For my going-away present, please keep reading this paper

Marc S. Klein

In the weeks since my pending retirement was announced in this newspaper in late May, several people have asked me what stories I am most proud of over my 271⁄2 years here.

I felt guilty that I didn’t have an answer. Shouldn’t I be able to rattle off a number of stories and topics that were especially meaningful?

One wall in our office is covered with awards, most of which our reporters won, and some that I personally received. Presumably these awards should represent  the best stories we’ve done.

But plaques are only part of the history I leave behind. It’s nice to win awards, but that was never my goal.

I’d rather be remembered for improving the paper I inherited nearly 28 years ago. I don’t want to talk about any group of stories as being important; I want to think of my legacy as the thousands of routine stories we covered over the years. Stories about the new rabbis who came to town. Stories about our Jewish day schools working with their counterparts in Israel. Stories about new programs at the JCC. Stories about the good work of Jewish Family and Children’s Services, the Jewish Vocational Service and Hebrew Free Loan (just to name a few). And stories about how our local Jewish federations have shaped the community.

During my time here, we’ve covered the construction of new federation buildings on both sides of the bay, three JCCs on the Peninsula, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, a number of synagogues, two Jewish high schools, and other day schools and senior facilities all over the Bay Area.

Millions and millions of dollars were raised before the first shovel of dirt was turned for any of these projects. But even more important, these buildings are representative of a Jewish community that grew faster than anyone thought possible when I arrived in January 1984.

There was nothing routine about these stories. They chronicled the growth of Bay Area Jewry over the past three decades.

The telling of that history was more important than writing award-winning stories. The quality of a newspaper can be judged only by the work it does educating its readers week in and week out.

The best telephone calls I received over the years were from readers who didn’t get their papers on Friday. Sure it upset me that the U.S. Postal Service wasn’t delivering the newspaper on time — but it was those calls that told me there are readers who depend on j. and look forward to receiving it. (By the way, the postal service has not improved its delivery record.)

Readers who actually look forward to getting our paper have become especially important in the last few years. The journalism I learned in college and practiced for more than 40 years has changed.

Fewer people today are reading newspapers, including Jewish newspapers. Advertising is getting harder and harder to sell in the age of the Internet.

Something needs to be done to ensure j. continues publishing in this unfriendly newspaper environment.

J. is the glue that holds the community together. We reach far more Jews in any given week than any single Jewish organization in the community. Over the years, Jewish newspapers were born in city after city not only to record the history of the Jews there, but also to create community and preserve it.

By any of its three names — The Emanu-El, the Jewish Bulletin and now j. — this newspaper has been doing that for more than 115 years.

Internet versions of Jewish newspapers will never replace a printed Jewish paper. The success of Jewish news online depends on readers searching out Jewish news every week from a plethora of engaging websites. But a Jewish newspaper that arrives in the mailbox every week has a far greater chance of attracting readers’ attention.

I’m leaving the paper, but I don’t want it to leave me. I will look forward to getting my j. in the mail every week, even if the postal carrier is late in delivering it.

The best going-away present for me will be to know that the newspaper goes on for years to come — because you, the reader, need it to.

Marc S. Klein, editor and publisher of j., is retiring Wednesday, Aug. 31. Sue Fishkoff will take over as editor on Thursday, Sept. 1.