It’s great to be back in Pittsburgh, and it’s even greater to be editing The Jewish Chronicle!
My first foray into Jewish life in greater Pittsburgh came about 10 years ago when I was a reporter for the Jewish Exponent in my hometown of Philadelphia. I had been assigned to write a feature story on the process and the detailed requirements of kosher slaughtering. As it turned out, the closest location to Philadelphia where one could find actual large animal shechita being performed — at the time, a still-healthy industry of kosher chicken processing existed in Vineland, N.J. — was in the small town of Eighty Four, Pa., about an hour south of Pittsburgh.
My contact for the story was Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Deren, who invited me to shadow him during one of his biweekly sessions at a tiny slaughterhouse — the facility’s main business was of the nonkosher variety — in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. Before dawn, I left
my wife and baby at the motel outside of town, donned my half-length rubber boots and drove out to meet Rabbi Deren, the slaughterhouse’s workers, the USDA inspector and the handful of cows and lambs brought in for the occasion. A few hours later, three cows and five lambs had been dispatched and butchered — by my recollection, one cow and three lambs were ruled to be kosher — and I left tired and hungry.
My young family and I spent the next couple of days on vacation in Pittsburgh. We acquainted ourselves with Squirrel Hill; we visited the zoo, took the incline, enjoyed some kosher food and — much to my wife’s surprise — I decided to go to Murray Avenue Kosher to have some of the beef I had seen processed back in Eighty Four. Far from becoming a vegetarian, witnessing all the elements of proper shechita had developed in me an appreciation for where the food we all enjoy comes from. I tell people this story not to burnish my Pittsburgh credentials, of which there are few — although, a year later, I returned to the city to write an article about Rodef Shalom’s Biblical Garden — but as a way to illustrate how I approach issues both culinary and communal. People should know where their food comes from, and they should know how their organizations and agencies function.
Quite some time has passed since my first walk around the Point: I’ve got many more children and more than a few gray hairs than when the Pittsburgh part of my professional journey began. I’ve called cities around the world home and seen unique corners of the globe as a commercial pilot. Through all of my adventures, I’ve been touched by the power of community and convinced of the unique role that the media can play in serving as the glue that can hold disparate segments of a community — or society at large — together.
The primary duty of any newspaper, communal or otherwise, is to inform. The journalists who write its copy and themdesigners who package its content are in the business of teaching in compelling and inspiring ways. But a community newspaper such as The Jewish Chronicle is also in the business of building and strengthening Jewish community. The way to achieve these goals is be a forum for readers, a marketplace of ideas for all of the stakeholders in the Pittsburgh Jewish community.
I see The Chronicle as the place where people will go for the uplifting stories they can’t find anywhere else, but I also see it as a vehicle for the types of articles that challenge readers and institutions. Above all, it must be constructive in its coverage.
None of this is possible, however, without the support of you, dear readers. I would like to hear from you in the coming weeks and months and beyond; I would like to hear when we’ve done something right as well as when you feel we’ve fallen short of the mark. At the end of the day, no matter whose name rests at the top of the masthead, this publication is yours more than anyoneelse’s. The Chronicle, ultimately, is your collective voice, the prism through which you view each other and through which the world at large views the Jewish community.
Thank you for the opportunity to join your community and take part in your debates. It’s an opportunity I don’t take lightly.