The New Jersey Jewish News and its sister publication, The New York Jewish Week, combined to win three 2020 Simon Rockower Awards from the American Jewish Press Association (AJPA), as well as a pair of honorable mentions. The Rockower Awards— Jewish journalism’s highest honor — recognize achievements from the previous calendar year.
NJJN Senior Writer Johanna Ginsberg received a first-place award in the category of Excellence in American Jewish History, for “Research on ‘13 driver’s licenses’ in Germany leads to New Jersey” (Jan. 24, 2019). The story was about a group of Bavarian high school students who spent nine months tracking down descendants of Jewish German citizens whose drivers’ licenses — which turned up in a government office in 2017 — were confiscated in 1938. Three of the licenses belonged to family members of a Livingston resident.
An anonymous judge who reviewed the entry commented: “The strongest story by far. It humanizes history and connects two peoples to their past in a present-day setting. The article is highly readable through a clear narrative and good use of detail and sources.” This was Ginsberg’s first top honor in the Rockower Awards.
Ginsberg also received a second-place finish, in the category of Excellence in Personality Profiles, for “Local war hero awarded France’s highest honor” (June 26, 2019). The story was about Lester Bornstein’s receipt of the French Legion of Honor medal for his U.S. military service during World War II. Bornstein lives in West Orange and is the father of Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the United States.
Sandee Brawarsky, The Jewish Week’s culture editor, also came away with a first-place award — Brawarsky’s third overall — for “Close encounters across the security barrier,” about a 2019 visit to the West Bank and east Jerusalem, a listening tour for American-Jewish leaders to help them better understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The article, which appeared in The Jewish Week’s annual “Israel Now” section, was in the category of Excellence in Interfaith Relations Reporting.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our writers, reporters, editors, and everyone else on our team who work tirelessly each week to let our readers know what’s happening in our local Jewish communities and around the world,” said NJJN Editor Gabe Kahn. “Anyone who’s worked with our staff knows how much they put into the paper, and I’m so happy to see that others outside our newsroom recognize their efforts, too.”
AJPA also recognized NJJN Managing Editor Shira Vickar-Fox, Deputy Managing Editor Lori Silberman Brauner, former Bureau Chief Debra Rubin, Staff Writer Jed Weisberger, and Ginsberg with an honorable mention for “Eyewitnesses to history,” which, like Ginsberg’s first-place entry, was in the category of Journalistic Excellence in American Jewish History. The collaborative story, profiles of five New Jersey residents who contributed to the birth of the Jewish state in 1948, appeared in NJJN’s “Israel Now” section, edited by Vickar-Fox.
Finally, Kahn received an honorable mention in the category of Excellence in Writing about Sports for “Bill Buckner and the unforgiving glare of history” (June 6, 2019), which notes that Jewish values instruct us to celebrate the good in people, rather than fixate on their flaws.
Both NJJN and The Jewish Week compete in the category of newspapers and magazines with circulations higher than 15,000.
AJPA announced the winners on July 2 during its first-ever virtual award presentation; most years the Rockower Awards are presented during the AJPA’s annual conference. With the cancellation of this year’s conference, which was to be held in Atlanta but was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, AJPA has announced that Atlanta will host the conference in 2021.