Philip Slomovitz was the creator and founding editor of the Detroit Jewish News and created his legacy in journalism.
When you write for a newspaper, you have to work with a unique group of people called “editors.” Over the years, my columns have been scrutinized by an editor or two.
While some writers have a, ahh, let’s say, a somewhat contentious relationship with their editors (How dare you change my article? Every word is perfect!), I have found the editors at the JN are great to work with. They correct my grammar, make some great suggestions and, most important, sometimes save me from myself when they spot mistakes in my work.
From its very first issue, the JN has been blessed with outstanding editors and writers. I say this as a statement of fact — I am not trying to butter up my editors. I was reminded of this fact when I ran across an article in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History from the Dec. 7, 1990, issue of the JN titled “In Retrospect.” It is an essay about legendary editor, Philip Slomovitz, who was “retiring” from writing his weekly “Purely Commentary” column at the tender age of 94. “Purely Commentary” first debuted in 1937 when Slomovitz was editor of the JN’s predecessor, the Detroit Jewish Chronicle.
Slomovitz was born in Russia in 1896 and immigrated to the United States in 1910. He earned a degree in journalism at the University of Michigan, where he was on the staff of its student newspaper, The Michigan Daily.
After graduation, Slomovitz worked at the Detroit News for a few years before becoming the editor of the Jewish Chronicle. He made a name for himself at the Chronicle for his writing and editing, including his reports on the anti-Semitism of Henry Ford’s Dearborn Independent in the 1920s and that of the notorious “Radio Priest,” Father Coughlin, in the 1930s. Slomovitz was also an early supporter of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Associated Press of the Jewish world.
On March 27, 1942, Slomovitz was the creator and founding editor/publisher of the Detroit Jewish News. Under his leadership, the JN reported news of Detroit’s Jewish community, events from around the world, including WWII and the Holocaust and supported the establishment of Israel. Slomovitz was also one of the few Jewish American reporters covering the Adolph Eichmann trial onsite in Israel.
Slomovitz, much like his successor editors at the JN, was heavily involved in civic affairs. He was a founder of the Detroit Roundtable of Christians and Jews, served as president of the local branch of the Jewish National Fund and held positions in the American Jewish Press Association, the Zionist Organization of Detroit and the Detroit chapter of the American Jewish Congress.
It is amazing that Slomovitz did all of the above while legally blind most of his life. He received many awards, including induction into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame in 1993, the same year he died. It is little wonder that Slomovitz was considered the dean of Jewish American journalists. The JN is his legacy.
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.