Shalom, Not Lehitraot
But that is what is happening.
I have the unpleasant task of telling you that I am leaving the JT, and I am taking a job in Kansas City. This is a difficult conversation for me to have with you, not because things have gone badly; just the opposite, things have gone so well. I love my job, the people I work with — and mostly all the exceptional individuals who I have met along the way, people who bring so much to the table. I’ll miss the people of Jewish Baltimore. I’ll miss the stories. That’s what makes this process of resigning so difficult.
For the entire nearly eight years that I have lived in Baltimore, I have worked in the Jewish community — at the JT as a staff reporter/business editor, at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore as marketing and communications manager and then back at the JT as managing editor and editor-in-chief. Everyone who lives Jewish Baltimore knows it is a small town with a lot of people — and a lot of ruach [spirit] and koach [strength].
In just the 18 months I have worked with the JT as editor, I have been a part of tremendous growth and development. We have recouped lost subscribers and experienced close to 10 percent growth in subscribers in 2013. I’ve been a part of our greatest successes, such as the six awards we won last year from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association (including a best of show, beating out the Washington Post, for our political coverage). I have had the privilege to write stories that have been picked up not only by wire services and shared nationally, but that have been referenced by acclaimed analysts and bloggers.
I have also been there through some not-so-great times — such as covering a derecho (while eight-and-a-half months pregnant with my own power out for a week) and reporting on a sexual predator who worked at two of our area day schools and a rapist who took advantage of a young woman in Northwest Baltimore.
But through the good and the challenges, we’ve stuck it out. You’ve written to me to tell me how happy you are with the direction of the paper. And when you’ve been upset, you haven’t been afraid to say something. The good communities are like families, and leaving my job is like leaving family.
I am leaving the JT because of an exceptional opportunity to continue my growth and development as a Jewish communal professional in Kansas City. I didn’t go looking for it; it found me (though I did go through the long application process), and it was a great fit. I thought a long time about how I would walk into the office, such a short time after believing I could make this commute between Baltimore and Kansas City work, and tell my co-workers that my four human children need me more than this newspaper (my fifth child), that I don’t want to miss their important moments, that I am tired from working 21-hour days when I come to Baltimore and, at this stage in my life, that I should be living and working by my family.
I thought of the people this would impact, the staff and the readers I feel like I am abandoning, the writing and marketing projects I am leaving behind … some incomplete. I lost a lot of sleep over it; I am still losing sleep over it.
I will always have incredible memories from this job. There was the time I called up the office of the president of Iran and started asking to speak to someone about the Jewish community there. And then I called Iranian universities and the local embassy. I am still convinced that when Kansas City Power & Light told my husband they would need to conduct a 72-hour security check on our family before turning on the gas and electricity in our new home that was just code for, “We’re not sure if we want you in Kansas. Your wife is a crazy journalist who wants to be buddy-buddy with the Ayatollah.”
There were the community leaders who stepped down, such as CHAI’s Ken Gelula and the Jewish Community Center’s Buddy Sapolsky. There were the leaders who celebrated their successful tenures, including The Associated’s Marc B. Terrill. There were the young people who became community leaders, such as Jakir Manela at the Pearlstone Center and David Golaner at Edward A. Myerberg Center.
Before Chanukah 2012, my staff and I went driving around in the cold on a wild goose chase for the best kosher latke. I think we all gained 10 pounds that night! There were nights we stayed until midnight, churning out political copy, analyzing the J Street conference or pulling together to think about The Jewish Federations of North America 2012 General Assembly, which happened in Baltimore.
We flipped our paper upside down last Purim — literally. And even I wrote funny copy (or at least my staff told me that it was funny).
And this past Rosh Hashanah our cover focused on Jewish unity. And for what may have been the first time (or certainly the first in a long time), a mainstream Orthodox, modern Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist rabbi each tackled the same question of how we can better unite in an ever-individualized Jewish world — and published their answers in print.
I don’t think for one minute that anyone will begrudge me for leaving. In fact, I am quite sure they will be happy for me — that’s just another part of what makes this hurt.
I don’t have any grandiose ideas that I cannot be replaced or that the paper won’t go on or won’t continue to improve under someone else’s leadership. I also know that my reign here is just a blip in time of the paper’s more than 90 years.
But nonetheless, it has meant a lot to me. This role, our mission of building and strengthening community, penetrates my soul.
This is my final Opening Thoughts. But this is not lehitraot [just goodbye], it is shalom, the closing of one door, the opening of another. And it is a call to action to keep reading us, keep helping us to do our little part in providing Jewish Baltimore with a platform for dialogue and a place in which people of all diverse lifestyles can come together around a common Jewish core.
Maayan Jaffe is JT editor-in-chief
Maayan’s new email is firstname.lastname@example.org