These days, Jeff Asch serves as Saturday and weeknight anchor at KYW, a position he’s held since 2010. He also teaches at Montgomery County Community College, where he’s been since 2000, after serving in a similar capacity at La Salle University for 21 years.
You’ve probably heard the name. You might even recognize the voice, which has been a fixture in this area for well over 30 years and can currently be heard two, three, four or more times a day on KYW Newsradio.
But how much do you know about Jeff Asch?
Did you know he turned down the opportunity to have a Bar Mitzvah like any normal 13-year-old, because he didn’t really believe in it, electing instead to wait until his late 50s and do it at the kotel in Jerusalem? Did you know he’s been teaching broadcast newswriting at various local institutions for more than 20 years, developing a number of today’s top professionals? Or that he really has four different jobs — which is down from the days he had six — requiring him to check his calendar every night to make sure he shows up at the right place the next day?
Life for such a seasoned pro trying to raise a couple of teenage sons in Blue Bell is seldom glamorous — certainly not as much as when he used to travel all over the country and even abroad as a sports producer for Channel 10. But it’s never dull.
“When I was a junior” at Central High School in Philadelphia, “I said to myself, ‘My three favorite things in life are sports, TV and travel,’ ” he recalled when asked about the origins of a career that began at WQIQ in Aston following his graduation from Temple in 1977. “I put the three of them together and came up with sports broadcasting. As a matter of fact, in my high school yearbook, where it says, ‘What do you want to be?’ it says ‘Sports broadcaster.’ I’m very fortunate to have been able to live my dream and every job I’ve had has been in the Philadelphia area, which is not common.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work in the fourth-largest market at some of the most prestigious radio and TV stations around. I’ve never had an urge to move.”
These days, he serves as Saturday and weeknight anchor at KYW, a position he’s held since 2010. He also teaches at Montgomery County Community College, where he’s been since 2000, after serving in a similar capacity at La Salle University for 21 years. Besides that, he’s the internal public address announcer for the Eagles, which services the press box. Finally, he’s the public address announcer for Drexel men’s and women’s basketball.
“The best part is, by working so many part-time jobs, the hours are flexible enough I could spend more time with my children, David  and Michael ,” said the 59-year-old Asch, who’s lived in Blue Bell with his wife, Susan, a corporate attorney, since 1998. “It’s something I’ll always cherish that a lot of fathers never get the opportunity to do. I’ve been able to live my dream professionally, but more importantly spend so many quality hours with my kids. They may not feel the same way, but I think it’s great.”
The son of Michael — better known as Mickey — whose family was among the founders of Congregation Keneseth Israel, and Carol Betty, who was part of the Binswanger real estate tycoons, Jeffrey Leo Asch grew up in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia. After going through the Philadelphia school system —McCloskey Elementary, Leeds Junior High and Central — he remained close to home while attending Temple, taking an active interest in the campus radio stations both on North Broad Street and in Ambler.
“Jeff and I ran our student radio station together,” said Marc Zumoff, TV voice of the Sixers, who’s been a close friend of Asch’s ever since. “I remember when we were students at Temple, there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. He loved the business and he was a funny dude. In our business, you have to be versatile, so I’m not surprised with what he’s accomplished.”
Summarizing Asch’s extensive career in a couple of paragraphs doesn’t really do him justice. But within a couple of years of leaving Temple, he was at WCAU radio, serving as sports talk host Steve Fredericks’ producer. Soon after, he was on the air, hosting his own weekend show, before transitioning to the television side. He remained at ’CAU from 1979 until Aug. 15, 1990, the day the station unexpectedly went off the air for good. He was at Channel 10 from 1982 to 1996, first as sportscaster Al Meltzer’s producer, later as weekend anchor, before realizing he needed a change.
“I got married in 1995,” explained Asch, former president of the Philadelphia Sportswriter’s Association, who still heads the “Team of the Year” selection committee. “I was working four-to-midnight. My wife was working 9 to 5. We realized we’d never see each other. An opportunity came along for me to work at a small video company in West Chester, CCI Communications.
“So I quit my job and went to work there for 19 months when Steve Butler at KYW — whom I went to Temple with — called and asked if I wanted to do some sports reporting. I said ‘Sure.’ ”
In 2010 he reinvented himself yet again, making the transition from doing strictly sports on KYW to anchoring the news. According to Asch, though, he does a lot more than just read copy.
“I’ve always been interested in giving out information, whether it’s news or sports,” said Asch, who also had a brief stint as editor of The Fan magazine in 1996. “Given the opportunity to switch to news, I jumped at the chance. I’m a storyteller. That’s what we do in broadcasting — we tell stories.
“I write like I’m talking to my best friend. I always like making people say, ‘I didn’t know that. That’s pretty interesting.’ I tell my students: If you’re a good storyteller, doors will open.”
Which brings us to the story of his 2012 Bar Mitzvah in Israel. “I didn’t believe in it back then,” admitted Asch, about his 13-year-old self’s decision to forgo the traditional rite. “It was more important for me to confirm my faith in Judaism than to be a man in the eyes of God.
“But I guess as I got older, I felt it was something I missed. So I had a talk with my family and we thought it would be great if I got Bar Mitzvahed in Israel.
“We went on a trip with people from Beth Or and Rabbi Marx performed the ceremony. There were 30 people at the Wall and it was very moving. Just me, my wife and two kids and the Beth Or members.
“I get back to Philadelphia and there’s package from UPS. I open it up and there’s a Temptations album, $10 in cash and a brand-new pen with a note from my oldest friend, Larry, whom I’ve known since I was 5. It says, ‘This is what you would’ve gotten if you’d been Bar Mitzvahed in 1969 like you were supposed to.’ ”
Then again, Jeff Asch has spent most of his life going against the norm. And he’s not about to change. “I’m so happy I don’t wake up every morning and say ‘Crap, I have to go to work,’ ” he said. “I want to do this till the day I die. I get to go in and play radio. What can be better than that? I get to teach young people about the business. Why would I want to stop? I get to entertain and inform. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. It’s what I always wanted to do.”