The Atlanta Jewish Times won the grand prize at the 41st annual Simon Rockower Awards for General Excellence in Jewish journalism’s jury choice award for Best Jewish Newspaper in America. The award was announced June 27 and went to publisher Michael Morris and editor and managing publisher Kaylene Ladinsky during the American Jewish Press Association’s Simon Rockower Gala held at the Georgia Aquarium.
The Atlanta Jewish Times website won second place for General Excellence in Jewish journalism’s jury choice award for Best Website. Ladinsky, who was the co-chair of this year’s AJPA conference and serves on the organization’s executive board was presented with the organization’s “Volunteer of the Year” award.
The AJPA judges provided comments to support their votes and winning selections. For the AJT’s first-place Award for General Excellence — Best Newspaper, the judges wrote:
The Atlanta Jewish Times is colorful, informative, provocative and fun. The community gets its content in a clean, uncluttered, easy-to-read format showcasing a variety of compelling writing and themed editions — like the World Series — that surprise and entertain readers.
For the AJT’s second-place Award for General Excellence — Best Website, the judges wrote:
Large photos well-supported with a headline and summary invite the reader to click-through. The content mix is strong — news, arts, opinion — as one would expect in a market this size. In keeping with editorial mission, the site localizes international news.
AJT contributor Dave Schechter received a Rockower Award for his writing on politics and government for his story, “Schoen Reflects on His Trump Impeachment Role.”
For Schechter’s award for writing about politics and government, the judges wrote:
Humanistic profile of one of Donald Trump’s lawyers, focusing on his Jewish practices that were visible to a nation.
The Rockower Awards are considered among the most important honors in American Jewish journalism. They have often been described as the “Jewish Pulitzer Prizes.” Since 1979 they have recognized the best in writing and editing in local and national journalism as well as in the increasingly important category of online publications.
The awards were a high point of the three-day newspaper conference, which was held at the CNN Omni Hotel prominently featured a number of Atlantans.
The conference’s keynote speaker Pulitzer-Prize winner Bret Stephens, a columnist and editor of New York Times, engaged in a fascinating discussion of journalistic ethics with a Jewish twist. His partner in the discussion, modeled in part on the Talmudic dialogue called a chevruta, or study teammate, was Rabbi Joshua Heller, of Congregation B’nai Torah in Sandy Springs. Rabbi Heller is a prominent expert on Jewish law in the national Conservative movement.
Ethics were also explored by Paul Root Wolpe, PhD., a nationally known scholar, and director of Emory University’s Center for Ethics. He was paired up with Jill Savitt, the President and CEO of Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights. They discussed the role that human rights and Jewish identity that journalism plays in Judaism and our communities today.
Also participating in the convention program was Greg Bluestein, political reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Allison Padilla-Goodman, the Vice President of the Southern Division of the ADL and Consul General of Israel, Anat Sultan-Dadon.
Among the local news executives who spoke were David Rubinger, market president and publisher of the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Janis Ware, publisher of The Atlanta Voice, Steve Levene, the founder and former publisher of the Springs Publishing LLC in Atlanta and Keith Pepper, owner and publisher of Atlanta Intown and The Reporter Newspapers, who purchased the Reporter group from Levene in 2020.
The AJT’s Rockower award is an acknowledgment of a significant rebuilding and restructuring process over the past several years. It began when Michael Morris took over ownership of the paper in December 2014 and decided to move Ladinsky into the role of editor, after a series of ownership changes during the previous decade had resulted in a decline in readership.
Today the newspaper’s monthly print readership has grown to about 150,000 and a robust readership of its website, which updates editorial content continuously each week. It also maintains the Atlanta Jewish Connector, a web-based resource of community events that provides weekly emailed updates to its subscriber base.
The Atlanta Jewish Times also founded the Atlanta Jewish Life Festival in 2019. It is the city’s largest event promoting and celebrating the Atlanta Jewish community, Jewish life and Israel.
Ladinsky, who first joined the paper in 2011, has editorial responsibility and guides the daily business operation of the publication, which began in 1925 as The Southern Israelite. She said she accepted the award not only on behalf of the paper’s staff and community of writers and contributors but on behalf of the wider community in Atlanta and elsewhere in the southeast that has so strongly supported the paper and its popular website, particularly during the recent pandemic.
“This award really belongs to all of them, too. Without the loyal supports of our readers, subscribers, contributors, advertisers and the entire community this award for Best Jewish Newspaper in America would not have been possible.”
The AJT publishes a full color print edition, which includes a feature section keyed to a special topic, twice a month, as well as a series of special editions, including Guide to Jewish Atlanta, an annual Readers’ Choice Awards for Best of Jewish Atlanta and a colorful, glossy STYLE Magazine, which is a quarterly publication featuring Jewish Atlanta’s stylish simchas and celebrations.
The recent growth of the AJT and the national recognition is even more remarkable since it comes at a time when the Jewish press, generally, has faced some challenging times. The business demands of publishing during a global pandemic and the steep decline of traditional print journalism have taken its toll on Jewish newspapers and publications.
The New York Jewish Week, which had a forty-six-year history in the nation’s largest Jewish community, went out of business in January this year. It had shut down its print edition the previous July and had tried to make it as an online only publication. In Boston, The Jewish Advocate stopped printing too, and three years ago, two of Chicago’s Jewish newspapers folded.
The New York Jewish Week was acquired by the nonprofit web publisher 70 Faces Media which was started by the Maimonides Foundation. The sale had the financial support of the New York Jewish Federation and a quartet of charitable foundations that have a strong interest in Jewish life.
In addition to The New York Jewish Week, 70 Faces Media publishes the hundred-year archives of the Jewish Telegraphic Association, JTA, a daily website of breaking news and analysis and several web-based publications that are targeted to specific segments of the Jewish communities with an interest in Jewish parenting, food, youth and pop culture. Much of the writing, editing and design work is done remotely and the company is said to be making a determined effort to decentralize its New York operations and hire staff nationally.
Still, as the convention in Atlanta demonstrated, Jewish newspapers continue to fill a crucial need in Jewish communities all over the country. The owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, Michael Morris, says that the paper is critical in bringing the community together. It remains strongly committed, he says, to a subscription-based printed format with wide availability throughout the metropolitan area.
He stated, “We believe that our advertisers and our readers still want to hold a newspaper in their hands, have it as a physical presence in their homes, and use it as an important resource in their everyday life. So, the Atlanta Jewish Times remains committed to both its award winning online and printed formats.”
Morris and Ladinsky echoed their appreciation to the local organizations that sponsored this year’s AJPA conference. Those included were Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Jewish Future Pledge, AEPi, Chabad of Fulton County, Israel Democracy Institute, Walton Press, Balloons Over Atlanta, Atlanta Braves, Georgia Aquarium, Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame, Joan’s Florist, Button It Up, Morris Family Foundation, Billi Marcus Foundation, Atlanta Jewish Life Foundation and The Marcus Foundation.
- Bob Bahr
- Simon Rockower Awards
- American Jewish Press Association
- Georgia Aquarium
- Dave Schechter
- pulitzer prize
- CNN Omni Hotel
- Bret Stephens
- New York Times
- Rabbi Joshua Heller
- Congregation B'nai Torah
- Paul Wolpe
- Emory University’s Center for Ethic
- Jill Savitt
- National Center for Civil and Human Rights
- Greg Bluestein
- Atlanta Journal Constitution
- Allison Padilla-Goodman
- Southern Division of the ADL
- Anti-Defamation League
- Atlanta Business Chronicle
- The Atlanta Voice
- Atlanta Intown
- Atlanta Jewish Life Festival
- Guide to Jewish Atlanta
- Readers’ Choice Awards for Best of Jewish Atlanta
- STYLE Magazine
- New York Jewish Week
- The Jewish Advocate
- 70 Faces Media
- Maimonides Foundation
- New York Jewish Federation
- Jewish Telegraphic Association
- jewish federation of greater atlanta
- Jewish Future Pledge
- Chabad of Fulton County
- Israel Democracy Institute
- Walton Press
- Balloons Over Atlanta
- Atlanta Braves
- Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame
- Joan’s Florist
- Button It Up
- Morris Family Foundation
- Billi Marcus Foundation
- Atlanta Jewish Life Foundation
- The Marcus Foundation