What is a Jewish community? What do you picture when you think about that definition? Are there prerequisites like the number of Jewish people or families which live in a geographic region? Does it require a house of worship, a mikveh, or a kosher pizzeria? Perhaps five or ten of each? How about yeshivos and Bais Yaakov schools? Does it have frum daycare options? Is there an established organization to help people in need? Is there a chevra kaddisha? Is there a Vaad HaRabbonim? Must it have “Asara batlanim,” 10 men who sit and learn all day, as cited in the Talmud?
Merriam Webster defines a community as a unified body of individuals, such as people with common interests living in a particular area. Our common interests center around living a Torah lifestyle. Learning, davening, and being there for our children, our families, and yes, our community. Although we can catch up with some of our friends in shul (after services, of course), what truly binds us as a greater cohesive group is staying informed about the topics that matter to our neighborhood. Reading local Letters to the editor allows us all to exchange ideas about how we can constantly improve our common situation.
Enter The Jewish Echo, a flagship project of the Jewish Community Council of Marine Park, under the leadership of Shea Rubenstein. His wife, Rayle, is an accomplished editor who writes for an existing Jewish magazine of note. I’ve been fortunate to be a contributor to The Jewish Echo magazine since the very first issue. I consider it a great honor to share the same pages with authors whose work I greatly admire, and many of whom I consider to be my friends.
In last month’s article, I described how this publication began. This month I would like to elaborate on the journey as we celebrate our fifth anniversary of that original issue. When I first volunteered to write a column in the new magazine we were proposing at that time, I had little idea where this would lead. I have watched my fellow columnists grow their own style and find their voices. Some were already accomplished and even world-famous authors, but the rest of us were relative newbies to journalism. While I did enjoy my writing classes in school, I never dreamed they would serve me so well as I return each month to a blank sheet of paper. I have special gratitude to my junior high school English teacher, Gerri Fink, for opening my mind to the joys and responsibilities of writing.
Once I get started, the articles seem to flow on their own. There have been so many topics which affect our community. Writing them down allows me to develop and express my thoughts. Reading the columns of my colleagues lets me in on their perspectives. I find it validating and reassuring to know that the people in my community more often than not share my own values and point of view. There is practical advice for the observant Jew about child rearing and the Jewish perspective on so many issues. There are light-hearted columns and recipes to try. Even the advertisements are specifically geared towards the people in our community. It happens to be a tremendous value for vendors who wish to target our demographic in an affordable medium. (Call Phil Brach for details.)
Other Jewish publications appeal to a wider audience. The Jewish Echo is custom designed for us. As the son of a printer, I can also appreciate the high quality of the magazine. The publisher chose early on quality versus savings. Just feel the weight of the pages in your hands. They are filled with excellent color and brilliant photographs, and the ink will not bleed onto your fingertips. I would put our publication up against anything else out there as a high-end magazine based on the quality of the writing (no bias here) and the luxurious feel of the paper.
I hope you will continue to read and support every issue of this neighborhood goldmine. Tell your friends and the businesses you frequent about it so we can enjoy exponential growth. The benefits will be reaped right where we live. Happy anniversary, Jewish Echo!