Jewish journalists from newspapers and other media across Europe said at a recent conference in Jerusalem that they want Israeli and North American Jewish media to pay more attention to Jewish life in their countries.
Panelists and attendees from media in France, the Netherlands, Spain, Austria, Germany, Romania, and elsewhere at the Jewish Media Summit in Jerusalem, which attracted more than 40 journalists from Europe and North America, offered a litany of incidents and political activities in their countries putting Jewish communities at risk. But they also called upon their fellows in the Jewish media to do more reporting on daily life.
Steve Nadjan, online editor of Actualite Juive in Paris, described a recent march that he described as the first openly anti-Semitic rally in France since the 1930s. He described how his newspaper struggles to report on both large and smaller events in detail, in order to provide comfort and support for victims.
“A Jewish paper’s mission is to present the facts, the details, what happened and when. We have to explain the difficulties of wearing a kippa, protecting children when we take them to school,” he said. “The two lines given in national French papers to anti-Semitic acts are not enough.”
On the other hand, Nadjan said it is also their job to report when non-Jews help Jewish victims, and to knock down rumors spread on social media. For all of the troubles in France, he said, it is not like the pre-World War II days of the late 1930s.
“Our mission is to interpret the evidence, interview experts, and explain difficult times,” Nadjan said. “This is not Kristallnacht. We see a complex situation, different from the past.”
Representatives of Israeli and US Jewish media at the Conference conceded that their audiences have limited appetites for news from outside their own communities, except in certain circumstances.
“Americans in general don’t have the imagination to understand what goes on outside their borders,” said Sue Fishkoff, editor of JWeekly in San Francisco. “That extends, sadly, to American Jews, as well. There is interest in Israel, but there isn’t interest in other countries, except in how it reinforces stereotypes.”
Fishkoff said there is profound misunderstanding and lack of sympathy for the lives Jews are living outside the US and Israel.
“It behooves us to run more stories about daily life in Europe, Africa, and Asia,” she said. “We should be deeply interested in Jewish communities around the world and the stuff that makes them tick.”
Zvika Klein, a reporter for Israel’s Makor Rishon newspaper, said that he is one of the only Israeli reporters whose area of coverage includes Diaspora Jewry. Israeli media, in general, only report news of Diaspora Jews after anti-Semitic acts, he said.
“The Israeli media loves anti-Semitism,” he said. “We love BDS. It’s amazing for Israeli media, although I think it is blown out of proportion. And Anti-Semitism that leads to Aliyah, that is the greatest story for Israel.”
Klein said that even when such stories are reported, they usually begin and end with an Israeli journalist calling the Chabad House in the affected area.
“Chabad is everywhere, and they always answer the phone,” he said. “But that gives a skewed perspective. Many times the Chabad isn’t even connected with the local community.”
Participants at the conference urged the setting up of formal and informal channels to remain in touch. A Facebook page for Jewish media internationally was set up after the previous conference two years ago, and participants were urged to use it.
Alan Abbey, Media Director of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, proposed development of a system for sharing and translating content into multiple languages for cross-publication or creation of a global, multi-language Jewish news website. Abbey has recently begun a research project into Jewish media outside of North America.
The conference was organized by the Israeli Government Press Office and the Ministry of Education. Sessions included interviews with Israeli politicians, a panel of Palestinian journalists, and a look at the future of media.