Upholding the values of independent journalism


A speaker at the recent J Street National Conference told the following story:

A man went to a local synagogue and was waiting outside the sanctuary when the rabbi spotted him. The rabbi introduced himself, welcomed him and invited him to enter the sanctuary where the service was about to begin.

“I don’t know, Rabbi,” the man whispered. “The problem is, I don’t believe in God.”

“No problem,” the rabbi replied. “You’re welcome anyway. Come in, see what it’s all about, stay for the kiddush after the service, meet a few people. We’ll schmooze, have a little drink, maybe discuss the weekly portion. And after that, why don’t you join me and my family for lunch? Let’s get to know each other.”


The following week, the rabbi encountered another person, this time a young woman, whom he did not recognize also waiting outside of the sanctuary. “Come on in,” he urged her after introducing himself.

“I don’t know,” the woman whispered. “The truth is, I have horrible doubts about the policies of the Israeli government, especially the settlements. I’m not even sure if I support Israel any more.”
“Then, what are you doing here?” the rabbi said sternly, pointing toward the exit.

At a time when we in the organized Jewish community have closed off so much discussion about Israel, making it almost a taboo subject, the Washington Jewish Week continues to be a place where such open discussion can and does take place.

Unlike so many Jewish newspapers around the country which are either owned, heavily subsidized or controlled by local federations, the Washington Jewish Week remains an independent voice committed to the values of quality journalism.

That means maintaining most of the time a separation between news and opinion and opening up its editorial pages to a wide range of views, including even views that may not be popular with the conservative establishment and many of its readers and subscribers.

At a time when so many communal organizations demand an arid and false uniformity of views on Israel in particular, the Washington Jewish Week allows all opinions within the community to be heard.

We are a diverse community with a wide diversity of views. The Washington Jewish Week tries to reflect that diversity. Of course, it faces many of the same problems as the rest of the media – an aging readership and the challenges of remaining profitable in the digital age.

I suspect that readers of the print edition are heavily weighted in the older and more conservative demographic. But if newspapers are to survive, they must reach beyond that demographic, both in the technology they employ but more importantly in the views they reflect. They must question established views and occasionally take on powerful interests. A newspaper that closes off debate is a doomed news-paper, just as a community that closes off debate is a doomed community.

The WJW is an unappreciated treasure in our community. Steadfastly, throughout the years, under editor after editor and owner after owner, it has fought to maintain its independence and its editorial
integrity and vitality. That vitality helps sustain our community and is a fundamental part of our democracy.

May it go from strength to strength.

The author is vice president of communications for J Street and a contributor to WJW’s book reviews.

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