Your Community, Your Newspaper

If you find this column akin to the schnorr delivered during High Holiday services at many congregations, that’s by design.

This is that potentially uncomfortable reminder that your dues and donations pay the staff and keep the lights on at your synagogue.

Just substitute “newspaper” for synagogue.

“Keeping Jewish Atlanta Connected” is the slogan on the Atlanta Jewish Times mug on my desk at home.

In a metro area with some 140,000 Jews, there’s plenty of news for the Atlanta Jewish Times to report.

Some of it is basic: graduations, marriages, honors, deaths, clergy members coming and going, the community calendar, the standings in the congregational softball league.

Some of it has more depth: the toll the opioid crisis has taken on the Jewish community, the positions of political candidates on issues of interest to the community, the demographics challenging the Reform and Conservative movements.

As a freelancer, I write this biweekly column and long-form articles on topics ranging from a world without Holocaust survivors to the future of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta to what separates the local Israeli community (numbering perhaps 15,000) from the American Jews.

Readers should appreciate that the Atlanta Jewish Times is independently owned and not beholden to any community organization.

Such independence allows the AJT to publish both straight news reports on important issues and opinion pieces from a range of voices, as it did in advance of the November 2016 election.

Several months ago, a caller to the AJT complained that the newspaper had become too conservative and asked to have a subscription canceled. Not 10 minutes later, another caller threatened to cancel a subscription, complaining that the paper had become too liberal.

A newspaper serves its readers best by offering diverse viewpoints in its opinion section.

This newspaper has been part of Atlanta’s Jewish community longer than most of its congregations and organizations.

What you read today as the Atlanta Jewish Times began as The Southern Israelite, created in 1925 by Rabbi H. Cerf Straus as a temple bulletin in Augusta. It proved popular and expanded to become a monthly newspaper.

In the late 1920s, Straus sold the paper to Herman Dessauer and Sara B. Simmons, who moved it to Atlanta and extended circulation throughout Georgia and into the Southeast.

In 1930, Stephen Schiffer, a former employee of the Atlanta Georgian, became the sole owner. In 1934, he added a four-page weekly edition to go along with the monthly.

A corporation headed by Adolph Rosenberg, as editor and publisher, took control of The Southern Israelite in 1951. Atlanta’s Jewish community was growing, and in 1973 the monthly was dropped in favor of the weekly.

Rosenberg died in 1977, and two years later Vida Goldgar, who had been its assistant editor, bought the paper. I occasionally hear her name mentioned by older members of the community.

Michael Morris

The next ownership group changed the name to the Atlanta Jewish Times in 1987. The paper changed hands a few times the past couple of decades. Michael Morris’ purchase three years ago brought a needed measure of stability.

He and the full-time staff (and the freelancers as well) are “inheritors of a legacy,” in Morris’ words.

If this legacy is to have a future, it needs readers. Not just readers, but readers who pay.

Those of you already paying the $65 annual subscription fee are, to borrow Morris’ words again, helping to “perpetuate a community asset.”

My guess is that few of you reading online pay for a subscription.

If you’re not a subscriber and can afford the $65, support the newspaper that has invested in this community for nearly a century.

If you operate a business, consider buying advertising space. A community this size has a lot of potential customers.

A Jewish community of this size deserves — indeed, needs — a newspaper that covers its breadth and depth, that highlights its successes, and that does not shy from controversial subjects.

Sure, you can read the Atlanta Jewish Times free, but this community asset is worthy of your financial support.

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Originally published at atlantajewishtimes.timesofisrael.com.