The Column | After 30 years, J. publisher says goodbye

It was in February 1984 that I interviewed for the position of business manager of the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California. I knew the business of print journalism, but that wasnot what attracted me to the job. I was drawn in by the fact that it was the Jewish Bulletin.

Nora Contini

I joke that I was the “blue” sheep in my not particularly religious family. I always felt touched by Judaism. As a teenager, I was president of my temple youth group; I went to Friday night services on my own.

But by the time I was an adult and living in San Francisco, my connection to the Jewish community was tangential. On Rosh Hashanah in 1983, I sat in a synagogue on my own and realized that I knew no one to greet at the end of services. I was determined to become more connected.

So just a few months later, when then-editor Marc Klein offered me the business manager job, I accepted the new post at the Jewish Bulletin and left San Francisco magazine. I was asked to make a commitment to stay for at least one year. I agreed to a year or two.

Here I am in my 30th year at the newspaper — now called J. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California — and I can honestly say it was the best decision of my life.

Absolutely nothing stayed the same over the 30 years.

Nora Contini accepts an award from the American Jewish Press Association in 1986.

It was on a Friday afternoon that Marc offered me the job. The next evening I was having dinner at one of the Sierra Club’s alpine lodges, sitting across from a very engaging man to whom I would become engaged a year later. John and I have now been together as long as I’ve been at J. — it was kind of a double wedding.

When I joined the staff of the Bulletin, we had no computers or even a fax machine. We used carbon paper in our typewriters. This all makes me sound old, but, in fact, the Bulletin was seriously behind the times. Change was in the air. The technological revolution was about to hit: computers, desktop publishing, the Internet, AOL, our national website, blogging, e-newsletters, Facebook and Twitter. Then there was the economic growth of the ’90s — and the recession that followed.

I stayed at the job because the job kept changing. I was promoted to associate publisher and then publisher. I kept changing, too. I became a mother to two wonderful children, I balanced work and family, I joined a synagogue and became a board member, and throughout it all I kept being challenged by the ever-changing demands of my job.

In 1990 we created the annual Resource: A Guide to Jewish Life in the Bay Area. In 1995 we became the first Jewish newspaper to go online. And in 2003 we rebranded ourselves as J. We sponsored and continue to sponsor numerous community events, and we have won numerous press awards.

Just last week, after a very long application process, we received our 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. This is something we worked hard for, and it will ensure that the publication will continue to thrive. I couldn’t be more pleased.

But now, it is time. Time to move on. My children are adults and I am ready for adventure. And J. is ready for new leadership, with Steve Gellman in the role of publisher, and for the changes that lie ahead.

Nora Contini is publisher emeritus of J. She lives in San Rafael.