of something bigger.
Without one, we’ll all feel less connected.