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Jewish Journal

The Heritage Folds

by Michael Aushenker

October 11, 2001 | 8:00 pm

After nearly a half-century run and years of financial difficulties, the Heritage Southwest Jewish Press called it quits with its Sept. 28 issue.

Founding editor-in-chief and current publisher Herb Brin defined the Heritage through his firsthand, colloquial style of reporting. Across his colorful career, the tough-as-nails journalist hounded a Croatian Nazi residing in Seal Beach, infiltrated the Aryan Nations compound in Idaho, and personally covered the Eichmann and Klaus Barbie trials abroad. While rival weeklies, such as the B'nai B'rith Messenger and the Jewish Voice, fell by the wayside, the Heritage prevailed.

Brin's intense, first-person style won his paper many accolades, including several American Jewish Press Association Rockower Awards. A hardened champion of Israel, Brin and his newspaper often fought for social justice and Zionist causes such as Soviet Jewry.

Now 86, Brin relinquished the weekly's day-to-day operation to son Dan in 1979 while he himself concentrated on writing editorials.

Brin senior started the Heritage in 1954 on the back of an anti-Semitic incident while he was a reporter at the Los Angeles Times. One evening, Brin returned to Times Mirror Square to find hundreds of Jews gathered in front of City Hall for a David Ben-Gurion visit. A fellow Times writer cracked, "They oughta drop a bomb on those people." That defining moment sealed Brin's destiny -- he quit the Times to serve "those people" -- his people.

Brin mortgaged his La Canada Flintridge home to open Heritage's original L.A. offices, (the editorial and advertising offices later moved to the Valley), and expanded the paper's reach to Orange County, the Central Valley, and San Diego. Dan Brin told The Journal that, no sooner had Noonan's swan song editorial hit the stands, he got a call from four investors, with whom he is currently in talks with. Dan hopes to get the Heritage's local edition back on its feet in a few weeks.

"I would like to invest more into an editorial budget," he said.

Meanwhile, the San Diego edition will continue, co-published by Senior Associate Editor Don Harrison.

Over the years, the page count dwindled from 24 pages at its peak to 12 pages (in its last issue), and there were many times when the paper almost folded.

"We're struggling," Dan told The Journal earlier this year. "But I'm not a quitter, and neither is my father."

Unfortunately, fiscal realities finally took its toll.

"The Heritage was a feisty and lively part of the community for several decades when the rest of the Jewish newspaper scene in L.A. was pretty much a wasteland," said Journal Contributing Editor Tom Tugend, who also wrote for the Heritage for more than 30 years (until 1993). "Herb never backed away from a good fight."

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