Jewish Light at Sixty; Readers Top Priority

Jewish Light at Sixty; Readers Top Priority

This week’s edition of the St. Louis Jewish Light marks exactly 60 years and one day since the very first issue of the original St. Louis Light was published by what was then called the Jewish Federation’s Jewish Welfare Fund, on Feb. 20, 1947. Librarians around the nation and some sharp-eyed local readers often ask, why does the Jewish Light nameplate indicate “Founded 1963,” while the Volume Number is now at 60? Technically, the St. Louis Jewish Light has been in continuous publication since Volume One, published 60 years and one day ago. The publication was “re-organized” in journalistic terms in 1963, when the newspaper added the word “Jewish to its name and became a separate not-for-profit corporation from the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, but still linked to the Federation’s family of agencies.

The original St. Louis Light effectively served the needs of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis as a “house organ,” from 1947-1963, primarily focused on the annual Federation Campaign, but also containing local, national and international news, including a front-page story about the visit to St. Louis by “Goldie Meyerson,” who later changed her name to the more Israeli Golda Meir. The Jewish community at the time was served by the Missouri edition of The National Jewish Post & Opinion; the outside four-page “wrap-around” of the Jewish Post contained local news items, while the inside pages contained national and world news and features; the Post would later discontinue its local edition targeted to Missouri audiences.

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Back in 1963, the Jewish Federation Public Relations Committee was chaired by the late Morris Pearlmutter, a remarkable and visionary community activist who was vice president for public relations and advertising for Edison Brothers Stores. Serving with Pearlmutter on that committee were the late Alfred Fleishman of Fleishman-Hillard Public Relations; Samuel Krupnick of Krupnick Advertising; Harold Hartogensis, another local communications and marketing expert; Selwyn Pepper of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial staff and community volunteer-activist Phyllis Hausfater. Pearlmutter came to the conclusion that the local Jewish community needed an autonomous, locally-edited, full-service Jewish community newspaper with its own Board of Trustees. The result was the creation, in 1963 of the St. Louis Jewish Light Board of Trustees, which officially governs the newspaper; since 1972 the Jewish Light has had the formal status of constituent local agency of the Jewish Federation, but the Board and its Editorial Committee, in consultation with the professional staff, sets the editorial policies of the paper.

In 1947, as in 2007, the Jewish population of St. Louis has been remarkably stable, estimated through the decades at between 53,000 and 60,000; the Jewish Light has consistenly been received in over 12,000 local Jewish homes, and our readership has been estimated at about 45,000, including passed-along copies, etc.

In 1947, the page one box stated two purposes for the original Light: “One, it is frankly a campaign publication to report information and progress of the forthcoming Jewish Welfare Fund drive, which will seek to raise the largest sum of money ever asked from the Jewish community of St. Louis, and Two, and equally important, it will seek to keep you fully informed of all phases of the world, national and local situations which make it imperative that we in St. Louis give twice as much as last year.” Page One of that first issue of the St. Louis Light announced that community leader Alfred Fleishman would chair the Jewish Welfare Fund Drive, which “will aim for the largest goal in history to meet urgent needs,” according to the lead headline.

The St. Louis Jewish Light has constantly “re-invented” itself to keep up with the rapidly changing needs of our readers, and this 60th Anniversary year is no exception. In this edition, Mike Sherwin of the Jewish Light staff reports on a new readership survey to assess what our current audience would like to see added or dropped in our publication. We have begun our own Jewish Light Web site, www.stljewishlight.com, in recognition that an increasing number of our younger readers obtain their news and information on-line. This is not your Zayda’s or Bubbe’s Jewish Light, nor will it be exactly the same as the Jewish Light enjoyed when your parents were young. We remain committeed now as in 1947 to providing our readers with the best possible locally edited Jewish community newspaper. In order to make sure we are successful in this regard, we urge our readers to take the time to fill in the survey and return it promptly to the Jewish Light. We hope that the St. Louis Jewish Light will “keep on shining” for many years to come and will always shed light on the interests and activities of our local, national and global Jewish communities.