Ask Shuli: Busybodies, Part 2 and the AJW

newspaperDear Shuli readers:
Oy, I think I hit a nerve. Which I like! (What can I say, I have a Talmudic mind.) I love the lively discussion! So, comments have been pouring in (online and off) about this Talmud Torah business. I think DD is right with his/her comment to some extent: This IS a news story hiding in an advice column… I didn’t mean to hide it—my remarks were a response to an actual question from a concerned parent.
It’s interesting — I’ve written about Jewish issues in the Twin Cities for years, and because it’s such a small town, it’s difficult for editors and publishers to cover the Jewish news in an objective way. Exhibit A: the 2005 demise of the late, great Twin Cities Jewish Life magazine, which was published by the Jewish federations and funded by the Harry Kay Charitable Foundation.
There’s no real objectivity in local journalism—especially not Jewish journalism in the Twin Cities, where everyone is related, or at least feels related—but we do try our best to present the facts and their deeper meaning to concerned readers. Remember: I grew up elsewhere, so I don’t share that burden… most of the time, anyway.
Where Talmud Torah is concerned, I’ve noticed that the American Jewish World, TC Jewfolk and others have had a tough time covering this issue from an objective standpoint. I’m thrilled that religion writer Jeff Strickler covered the issue (at TCJewfolk’s suggestion) for the Star Tribune. He’s come closer to the actual who-what-when-where-why of Talmud Torah’s enrollment woes than any other news outlet. No Jewish news outlet, however, has provided a current explanation about the school’s finances and the school building itself—or what comes next. Where’s the service journalism, people?? This Tuesday, April 27 at 7 p.m., Talmud Torah is hosting an informational meeting for parents with students entering K, 1 and 2 — which I hope you will attend.
Let’s face it: The American Jewish World has not been a true independent, local Jewish newspaper since its former publisher left town some years ago. It’s been dominated by national and international reports from the JTA, news from the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, United Jewish Fund and Council of St. Paul, and lackluster local reporting. Of course, it’s a Catch-22: With a small base of readers and tight cash flow, it’s tough for the paper to commit resources to good reporting.
However, as a committed local reader, I was eager to see where new(ish) publisher Mordecai Specktor and his very experienced partner, Joel Kramer, would take this venerable publication. Since they acquired the newspaper, I’ve been sorely disappointed with the tepid results.
Please, will someone give the Minneapolis and St. Paul Jewish communities (two communities, not one) the news they need and deserve? TC Jewfolk has done so much to step in and fill the void (thank you, Leora and Emily), but what about print? What about radio, or mobile news apps? When serious news reflects and impacts an entire community, as Talmud Torah’s crisis has for St. Paul, we see the consequences of the news void—loud and clear.
Photo: just.Luc