NEW JERSEY — Jewish homes in South Orange and Maplewood, and across New Jersey, have been opening their mailboxes each week for generations, and receiving news of interest about the Jewish world around them in the New Jersey Jewish News: from the hyper local — such as start times for holiday services at different synagogues and who is memorialized in the obituaries — to local, national, Israeli, and around the world coverage of social and political events and trends. This week the newspaper becomes the latest business victim of the coronavirus pandemic, and will print its final edition of the paper, ending a 74-year run.
“We were having financial difficulties for quite some time,” said NJJN editor in chief Gabe Kahn, and COVID-19 was the death knell. As events were canceled and buildings shut their doors, revenue from ads from restaurants, businesses, and non-profit organizations cratered. Layoffs and downsizing could only help so much, Kahn said. “The writing was on the wall,” he offered; the staff knew they could not survive without their advertisers, and the advertisers could not afford to place ads any longer.
“It's sad on many levels,” said subscriber Connie Lior, who owns the gift shop CBL in West Orange. “As a weekly advertiser, I will miss being able to reach my customers. As someone who grew up in Maplewood and now lives in West Orange, my entire life has been chronicled in The Jewish News, from my birth to my bat mitzvah, my marriage, birth of my children and grandchildren and loss of my parents.”
At its height in the 1990s, NJJN was the largest weekly paper in New Jersey, with editions for Greater MetroWest (covering Essex, Morris and Union Counties and environs) weekly; the Middlesex and Monmouth editions were biweekly and the Princeton Mercer Bucks edition was monthly. Currently, NJJN ends its run with 16,000 subscribers.
Maplewood resident Johanna Ginsberg worked as a journalist at the Jewish News for 18 years. Being separated from the office and her colleagues will make her miss “the camaraderie and the collaboration.” And, she said, “I’ll miss serving the community, exploring its many varied facets, and shining a light on it.”
Will the paper continue online, as the NY Jewish Week — NJJN’s parent company — will do as it ends its own paper edition? “To my knowledge, no,” Ginsberg said.
“The New Jersey Jewish News has been a mainstay in Jewish households for decades,” said Michael Shapiro, founder and CEO of TAPinto; Shapiro is a former Livingston resident and a prior member of the New Jersey Jewish News board of directors. “I grew up reading it and it held special meaning for the Jewish community. It is a significant loss but I am confident the news of the Jewish community in New Jersey will continue to be told.”
Long time reader Lior is sad to see the end of the era. “I will miss that connection to fellow Jews in the area. And, of course, I will miss the excellent articles and editorials, even the feisty letters to the editor.” Lior said the loss of the paper is “truly a loss for the community.”
Editor’s note: A few years after graduating from college I started my journalism career at what was then The MetroWest Jewish News. The opportunities I had as an editorial assistant — like being part of the first Jewish press tour the German National Tourist Office had ever sponsored — would not have been afforded to me at a large daily in my first year of journalism.
The ensuing cover spread I penned, along with a long-form profile of the Jewish farming history of the Pine Brook section of Parsippany, earned me the 1996 Robert P. Kelly Award for excellence in one’s first year of journalism from the New Jersey Press Association.
I will be forever grateful for learning how to be a reporter from the tough tongue and genius brain of the late David Twersky, and how to edit from the eagle eyes of Debra Rubin and Abby Meth Kanter. My more than 15 years there included full-time, part-time, and freelance work, enabling me to have a flexible career while raising my children.