Ron Lederman shared this article written by Gloria Reich (OBM) in 1989. Her daughters found it while going through boxes of articles and notes that Gloria kept. It has been edited for brevity and bracketed information added for clarity.
History of Akron’s Jewish Newspaper
The earliest newspaper for the Akron Jewish Community in our records appears to be The Akron Jewish Observer, with a few copies on file dating from Oct. 4, 1928 to announcement of its final issue on Nov. 15, 1929. Included in the Observer was a section called the Akron JC Bulletin and many items from JTA [the Jewish Telegraphic Agency].
The Akron Center News in our files is dated Friday, Dec. 20, 1929, however this is Volume 1, Number 6 and bears the statement “Entered as 2nd Class Mail Nov. 15, 1929,” which would place its beginning at the Observer’s demise.
The Akron Center News was to be published weekly by the Center News Staff of the Akron Jewish Center. Maurice Jessop was [the first] editor. It was four pages, a yearly subscription was fifty cents, and single copies were two cents.
The early issues carried only [Akron Jewish] Center News but occasionally there were notices of community affairs. By 1930, some JTA reports appeared [in the newspaper]. In early 1936, the copies available did not have a publishing time on them but the Nov. 21, 1936 issue declared it to be published semi-monthly. On Nov. 20, 1940, it began to be published monthly. Through much of the early days, the Center News was staffed by a group of West High School journalism students overseen by [Akron Jewish] Center staff.
On June 7, 1946, [an] announcement appeared [titled “Introducing The Akron Jewish News"]:
"To those who have read about or participated in plans for the expansion of the Center, it will seem only logical to hear that the old Center News has expanded too, as evidenced by our new name. For some time the Jewish Community has felt the need for a suitable outlet for news of its activities and its plans…
It is now our hope to extend our coverage, although there are still real limitations to our ability to expand. Our staff is still small, the paper shortage acute, and printing facilities not readily available for too extensive a program. However, if you like our plan, you can help us grow in two important ways…”
Although the article states a part of the story, the decision was not quite so altruistic, according to [former AJC director] Leslie Flaksman. We needed to be a community newspaper in order to continue mailing privileges. Up to this time the paper had been mailed to Center Members only. Now lists were acquired from all congregations and Jewish organizations and correlated so that every known Jewish family received the Akron Jewish News, which now had grown to six or eight pages.
Up to 1956, there were occasionally professional editors (i.e. Bill Wolf, Bill Benjamin, Gene Radney) but their stays were not long and often interspersed with Center Staff editors.
In November 1956, Marie Nixon became editor and remained until December 1970, and Gloria Reich, a volunteer and secretary of the [Akron Jewish] Center board, was pressed into service as associate editor, the [Center] executive director (as usual) listed as the editor. Gloria was at that time … public relations director for Jewish Family Service and the Federation.
Shortly into her “volunteer assignment,” Nathan Pinsky, JFS and Federation executive director, met with Mr. Flaksman and Mrs. Reich and it was decided that Gloria would continue as editor but that it would be included among her PR duties… This arrangement continued until 1985 when she retired, at which time Toby Lieberman served under a similar arrangement. In 1988 when Toby left, Gloria returned for three months until Marcia Hughes was hired as editor. In June 1976, Jan Fish was appointed by the Akron Jewish Center as Akron Jewish News business and advertising manager.
The Akron Jewish News has always strived to be a true community newspaper, providing information not only of local events but also of national and international interest. Operating on the premise that the Akron Jewish News may for some be their only touch[point] with things Jewish outside the community, it has used JTA bulletins and has combed other periodicals for articles to keep its readers in touch with the rest of the Jewish world.
- Gloria Reich January 27, 1989
The AJN Now
The newspaper business— and Akron Jewish News— sure has changed since Gloria Reich shared her recollections almost thirty years ago. Even when I first started at the newspaper in 2002, we were still "pasting up" the paper until slowly transitioning into fully designing and submitting each issue electronically. The size, shape and staff of the newspaper has shifted through the years. Currently, JCBA publishes eleven AJN issues a year, but we also publish information online at jewishakron.org; facebook.com/jewishakron; and in email newsletters.
Through it all, the Akron Jewish News is still "a true community newspaper," as Gloria called it. It is for and about the people in our community and people in the community contribute the information on its pages.
JCBA's Annual Campaign helps sustain the Akron Jewish News. When you give to Campaign, you support a publication with a rich history— the history of the Akron Jewish community. Thank you!
- Lisa Hofmann, editor