Rob Eshman, longtime Jewish Journal editor-in-chief and publisher, to leave post for writing projects

Rob Eshman

Rob Eshman, longtime editor-in-chief and publisher of the Jewish Journal, has announced he will be leaving his position on September 26.

Eshman, who has written and sold two movie projects while at the Journal, said that after 23 years at the paper, he wants to switch the focus of his career to full-time writing. He will be working on a food book—Eshman writes the blog “Foodaism”—and another movie project.

“I couldn’t be prouder of what the Journal has become,” Eshman said. “And I am honored and grateful to have been a part of it. I will always love this paper, its staff and this community.”

Peter Lowy, chairman of TRIBE Media, which produces the Jewish Journal, said that current President David Suissa will be stepping into Eshman’s role.

“Rob has been integral to the Journal and the Jewish community,” Lowy said. “He brought curiosity, intellect, and a sense of humor to his work.  Most of all he cares passionately about journalism and Judaism—and he showed that every week.”

Lowy said Eshman approached him in late July to begin discussing the move, and together with Suissa they worked toward a smooth transition.

“What makes the Journal great is a great staff, its board, and the community we serve,” Eshman said. “Those will remain the constants of the Jewish Journal.”

The Journal combines news of the 600,000-person LA Jewish community –the third largest in the world after New York and Tel Aviv–with commentary, features and national and international news.  It publishes 50,000 print copies each week in Los Angeles, and updates, one of the world’s most widely-read Jewish news sites, throughout the day.

In 1994, Eshman arrived at the Journal after working as a freelance journalist in San Francisco and Jerusalem. The paper’s founding editor, Gene Lichtenstein, hired him as a reporter. At the time the Journal was a print-only publication. The Journal was independently incorporated but distributed via the Federation membership list.

Eshman became Managing Editor in 1997. In 2000, then-Chairman Stanley Hirsch named him Editor-in-Chief.

As editor, Eshman expanded the reach of from 4000 unique visitors to upwards of 4 million today. He brought on a greater mix of political and religious voices. He also overhauled the print circulation model, completely dropping Federation distribution and making the Journal a free weekly, distributed throughout the city. Then-chairman Irwin Field was instrumental in seeing these changes through, Eshman said.

“I wanted to reach every Jew,” Eshman said, “especially those who weren’t connected to the organized community. I realized a good Jewish paper was the easiest way into Jewish connection, and I wanted to make it even easier.” 

In 2009, the Journal, like most newspapers in the country, fell into dire financial straits. Eshman turned to Lowy, CEO of Westfield Corp. to rescue the company and help steer it through the double blow that the Internet and the recession dealt the industry. With a handful of other philanthropists, Lowy formed a new board and came on as Chairman. A year later, Eshman tapped Suissa, formerly the founder of Suissa/Miller Advertising and editor and publisher of OLAM Magazine, to run the Journal’s business side. At that time, Eshman was named Publisher as well.

In the process, Eshman chose a new name for the company –TRIBE—to reflect the its growing multi-media nature and broader mission. These moves ensured the paper’s survival, and eventual growth.

“David Suissa brought his passion and creative genius to the paper, and has been an invaluable partner,” Eshman said.

While Eshman leans left and Suissa right, the two wrote often-opposing columns and the Journal came even more to reflect—and combine—strongly divergent voices that would otherwise stay secluded in separate media bubbles.

During the 2016 Iran nuclear deal, which Eshman supported and Suissa opposed, their ability to spar publicly while maintaining a close friendship and partnership drew media attention.

L.A. Jewish Journal’s heads spar over Iran deal, but stay friendly,” read a headline in the Times of Israel.

Under Eshman, the Journal has won numerous press and community awards. It has expanded across other media platforms, including video. Its livecast of the Nashuva congregation’s Kol Nidre service draws 75,000 viewers each year, making it the world’s most-watched High Holiday service.

Asked to name highlights of his tenure, Eshman pointed to two. In 2015, Islamic terrorists in Paris massacred the staff at Charlie Hebdo magazine for printing cartoons they found offensive. The Journal renamed the Jan. 16 masthead of the paper, “Jewish Hebdo,” and ran the offending cartoons inside.

A year later, Eshman oversaw the first poll of American Jewish opinion during the Iran nuclear deal. It found most American Jews supported a deal that the vast majority of Jewish organizations, as well as Israel’s Prime Minister, opposed. The results reverberated internationally, and the White House acknowledged the Jewish Journal as “One of the most widely read Jewish publications online.”  

“To go from a small locally-circulated newspaper to a media company that reaches millions around the world, and has an impact on the great debates of our time while still serving its core readers with the kind of independent journalism that serves and builds community–that’s very gratifying,” said Eshman. “But it wasn’t at all just me. It was us.”

Eshman credits his past managing editors Amy Klein and Howard Blume, former executive editor Susan Freudenheim, and current managing editor Ryan Smith—as well as a slew of talented writers—as instrumental to the Journal’s editorial accomplishments.

Eshman, 57, is a native of Encino, CA and a graduate of Dartmouth College. He is married to Rabbi Naomi Levy, an author and founder of Nashuva. They have two children, Adi and Noa.

During his tenure at the Journal, Eshman, a member of the Writers Guild of America, wrote and sold a feature film screenplay and a multi-part television project. He also created the food blog, “Foodaism,” named one of L.A.’s best food blogs, and created and taught “Food, Media and Culture” at USC Annenberg School of Communication, where he will continue to teach. He has served on several non-profit boards, including, at present, The Miracle Project.

“We wish Rob well and look forward to an exciting future with David building off the base that Rob and his team has built,” said Lowy.

Eshman pointed out that there has been at least one Jewish newspaper in Los Angeles since the first one was founded in 1870. 

“I was so honored to serve this community and be part of that history,” he said. “And it goes on.”



Felice Friedson talks with Nadia Al-Sakkaf, Editor-in-Chief of The Yemen Times [FULL TRANSCRIPT]

Nadia Al-Sakkaf is the editor-in-chief of The Yemen Times. She spoke by telephone with The Media Line’s Felice Friedson:

The Media Line: Nadia, did Yemen go through a revolution?

AL-SAKKAF: It was a semi-revolution for Yemeni women in terms of being able to participate strongly in the public sphere in a way they had never done before. For certain women, it was the first time ever they had a voice which they could display publicly and feel safe and accepted by the male-dominated society. But other than that, I don’t think it had any sustainable or institutional element so I wouldn’t say it was a revolution, I would say it was a phenomenon that happened for a purpose and doesn’t have any long-term consequences.

TML: You recently reported in The Yemen Times about an alarming amount of explosives found in Aden. Tell us what is going on in the aftermath of this uprising.

AL-SAKKAF: Well, during the uprising, there was lots of state control and the policing was not as strong as it was even before. The rule of law was not strong. But with the uprising, it was chaos and so the armed men were very prominent and had guns and all sorts of weapons, from heavy to light artillery, accessible to everyone. They also had armed groups of militias and gangs—whether it was just gangs or both—there were more organized groups with ties to Al-Qa’ida. This allowed them to spread a gang mentality and obviously a lot of resources were available and found by people.

TML: A lot of munitions were delivered by the United States to Yemen. Was this weaponry used by those opposing the government?

AL-SAKKAF: As far as I know, they said there is no direct evidence that the weapons the U.S. Government has given have been used against protesters. However, it’s not about what sort of weapons were there, it’s about the availability of weapons. There are warlords from everywhere—from the States to Somalia to the Gulf region—who are benefiting from these conflicts. You have Yemen on the United Nations “list of shame” naming governments who use child soldiers,  yet, last year President Obama authorized significant support for Yemen’s army, including weapons. Why do you have a government on the same list—being accused of using weapons against civilians and having child soldiers – while another government is providing weapons regardless of how they are being used?

TML: President Ali Abdullah Saleh is in New York seeking medical treatment but he says he is going to return home to Yemen before the elections. Yet, his successor, Abd-Rabu Mansour Hadi, is running unopposed. So what do you make of this?

AL-SAKKAF: I don’t think Saleh will be in Yemen before elections. The agreement and the deal of him being in the United States was to allow Yemen peace during the elections. He will have to come back anyway to hand over the power to Hadi. So officially, he has to be Yemen after the elections. Having a lone candidate has been a controversial issue for many Yemenis and a lot of them are not interested in participating in the elections because a lot of them feel it is a referendum. They don’t have [other] people to choose from. I am, however, in favor of the elections because I feel it is Yemen’s chance to turn a page and to allow us to really move into transition in an official way.

TML: Where do you go from there?

AL-SAKKAF: Preparation for the elections is happening as we speak and everything is happening according to plan. There are security measures deployed to make sure it happens peacefully, including having security people around the elections centers. Another measure that will help this happen peacefully is not having Saleh in the country because having him not around, his supporters will be less persuaded to create any conflict. After the elections happen on the 21st,  when Hadi will officially become the president of Yemen, then he will follow according to the Gulf initiatives road map which will last between two and three years. It has a list of items and a clear map on all levels, whether it’s economic, political or restructuring of the constitution and so on.

TML: You were instrumental in creating a book breaking through the stereotypes and telling the experiences of female candidates.  Are we going to see any women running in this coming election?

AL-SAKKAF: Surprisingly, there were already two female candidates who have already voiced their interests. One of them was Tawakkul Karman and another was Al-Hamdi, who is the daughter of a former president of Yemen. Those women and other male candidates who had voiced their interest in running for president were not allowed to do so because the parliament closed the door and counted out everybody other than Hadi. So this election is a closed election, or rather it is just a referendum regarding the next president. Following this, there will be a parliamentary election in I suppose three years time. I think then [there might be more female participation] depending on how the transition goes and whether the committees for constitutional reforms will have more female representation. It depends on the two to three years and how we conduct ourselves and how visible the women are.

TML: How far has this unrest—you don’t call it a revolution—set Yemen back in the past year?

AL-SAKKAF: Unfortunately, I wouldn’t call this revolution a “popular” revolution.  I don’t think it’s one that grows from the community. It is one that is mostly political. Yemen has gone through a lot of protests, in fact three years ago it started with Tawakkul Karman in what we called a freedom square in front of the cabinet. There was a protest every Tuesday. It is just because of the uprising in Tunisia and Egypt that it became more publicized and more visible and it made a difference. In Yemen, we have been holding banners and heading to the streets for three years before 2011. Now, if you talk to the people in the protests and in [Cairo’s] Tahrir and Freedom squares, if you ask, “What do you want?” they say “I want to topple the regime.” And if you ask them, “What do you want as a citizen—as a man or woman, as a person?’—they say, “I don’t know.” So we have a problem here that the revolution and the uprising, whatever it is called, doesn’t relate to their daily lives,  and that is a problem. Maybe later, a few years from now, there will probably be another revolution if the transition doesn’t go smoothly or if the new government doesn’t act differently than previous ones did.

TML: I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the tribal communities and the dealings with Al-Qa’ida which are of utmost concern on a global scale. Do you feel that Al-Qa’ida has gained momentum in this unrest and that the international community could be doing more?

AL-SAKKAF: Well, there is one thing to know first: Al Qa’ida is real. Their presence in Yemen is a fact. Now, how big are they; how organized and how influential, these are various questions that have relevance and different answers from whomever you speak to. We know for a fact that the real threat in Yemen is not Al-Qa’ida per se, as an organization, but the Jihadi movement that is growing because of the lack of control and the lack of vision as a nation. Lots of women associate with Jihadis as an alternative because they don’t have any other association. They are not loyal to the country. They don’t have a certain vision they should follow. They don’t have something to unite them or something to believe in, so they go for any other cause. The international community has been thinking of Al-Qa’ida as a terrorist threat. They are thinking of arms and weapons and fighting them with drones. You can never fight terrorism by force. You can never fight terrorism with arms and guns because there will always be another Bin Laden. The best way I believe to fight terrorism is through security and this is by creating an intense alert among the community where potential Al-Qa’ida or potential terrorists groups are so that these communities reject Al-Qa’ida and give them a hard time. If the terrorists groups or Jihadis had found themselves unwelcome in Yemen, they won’t have been able to stay. But they find themselves welcome in many places because the places they go are poor, impoverished and they don’t have anything to believe in, Al-Qa’ida comes, gives them money and something to believe in. They feel an emotional void of not having a national identity as citizens.

Aluf Benn takes helm at Haaretz

Veteran reporter and columnist Aluf Benn has been named editor-in-chief of the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz.

Benn’s appointment by the newspaper’s board of directors was announced Monday, the same day he started in the job.

Benn, 46, has been at the left-leaning newspaper for the past 22 years. He has served as diplomatic correspondent, head of the news division and, for the past two years, political commentator and editor of the opinion pages. His articles and columns have been published in newspapers around the world.

In an Op-Ed published July 29 in The New York Times, Benn chided Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not using the spring and summer to work with President Obama to reignite the peace process, thus strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship. 

“I am thrilled to head the best team of editors, writers and designers in Israel, and lead it in fulfilling Haaretz’s public mission as a watchdog of Israeli democracy,” Benn was quoted as saying.

Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz steps down

Jerusalem Post Editor in Chief David Horovitz is stepping down, the newspaper announced.

Horovitz led the English-language newspaper for seven years. Managing Editor Steve Linde, 51, who has been with the Post for 14 years, will take the position following a short transition period, the newspaper reported Sunday.

“I feel it is time to move on,” Horovitz, 48, was quoted as saying. “It has been a privilege to work here.”

The Post’s publisher in a statement said the paper was “very sorry” that Horovitz was leaving.

“He has been an outstanding editor, and the Post greatly appreciates the passion, integrity and professionalism he has brought to the job,” the statement said. “We wish him all the best for the future.”