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Broadening the Discussion – The Ledger introduces an Editorial Advisory Board, and more

This week, the Ledger introduced several improvements to its operation that will broaden the discussion within its pages.

By Judie Jacobson

HARTFORD — The Connecticut Jewish Ledger this week introduced several additions and improvements to its operation, intended to usher in a new era for the state’s only weekly Jewish newspaper. The changes — highlighted by the establishment of an Editorial Advisory Board, as well as the unveiling of a revamped website and the addition of the services of the nationally-recognized Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) as the paper’s primary news service — were announced on Monday, Nov. 17 by Ledger owner Henry M. Zachs.

“These are exciting times at the Ledger,” said Zachs, a Hartford area businessman who acquired the 85-year-old paper earlier this year from its previous publisher, N. Richard Greenfield z”l. “For nearly a century the Ledger has served as a strong voice for Connecticut’s Jewish communities, and as a forum for discussion and debate. Now, the time has come to invigorate the discussion and deepen the debate with a broader range of opinions and ideas. I promised to do that when I took the helm in February, and that’s what I hope to accomplish with these steps.”

Referring to the Editorial Advisory Board – the first in the Ledger’s history – as “an essential and valuable resource in helping guide the paper,” Zachs announced the appointment of Dr. Mark R. Silk as chair of the six-member body.

A former reporter, editorial writer and columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in 1996 Silk became the first director of the Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College. In 1998 he also became founding editor of Religion in the News, a magazine published by the Center that examines how the news media handle religious subject matter; and, in June 2005, he was named director of the Trinity College Program on Public Values, comprising both the Greenberg Center and the new Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture. Silk’s blog, “Spiritual Politics,” is published by The Religion News Service, where he is a contributing editor.

“I’m very excited by the opportunity to help the Ledger do a better job serving the Connecticut Jewish community,” said Silk. who lives in West Hartford. “The Board, which includes some of the community’s leading journalists and academics, will serve as a sounding board for the paper’s editorial staff, and will contribute story ideas and, I hope, occasional editorials and signed columns as well.”

In addition to Silk, the Ledger introduced these members of the Editorial Advisory Board:

paul_bass_new_haven_indie_sitePaul Bass has been is a reporter and editor in New Haven for 35 years. He is currently editor of the online New Haven Independent. Bass has won dozens of national and regional awards for investigative, news, business, feature, and opinion writing and reporting. Before launching the Independent, he worked as an editor and investigative reporter for the New Haven Advocate from 1989-2004. Bass is co-author, with Douglas W. Rae, of Murder in the Model City: The Black Panthers, Yale, & the Redemption of a Killer, about the 1969 murder of a Black Panther in New Haven. Thousands of his articles about Connecticut are in a dedicated archive housed at the Manuscripts & Archives section of Yale University’s Sterling Memorial Library. Bass is also executive director of The Online Journalism Project. Bass lives in Westville and is an active member of Congregation Beth El Keser Israel.

Andree Aelion BrooksAndrée Aelion Brooks is a journalist, author and lecturer and a former contributing columnist and news writer for the New York Times, currently specializing in Jewish history. She is an associate fellow at Yale University and founder and first president of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale, a program that trains women to run winning campaigns for elective office. Her biography of Dona Gracia Nasi, the richest woman in Renaissance Europe who ran an escape network that saved hundreds of forcibly converted Jews, was a finalist for a National Jewish Book Award and is now in pre-production for a TV mini-series. She is also author of Russian Dance, an award-winning book about a Jewish Bolshevik spy, and author and teacher of a children’s program in Sephardic history and culture called “Out of Spain.” Her book, Children of Fast Track Parents, was made into an Emmy-nominated PBS documentary. In November 2013, Brooks was honored by the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame. Brooks lectures widely at Jewish venues around the country on lesser-known aspects of Jewish history. She lives in Wesport.

Alison Leigh CowanAlison Leigh Cowan is a longtime reporter for the New York Times, currently assigned to the Metro desk. She specializes in finding documents that tell stories and was part of the team that delivered a recent expose on the mysterious family behind the South Korean ferry that sank with hundreds of high schoolers aboard. As the correspondent who covered Connecticut from 2003 to 2008, she chronicled everything from the fall of a popular governor to the censorship of a high school play about the Iraqi war. She spent two years before that on the investigations desk, where she wrote about hospitals, government-sponsored enterprises and presidential pardons. Prior to that, she was attached to the business news department, as the deputy business editor. Cowan is also a mentor to the Princeton University Press Club, as a founding member of its advisory board, and serves as a director of the School for Ethics and Global Leadership in Washington, D.C. She lives in Fairfield County.

Arnie DashefskyDr. Arnold Dashefsky was the inaugural holder of the Doris and Simon Konover Chair of Judaic Studies (2008-2012) and is a University of Connecticut (UConn) professor of sociology emeritus, who continues to teach his popular course on the sociology of anti-Semitism. Dashefsky was also founding director of UConn’s Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life (1979-2012). He is the director emeritus and senior academic consultant to the Berman Jewish DataBank, having served as its director at UConn from 2004 until 2013.  Currently, he is editor (with Ira Sheskin of the University of Miami) of the American Jewish Year Book of 2012, 2013, and 2014. In addition, he has edited or co-authored seven additional books, as well as numerous articles and papers on a variety of topics in sociology and Jewish studies, focusing on Jewish identity, family, ethnicity, emigration, interfaith marriage, and philanthropy. Dashefsky was a founding member, secretary-treasurer, vice president, and president of the Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry and served as editor of its journal, Contemporary Jewry. He has been a visiting scholar at several universities, as well as a consultant to the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, United Israel Appeal, and the state of Rhode Island. He lives in Manchester.

Kiener-RonaldDr. Ronald Kiener is a professor of religion at Trinity College and currently chair of the school’s Department of Religion. Previously, he served as the founding director of Trinity’s Jewish Studies Program, and led it for its first decade. A member of the Trinity faculty since 1983, he was also the founding coordinator of Trinity’s major in Middle Eastern studies. He teaches an annual course entitled “The Arab-Israeli Conflict.” He is a past recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and a Mellon Fellowship in Medieval Studies. Kiener is co-author of The Early Kabbalah; has also published articles in the field of medieval and modern Jewish and Islamic thought in a variety of scholarly journals; and is author of several entries in the HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion. Kiener, who lives in West Hartford, is currently working on a scientific edition of Saadia Gaon’s Book of Beliefs and Opinions, to be published by the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Jerusalem. He is a member of the Association for Jewish Studies, the World Union for Jewish Studies, and the American Academy of Religion. Kiener has also written extensively on Middle Eastern affairs for the Washington Post/L.A. Times wire service. On twitter, he is @bingoprof. He lives in West Hartford.

Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning author of books for young people. Littman’s first novel, Confessions of a Closet Catholic, won the 2006 Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers. Her novel Life, After was a 2011 Sydney Taylor Honor Book. She is also the author of Purge, named one of Bank Street College of Education’s 2010 Best Books of the Year, and Want to Go Private?, a 2012 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers and a Bank Street College Best Book for 2012. Her young adult novel Backlash will be published by Scholastic in March 2015. In addition to writing for teens, Sarah is an award-winning political columnist for CTNewsJunkie.com, and teaches creative writing in the MFA program at Western CT State College and for WritopiaLab. She is a member of the Author’s Guild, the SCBWI and Pen Center USA.She lives in Greenwich.

In addition to the Editorial Advisory Board, with this issue the Ledger also enhances its coverage by joining the family of approximately 100 North American Jewish newspapers that subscribe to the services of JTA, the definitive, global news source that provides coverage of political, economic and social developments affecting Jews throughout the world. Headquartered in New York City, JTA has no allegiance to any specific branch of Judaism or political viewpoint, reflecting the wide spectrum of religious, political and cultural identity within the Jewish community.

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