We'll miss you, Sue Fishkoff! (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)
We'll miss you, Sue Fishkoff! (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)

You can’t get away that easily, Fishkoff!

Sue Fishkoff has been very good for the Jews.

You won’t hear those words from her. In fact, retiring after 11 years as J.’s editor, Sue cannot bring herself to speak of her own accomplishments. She’ll talk around them, redirect and deflect. She’ll heap praise on the Jewish community and kudos on her staff. Anything to turn the spotlight away from herself.

It’s time to put an end to that modesty.

Sue came into the job on Sept. 1, 2011, with impressive credentials — JTA national correspondent, former Jerusalem Post reporter, speaker of French, Hebrew and Russian with a master’s degree in Soviet history, author of two highly regarded books on Jewish life, dynamic public speaker — and ready to embrace her new role in the trenches. “The Bay Area is where the Jewish future is,” she said at the time.

Those weren’t just flattering words — she believed them then, and believes them today. Sue has always been committed to making J. better, through the roller coaster that is Jewish journalism. She has refined the publication to engage more people, hired new talent and nurtured each person’s potential, and solidified J.’s position as a hub for Jewish life and record keeper of our history. All while upholding J.’s mission to “connect, enlighten and strengthen the multifaceted Jewish community.”

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And multifaceted it is. This makes the editor’s job all the more challenging — creating space for widely divergent points of view, listening to often competing voices; fairly representing the spectrum of Bay Area Jewish life, from Chochmat to Chabad, and making sure the community sees itself reflected back in J.’s content. Sue has done all that with equanimity and grace.

She is conversant with just about every Jewish issue, from education to social justice, from cultural trends to Israeli politics to synagogue life. Sue is also a fabulous writer with an innate curiosity, whether interviewing Jews huddling in a basement shelter in Ukraine in February, days after Russia attacked; or sitting down with an anti-Zionist Palestinian Israeli member of Knesset visiting the Bay Area. And she produced a sensitive, long-form article about a former 1970s camp director whose son accused him of sexual abuse.

She also authored many first-person essays on lighter topics, like the one about learning to play croquet in Florida, and she was J.’s official “Jeopardy!” beat writer whenever local contestants made it onto the show.

Sue has been a true leader during stressful times, most recently the pandemic. In an era of intense financial pressures, when newspapers have disappeared from the media landscape, she has been instrumental in making sure J. did not suffer that fate. She kept the newsroom on track and morale high.

In short, under Sue’s watch, J. has evolved into a more relevant, engaging, thoughtful and essential publication.

Sue is going out on a high, months after the launch of J.’s digitized archives (a cherished project she saw through by sheer force of nature), and weeks after J.’s newsroom won an astonishing 18 Rockower Awards for excellence in Jewish journalism. She has made a lasting mark. No one can argue with that, least of all Sue. She’d better not even try.

Sue Barnett

Sue Barnett is interim editor of J. She can be reached at [email protected].