Bertram “Benyamin Buddy” Korn, who built a career in Jewish media and served as executive editor of the Jewish Exponent from 1994 to 1997, died July 5 in Elkins Park. He was 64.
“He was a real professional, very good to work for,” said Steve Feldman, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Zionist Organization of America, who was a reporter for the Exponent during Korn’s tenure. “He was a very good editor in terms of letting reporters do their thing. He wasn’t heavy-handed.”
He said Korn brought a strong focus on religious life to the publication and hired young, observant writers who were fluent in Hebrew.
Korn gave Ami Eden, CEO and executive editor of 70 Faces Media, which operates several brands, including the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, his first full-time job as a wire editor at the Exponent in 1997.
“Buddy taught many of us that Jewish journalism was a cause and a calling — and challenged us to make it something to be proud of,” Eden said. “He combined this belief with a childlike tendency to dream big, with no worry about limitations or failures. And if you were willing to take the leap with him, he would return the favor with friendship, mentorship and an uncompromising belief in your ability to soar.”
Korn kept in touch with the Exponent after he left the paper. Joshua Runyan, who was the paper’s editor-in-chief until last year, often received emails from him.
“He was the kind of guy who pulled no punches. He was not shy to criticize either something he read in the paper or something I wrote,” Runyan said. “He was a person who passionately advocated on behalf of the Jewish state and the Jewish community, and he was deserving of a lot of respect.”
Korn also served as executive editor of the Miami Jewish Tribune during his journalism career.
Korn was born Bertram Wallace Korn Jr. in Abington on Oct. 12, 1955. His mother was Rita Korn (née Rosenfeld), and his father, Bertram Korn Sr., was a prominent rabbi who led Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, served as a chaplain in the Navy Reserve and wrote 13 books on Jewish history.
The younger Korn grew up in Elkins Park and studied journalism at Temple University. As a young adult, he was active in left-wing politics and traveled to India.
His outlook began to change after his father died.
“In his development of his political philosophy, he had a spiritual awakening,” son Emanuel Korn said. “When his father passed away, his connection to Judaism became more of the forefront of his life.”
Korn married his first wife, Miriam Korn (née Nissan), in 1988. They divorced in 1997. In 2007, he married Nava Korn (née Johnson).
As Israel and Judaism took on heightened significance in his life, his political outlook shifted and he became an outspoken conservative activist and talk radio host.
He regularly led pro-Israel demonstrations, founded the Philadelphia chapter of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis, and was the founding chairman of the Philadelphia Religious Zionists.
He also founded Jewish Americans for Sarah Palin, an advocacy group dedicated to supporting the former vice presidential candidate during the 2012 presidential election.
Although he was passionate about conservative causes, Korn fostered friendships with people across the political spectrum. Friends, family and co-workers remember his ability to cultivate close relationships with those who disagreed with him.
“He would have conversations at shul with people who had opposing views and always give a hug at the end to make sure it was left with love,” Nava Korn said. “He just had a huge, huge heart.”
Emanuel Korn said his father was deeply devoted to the Philadelphia Jewish community, regardless of denomination.
“If someone wasn’t part of his specific community, he saw it as more of a reason to develop a relationship with them and find common ground,” he said.
Son Avichai Korn recalled his father hosting people in the community at the family’s home in Elkins Park. Some stayed for months after falling on hard times.
“He was the kind of person who didn’t just open his wallet to people or his doors to people. He also opened his heart to people completely,” he said.
Upon learning of his death, Herut North America, the pro-Israel movement, tweeted: “[We mourn] the loss of Benyamin ‘Buddy’ Korn z”l. A giant in the fight to defend Israel on the battlefield of ideas has passed. His love of Zion and Am Yisrael will never be forgotten.”
A graveside service for Korn was held on July 7 at Monetfiore Cemetery. Korn is survived by wife Nava, children Emanuel (Hadassa), Avichai, Nechama and Eliyahu (Daniella), sister Judy Korn and grandchild Elisha Chanan, among others.
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