Humbled and honored

Jewish Light Editorial

Is it important to have an independent Jewish press?

Well, we think so, particularly this week, as the American Jewish Press Association released the winners of the 2014 Simon Rockower awards for excellence in Jewish journalism. The Light was fortunate to win five of these awards for last year’s coverage, bringing to 22 our number of AJPA awards for the past seven years.

What makes us particularly pleased about 2014 is the diversity of the topics and articles that captured the panelists’ attention. Our award winners included coverage of:

• The Ferguson situation from a Jewish perspective with stories, analysis, photojournalism and opinion.

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• Coverage of the plight of Jews in St. Louis who suffer from hunger, a condition that many in our community aren’t exposed to and don’t have occasion to personally experience.

• The impact of genetics on Ashkenazi Jews, particularly regarding the BRACA genes and their implications for hereditary cancers in women.

• The story of the St. Louis eruvim, the lines that circumscribe and define areas for local observant communities, their importance and how they are maintained and preserved.

These particular topics garnered recognition for 2014, but many other facets of our publication, from our online presence, to our editorials, to Editor Ellen Futterman’s News and Schmooze column, have been the subjects of awards in prior years.

We look at some of the publications and agencies that win these Rockower Awards and we are humbled. Hadassah Magazine, New York Jewish Week and many publications like ours that cover metropolitan and regional Jewish populations are among the winners. To be considered alongside them is a privilege we do not take lightly.

But why is it important to win awards? It’s not just to put plaques on the wall and pat ourselves on the back. No, it’s a measurement of how we’re doing in fulfilling our mission to inform, inspire and connect the local Jewish community. If, over time, the broad scope of our content shows the overall richness and eclectic nature of our local world, then we feel like we’re doing our job for you.

As last year’s study of our community showed, this is a changing Jewish environment. Different needs surface among different components of Jewish St. Louis. Young adults, seniors, synagogue attendees, intermarried Jews, all reflect essential pieces of the quilt that, when stitched together, represent who we are as a whole. So for us to be relevant, we must take coverage of all these elements as seriously and comprehensively as possible.

And viewpoints. Oh, there are so many of them. Perspectives on religion, on the role one’s Judaism plays in politics and governance, on Israel and the Middle East, on the ways we lead our lives as Jews. You may like our editorial views or not, but rest assured we solicit as many different takes on Jewish life as we can, and the more different ideas and observations we can provide, the more we can be the news organization of the full, vibrant Jewish community.

We are not inherently like many of our other agencies that strive to provide needed social services or specific programs for a dedicated constituency. But we convey the works of those groups, and the deeds of our selfless leaders, and write and talk about all the issues that our community holds dear. We allow a full and open public discussion about the ways we’re progressing and the ways we’re not, and we hopefully can challenge all to think well and aspire greatly.

We are of you and we are here for you. We relish the opportunity to recognize your accomplishments, kvell in your celebrations and, yes, share in your mournings. Whatever it is about you that ought be known, we want to be here to make sure everyone knows it and can feel a part of it.

We want each of you to feel a part of all of us. If that sounds like a lofty goal, no doubt it is. But when we see these AJPA awards, we know that professional journalists, the judges who determine the winners, are making a statement that we’re providing you with content that is meaningful and relevant and important to connecting the community. 

That makes us glad, and we hope it makes you glad as well.