President’s Column: A Tale of Two Centuries
If you read the “Letters to the Editor” column in Hadassah Magazine, you have probably seen the magazine criticized in its own pages. What you won’t see is a lot of praise. That’s not because we don’t receive congratulatory mail, but because our editors practice old school journalism: Critical letters add to conversations prompted by our articles; laudatory messages—frequent and much appreciated—take up valuable space.
So in a way I am breaking with editorial tradition by writing in praise of the magazine you are now reading.
Hadassah Magazine takes Israel, the Jewish world and the work of this organization into the homes of our members and into the consciousness of the wider Jewish community. As the voice of an organization that has made a strategic decision to engage in serious journalism, the magazine is a unique institution in Jewish life—and a pillar of Hadassah’s identity. Over the last generation, Hadassah Magazine has won more awards for excellence in Jewish journalism than all other magazines combined.
This is a time for celebrating Hadassah Magazine. The new year will be the Centennial of the publication that began in September 1914 as the “Hadassah Bulletin,” evolved into a newsletter and ultimately became the feature magazine in which we all find so much of interest and take so much pride.
But the 100th anniversary also highlights a major transition. The story of this magazine is a tale of two centuries. The century we are leaving behind was the era of print, while the new century is dominated by the Web. Four years ago, in response to the changing economics of journalism, this magazine was forced to cut back from 10 print issues per year to 6. It has since maintained a Web site (www.hadassahmagazine.org) that carries articles from the print edition as well as original content, with monthly updates. And it will shortly be launching a more expansive, interactive site.
It’s difficult to say what form Hadassah Magazine, or any magazine, will take 10 or 20 years from now. We know that younger readers are comfortable consumers of news online. But our members tell us overwhelmingly that they want to continue reading our print edition. That entails substantial cost—expenditures that have never been entirely covered by advertising revenue.
Few nonprofits (and virtually no other Jewish nonprofit) have made the kind of journalistic commitment Hadassah has made. But maintaining that commitment is difficult in these challenging financial times. That’s why we launched the Hadassah Magazine Circle, an initiative that asks readers of the magazine to contribute to its future. You will see an appeal for the circle in this issue.
Speaking for myself as much as for any other member, I think it is especially incumbent on veteran members who still prefer the print edition to help sustain this publication through the Hadassah Magazine Circle.
There is something else you can do—if you are not doing so already. Don’t keep the magazine to yourself. Talk to friends and family about what you read in the magazine. Use articles in your discussion groups, book reviews in your book clubs. Ask for extra copies to use in your chapter’s membership campaigns. Give a gift subscription to your synagogue, library or doctor’s office.
Many people get the bulk of their news, about Israel in particular, from mainstream sources, which often focus on conflict and the quest for peace. If you know about Israel’s robust economy, its vibrant culture or the lifesaving treatment and research at Hadassah’s hospitals, chances are you read about it in our magazine. And chances are you have spread the news you discovered in these pages.
So let’s all celebrate Hadassah Magazine’s Centennial by adding value. We can do that both by giving to the magazine and through wider use. Let’s see if we can actually increase the number of pages. Who knows, maybe we will create enough valuable space to print a few of those congratulatory letters.