The American Jewish Press Association has recognized the Atlanta Jewish Times with four Simon Rockower Awards for Excellence in Jewish Journalism for the newspaper’s work in 2016.
The AJT received three first-place awards and one second place for articles addressing heroin addiction, the aliyah experience, anti-Semitism in the presidential campaign and support for the LGBTQ community.
The national awards, announced Thursday, June 15, will be presented at a banquet during the AJPA’s convention in Los Angeles in mid-November. The AJT’s awards all came in judging among newspapers with average circulation of fewer than 15,000 copies per issue.
The AJT won first place for excellence in enterprise or investigative reporting for coverage of heroin and opioid addiction and overdose among Jews in an area north of the city of Atlanta largely overlapping the 6th Congressional District. Most of the reporting was done by Leah R. Harrison, who conceived the series. Cady Schulman, Kevin Madigan and Michael Jacobs contributed supporting articles.
A category judge called the series a “comprehensive look at a hidden problem. A deep dive into the causes and potential solutions that calls the Jewish community to account.”
The series has inspired plans for Jewish-based residential and outpatient programs to assist those in recovery and their families.
“Receiving the Rockower is an incredible honor,” Harrison said. “Our community’s response to the series provides hope that we’ll make headway in fighting this devastating epidemic.”
Former Atlantans Mort and Edie Barr earned first place for excellence in covering Zionism, aliyah and Israel for three accounts in the AJT of their experience making aliyah.
“I was put off when I saw the headline,” a contest judge wrote. “Oh, lord, another first-person-how-I-made-Aliyah story. But when I started reading I found a fascinating personal essay, full of insight that addresses the questions all potential olim ask and shows how they prevailed.”
Notified of their win by email, the Barrs wrote that they were “pleasantly stunned.”
“We are amateur writers merely writing from our hearts to share our experiences and express our emotions,” they said. “It is not common to live a dream, and all we did … was to reveal the dream. We intend to continue writing, hoping to inspire others to live the dream and make aliyah.”
The AJT swept first and second for excellence in single commentary, thanks to guest columns from Laura Silverman and Robbie Medwed.
Silverman wrote about the anti-Semitic taunts and threats she received online after tweeting criticism of Donald Trump last summer during the presidential campaign. A judge called her winning entry “an important column.”
“I’m floored and honored to receive this award. The politics of the last year have opened my eyes, and I’ve funneled my frustration into action. This week I’ll be voting for the third time in 2017,” Silverman said after the announcement. “I hope we all stay motivated to bring forth brighter days.”
Medwed finished second with his “powerful critique” of an Orthodox Washington rabbi’s decision to try to be an ally to LGBTQ people by leading his congregation to a gay bar after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.
“I’m honored to be recognized for my column, and I’m proud that the Atlanta Jewish Times offers voices from all backgrounds the space to come together to discuss challenging issues as a community and in a context where competing opinions can be discussed with respect and integrity,” Medwed said.
No Jewish newspaper won more awards than the AJT this year.
Last year the AJT won three awards, all for articles written by freelance contributor Dave Schechter: first place for excellence in commentary for three of his biweekly columns; first place for excellence in enterprise or investigative reporting for “Bet Big or Fold,” about the potential for casino gambling in Georgia; and first place for excellence in feature writing for “After the Survivors,” an examination of a near-future world without Holocaust survivors.