Last week, Gary Rosenblatt, the editor and publisher of the New York Jewish Week, announced his retirement. In the world of Jewish journalism, the news was significant. It marked the beginning of another chapter in the development of our industry.
Rosenblatt, 72, is stepping down after 26 years at the New York Jewish Week, and an earlier two-decade run of leading the Baltimore Jewish Times and its then-affiliated publications in Detroit and Atlanta. During his near half-century run, Rosenblatt served as a mentor to a generation of Jewish journalists whom he influenced with his calm yet rigorous professionalism. Or, as the Baltimore Sun put it in 1996, Rosenblatt is: “a dedicated, thoughtful journalist, deeply familiar with Judaism and Jewish culture.”
Rosenblatt’s career in Jewish journalism included both the best and hardest times for our industry. In the 1970s and ‘80s, advertisers were competing for space in Jewish newspapers that could expose them to a tight-knit geographic and social community of potential customers. Indeed, some readers bemoaned the fact that their Jewish newspaper was so “full of ads” that there wasn’t enough space left for the news, opinions and information they needed in printed copy. During those years, Rosenblatt’s leadership and focus helped convert Jewish newspapers from collections of social announcements and press releases to what we recognize today as balanced journalism and informed commentary.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, Jewish newspapers became more professional, with better writing and a broader and more nuanced view of the world that went beyond the parochial. But they were also the years in which the cable revolution, followed by the internet revolution, made it more difficult for print journalists —and not just Jewish journalists — to meet an increasingly accepted high standard of quality, as falling ad revenue and subscriptions left fewer resources for innovation. The industry was required to confront the reality that for our increasingly dispersed and assimilated Jewish communities, the weekly Jewish paper arriving before Shabbat (and sometimes late) had less of a draw.
So Rosenblatt innovated, as have we. Although the frantic pace of technological change and robust development of alternative sources of Jewish news forced adjustment, some things remain constant. For example, our readers still want to know about the goings on in our local, national and international community, still want to learn, and still want to read the Jewish news and opinions on issues that are important to them.
We, and the many Jewish journalists who provide information and perspective to our increasingly diverse readership, remain committed to building community, by serving the vital purpose of informing and knitting together generations of Jews across wide geographic regions — in print, online and through social media. And for that, we recognize and applaud the professional approach and thoughtful innovation that Gary Rosenblatt helped introduce to a generation of readers and journalists.
We pledge to continue his exemplary legacy. JN