People talk a lot these days about pandemic silver linings — the unexpected good that’s come from a very dark time. Then there’s the silver-linings guilt: How can I possibly celebrate the fact that I now bake kickass sourdough bread when people are sick and dying?
My silver-linings guilt started early, as I experienced lockdown as the fulfillment of my every fantasy. As a true introvert, I always dreamed of staying inside and working from home without any social obligations. But real life always demanded something different, so I scurried to catch trains and planes, always running five minutes late and feeling stressed and exhausted. I used to fantasize about a giant pause button I could press to stop the world for just a couple of days. Then the pandemic hit the pause button for all of us.
At the beginning of this year, in the wake of that pause, I reassessed my priorities — informed not only by a year of pandemic but also by what I considered to be a disastrous authoritarian presidency and a much-needed national reckoning with racial inequity. And I realized it was time to make some changes in my life.
After five years in the Jewish media space, I am moving on to work in the nonprofit sector. I’ll be joining an organization, Mighty Writers, that has been teaching kids to think clearly and write with clarity since 2009, a mission close to my heart. In response to the pandemic, Mighty Writers has added food distribution to its services, and continues to expand its charge in order to keep kids safe. I’m excited to be a part of that very worthwhile effort.
In my two years as editor-in-chief, I did not plant a huge stake in the ground of Jewish journalism. That was deliberate. Past editors have had rather distinct editorial personalities and political viewpoints, and I wanted to stay away from that — perhaps revealing my introversion more than I intended. But I didn’t want the paper to be about me — I wanted it to be about you, even as I attempted to expand the idea of what “you” meant.
Under my watch, I have tried to make sure the Jewish Exponent represented the truly multifaceted nature of the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community, including LGBTQ Jews, Jews of color, affiliated and unaffiliated Jews, Jews by choice, Jews from different denominational backgrounds and Jews from disparate countries of origin. I wanted to ensure that women and non-binary voices were heard more often in the opinion section, and that sources for stories were diverse. The effort to portray a full spectrum of Jewish identity has paid dividends for the publication and for its growing readership.
Such a broad approach is essential to the survival of the Jewish press, so I’m glad that the new editor of the Jewish Exponent, Gabe Kahn, has so much experience in dealing with these issues.
Formerly editor-in-chief of the New Jersey Jewish News, Gabe was brought in last year by the Jewish newspaper The Boston Advocate to oversee their final months. A graduate of Columbia’s journalism school and Brandeis before that, Kahn, a husband and father of two (well, three — a boy, a girl and one pandemic puppy), has contributed widely to both Jewish and secular media. He’s a smart editor, a friendly guy and an all-around great pick for this job, even if he does root for Boston sports teams, which is obviously a huge personality flaw that readers will have to overlook. I have no doubt I’m leaving the paper in capable hands — another pandemic silver lining, you could say.
As for me, I will keep in touch, probably by sending Gabe little notes about AP Style arcana and submitting strident op-eds about the wonders of working from home. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend some time with such a devoted and passionate readership. I’m sure it has been the high point of my journalism career.
I wish you all a lovely Pesach and the best in the future.
Mazel Tov to you and the best of luck in your new endeavor.
I think the Jewish Exponent was in good hands when you became editor. You continued that excellence, and I am sure that it will remain an excellent paper.
We spoke sometime ago, I don’t recall why. I do know that during the course of the conversation, I asked you if you were related to Harvey Spikol and you replied that he was your uncle and had just moved, maybe Arizona. He and I were in 3rd grade together – that was a day or two ago!
All the best to you – and I can relate to enjoy not being on a clock for a plane or a train, and to being alone too. Stay healthy and safe, Zissen Pesach (I’m assuming on Zoom) !