If you are fortunate, there is a place away from the routine stresses of life where you feel particularly at ease.
For me, such a place is a cabin in the woods beside a lake in central Maine. My father’s mother and aunt began the four-generation tradition some 70 years ago. It is “literally a tinsmith’s cabin, hardly touched by time, made of the leftover materials of a century ago,” my brother says.
Paddling a kayak on the lake, I feel time slow almost to a stop.
Dad treasured vacations at the cabin during his working years and summer months there in retirement.
“Put the wood in the water,” Dad would command when we shared a canoe. He enjoyed the view through the trees as the sun set across the lake. He read, everything from newspapers to Jewish texts, and wrote.
My father was passionate about Judaism and journalism, the profession he shared with his oldest child.
So it felt fitting to be in Maine when I was informed of having been honored with four Rockower Awards by the American Jewish Press Association: three for columns and articles for the Atlanta Jewish Times and one for an article published in the Forward.
Dad would have gotten a kick out of my being honored by the AJPA. For some years he carried in his wallet a card identifying him as working for an AJPA member newspaper, though I have no idea how he obtained the card.
Of course, I appreciate the recognition by the AJPA, but without the assistance and contributions of others, these honors would have been unlikely.
My wife, Audrey, and my brother John, the rabbi, read everything I write before it is filed — not only the final versions, but also drafts along the way. On more than one occasion, they have made suggestions that strengthened a column or article or found errors I would have been embarrassed to leave uncorrected.
Audrey introduced me to Norbert Friedman, whose story became the opening segment of an article about a future without Holocaust survivors. It is Friedman and others who are generous with their time and patient with my questions who make possible the kind of articles to which readers (and apparently contest judges) respond positively.
A Rockower Award is flattering, but when a writer the caliber of playwright and Atlanta native Alfred Uhry praises your work (an examination of the legacy of the Leo Frank lynching on its centennial), that is just as gratifying.
AJT owner and Publisher Michael Morris and Editor Michael Jacobs have given me the opportunity to write this column every other week and the space in print and online to write articles of several thousand words on such topics as Holocaust survivors, Leo Frank, relations between Catholics and Jews, and the challenges facing the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.
The AJPA says that of an approximately 60 Jewish newspapers in the United States, perhaps half are owned independently, and half are operated by communal organizations. The AJT is one of the former, and that benefits Atlanta’s Jewish community.
In communities with independent voices, readers have access to journalism that not only reports on events, but also delves into issues, that offers not only the viewpoint of its owner, but also a diversity of viewpoints representing the diversity of thought in the Jewish world.
That is the kind of journalism my father appreciated.
Throughout my career, which began as a 13-year-old writing for a mimeographed school newspaper, he shared the perspective of his experience (as I try to do now with our daughter, a third-generation journalist).
In the middle of that lake in Maine, I lifted my paddle from the water, and as the kayak drifted with the tide, I thanked my father.
Later, as I locked up the cabin and began the drive home to Atlanta, I took a last look at the lake and the woods and hoped I could retain some of the ease I find there.