J. reporter wins two ethnic press awards

J. staff writer Alexandra J. Wall won two New California Media Awards, considered the top prize among ethnic newspapers in the state.

Wall, who has been on staff at j. for 4 1/2 years, won first place — $500 — in the Arts, Sports and Entertainment category for her profile of San Francisco slam poet Matthue Roth that was the cover story on Oct. 10, 2003.

She also was the runner-up in the Women’s Issues category, with her profile of Tsiporah Gabai, the assistant director of El Cerrito’s Tehiyah Day School who defied her Orthodox roots to become a rabbi. That cover story ran on June 20, 2003, when the paper was still the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California.

Wall’s articles were chosen among some 250 entries from ethnic newspapers throughout the entire state.

This marks the first time j. weekly has entered the New California Media Awards.

“The ethnic press in America, and especially in California, has a major responsibility in communicating with the growing ethnic pot in our society,” said Marc S. Klein, editor and publisher of j. weekly. “We are very pleased that our newspaper and Alix Wall have been recognized for the contribution we make every week in reporting about Judaism as an ethnicity, a religion and a culture.”

Wall’s article about Roth, called “Orthodox Paradox,” begins: “Before we go any further, let’s get one thing straight: Matthue Roth does not want to be known as the Orthodox poet who talks about sex. Even though that’s kind of what he is.

“His poems are not about sex, he claims. Or they are, but with an important caveat. They’re not about sex he’s had. They’re about sex he hasn’t had: about crushes on Orthodox girls and the incredible frustration of being frum, which means waiting until he’s married to do it.

“‘But what people hear is me talking about sex,’ he says, shaking his head. ‘I think I just get typed. If you say 100 words and one of them is f—-, the other 99 just float away.'”

The article also quotes Roth’s grandmother, Ida Roth, who mostly approves of his act.

In her article on Gabai, Wall wrote: “She couldn’t resist sharing how she carried the Torah as is, without any protective covering, through airport security and refused to send it through the X-ray machine. Then, on the plane, several people, obviously Jewish, stood up when she walked by, and some even asked if they could kiss it.”

At the end of her profile of Gabai, Wall wrote: “She was also ecstatic at her May 25 ordination, when she spoke to her deceased father for the first time as a rabbi.

“‘Abba,’ she said, ‘I’m asking your permission to follow in your footsteps. I’m sure that in your heart you’d be happy for me, that I followed my dream that I told you so many years ago.”

Wall will accept her awards at a banquet in Sacramento on Wednesday, Nov. 17.