Just over two years ago, Mike Leven — then chairman and CEO of the Georgia Aquarium — became alarmed when he read that family funds estimated as high as $60 trillion would soon be transferred from the Baby Boomer generation to the millennial and Gen Z generations. He was afraid that the younger generations would not contribute a sizeable portion to the Jewish community. So, he co-founded the Jewish Future Pledge, calling on fellow Jews to leave at least half of their charitable funds to support the Jewish people and/or the State of Israel.
The initiative was launched in Atlanta but has expanded around the country.
On Monday, Aug. 16, Leven credited founding editor of Jerusalem-based Times of Israel, David Horovitz, for being his inspiration to initiate the pledge. The acknowledgement was made during a virtual panel discussion on “Jewish Journalism and the Jewish Future.” In addition to Leven and Horovitz, other panelists included Ami Eden, CEO and executive editor of 70 Faces Media, David Suissa, president of Tribe Media/Jewish Journal and Kaylene Ladinsky, AJT editor and managing publisher.
“We know that Jewish journalism is extremely critical to the Jewish community and has great insight into where we are and where we may be headed, by nature of reporting on so many facets of Jewish life,” Leven said. “The aim of this panel was to share this message with our audience.”
That audience of about 300 listened as the journalists examined the role of Jewish journalism, as well as its challenges. “Our role as journalists is to keep people informed, making sure we all understand what we’re grappling with,” said Horovitz. Included in that challenge is the fact that the younger Jewish population, according to several surveys, have less of a commitment to Israel and involvement in Jewish life.
“The key word for me is balance, and integrity,” said Suissa, referring to the role of Jewish journalism. He stated that, “whatever will get you the most readership is not always sound. We must resist the temptation. We need balance of the whole Jewish picture.”
Ultimately, Suissa said, “We’re storytellers and we’re keeping the great story of Judaism going.”
Eden agreed with the role of storytellers. “We’re telling the stories that define us as a people, as a community.” He also called Jewish journalism a mirror. “We are the engine of self-reflection in the community.” Referring only to the North American Diaspora, Eden added that “if the media 100 years ago was teaching Jews to be American, now it’s helping American Jews how to be Jewish.”
Ladinsky zeroed in on the Atlanta Jewish community, emphasizing the importance of keeping it connected with each other, especially in the last year and a half during the pandemic. “It’s important that they know the community is still connected and that we support them,” she said.
The panel moderator, Nathan Miller, founder and CEO of Miller Ink, a Los Angeles-based strategic communications firm, raised the challenge of political and religious polarization in today’s world. While Ladinsky stated that she tries to publish both sides of an issue at the same time in order to launch a discussion, Suissa said he tries to find voices that have an inner struggle within them.
“I love to publish writers who have an inner struggle,” Suissa said. “The idea is to provoke thought, rather than anger. Getting people angry turns me off.”
According to Horovitz, “the noblest aspect of journalism is to give people information, not just anger. It’s important for democracy and humanity that there are journalism enterprises that try to be fair minded and try to report news fairly.”
Suissa picked up on Eden’s idea of Jewish journalism being a mirror to the community, but said he also wants it “to be a window.” He believes that Jewish journalism should expose its readership to what they don’t do as Jews. “It’s part of building the Jewish future.”
At 70 Faces, Eden offers a multi-brand strategy. “We try to hit a balance between being accessible and not talking down to our readers. We respect the different levels of knowledge,” Eden said.
Leven said he is most concerned about the 25 to 40-year-old gap that “Jewish organizations haven’t spent time on.” He noted that organizations like Moishe House and One Table reach thousands of people, “but how does Jewish media reach them? That’s where we lose a lot.”
Noting that many local Jewish newspapers have folded or gone only to online editions, Suissa said his fantasy is to see a comeback of Jewish newspapers. But “Jewish donors need to invest” in these newspapers, he said.
Leven appeared to support that plea. “Jewish journalism is the lifeblood of a healthy Jewish community and ensuring a strong Jewish future. The Jewish Future Pledge was proud to share this message with our community around the world as part of a panel with several of the leading Jewish publications, which are strongly aligned with our mission.”
He concluded the panel by noting that “this is a moral pledge, not a legal one.”
- Jan Jaben-Eilon
- Jewish Journalism
- Mike Leven
- Georgia Aquarium
- Baby Boomer Generation
- Millennial Generation
- Gen Z Generation
- jewish community
- Jewish Future Pledge
- charitable funds
- Jewish People
- State of Israel
- Times of Israel
- David Horovitz
- Nathan Miller
- “Jewish Journalism and the Jewish Future”
- Ami Eden
- 70 Faces Media
- David Suissa
- Tribe Media/Jewish Journal
- Kaylene Ladinsky
- Atlanta Jewish Times
- jewish life
- North American Diaspora
- American Jews
- Miller Ink
- strategic communications firm
- inner struggle
- fair minded
- report news fairly
- multi-brand strategy
- Moishe House
- One Table
- Jewish organizations
- Jewish Future
- moral pledge