By: Mark Fitzgerald
Jewish charity will give contributors their choice of papers sp.
LONG ISLAND CONTRIBUTORS to New York’s largest Jewish charity will be able to choose which of two Jewish newspapers they want to receive under a plan recommended for adoption Feb. 8.
The plan would allow donors to choose between the Jewish Week ? a paper subsidized by the charity ? and the Long Island Jewish World, an independent paper whose owners campaigned vigorously against the subsidy.
In a series of editorials and full-page ads during the past year, the Jewish World repeatedly has argued that by subsidizing the Jewish Week, the big philanthropy threatens independent Jewish journalism.
At one point, Jewish World owner and publisher Jerome William Lippman accused the Jewish Week of being a “Pravda-like” house organ for the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York.
The Jewish World’s stand generally has been supported by two other independent Jewish weeklies in New York City, the Forward and Jewish Press.
Details of the new subsidy plan were outlined in a memo sent to board members of UJA-Federation from the charity’s management committee. A copy of the Jan. 26 memo from Irwin Hochberg and charity president Alan Jaffe was obtained by E&P.
Their recommendations follow what some UJA-Federation board members said was an unusually contentious board meeting in December during which the newspaper subsidy was discussed (E&P, Jan. 8, p. 13).
In addition to providing contributors a choice of papers, the UJA-Federation management committee’s plan calls for getting the philanthropy out of the newspaper business entirely during the next five years.
The charity pays the Jewish Week about $825,000 annually for papers that it mails free to people who donate $36 or more. About 82,000 households get the paper through this arrangement.
UJA-Federation executives, however, said the true cost of the subsidy is “substantially” less than $825,000 because the charity receives excess income from the paper and other valuable services.
In the memo outlining the plan, Hochberg and Jaffe acknowledged the “intense feelings” on both sides of the subsidy issue. They wrote that they are “attempting to reconcile the supposedly irreconcilable.”
The text of their proposal for newspaper purchasing follows:
“This recommendation provides for a donor option for our Long Island contributors to receive either the Jewish Week or the Jewish World and for a phased reduction in the cost of our newspaper purchasing policy over an approximate five-year period.
“Beginning in the fiscal year commencing July 1, 1994, the plan will provide for both newspapers to be sent for a four-week period to our Long Island donors of $36 or more. Following the trial period, donors will then be permitted to choose between either paper or no paper at all. Donors who make no choice will continue to receive the Jewish Week as in the past.”
Jaffe declined to comment on the plan until after the Feb. 8 board meeting.
Lippman said he was “gratified” by the proposal.
“Our crusade for the last 10 years has been to bring to the attention of Jewish leadership the issue and importance of independent Jewish journalism,” he said.
“I feel gratified our voice has been heard and I hope and pray that democracy takes place and that the leadership will recognize that a free press is essential for the growth of Jews in America and the world.”
Reacting to the plan, Seth Lipsky, editor of the Forward, said the choice should be expanded to include all major Jewish papers.
“We continue to believe that a checkoff system, in which donors can decide for themselves which newspaper, if any, they want the charity to purchase for them, is the most logical solution and the one most in line with a point of principle,” Lipsky said.
Rabbi Sholom Klass, publisher of the Jewish Press, could not be reached.