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J.-- Not Your Mother's Jewish Bulletin

NCM Profile

NCM, Elena Shore Posted: Jan 06, 2004

Marc Klein, editor and publisher of J., describes the Northern California weekly as an eclectic mix of news for Jewish readers. "We cover everything from Holocaust issues to Jewish punk rockers, and everything in between."

Formerly known as the Jewish Bulletin, J. was renamed in Sept. 2003 to appeal to a wider, younger audience. But the publication's history goes back more than 100 years. One of the oldest Jewish publications in America, it has been known as the Jewish Bulletin since 1946, although its beginnings go back to 1895, when it was founded in San Francisco as the Emanu-El.

Today J.'s 20,000 copies have new glossy covers and a magazine-style lay-out. The publication has also shifted its editorial focus to include more features, analysis, local news and stories that interest young people, along with columns on arts, cooking, jokes and the Torah.

Already, subscriptions have quadrupled; and parents say their teenage kidswho never picked up the Jewish Bulletinare reading J.

But reaching out to younger readers is a balancing act, says Klein. The publication's audience, like that of other Jewish newspapers, tends to be older. So the challenge is to attract new younger readers while keeping its older readers happy.

One way of doing this is to reflect the diversity of perspectives in the Jewish community. J.'s editorial content has included profiles of two very different Jewish weddings (one traditional Chassidic and one modern Renewal-style), and two opposing views on gay marriage.

The publication reports on broader issues that affect the community, such as the recent increase in anti-Semitism in Europe and locally, as some people have identified their dislike of Israel with a dislike of Jews.

But J. also tackles subjects that people may not associate with Jewslike its cover story of a Jewish family hoping to shed the stigma of addiction after their teenage son's battle with alcoholism.

One recent editorial responds to a Washington Post article that predicted that Jewish voters, concerned about Israel and terrorism, might migrate to the GOP and the angry reaction of Jewish Democrats who said that this was just another pre-election Republican spin.

"The problem with predictions about Jewish political behavior," the writer argues, "is that there is no single Jewish political community."
Her message to Republicans is, "Don't count your kosher chickens before they hatch." To Democrats, she says, "Dont assume you have the Jewish vote locked up. You dont."

The changes in J. reflect larger changes in the Jewish community, says Klein. A recent study predicts that the national Jewish population will decrease in years to comebut that those who identify as Jewish will be more strongly identified and more active in the community.

The shift is especially apparent among young people, who, Klein says, are less affiliated with Judaism. The magazine's response to thisand its advice to other Jewish publicationsis to reach out to younger readers.

For those who are searching to re-connect with Judaism, J. provides their "weekly touch to the Jewish religion."

"But we need to find a way of talking to the ones who aren't interested," says Klein. The publication's main focus is the large number of young Jews who identify culturally as Jewish but may not be religious. One way to reach these young people, he says, revolves around the singles scene. Though a lot has changed in the community, "There are still a lot of Jewish women who want to marry a Jewish guy."

While political parties fight over control of a community that has no political center, J. is shifting its focus to appeal to all sides of an increasingly diverse population. As for the future of J., says Klein, it will move with the changes in the Jewish community. "We've got to see where Jews are going and follow them," he says. "I'm not ready to call it quits."

Check out the new J. at www.jewishsf.com.

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