The Chanukah bazaar at Congregation Or VeShalom may be my favorite Atlanta Jewish event.
I took a few minutes at the bazaar Sunday, Dec. 11, to sit at a table, drink a Coke and take it all in. You often hear about the excellent Sephardic food at the OVS bazaar, and it shouldn’t be missed. But I didn’t eat anything this year, helping me recognize that the true key is the people — the visitors as well as the members.
It was late in the day, so the crowd had thinned. But familiar faces were all around.
Steve and Gita Berman were to the right. To the left were OVS members Joel Marks, the Federation chairman, and Josiah Benator, the eternal Scout master. Marcus JCC board Chair Joel Arogeti greeted me at the door. I saw at least one vendor from my own Temple Kol Emeth, Debbie Antonoff, and others who had sold me goods before.
Most people were smiling, and no one was arguing or yelling. It was our Jewish community operating as a diverse, supportive whole.
It was fun and vibrant and crowded and positive and hopeful. It’s what Jewish Atlanta always should be.
Chanukah created another one of those happy community cross-sections the night before the OVS bazaar when Anshi Rabbi Mayer Freedman and his wife, Shani, had the neighborhood (defined very broadly) over for a pre-festival celebration.
Those positive moments of realized communal potential come to mind as the AJT completes Year 2 of Michael Morris’ ownership and my second stint as editor. (We won’t have another paper until Jan. 6, but we will keep updating the website.)
People ask me how the newspaper is doing. It’s a hard question in part because I don’t spend much time with the business numbers, from circulation to ad sales. I have my hands full with editorial operations, and in Michael Morris and Associate Publisher Kaylene Ladinsky, the AJT has the right people on the business side.
How the newspaper is doing also is a complicated question in this era of shrinking ad revenues, falling trust in the media and rising intolerance for disagreement. We need some basis of comparison to judge whether we’re doing well, but what?
The print newspaper’s reach and relevance are feeble compared with the AJT of 25 years ago. But we compare favorably with the AJT from a decade ago, my first time as editor, and any time after that, and I like our paper better than most of the other Jewish weeklies I see.
We’re not growing as fast in number of pages as I had hoped, and we need to implement some new features, improve our calendar and make other changes to avoid plateauing on editorial quality.
Our biggest weakness as an editorial team composed mostly of freelancers is that the two full-timers, myself and Associate Editor David R. Cohen, rarely have time to think strategically. We’re always focused on finishing the next story and the next issue.
But all print numbers and the website metrics are just indicators; they’re not the ends.
The OVS bazaar is a reminder that the AJT exists above all to create community, to be a place that informs and challenges and enables mostly respectful debate while serving as a reminder that we are and must be one community.
How is the AJT doing? No better and no worse than the Atlanta Jewish community, and that’s how it should be.