August 31, 2011
The American Jewish community spends a fortune every year trying to keep Jews connected to their Judaism. Much of that money goes to what I call “Please-Come-Here” Judaism: Jews are invited to attend special Jewish activities in the hope that this will entice them to come and stay “under the Jewish tent.”
Many of those outreach efforts are smart and innovative. Still, philanthropists often wonder: Why are so many Jews still leaving the tent, and why are assimilation and intermarriage still so rampant?
That sentiment has a lot to do with why I’ve accepted the position of president of TRIBE Media Corp. and The Jewish Journal — rather than going back into the advertising world to sell potato chips and luxury cars.
You see, the reason I’ve decided to partner with my friend Rob Eshman, editor-in-chief and publisher of TRIBE/Jewish Journal, and the great staff here, is because I believe the Jewish community newspaper is one of the most powerful tools to keep Jews connected to their people and their Judaism.
Why? For one thing, because it doesn’t look and smell like blatant outreach. The Journal’s mission is journalism — to cover the Jewish world, all of it, really well. This is the best form of outreach: Judaism with nothing to hide.
No one else in Los Angeles does what we do, which is to bring you, week in and week out, a vibrant, open-minded and multifaceted Jewish experience.
Second, speaking of outreach, we have another advantage: We don’t ask you to come to us — we come to you, wherever you are.
We come to your kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, cafes, synagogues, offices, Shabbat tables, markets and, of course, your computer screens and, very soon, your iPads.
We connect Jews to Judaism and to one another, so that the grandmother who lives alone in Tarzana can read Rabbi Muskin’s thoughts on the week’s parasha; the hipster in Los Feliz who never goes to shul can catch up on new trends in Jewish music and art; the Jews of Pico-Robertson can learn what’s going on in the non-Orthodox world; and the JewBu in West Hollywood can find out about the revival of ancient Jewish meditation.
How else would a Chabad rabbi read an article from a Conservative rabbi to his congregation, if not for the fact that he saw it in The Jewish Journal?
Our power is in our diversity, which is the ethos of the new generation. This generation finds meaning in the freedom to choose. We give them plenty of choice.
It’s not a criticism to say that traditional outreach groups have a limited menu; they’re simply not geared to be everything to everyone.
The Journal, on the other hand, aims to offer just that: everything to everyone. Because we cover the whole Jewish experience, we complement and open doors for other outreach efforts. And we do it not by “selling” Judaism, but by challenging, reporting, debating, exploring, inspiring, questioning, enlightening and, ultimately, inviting Jews to enter the Jewish tent on their own terms.
Our biggest challenge is to increase our reach. There are about 600,000 Jews living in the greater Los Angeles area — and we distribute only 50,000 papers a week. As someone whose mission in life is to spread Jewish values to Jews and to the world, it pains me that we’re not reaching more people.
The business has changed in recent years, to the point that it’s virtually impossible to sell enough ads to expand our reach and put out the kind of thick, thriving publication we dream of. Because The Journal is a nonprofit — it’s distributed for free, or for a small subscription cost — we depend on help from charitable contributions in order to really thrive.
To date, though, we’ve been a little shy in asking for donations. Maybe that’s why they recruited me — because I’m not shy. I believe in the immense value of The Journal to our community, and that a donation to the paper is one of the best investments in our Jewish future.
So, yes, I’m going to go out on a limb and ask you, our readers, to make a minimum annual contribution of $18 to your community paper.
But wait, that’s not all: If you donate $100 or more, I will send you a signed copy of my new book, “Don’t Get Me Started,” a collection of my favorite Jewish Journal columns on Israel and the Jewish world, with an introduction by Rabbi David Wolpe. Donate now, and you’ll get the book just in time for Rosh Hashanah.
Your money will go a long way. For one, it will help us increase our reach among the 600,000 Jews living in our community — and that’s very good for the Jews.
This is your newspaper. We want you to feel like stakeholders, even when you’re upset by something you read.
Look, there’s plenty of stuff I see in The Journal that isn’t to my taste — and that’s a good thing! This is not the Pico-Robertson Suissa Journal; it’s the Los Angeles Jewish Journal.
We call it “We-Come-to-You” Judaism, and when we say you, we mean all of you. Now we come to you for a contribution, so we can reach more of you — and I have no doubt you will answer the call, if only to welcome me into my new job.
Please send your tax-deductible contributions to: The Jewish Journal, 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1510, Los Angeles, CA 90010. Include your return address or click here to donate online. And thank you!
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