The changing of the guard

The changing of the guard

Dear Readers,

I am now editor emerita of The Jewish Standard, having ceded the hotseat (oops, editor’s chair) to our dear friend and colleague Rabbi Shammai Engelmayer, who has graciously agreed to serve as editor while this newspaper searches for a permanent successor.

I was the editor of this newspaper for close to 24 years, and although I love it dearly – and my colleagues and the community we serve – I’d like to devote more time to my family, my own writing, and my cats.

Over the years I was privileged to work with some lovely people who are no longer with us: the sweet and witty cartoonist Max Milians, smart and talented Managing Editors Shulamit Kustanowitz and Carey Londner, intrepid reporter Marion Kwartler, the diamond-bright Jerusalem Post columnist (and rebbetzin) Marilyn Henry, our darling receptionist Muriel Friedland, and the irascible but wonderful – make that just plain wonderful – Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg. I’ve made dear friends in the community and among my colleagues – too many to name, as they came and went (and I stayed) over the years.

I was privileged to talk – and listen – to some pretty amazing people: Abba Eban, Yitzhak Rabin (all too briefly), and Sister Rose Thering, all dead now, as well as many stalwarts still among us, like the activists Catherine Taub and Leonard and Ruth Cole and the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman.

Unfortunately, I’ve also seen a disturbing change in our readers and in the world in general: When I arrived at the Standard all those years ago, Jews, while they could be contentious, were a civil lot. But there’s been an increasing and devastating lack of civility – people thunder and hammer their views and don’t seem to care whom they hurt. We learned this to our pain and shame when a Jew – a Jew! – who listened to murderous rhetoric and was corrupted by it shot Rabin to death – Rabin, the warrior for peace.

On that same tack but on a lighter note, I’ve sometimes felt like that old-time vaudeville comic stumbling around the stage pleading, “Don’t holler; please don’t holler.”

As for Shammai, I know that if you “holler” at him he will holler right back – which is all to the good.

Shammai – who is also the rabbi of Temple Israel Community Center/Cong. Heichal Yisrael in Cliffside Park, among the other hats he wears – began his journalism career at the Jewish Press in Coney Island, around the corner from a small yeshiva at which he was teaching. He moved over to general journalism in 1968 and had a distinguished career as an editor and a reporter. In the mid-1980s, he returned to Jewish journalism when he became managing editor of The New York Jewish Week, eventually rising to the position of executive editor. For part of that time, he was my editor. I have been his editor since he began writing for this newspaper in the mid-1990s. Very often, he has been my sounding board.

I’ve called this farewell “The changing of the guard” for more than the fact that a new editor is taking the helm. This newspaper is a kind of guardian – of the old-time journalistic values of fairness and accuracy and love and care of the language. It also, by showing the different parts of this extraordinary community to one another, is a guard against dangerous divisions.

The newspaper is the product of a hard-working and gifted staff, including James Janoff, Marcia Garfinkle, and Natalie Jay, publisher, associate publisher, and advertising manager, respectively; Beth Janoff Chananie, events and gallery editor; Larry Yudelson, associate editor; Heather Robinson, assistant editor; and Jerry Szubin, production manager, Deborah Herman, graphic artist, and their helpers.

Also part of the Standard family are Warren Boroson, Lois Goldrich, Joanne Palmer, and Miriam Rinn, contributing editors, and Ken Hilfman, Abigail Klein Leichman, and Miryam Wahrman, very special correspondents, as well as former staffers Josh Lipowsky, Nancy Mandell, and Jane Rosen, who pitch in from time to time.

Our pages would be bare without the work of our iconoclastic columnist Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and our free-lancers, including Lloyd de Vries, Jeanette Friedman, Eric Goldman, Daniel Santacruz, Deena Yellin-Fuksbrumer, and Charles Zusman. I am proud to have been the editor of all these sterling writers, who have helped the Standard rack up a zillion journalism awards. (And a shainem dank to my chevra from way back, Maxine Apsel, Rebecca Lutto, Rabbi Gloria Rubin, Lil Rubin, and Edie Sobel.)

The advertising staff makes it all succeed, for without ads there would be no paper: Peggy Elias, George Kroll, Karen Nathanson, and Brenda Sutcliffe. And Jane Carr, advertising coordinator, Ruth Hirsch, receptionist, Alice Trost and Beverly Alexander, bookkeepers, Marion Raindorf, credit manager, and Janice Rosen, classified advertising director, keep this place running.

We’ve had some terrific interns, and this year’s crop, Noam Safier and Josh Isackson, deserve a special yasher koach. I hope they’ve enjoyed being here as much as we’ve enjoyed and benefited from their labors.

It’s been a great run, and I’m grateful to the Janoff family for the opportunity to learn and grow so much. And I’m grateful to our community’s leaders and all of our readers for their continuing support of this very fine newspaper.

I’ve thought of ending this rumination so many different ways, including Bob Hope’s “Thanks for the memories,” the Hebrew farewell l’hitraot, or the old-time journalists’ signoff – 30. But I’ll still be around for the transition and at peak times, so I will just say: 29.