Former Jewish News editor Robert Sklar writes about his time working with Danny Raskin and how much writing meant to Danny.
Danny Raskin and I were colleagues and friends who shared a passion for writing. We’d share how sports writing spurred each of us to newspapering — for him in the 1930s, for me in the 1970s. We’d savor how we melded our love for newspapering and Judaism thanks to the Detroit Jewish News.
While celebrating the JN’s 70th anniversary year at a community party in 2012, there we were, Danny and I, talking shop about the JN’s diversity of readers. By then, Danny and I had worked together for 14 years.
Danny was best known for an upbeat style of writing about local restaurants and personalities — and for serving as grand marshal or ambassador for local parades, walks or causes. He was astute enough in newspapering to attract a loyal readership for a staggering 79 years.
I grew up in a family of Detroit newspaper professionals: my aunt Tavy Stone was a Detroit News fashion writer, cousin George Maskin wrote about sports for the old Detroit Times and uncle Sam Sklar was a Detroit Free Press delivery supervisor. Danny, of course, knew them all. That gave Danny and me a special connection.
Voice of Detroit
Danny sold advertising space for most of his JN tenure. But he wasn’t shy about saying he was a writer first. That distinction meant the world to Danny.
From tracking Detroit’s war heroes in his “Jewish Youth’s Listening Post,” to serving up upbeat restaurant news and personalities tidbits in his later-revamped “The Best of Everything” to a retrospective on dining in the D and its environs via his recent back-of-the-book column, Danny found fulfillment, recognition and joy in writing.
When my wife, Beth, and I socialized with Danny and his wife, Frieda, he revealed an engrossing smorgasbord of conversation about living and working in Detroit. “You bet it’s my hometown!” he’d bellow so other diners could hear.
Danny also would regale us with thoughts about Israel. Yes, he wrote about the lighter side of Jewish life; but he clearly embraced the JN’s Zionist roots nurtured by the Purely Commentary eloquence of JN founding Publisher, Editor and Columnist Philip Slomovitz.
Danny was quick to say he knew early that writing was his calling. That calling pushed him to try poetry. Nothing had the appeal of writing. Nothing so inspired and humbled him.
Writing drove, shaped and lifted him in the early years as he toiled in the recording, advertising and entertainment fields.
Later, writing helped ground him. It surely was a force for him to live purposefully to age 102.
Writing ultimately gave Danny what he so wanted, a voice that long resonated in his beloved hometown.
Robert Sklar was Editor of the JN from 1998 to 2011 and thereafter Contributing Editor until 2020.