Massive Layoffs at Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent

unnamed%20(1)_2[1]I am horrified to read that the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has dismissed the entire editorial staff of the Jewish Exponent, including its editor Lisa Hostein, in order to “save money” by turning editorial management over to a non-Philadelphia corporate media-management outfit.

Ms. Hostein has for the last six years transformed the paper from a blind-eyed screed for a small segment of the Philadelphia Jewish community to a much juicier (and Jewcier) expression of and stimulant to Jewish creativity. Her institution of the weekly column Rabbis Uncensored, written by a wide variety of Philadelphia-area rabbis, has been one example of a ruach chadashah — a new breath, a new wind, a new spirit of grass-roots Jewish energy.

The Federation claims that its agreement with the Media corporation requires it to surrender appointment and control of its editorial staff (and therefore policy). A new managing editor is to be hired. How does that save money? Could not the Federation have insisted that the new deal include continuing the award-winning tenure of Ms. Hostein?

This decision is especially sad, given the recent advent of a new Federation CEO who herself has seemed to be open to a much deeper vision of the Federation and the Jewish community that it tries to serve. I hope that deeper vision can survive this blow.

A Modest Proposal to Prevent the Jewish People From Dwindling

Steven M. Cohen and Kerry Olitzky published a great suggestion in the latest issue of the Jewish Exponent, “Conversion Shouldn’t Be the Only Path to Joining the Jewish People”. The only fault I can find in their proposal is failing to having the vision to move more swiftly and embrace the ultimate solution to the falling Jewish population.

Cohen and Olitzky show how we can boost the Jewish population by eliminating the conversion requirement. In this way, those who are “atheists, agnostic, secular, or even committed to another faith tradition” can become members of the tribe. Instead,

Candidates would be encouraged to sample a variety of areas of Jewish civilization – such as politics, literature, music, comedy, social action, learning, organized community, Israel and texts – and to achieve a level of familiarity with and competence in participating in American Jewish life.

For those who come to desire official recognition, there could be a public ceremony and a certificate of membership in the Jewish people. Jewish cultural experts … would constitute boards that would oversee the program and would attest to the validity of the affirmation.

More after the jump.
Nevertheless, forcing prospective members of the tribe to watch numerous Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg movies and having a board convene to certify them one at a time is a tedious process. It might take decades to even double the Jewish population at that rate.

Instead I have stumbled on a simply but ingenious proposal: Eliminate the superfluous requirement to appreciate Jewish humor and Jewish food. (After all, there are some fine humorless, gluten challenged, or even hard-of-herring Jews and no one is proposing kicking them out!) At that point, we no longer need to have this board of “Jewish cultural expert” and can process the affirmations more “Swiftly”.

In fact, let’s eliminate the need to have prospect members of the tribe affirm their desire to be Jewish. If Mormons can posthumously convert anyone without their permission then why can’t Jews convert living people without waiting for an “affirmation” of their desire to join the tribe.

So by the power invested in me by no one in particular, I hereby declare that all of humanity alive today is part of the Jewish people, and is hereby officially “encouraged to sample a variety of areas of Jewish civilization – such as politics, literature, music, comedy, social action, learning, organized community, Israel and texts – and to achieve a level of familiarity with and competence in participating in American Jewish life”.

Congratulation. In one fellow swoop the Jewish population has gone up from  about 14 million to over 7 billion. This solves not only the problem at hand but many others:

  • Intermarriage is no longer a problem since there are no longer any non-Jews to marry.
  • There will no longer be any need for a “two-state solution” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Since all Palestinians are now Jewish, there can be one state which will be 100% Jewish.
  • Iranian Ali Khamenei will now be Jewish, so presumably he will enjoy a bagel shmear instead of calling for the destruction of Israel.

The list goes on and on, although to be honest I’ll miss have shabbos goys around to turn on lights for me.

Hell Appearantly Has Frozen Over

Will surprises ever cease. Not only are we having a “white Passover” thanks to a freak snow shower on the eve of Chag Aviv, but we are hearing praise for President Barack Obama from unexpected quarters.

Jonathan Tobin is known to our community as the executive editor of Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent from 1998 to 2008. Since then he has been the senior online editor the non-Conservative monthly magazine Commentary. He has never been a fan of the Democrats, but Obama’s visit to Israel last week seems to have impressed him:

But one thing has undoubtedly changed in the aftermath of the presidential visit to Israel: Barack Obama’s image as an antagonist of the Jewish state. In terms of his attitude toward Israel, in the past three days Obama has altered his status in that regard from being the second coming of Jimmy Carter to that of another Bill Clinton. That won’t exempt him from criticism, nor does it mean that he will have even a remote chance of succeeding in moving the region toward peace. But it does mean that many of his Jewish and Democratic defenders have been to some extent vindicated and his critics chastened, if not silenced.

Similarly, ZOA President (and Lower Merion resident) Mort Klein has villified Obama for his Cairo speech but now seems genuinely pleased with Obama’s latest trip to the Middle-East:

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) today praised several important, positive statements made by President Barack Obama’s during his visit to Israel. In speeches delivered in Israel, President Obama testified to the millennia-old Jewish religious and historical bond with the land of Israel; the success of Zionism in transforming the Jewish people into a genuinely free people in their own land; called for Hizballah to be labeled by all as a terrorist organization; called for the Palestinians to accept Israel as a Jewish state and for Arab nations to normalize relations with Israel; and affirmed America as Israel’s strongest ally and greatest friend.

More after the jump.
Finally, conservative PJ Media’s Ron Radosh wrote:

[T]o continue to act as if [President Obama] is an enemy of Israel is both counter-productive and tactically wrong, and will only alienate from both Israelis and American Jews those conservatives who continue to act in such a manner. If Obama makes a wrong move, then call him on it. But encourage him to – as a friend of Israel – do what has to be done to secure the future of the Jewish state.

Limmud Philly 2012: You don’t want to miss it!

Limmud Philly 2012, Friday April 27 through Sunday, April 29! PhillyLimmud is a widely acclaimed festival of Jewish learning and culture where 70 amazing presentations are scheduled this year.

Be sure to stop by the Philadelphia Jewish Voice table in the Hall of Community Organizations to express your Jewish media needs and views to members of our editorial team, and to receive a free Philadelphia Jewish Voice bumper sticker. You will also have the opportunity to buy autographed copies of Rabbi Milgram’s new book Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning, and just-released decks to Mitzvah Cards, in support of LimmudPhilly and the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

Rabbi Goldie Milgram, our Judaism Editor, will be teaching, among more than 70 amazing presentations scheduled:
Mark your calendars for

  • A cooking demonstration by a James Beard Award-winning chef who will talk about Jewish food around the world
  • A talk on the future of democracy in Israel by a past Deputy Speaker of the Knesset
  • A presentation on the Arab Spring by a media maven and co-author with Dennis Ross of a book on America and the Middle East

More after the jump.

  • A play about the history and absurdity of prejudice and the power of diversity performed by two very funny guys, one Jewish and one black
  • A discussion about the role of Jews in the 2012 presidential election led by the former editor of the Forward and the Jewish Exponent
  • A tap dance lesson set to Jewish themes taught by an artist who trained with Savion Glover and performed with Matisyahu
  • A screening of testimonies from the survivors of Rwanda presented by an Emmy Award-winning producer who trained under Ken Burns
  • An opportunity to hear and sing the new Jewish “soul” music with a local cantor who lived in both Austin, Texas, and Israel

It will all begin on Friday evening with Shabbat dinner and services. Havdalah begins at 8:30 Saturday evening, followed by a concert with the always delightful Maccabeats. There will  be multiple non-stop, simultaneous sessions, so you will have to make some tough choices.

Visit the LimmudPhilly website for further information and to register.

We look forward to learning with you!