Asher Gerecht, 97, a newsletter publisher who led the successful fight to win Capitol Hill press gallery accreditation for independent publications without advertising, died Nov. 18 at his home in Silver Spring, of natural causes.
He also founded the National Center to Encourage Judaism in 1985, a family foundation giving grants to organizations world-wide helping introduce people to Judaism. The Center established the Gerecht Family Institute for Outreach at Hebrew Union College, Reform Judaism’s seminary, to train clergy on conversion and welcoming newcomers to Judaism.
Gerecht was born in Kansas City, Mo., and graduated from Kansas City Junior College, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Chicago. After service in the Army’s 34th Infantry Division in Italy in World War II, where he was awarded a Bronze Star, he published short stories in Harpers, Esquire and other magazines and was a reporter in Hobbs, N.M., Savannah Ga., Chicago and Washington.
He started a weekly newsletter, Housing Affairs Letter, in 1961 with just 11 subscribers. He grew his business, Silver Spring-based CD Publications, to over 25 newsletters and 100 employees. Gerecht co-founded the Independent Newsletter Association in Washington, D.C. in 1962, which evolved into what is now the Specialized Information Publishers Association, and was awarded its Publisher of the Year in 1996 for his work on press accreditation.
In 1971 he hired a First Amendment attorney to pursue changes in Congressional Periodical Gallery rules requiring press members to be supported by advertising, arguing it infringed freedom of the press and pledged to carry the fight to the Supreme Court. The advertising requirement was dropped in 1973 without court proceedings. .
Gerecht was a member of Temple Shalom, and a former member of Temple Emanuel and Temple Sinai.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Gloria, and survived by his three children, Ellen (Joe Rosenberg) and Mike (Susan) of Kensington, and Dan (Cindy) of Ashton, Md.; six grandchildren, Barry, Shari, Carolyn, Yvonne, Liana and David; and four great-grandchildren.
Contributions may be made to the Silver Spring YMCA. Arrangements by Hines Rinaldi Funeral Home.