What’s the Frequency, Moishe?
I ask aloud because some of the feedback we got after February’s issue is telling of the dilemma we face every month: What does the audience want to read? We demurred from publishing the authors’ names but wanted to share a few examples:
“I think Red Thread is heavy on the Orthodox subject matter and personally, it’s not relevant to me. I’d try to strike for more balance.”
“ … one comment (not that you want to hear it) is I just noticed a whole lot of treif, which I know they do in the JNews, but between Adam Helfman’s reviews and whatever else, it seemed like it was too much treif!”
Those e-mails, at least, were reasonable. Another e-mail I received didn’t even make sense at first — until I did some digging:
“I was amused at the article ‘In the Garden [with Adam and Steve].’ What especially caught my attention was referencing out holy text as ‘G-d’s playbook.’ WOW!!! I wonder what G-d (hyphenated) thinks of this.”
I explained to this person that the word “playbook” is a figure of speech derived from American football and, as used in the aforementioned context, was appropriate, at least according to both Merriam-Webster and Oxford American dictionaries — the bibles of journalism.
(As well, there is no hyphen necessary when writing out the word “God,” according to many rabbinic sources I consulted, unless it’s in Hebrew characters. Otherwise, it’s just another proper noun.)
After some e-mail volleys, I got to the bottom line: This person believed that giving press to gays and lesbians was inappropriate — and something that may cause karma to take retribution against me.
I suggested that since we were discussing a contentious issue through civil discourse — versus using the sword — perhaps it was karma’s way of balancing the scales for gay people, who have faced centuries of persecution. And, karma is a Hindu thing anyway.
Hence, the conundrum: How to create a publication for a Jewish audience — so varied in beliefs and practices — and not piss somebody off?
The short answer is … we can’t. Even when you try to be all things to all people, you only please a few (which is a derivation from First Corinthians, by the way).
Tell us what you think; go to our Facebook page and shoot off of a note.
Starting this month, Red Thread kicks off a series of coffee klatches around the area. These meetings are totally casual and are our way of soliciting feedback — and hosting some old-fashioned community dialogue.
Our first coffee klatch will be from 9-10:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 9, at Barnes & Noble Booksellers on Orchard Lake Road in West Bloomfield.
We’ll have coffee and danish on hand, so swing by. No pressure, no cost — hope to see you there.
And Then There’s Bob
(feel free to hum the Maude theme, now)
When I shared the first half of this Editor’s Letter with my friend, JN Editor Bob Sklar, his response was a perfectly calibrated indicator of the hard row he has hoed for 13 years: “Sounds like you split the difference,” he said, in his typically understated way.
And, that’s Bob for you — always trying to control the Hydra that is Detroit’s Jewish community.
As most of you now know, Bob has made the decision to retire as editor of the Detroit Jewish News. I remember first hearing the news from our boss last December and feeling conflicted: Happy for him but sad for our community.
Not that Bob and I always agreed on everything. I’m sure he (continuously) thinks I skate too close to the edge on issues. However, he has always been gracious to me and I have nothing but respect for him, his integrity and his commitment to community journalism.
Bob has an amazing passion for Jewish causes, both religious and secular; and for issues that touch Israel and the diaspora. He is well-versed in the subjects he tackles, and his thoughtful editorials offer unambiguous opinions about what he believes to be right and wrong.
Although short-lived as colleagues, I have known and written for Bob as a freelance writer for several years prior to RT’s launch. And, before that, I was a “Detroiter-in-Exile” who would eagerly get my JN fix each time I came home to visit.
It is not only the JN that has benefited from Bob’s presence at the helm but the communities he helped cover over his 38-year career. The deference he pays to different points of view is a model for how our Jewish community should co-exist.