Winning issues of J. in the categories of  Excellence in Overall Graphic Design and General Excellence.
Winning issues of J. in the categories of Excellence in Overall Graphic Design and General Excellence.

J. wins record-breaking 12 national Jewish press awards, including General Excellence

Once again this year, J. made an impressive showing in the Simon Rockower Awards, presented by the American Jewish Press Association today in a virtual ceremony.

J. The Jewish News of Northern California won 12 awards for work published in 2019, the most it has received in a single year, with first-place wins in General Excellence and Excellence in Overall Graphic Design.

Staff writers Gabriel Greschler and Maya Mirsky and news editor Gabe Stutman each won or placed in multiple categories.

J. won 11 Rockowers last year.

“I’m so proud to be part of the J. team,” said editor Sue Fishkoff. “The breadth of our awards, from news to culture to opinion writing and design, underscores our strong camaraderie, our talented staff, and the fact that we live in the most interesting Jewish community in this country.”

J. took first place in the following categories:

Excellence in Single Commentary — “I do not speak, but I am listening. Talking about others hurts as all” by Rachel Kripke-Ludwig. This piece was adapted from a d’var Torah written by Kripke-Ludwig, then 17, a nonspeaking autistic person and member of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav.

Boris Smolar Award for Excellence in Enterprise or Investigative Reporting — The three-part “Past Lives” series on Jewish genealogical research by staff writer Maya Mirsky (“Who is a Jew? DNA home testing adds new wrinkle to age-old debate”), staff writer Gabriel Greschler (“She wanted to discover her Jewish roots. She ended up finding her biological father”) and news editor Gabe Stutman (“Genealogy ‘mavens’ go old-school to uncover Jewish past”). The awards committee commented: “This is a well-reported and well-written story, with compelling people that made the story come alive.”

David Frank Award for Excellence in Personality Profiles — “Chesa Boudin, San Francisco’s D.A.-elect, talks homelessness, Jewishness and taking on the establishment” by news editor Gabe Stutman. The awards committee commented: “A standout article within this category. Does not just profile Boudin but tells a story and explains a trajectory of personal development as well as placing within broader national and historical contexts.”

Journalistic Excellence in American Jewish History — “This S.F. lake is named after California’s most anti-Semitic politician. One man is trying to change that” by staff writer Gabriel Greschler, which tells the story of Golden Gate Park’s Stow Lake and its unsavory namesake.

Excellence in Overall Graphic Design — This award named the phenomenal production team of Steve Romero, Michelle Palmer and Antonio Marquez, who normally labor with little recognition outside of J.’s office. Three print issues were submitted for consideration: Oct. 18, which featured a cover story on Oakland city council member Rebecca Kaplan; Aug. 23, with a cover profile of Gov. Gavin Newsom; and June 28, featuring an on-location report about the Jews of Guantanamo, Cuba.

General Excellence, Best Newspaper, Non-Weekly — J. took top honors in this new category that highlights the best Jewish publications in the country. J. submitted its Sept. 6 issue, which showcased a range of writing, including the cover story “How do we stack up? The Bay Area’s Jewish food scene” and a special section on Rosh Hashanah food. Other highlights in the issue included coverage of hate flyers in the North Bay and a counterprotest against a “Straight Pride” protest in Modesto, an installment of J.’s reporting on California’s controversial draft high school ethnic studies curriculum, a “Jew in the Pew” column on the Karaite Jews of Daly City, an on-location report about Wise Sons’ Tokyo location, and a report on the now-infamous “Barbie death camp” at Burning Man. Said the awards committee, “A nice mix and range of content.”

J. took second place in the following categories:

Excellence in News Reporting — “‘Auschwitz-themed’ Barbie death camp at Burning Man catches ADL’s eye” by news editor Gabe Stutman. “Well-reported look at surprising exhibit with controversial impact,” noted the awards committee.

Excellence in Arts and Criticism News and Features, Critical Analysis/Review — “‘Our Boys’ will make you uncomfortable, which is exactly why you should watch it” by TV columnist Esther D. Kustanowitz, analyzing an Israeli mini-series about the revenge murder of an Arab Israeli by three young Jewish Israelis. “Excellent writing and asks good questions about what is happening in Israel, even as Israelis do the critiquing through their arts and culture,” the awards committee said.

J. also was recognized with honorable mentions in these categories:

Excellence in Single Commentary — “I’m proud to have been a plaintiff in anti-Semitism lawsuit against SFSU” by guest contributor Charles Volk.

Excellence in Personal Essay — “Your tattoo was forced on you at Auschwitz. Mine honors your memory” by guest contributor Carole Priven.

David Frank Award for Excellence in Personality Profiles — “Oakland City Council’s Rebecca Kaplan preaches Torah, progressive politics” by news editor Gabe Stutman.

Journalistic Excellence in American Jewish History — “100 years ago, prohibition put booze and Jews in the news” by staff writer Maya Mirsky.

This is the 39th year of the Rockower Awards. The American Jewish Press Association hands out the awards every year for work published the prior year. J. competes in category B, publications with print circulations under 15,000.

David A.M. Wilensky
David A.M. Wilensky

David A.M. Wilensky is director of news product at J. He previously served as assistant editor and digital editor. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @davidamwilensky