A former staffer’s reflections – on the occasion of the JI’s 85th
It is with warm memories and appreciation that I reflect on the opportunity I had from 1970 through 1985 to serve, at different times, as the Jewish Western Bulletin’s editorial assistant, city-desk editor and assistant editor – all the while helping report on the world’s ongoing number-one story: the Middle-East situation … and the Jewish people, their survival, culture, religion and history.
The Greater Vancouver and B.C. Jewish communities were growing rapidly during those years and its diverse members – with, at that time, no internet, email or 24-hour all-news TV channels – primarily looked to the paper as a key source of information for major local, national and international Jewish issues and stories.
Bringing those stories to Bulletin readers during those pre-computer days, with its absence of word-processing and page-layout software, was often a very arduous endeavor, with copy that had to be typewriter-written and then often retyped, and pages that could only be slowly hand-designed. Additionally, the then standard usage of large linotype printing machines (running in the back of the Bulletin offices, and operated by four persons) resulted in a much longer and more involved production process than the one found today, where late-breaking stories can be readily included using digital technology.
Guiding the paper with excellence were the exceptionally dedicated and talented publishers and senior editors, Sam and Mona Kaplan. One goal was prevalent in all of the JWB’s undertakings during those years: to extensively and objectively cover important news and issues that affected the well-being and life of the Jewish people; to serve and advance, as best as possible, the B.C. and Canadian Jewish community, its individuals and organizations and, of course, Israel and world Jewry.
In serving the community, the Bulletin often focused on supporting Zionism, alerting the readership to antisemitic threats and incidents, and reporting on immigration issues. Readers could regularly find wide coverage of local community events and organization happenings, feature articles on community issues, in-depth profiles of local personalities and leaders, etc…. and the Lazar (Between Ourselves) column, with its breezy, informal style of “breaking” community news-gossip, was usually a must-read for JWB readers.
The culture scenes were far from neglected, with reporting by theatre, art, music and, yes, Jewish stamps, columnists and reviewers. The full-range of lifecycle milestones, such as births, b’nai mitzvahs, engagements, weddings and obituary announcements, were regularly printed.
Jewish news from across Canada and worldwide was extensively covered, with emphasis, of course, on the ever-changing situation in Israel and the Middle East, as well as the special plights at that time facing Soviet Jews and Ethiopian Jewry.
Throughout my 16 years at the paper, I found that participating in each issue’s production was truly an ongoing highlight, resulting in a strong feeling of exhilaration as the approaching deadlines brought with them an intensity in office visitors, copy submissions, planning, writing and editing, phone calls, the sounds of typesetting, etc. Other memorable times included the privilege of meeting visiting and local VIPs for stories and feature profiles, and taking part in a special Jewish Agency-sponsored tour of Israel for North American Jewish journalists, during which participants met many key leaders.
The staff always came through. When heavy snows closed offices around the city, we were at the JWB ensuring that the paper got out. When postal strikes thwarted distribution, we made arrangements for copies to be picked up, free of charge, at key community locations. And when large holiday editions saw production-time pressure, the typesetters would work all night to make sure that the paper would be in readers’ hands on time.
The Bulletin always respected the challenge of objectively and completely reporting on the full spectrum of what was happening in the Jewish world.
It was very interesting, challenging work and an utmost privilege and pleasure to work with this wonderful community.