(JTA) – Al Erlick, who retired as editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent in 1994 after 24 years with the newspaper, died May 24. He was 88.
His death was announced by the Exponent. Erlick had been living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his wife, Barbara.
As editor of one of the oldest and among the most decorated Jewish weekly newspapers, Erlick directed coverage of Philadelphia’s Jewish community, traveled to Russia to cover the Soviet Jewry movement and mentored a number of young journalists who went on to prominent careers in Jewish media.
He also taught journalism at Temple University, and after his retirement returned to the newsroom for a brief stint as acting editor of the Washington Jewish Week, according to the Exponent.
In an interview for the the 1997 book, Making Local News, Erlick described the role of a Jewish community newspaper.
“Some claim bad news doesn’t belong in a Jewish newspaper, that the newspaper should be a purely cohesive device. I disagree,” he wrote. “Some people say Jewish newspapers shouldn’t be writing about the bad things Israel is doing, as the general press are, but I disagree. … The Intifada, the excesses of the Israeli military, some of the horrors, it’s our obligation to report these activities. But we also say – unlike the general press – that these activities were frowned upon by the government and punished.”
Friends and family also recalled Erlick as a storyteller, actor and raconteur whose first job was as a reporter for Motion Picture Exhibitor magazine. After moving to Florida, he took roles in musical productions at the Florida Children’s Theatre, where his daughter Janet Erlick is the executive artistic director.
“I think of him in stories,” Janet Erlick told the Exponent, “because he was such a brilliant storyteller. We grew up hearing stories about his adventures in the Army and his adventures in the movie business interviewing all of the celebrities of the day. He had stories about family and stories about his time traveling the world for the Exponent.”