Greetings from the (new) editors desk

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I’ve settled into my chair, I’ve changed the voicemail greeting and I can’t stop smiling.

I am so very glad to be here.

The chair is still warm. Marc Klein, who sat in it for nearly 28 years, will be alongside me for the next few weeks, showing me the ropes and, no doubt, lording it over me in his new, august role as editor and publisher emeritus. He’s a friend, a mentor and now a trusted colleague I’ll be turning to again and again. I know he’ll be here (or there) for me.

Nora Contini will be here, too, in her expanded role as publisher, and I’ll be leaning heavily on her, and her 27 years at j., as I join a talented and hardworking staff.

I’ve spent 20 years as a reporter for Jewish media, starting in 1991 when I did a story on “Jerusalem Syndrome” for the Jerusalem Post. I spent seven years with the Post, in Tel Aviv and New York. We worked without cellphones or Google searches — unimaginable today.

For the past seven years I served as JTA’s West Coast reporter, working from my modest yet highly overpriced condo in Oakland (anyone else buy in 2008?). Along the way, I penned two books, one about Chabad (“The Rebbe’s Army”) and one about kashrut and the kosher food industry (“Kosher Nation”).

The thing is, nothing interests me more than writing about Jewish life. I’ve covered stories from Tel Aviv to Odessa, from New York to L.A., yet when I heard j. was looking for a new editor, I jumped at the chance.

After all my travel, I believe the American Jewish future is being written here in the Bay Area. Our cultural creativity and ritual innovation, the scholarly curiosity, the cutting-edge Jewish learning, our political activism and pioneering outreach — so much of what we do has changed and continues to change the face of American Judaism.

I love New York and all, but seriously, isn’t it a bit … 20th century?

First on my agenda is to stop thinking of j. as just a newspaper. Of course we have our flagship print publication, which is one of the best-looking papers in the country, thanks to our stellar production staff. But don’t forget that j. was the first Jewish weekly to move online, in 1995. In addition to that Web version, we put out a weekly e-newsletter , we’re on Facebook, we tweet — heck, we might even start JDating (115-year-old Jewish publication seeks a mature but forward-thinking community for lively discussion, robust entertainment and a permanent relationship. Diverse applicants encouraged).

Is there still a need for an explicitly Jewish publication? You bet there is. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be sitting where I am — you know, in Marc’s chair.

J. is a news source, certainly, bringing readers a weekly selection of news and opinion from the Bay Area, Israel and the Jewish world. But it’s more than that. It is a forum for the free exchange of ideas and opinions of interest to local Jews, giving people a space to voice their hopes and concerns. It highlights good work as well as difficult challenges. And in a region with about 450,000 Jews but no Jewish neighborhoods, it builds community.

And when I say community, better make that plural.

There is no one Jewish community in the Bay Area, but many — and all deserve their places at the table. This publication has always made it a priority to be fair and balanced, reflecting the social, religious and political diversity of our far-flung Jewish population. On my watch we will continue that tradition, and deepen it.

And we will do it with civility. Just as our local rabbis and organizations have pledged to respect each other’s diverse opinions, particularly on the hot-button topic of Israel, so do we at j. make the same promise. Our online comments section is open to the public, as I believe it should be. It is a place for debating, sometimes fiercely, the substance of issues addressed in our articles and opinion pieces, but it is profoundly not a place for engaging in vendettas or personal attacks. The free exchange of ideas is essential to a strong community, and we will not permit those who would hamstring that dialogue to have their way.

Fight, but fight clean.

Write to me. Tell me what you like and don’t like in j., what you want to see more of and what you could do without. This is your Jewish weekly, and all of us on staff want to bring you the most insightful, entertaining, compelling look at Jewish life that we possibly can.

Sue Fishkoff

Sue Fishkoff is the editor emerita of J. She can be reached at [email protected].