I’ve been criticized, mocked, scorned — and that’s just by family members. But wished out of existence, along with my livelihood? Never, until this:
The New Jersey Jewish News doesn’t deserve to exist, as far as I’m concerned. If it goes under and Jersey Jews must instead read the NJ-themed page of the NY Jewish Week or a “local news” feed from the Forward, well, so be it.
That comes from Jewschool blogger “Kung Fu Jew,” in an otherwise trenchant and provocative critique of the “alter kackers” in the Jewish press by a self-proclaimed “younger folk.” I’d like to say I wasn’t hurt, but I sorta was, especially since I’ve always been a fan of Jewschool and have given it a shoutout in a few columns and blog posts. And KFJ identifies him/herself as someone who ran New Voices magazine a few years ago. I’ve been a supporter of New Voices, teaching workshops at their conventions and attending a recent fundraiser. So yeah, I’m a little hurt.
And I also like to think I’ve made the NJJN a venue for some of the content KFJ pines for, to whit: articles that treat intermarriage as a reality, not a “challenge”; articles that challenge Israeli politicians and policies; articles that “cover the fringe” where somebody has defined Jewishness in a new or interesting way; investigative journalism into the Organized Jewish Community; and themes beyond the Jewish community, including genocides elsewhere and other religions.
(I’m not even sure why KFJ singled us out — I didn’t participate in the AJPA conference call that is the occasion for the blog post.)
And KFJ is right that “Jewish newspapers can’t accomplish lots of that” — or can’t accomplish that to the degree that KFJ would like to see. But it’s not “because most of them are not newspapers, they’re newsletters for the very Jewish ‘powers that be’ that Jewish media should watchdog.” It’s because — and this may be hard for KFJ to accept — not every reader expects the same things out of Jewish media that KFJ does.
Which brings me to the “New Jersey Jewish News doesn’t deserve to exist” thing. Let’s say we’re as lame as KFJ thinks we are. Let’s say we never report “on the fringe,” or invite young people to contribute, or do investigations (which we and many others like us do, but never mind). For many of our readers, the local Jewish paper remains a lifeline for info about their friends and neighbors, about their local institutions, about the wider Jewish world brought to them via JTA or our local perspectives on national and international events. It’s where they like to be heard, in letters pages and the oped pages. They too might like the sort of boundary-breaking conversations KFJ is talking about. but that’s not all they want.
True, this may be a generational thing. And that as far as younger readers are concerned, we’re a lost cause. That’s too bad, but it’s also the way of the world. Network television had a long run, as did the vinyl record album, and the paperback book. A new generation may not turn to them, but that doesn’t invalidate the original exercise.
Sorry to say, KFJ, in 20 years time you and your comrades-in-blogs will be scorned and ‘buked by Jews a generation younger, who will titter at your “edgy” opinons and “fringe” ideas. And, like me, you’ll read and listen to these folks and try to figure out ways to join their conversation, and invite them to yours, without tearing down what has worked for you.
But you’ll also see value in continuing to serve your own generation and those older — and recognize the young person’s mistaken belief (and here I do sound like an alter kaker) that the world’s birth coincided with their own.
[UPDATE: Jewschoolers respond in the comments section below.]