Bulletin launches online edition

After decades of flipping through the pages of the Jewish Bulletin, readers can now venture into cyberspace and peruse the newspaper on their home computers.

The Bulletin officially launched its online version July 28, making it the first Jewish weekly newspaper available in its entirety on the Internet's graphical area known as the World Wide Web.

"Cyberspace is not a fantasy. Cyberspace is very real. Jews are out there, and we need to be there to meet them," said Marc S. Klein, the Bulletin's editor and publisher.

The online newspaper offers all of the articles, columns, calendar listings, personal ads and classified ads already found in each Friday's printed edition.

But the cyberspace version also offers practical services previously unavailable. Readers now can:

*Send letters to the editor, personal ads, classified ads, life-cycle announcements, subscription forms, press releases and general comments with the push of a button.

*Search recent issues of the Bulletin for news articles. The search program allows readers to type in key words, such as "Orthodox," "Yitzhak Rabin" or "Marin." A list of all stories — local, national or international — containing the key words will appear on the screen. The archives will continue to grow each week.

*Explore the online version of "Resource: A Guide to Jewish Life in the Bay Area." The annual guide lists everything from synagogues and Jewish day schools to singles groups and kosher caterers.

*Select from a list of 30 other Jewish sites on the Internet. These range from Web sites for Palo Alto's Congregation Etz Chaym, Israel Government Information Service and late Bulletin reporter Tamar Kaufman to Jewish Singles News, Jewish music, and Bob Dylan and the Jews.

The Bulletin can be reached from anywhere in the world at http://www.jewish.com/jb on the Web.

Nora Contini, the Bulletin's associate publisher, expects that the online version will reach Jews in their teens, 20s and 30s who surf the Internet but don't already subscribe to the printed edition.

At the very least, she said, this younger group could learn more about Jewish culture or Middle East politics. But Contini also hopes these Jews will like what they see and then decide to subscribe to the printed Bulletin.

"We want them to realize it's not just their grandmother's newspaper," Contini said.

To hook into the new online Bulletin, readers need a computer with a modem and a way of accessing the Internet — either through an online service like America Online or CompuServe, or through a local Internet provider like Netcom or Best.

Klein and Contini first began thinking about putting the Bulletin online at the beginning of the year.

"We were in the process of figuring out how to take on this enormous project," Contini said.

At the same time, a Silicon Valley reader offered pro bono help in designing the Bulletin's home page and writing the necessary software. This coincidence pushed the project forward faster than Klein or Contini could have expected.

Li Gardiner, a Bulletin graphic designer, created the images for the page.

"We've been trying to find a way to make an interface that's as clear and easy-to-use as possible," she said.

The Bulletin actually has had a prototype page on the Internet since March. But Klein and Contini wanted to delay the official announcement until the graphics were refined, the interactive capabilities were in place and the search mechanism was working properly.

"We think we've now provided a much more user-friendly product," Klein said.

But even now, he acknowledges, the site needs improvements.

"The Web page is a work in progress, just like the Bulletin is a work in progress," Klein said. "We can do better in both arenas."

Not yet available on the Bulletin's Web site are photographs, advertising or billing.

Photos can take up to several minutes to download, Klein said, making them impractical. But the technology probably will advance quickly enough to remove this obstacle in the near future.

Ads will likely appear by the end of the year, Contini said. The Bulletin already is working with potential clients.

The newspaper would like to accept credit card numbers for online billing, Klein said, but security still isn't reliable enough yet.

Although the Bulletin is the first Jewish weekly to appear in its entirety in cyberspace, other Jewish publications can be found online as well.

The Jewish Review, a twice-monthly newspaper in Portland, Ore., has been online for nearly a year. The Jewish Week in New York puts its cover story online each week. And the Jewish Exponent, a weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, is also developing a site.

Tikkun magazine offers a few articles from its latest edition. And the Jerusalem Report, a twice-monthly newsmagazine, recently has begun offering its stories on the Internet.

More and more publications will be going online in the next several years, and some pundits even predict a day when newspapers will be available only on the Internet.

But Contini said Bulletin readers need not worry about this prospect.

"There will always be a print edition of the Jewish Bulletin," she said.