I have mixed feelings about Nancy Kirsch’s decision to resign from serving as this paper’s executive editor, a position she has held for the past four years. On the one hand, I am happy for her: She will now have well-earned time and mental space to pursue other writerly interests.
On the other hand, during her tenure Nancy has accomplished so many difficult tasks so well that those of us who care about the future of The Jewish Voice – the paper’s staff, its editorial board, as well as the many individuals at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island who are part of the support system – will need to make an extra effort to maintain the paper’s excellence.
Nancy has been an extraordinary editor – energetic, hardworking almost to a fault, a woman of integrity, a gifted writer in terms of both style and substance. Over the years she has demonstrated a keen sense of journalistic judgment in balancing the coverage of local, national and international news of interest to our Jewish community. In particular, I applaud her for fostering a passionate but civilized discussion concerning the thorny issues stemming from our deep ties to the State of Israel.
Given the quality of the publication, I am not surprised that numerous individuals outside our Jewish community read The Jewish Voice. I know a minister who mines the paper “religiously” in search of ideas for her sermons, and I know a local radio newsman who finds in the paper a somewhat different and challenging “slant” on events.
It seems to me that the core value of The Jewish Voice is that it serves as the “glue” for our diverse Jewish community here in Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts; it provides a safe forum for Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and – yes – agnostic and atheist Jews to talk to each other. Liberals and conservatives, young and not-so-young, men and women are all given a voice in our paper.
At times it has seemed that, as if by magic, Nancy is everywhere all at once – taking notes, taking pictures – to make sure that our diverse voices are being heard. I have rarely attended a community event of import at which I have not seen Nancy doing her job as executive editor.
I have taken special delight in Nancy’s regular column, “From the Executive Editor.” While I have appreciated her insights on professional journalistic issues and on matters of social justice, I have found of special value her columns focusing upon her own family. Thus, I – along with many other readers – was deeply touched by her poignant June 7 column in anticipation of Father’s Day; by daring to be openly, honestly critical about her father – “my father simply didn’t know how to give or receive love” – Nancy gave permission to countless readers to confront and to articulate their own painfully difficult family relationships. To echo our rabbinic sages, “Words which come from the heart enter the heart.”
Nancy has edited approximately 100 of my “It Seems to Me” columns. Her edits – meticulous, careful, tactful – have invariably improved my sentences and my paragraphs. She has gently coached me into making my writing more “newspaper friendly.” In addition, her fact checking has saved me from several embarrassing errors. While we have continued to have our disagreements on a host of grammatical issues, she has never challenged or questioned the thrust of my argument – whether she has agreed with me or disagreed. With Nancy as my editor, I have had the pleasure and the privilege of total freedom of expression; I have always been able to say whatever I have wanted whenever I have wanted. I will miss her.
A modern Hebrew poet has written: “P’reidah he leidah hadasha,” parting is a new birth. As Nancy moves into the next stage of her life, I wish her all the joy and richness of a “new birth.” I hope that in its “new birth,” The Jewish Voice will continue to be the vessel of excellence that it has become under Nancy’s inspired leadership.
Rabbi James Rosenberg (email@example.com) is rabbi emeritus at Temple Habonim, the Reform synagogue in Barrington.