J. wins 6 national Jewish journalism awards

J. The Jewish News of Northern California has won six Rockower Awards for excellence in Jewish journalism from the American Jewish Press Association. The awards were announced last night at the AJPA’s annual meeting in Cleveland.

News editor Dan Pine took second place in the category of investigative or enterprise reporting for “S.F. State’s Jewish problem,” his May 2017 cover story about a campus climate that growing numbers of Jewish students and faculty members describe as hostile to Jewish concerns.

Its publication led to a range of actions by the Jewish community. In June, a lawsuit was brought by students and community members (an initial hearing took place in November). In July, the CSU chancellor stepped in to take a more active role after urging by the California Legislative Jewish Caucus. In August, a university investigation determined that Hillel was indeed improperly excluded from a student fair, one of the incidents examined in our cover story. These issues are far from over.

Editor Sue Fishkoff took second place in the news reporting category for her August 2017 story “School year dawns with no resolution for Alameda girl targeted with anti-Semitism,” about a student at Alameda High School who had been taunted by classmates for being Jewish and whose parents felt the school was not doing enough to prevent it or to protect their daughter. Parents and community members continue to meet with the school district to discuss student safety.

J. writers swept the field in feature writing, taking both first and second place in a category that regularly draws the greatest number of submissions from member publications.

Culture editor Laura Paull won first place for her June 2017 cover story “Beyond he and she: New expressions of gender arrive in the rabbinate,” which looked at gender identity and the growing number of transgender rabbis working in the Bay Area. The judge commented: “Gender neutrality and identity are intelligently and dispassionately explained in a Jewish context with extensive use of sources and voices. An approach that humanizes the subject works much better to inform the reader than discussing suitability in society or arguing morality.”

Staff writer Maya Mirsky took second place in feature writing for her December 2017 cover story “As recreational marijuana becomes legal in California, Jewish advocates are ready.” Published just before the sale of recreational marijuana became legal in the state, her article, in the judge’s words, “provides a Jewish context to a subject that will be reported in other Jewish publications as governments in their states legalize some form or another of marijuana. The argument that weed can be incorporated into Jewish life brings a different perspective to a subject that is often defined in medical and criminal terms.”

Two freelance writers also won Rockowers for work published in J.

Contributing editor Alix Wall was awarded second place in interfaith reporting for “Sustainable faith: Congregations find common purpose in food justice,” her April 2017 article about a collaborative of Bay Area churches, synagogues and mosques that are working together and separately to feed the hungry, grow environmentally friendly gardens and pursue food justice. Wall is a former J. staff writer who writes the “Organic Epicure” food column.

Former Oakland youth poet laureate Tova Ricardo took first place for her personal essay, “For biracial Jewish teen activist, poetry is power, heritage is strength,” published in May 2017. A high school student at the time, Ricardo will be entering her sophomore year at Columbia University in New York. Of her work, the judges had this to say: “Stunning prose from a teen poet. What a talent! What a future!”

J. publisher Steven Gellman praised the staff and said, “We’re doing some of the best reporting in our 123-year history right now, as we tell the stories of Bay Area Jewish life. We hear it from our readers over and over again. We are so proud of this recognition.”

The Rockower Awards are given annually by the AJPA, the professional organization founded in 1944 to represent Jewish newspapers, magazines, electronic media, social media and individual journalists. J. competes in the category for medium to small Jewish publications