By: Mark Fitzgerald New York Jewish philanthropy to decide early this year whether it should continue to subsidize a single Jewish newspaper sp.
THE LARGEST JEWISH charity in New York will decide early this year whether it should stay in the newspaper business, its board of directors said. In a statement after its closed December board meeting, the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York said a management committee will prepare a report for the full board on whether the UJA-Federation should continue subsidizing the Jewish Week. A board meeting is scheduled in February. During past months, rival Jewish newspapers have complained with increasing frequency and volume that UJA-Federation's hefty subsidy of the Jewish Week is unfairly strangling independent Jewish journalism (E&P, Nov. 27, 1993, p. 11). UJA-Federation annually pays the Jewish Week $825,000 for subscriptions, which it mails without additional charge to about 82,000 households that contribute $36 or more. This hefty subsidy arrangement not only amounts to unfair competition, it means that when independent Jewish papers motivate Jews to contribute to UJA-Federation, the papers in effect deliver more readers to the Jewish Week, argued owners of the Long Island Jewish World, Jerome William Lippman and his wife, Naomi. The Lippmans' campaign against the subsidy has been joined by such independent Jewish papers as the Forward and Jewish Press. However, the Jewish Week and UJA-Federation said the newspaper returns a "substantial" amount of that sum to the charity each year and it provides other valuable services. In a statement after the board meeting, UJA-Federation president Alan Jaffe said the philanthropy will develop a long-term policy to serve its donors and the programs that they support. That means, he said, "ensuring the viability of a vehicle capable of communicating the story of UJA-Federation's campaign and agencies to all its donors throughout the metropolitan area at the lowest possible cost." Several New York-area independent Jewish papers have urged the charity to institute a check-off system that would enable donors to choose from several Jewish publications. Several speakers supported that idea at the closed board meeting, which one speaker, who insisted on anonymity, described as the most contentious in recent years. According to accounts in the Jewish World, Jewish Week, Jewish Chronicle and Forward, 10 board members argued against the subsidy to the Jewish Week while four argued that the current arrangement should be continued. For example, board member Thomas Tisch said UJA-Federation should use "all available media" in telling its story, according to a Jewish World story by Winston Pickett quoting Tisch's prepared remarks. "If we really believe in Jewish continuity, nothing could be better than a flourishing, diverse and vital Jewish press," the story quoted Tisch as saying. "Nothing should excite UJA-Federation more than to see the Miami-based Jewish Sentinel, the Forward . . . and the Long Island Jewish World spending millions and millions of for-profit and not-for-profit dollars fighting for a share of reading time of New York's Jews." A Forward story by Benjamin Pollock quoted board member Jack Weinstein, a senior U.S. district judge, as saying, "The (UJA-Federation) management was overwhelmed by the vehemence against continuing the status quo, even if the Jewish Week improves, as it seems to be doing." However, that improvement, which includes a new editor, a redesign and an increased emphasis on local Jewish community news, was cited by some speakers as a reason to keep the Jewish Week subsidy. "[One newspaper] helps create a feeling of community among donors," the Jewish World quoted Billie Gold, a member of both the charity's and Jewish Week's boards, as saying. "It's probably good for the Jews to have a lot of papers," Gold added, "but it is in the best interest of the UJA-Federation to have one."