By Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet
One Paper Too Many?
I have been reading a lot lately about online media V print. I hate reading stuff online and I’m worried because you are my weekly fix and I am not inclined to read you online in the way I enjoy you each week as I sit down to relax each Friday night. Also, we are a small and declining Jewish community. At last count, there are I think four Jewish newspapers. Can we really, as a community, support that? I wonder if you could shed some light on all of this.
I wondered when this was going to finally come up. Print media is considered by all demographics, including Millennials, as more trustworthy than its digital counterpart. It takes time and effort to create and publish printed content. This engenders greater feelings of trust, than do the instant and disposable nature of digital content. Moreover, print is easier to read than digital media, and you can fit more information on a page than in social media content. It is argued print is more engaging and offers an opportunity to disconnect from the frenetic world and immerse yourself in the moment, as you do on a Friday night.
Yes, it is a saturated market but as small as our community is, an even smaller proportion of it keep to strictly kosher diets. Yet we have no less than six kashrut authorities. We also have at least six different synagogue bodies, numerous schools and much else beside. So four newspapers isn’t the end of the world. (To be sure, by my count there are six).
Of course, you can argue the distinction in that one is essentially reading the same news in each paper. But, as with broadsheets in general, there is always something one paper will carry over another. For example, the excellent exclusive interviews conducted by this paper, with high profile Israelis, including the Ambassador, before Rosh Hashanah.
It also helps that some of the newspapers are free, so one can pick up several whenever doing their shopping. However, it is also very telling when you look at the news racks which store these papers outside shops etc. Next time you walk past, take a good look and see which papers people are picking up and which ones people leave behind.
Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding. One newspaper is entirely reliant on a trust fund. Another is reliant on an anonymous benefactor. The Jewish Weekly seems to be supporting itself well on advertising. Which means, people are happy to put their money where they feel it well spent.
It’s also worth pointing out, when the Jewish Weekly launched, some were supposedly hell-bent on squashing it. It is alleged that there are still some who try hard to malign it amongst potential advertisers. You only do that if you feel threatened.
Were there teething problems at the Jewish Weekly? It has only been around a short while, compared to others that have been around much longer. It can be safely assumed they endured similar problems at the outset. On the upside, when the Queen died, others didn’t report on it till the following week. The Jewish Weekly featured it as a headline that very day. And now that Liz Truss has resigned as PM, once again, other papers missed the headline, but you’re looking at it at the front page of this paper today!
As a final point: The Jewish Chronicle has excellent journalists like the inimitable Simon Rocker, who has a better understanding of the Anglo-Jewish community than anyone else. The Jewish News has renowned journalist Alex Brummer whose pen really is mightier than the sword (and who seemed at pains the other week to apparently pave the way for that paper to replace print with online). But neither paper has me – and that’s where the Jewish Weekly will always have the edge. I’m kidding of course, but not really.
Of Queens and Rainbows
When our dear Queen died, a single rainbow appeared over Windsor Castle and a double one over Buckingham Palace. Knowing how devoted the Queen was to her faith, is there anything we can take away Jewishly from this remarkable sign.
There’s a lot of interesting discussion about a rainbow and the blessing recited over it. There are two beautiful Talmudic statements. One is in Chagigah (14b) which relates how, it was in the middle of the dry season in Israel when it never rains. Several of the great Sages were studying intently some deep kabbalistic ideas. Suddenly, the Heavens became covered with clouds and a rainbow appeared in them, and the ministering angels gathered together, the way people gather to see the celebrations of a bride and groom, in order to hear the kabbalistic words emanating from the scholars.
Similarly, we have the following passage of the Talmud in Brochot (59a): “Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said, ‘one who sees a rainbow in a cloud should fall on his face, as the verse states, ‘One who sees the rainbow appears in the cloud on a rainy day, so appeared the brilliant surrounding light; this is the image of the Honour of G-d.’”
You can draw your own parallels between these statements and the uniqueness of the Queen, what she brought to society, how she impacted our country and the enormity of the loss endured.