When I joined The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles in late 2002 after 3 1/2 tumultuous years at the Los Angeles Times, I expected to stay at the paper a maximum of six months. My plan was to use The Journal as a safe haven while I hunted for a prestige magazine gig. But a funny thing happened on my way out the door. I fell in love with The Jewish Journal and nearly everything about it, including the myriad opinionated readers who never hesitate to let me know when they think I've blown it.
On Jan. 25, 1997, my oldest son, Zachary, became a bar mitzvah, a ceremony that inaugurated him into the Jewish community as a responsible young adult. It also catapulted me into the world of Jewish journalism as a family columnist. Call it writing therapy. Call it black humor. Dealing with the bar mitzvah preparations -- from the trivial to the transcendent -- sent me scrambling for books explaining the ritual's history and meaning.
Say what you will about journalism as a profession, you are never unemployed. Instead, you are "between assignments," a condition I found myself in during the early 1980s at the same time that The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles was preparing to launch its new Jewish Journal. The two situations dovetailed nicely, and for the first 11 years of The Journal's existence, I was its associate editor, until I retired in 1993.
I was cross when I arrived at The Jewish Journal on Oct. 9, 1986. I had earned a master's degree in journalism at Northwestern University and had fantasized about becoming an arts writer (at least eventually) for, say, The New Yorker. Also, I was a bad Jew, having been turned off by lackluster synagogue services. So after I settled down at my Journal IBM Selectric, I was shocked to discover I liked -- no, loved -- working at a Jewish newspaper.