Adina Horwich at the 42nd annual Rockowers Awards. She received an honourable mention for journalistic excellence in covering Zionism, aliyah and Israel. (photo from Adina Horwich)
The Jewish Independent won four Simon Rockower Awards for Excellence in Jewish Journalism this year. The awards, which are given out by the American Jewish Press Association, were for work done in 2022. The JI has had a few Rockower hat tricks in its history, but this is the first time the paper has garnered four honours in one year.
The awards were presented on July 11 at the Higgins Hotel and Conference Centre in New Orleans, La., where the AJPA’s annual conference was held. The JI mainly competed in the division of weekly and biweekly newspapers, but there were some categories for which the competition was between all types of media (print and online); awards were given for first and second place, and sometimes honourable mention.
Writer Adina Horwich traveled from her home in Israel to New Orleans to receive her award in person. She won the JI an honourable mention for journalistic excellence in covering Zionism, aliyah and Israel for her article “Immigration challenges” (jewishindependent.ca/immigration-challenges-2). The piece both reviews Adi Barokas’s Hebrew-language graphic novel, The Journey to the Best Place on Earth (and Back), about Barokas’s experience trying to immigrate to Vancouver from Israel, and shares Horwich’s experience making aliyah from Canada. The jury commented: “Extremely readable story, that skilfully explores from a personal perspective the nitty gritty of making aliyah.”
The JI’s Pat Johnson also received an honourable mention – his article “Oasis in the Caucasus” (jewishindependent.ca/oasis-in-the-caucasus) garnered recognition for excellence in writing about Jewish heritage and Jewish peoplehood in Europe. The jury said about his piece:
“A terrific look into the Jewish community of Azerbaijan that most of us, unfortunately, don’t have on our ‘Must-Go Places to Visit.’ Pat Johnson’s very nice story strongly suggests otherwise. Johnson paints a wonderful picture of this tucked-away ‘shtetl’ where the residents say they have never faced antisemitism. If only we could feel so lucky here in the United States! And while most of us do well playing ‘Jewish geography,’ actual world geography is often more of a challenge. Having Johnson admit having to Google Azerbaijan before traveling there to report this story added a nice touch that connects with readers who may also be unfamiliar with the country – but now more knowledgeable thanks to this feature.”
Johnson was recognized for another of his articles, “Maus not too graphic” (jewishindependent.ca/maus-not-too-graphic), which placed second for excellence in education reporting. Johnson sat in on Anna-Mae Wiesenthal’s Holocaust and Genocide Studies class at King David High School, and listened as students discussed the graphic memoir Maus by Art Spiegelman.
“Lots of people laughed when a Tennessee school board pulled Maus from the curriculum because of the drawing of a naked cat. That was too much for board members and they banished the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel,” wrote the Rockower jury. “Viewing the book through the eyes of five students at a Jewish high school subtly portrays the board decision’s absurdity.”
Rounding out the JI wins was a first place for excellence in editorial writing – where all entries competed in the same division. The JI editorial board of Johnson, Basya Laye and me were honoured for the set of editorials that included “Every person has a voice” (about Elon Musk, hatred and misinformation online, and how people can counter such forces), “Extremism not helpful” (about New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh’s views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) and “New era in U.S. politics” (about the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of a woman’s right to reproductive self-determination, as well as the Jewish perspective on abortion).
About these editorials the Rockower jury wrote: “These pieces are good examples of what editorials should be – thoughtful examination of pressing issues, using clear reasoning in looking at both sides, then coming to a well-reasoned conclusion. Local tie-ins strengthen opinions.”
All of us at the JI appreciate the AJPA’s recognition of the hard work that goes into producing an independent Jewish newspaper, magazine or website, and we congratulate all of our colleagues on their achievements. For the full list of Rockower winners, visit ajpa.org.
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