I have a handwritten note in my paper calendar for the start of July that reads “send HH greetings email.” It’s my annual reminder to reach out to every pulpit rabbi in our coverage areas and ask for a 300-word message to be published at the start of the High Holiday season. Their introspection, and words of encouragement and renewal, were a fixture in our pages.
Over the years I learned to send my bulk emails in July since many rabbis take a vacation in August and return in time for the crush of holiday preparations. I liked to give the spiritual leadership time to compose a thoughtful piece, and time for our editorial team to begin preparing in late August dozens of remarks for appearance in all four editions of our newspaper — Greater MetroWest, Princeton Mercer Bucks, and Middlesex and Monmouth Counties.
My job at the paper was, well, to manage operations. I was the forward-thinking planner and the day-to-day liaison with our writers, staff, and colleagues at The New York Jewish Week. I set the deadlines and tracked the flow of content to make sure the right stories appeared in the right paper at the right time.
After almost four years as managing editor of NJJN, and nearly 20 in Jewish journalism, I’m familiar with the rhythms of a publication that is symbiotic with our Jewish calendar, and I always appreciated the fact that my months, and days of the week, were interwoven with my faith.
Meeting others who find ways to integrate Judaism into their lifestyles — whether that’s through worship, song, literature, food, activism, or something else — has been the absolute highlight of my journalism career.
I’ve lived my life with a comforting repetition and flow to the Hebrew and secular months. For instance, following Tu b’Shevat, the overlooked celebration of trees that usually falls during the cold of February, I know I need to gear up at home, and at work, for the spring holidays. When my kids were little my Jewish timing was in sync with the NFL calendar as I’d shop on Super Bowl Sunday for materials to make their Purim costumes because the craft stores were empty.
Purim is the start of a succession of spring holidays with numerous angles to cover — they include Passover, Yom HaShoah, Yom Hazikaron, and Yom Ha’Atzmaut, to name a few. For any holiday or event, our job was to cover how it’s observed locally and make it relatable to our readers; I consider NJJN the archivist of our local Jewish lives.
The same intensity repeats itself in the late summer and fall with the advent of Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, when we have more pages to fill thanks to the expansion of advertisements, and often, fewer workdays because of holiday observances. For me, these times of year mean commandeering my home and office with military-like precision. Lots of “to do” lists in my notebook for NJJN and lists for menu planning and grocery shopping on notepads inside my kitchen junk drawer. Often the two would collide when, to make up for lost time, Sundays became work-at-home days — before that was en vogue — and I would pause my editing to stir a soup, practice Torah reading, or take salmon out of the oven.
This is the rhythm of a Jewish newspaper and of a Jewish home, and I appreciate the intersectionality of my professional life. I’ve loved working in a place where Hebrew expressions are understood by the lone non-Jewish employee, our style guide includes the word tuchas, and on Chanukah a new (unlit) candle will be added each day to the office menorah. Most often my weeks ended on a Friday afternoon by bidding Senior Writer Johanna Ginsberg “Shabbat Shalom,” and coming home to prepare for my family’s weekend reprieve.
When I reflect on my career in Jewish journalism, I realize the strictures with which someone observes Judaism was never interesting to me. What I find meaningful, and will continue to seek, is uncovering the ways that people opt in and make Judaic practices their own.
Before my time at NJJN, I freelanced for The Jewish Week and once wrote about a professional dancer who walked to her performances on Shabbat, rather than take a cab or the subway, so she wouldn’t violate prohibitions. While at NJJN, I edited countless stories about activists for refugees or immigrant rights who cited Jewish texts as the sources of their efforts at tikkun olam. And when researching stories for our biannual arts guides, which I edited, I enjoyed learning about how musicians, actors, dancers, and other creative people connect their family histories and heritage to their art; I remain in awe of performers who are outspoken about their Jewish identity during a time when others eschew that pride to champion anti-Zionist ideologies.
I was recently in touch with a reader who told me her subscription to NJJN was her Jewish connection. I’m grateful that ties to my faith will remain in my workaday life and I apologize for leaving her, and thousands of others, unmoored next week.