Sometimes the best way to appreciate something is to imagine its absence. This can apply to a lot of things: people we love, books we cherish, restaurants we frequent, music we enjoy, pets we adore and, yes, even Jewish community papers we look forward to reading every week.
Why do I bring this up?
Because one of my lifetime goals is to help the Jewish philanthropic world appreciate the power of words — in particular, the power of stories and ideas to strengthen our connection to our Jewish tradition and our people.
Every year, hundreds of millions of dollars are donated toward building this connection. Most of the money goes to valuable outreach programs, schools, museums, camps and so on.
But too little of this money goes to the storytellers.
Who are the storytellers I have in mind? The community papers across the country that toil every day to bring you stories, ideas, opinions, news and culture that keep us connected to one another, to our tradition and to our world.
Here, in the vast expanse of Greater Los Angeles, The Jewish Journal has been connecting our community since Feb. 28, 1986, the date of our inaugural issue.
Week after week for the past 26 years we have produced and delivered for the community more than 1,300 different issues of The Journal. That’s a lot of ink — and a lot of Jewish connection.
Producing this “connection” doesn’t come cheap. We have to hire talented reporters to dig out and write the stories; we also have to hire a professional staff to edit and fact-check the stories, work with writers, look for fresh angles, assign new stories, lay out the paper, design nice graphics, find cool photos, send the final layout to our printer and, finally, distribute the finished product to locations all over the city, where, each week, you get to pick up the paper and enjoy the fruits of our labor.
You might ask: If it’s so costly to produce the paper, why don’t we charge for it, like the Los Angeles Times? Simply, because we believe you shouldn’t have to pay to stay connected with your community. The way we see it, keeping you connected is our duty — and it’s your birthright.
We’re grateful to have developed a thriving Web site with great bloggers and the very latest in mobile apps, which puts us at the cutting edge of news delivery. But the paper is still our bread and butter, and readers tell us over and over again how much they love it and depend on it.
The challenge is that with all that black ink, comes some red ink. The economics of our business today are such that advertising doesn’t begin to cover the costs of producing a high-quality paper. Sure, we could go cheap and publish only syndicated news and puff pieces for advertisers, which would certainly lower our costs — but who would want to read such a drab paper?
No, the paper you deserve is one that gives you fresh, local, independent reporting, as well as original insights, sharp analysis and inspiring commentary you can’t find anywhere else.
But to continue delivering this quality paper, we need the community to step up, especially the philanthropists.
Can we find enough philanthropists who will invest in this crucial vehicle of Jewish connection that reaches 150,000 people every week? And will major donors support us even though we can’t offer the traditional perks of charitable giving — like putting your name on a building or a wall?
We think so. We’ve been blessed in recent years to have attracted visionary donors who understand what we offer: not a building that people have to visit, but 150,000 little floating “buildings” that reach out and open their doors each week to engage the minds, hearts and souls of our diverse readership.
Our donors also understand that for thousands of Jews in our community — especially those who never go to synagogue or attend Jewish events — their only regular connection to Judaism and the Jewish world is The Jewish Journal.
For all those Jews who won’t come to Judaism, we must go to them. And the truth is, no one goes to them like The Journal does.
That’s because we offer them something unique: A 360-degree view of the Jewish world that doesn’t pick sides or play favorites; a paper that serves up — week in and week out — the whole buffet of our colorful community in all its fascinating diversity. Who else even comes close to doing that? Maybe that’s why one donor calls us “the No. 1 Jewish connector in town.”
Now, can you imagine if this No. 1 Jewish connector didn’t exist?
Neither can we, which is why I’m writing. For us to continue delivering this invaluable service to the community, we need to raise about $1 million a year. Yes, it sounds like a lot, but it’s really a tiny fraction of the enormous amount that is raised each year to promote Jewish connection and continuity. And no one connects Jews like we do.
We appreciate donations at all levels, though we also hope to attract (no kidding) more major donors. On that note, if you’re interested in making a serious investment in the Jewish future, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll buy you lunch.
There are 150,000 reasons why you’ll get a great return on your investment.