The quickening tempo of requests from local Jewish groups for cut-rate advertising deals in the AJW is surely a sign of the economic slowdown. In fact, the AJW participates as a media partner — and subvents the cost of advertising in the newspaper — for various events, such as the upcoming Keren Or arts forum and the Sabes Foundation Minneapolis Jewish Film Festival. We try to be a good community member and to act as a catalyst for cultural vitality and Jewish unity.
However, giving away advertising space on a wholesale basis to every Jewish organization in Minnesota is really detrimental to the continued operation of this business. Given the state of the global economy, it is going to be a challenge to produce a quality product and remain profitable, even minimally, in 2009. Perhaps you’ve heard that these are tough times for newspapers — including the one that you’re holding in your hands now.
And all of our Jewish communal institutions are in a difficult period. As our Page 1 story reports, the Madoff scam has aggravated the ill effects of the economic downturn, and created a catastrophe in the world of Jewish philanthropy. This is much more than a story about rich people losing their money; this is about the survival of Jewish institutions and the fate of many needy individuals served by Jewish charities.
We hope that our readers value our reportage on the emerging Madoff scandal. There will be more developments. At the moment most victims of the Madoff scam are not talking about their misfortune. It seems that those who have lost all or most of their personal assets are going through something like the five stages of grieving, as explicated by Elisabeth KÃ¼bler-RossÂ in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. The first two stages are “denial” (“This can’t be happening to me”) and “anger” (“It’s not fair. I hate the world”).
The next three stages, according to the late psychiatrist and author, are “bargaining, depression and acceptance.” We hope that when some of the Madoff scam victims come to accept their situation, they will contact the Jewish World. It is important to put a human face on this story, and to find whatever lessons can be gleaned from these untoward events.
In the meantime, rumors are flying about the impact of the Madoff scam and general economic malaise on local Jewish organizations. Perhaps a community forum is needed to address these concerns and develop new strategies. The American Jewish World would be willing to participate in and publicize such a communal discussion.
One topic that comes to mind, in the context of a community discussion, is the oft-heard complaint about the duplication of efforts inherent in having two Jewish federations and two major Jewish social services agencies operating in the Twin Cities. In an era of limited resources, should the Jewish community be paying for two separate, well-paid executive administrations at two similar agencies?
Beyond the consideration of merging communal organizations, it would be good to clear the air about the impact of the economy on all of our local Jewish groups in 2009. To quote the great Lakota leader Sitting Bull: “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.”
— Mordecai Specktor
(American Jewish World, 2.6.09)