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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

July 15, 2016  RSS feed
Federation

Text: T T T

Go ahead: Read my diary

Emilie Socash

There’s something magical about a newspaper. It’s the epitome of permanence and utility today, unlike the electronic snippets that the Internet serves up wholesale, often absent of a named author or legitimized source (and occasionally absent of fact). A newspaper takes physical shape and form, putting ink on large-format paper and documenting, ultimately, our understanding at one point in time.

This year, the Jewish Press celebrates its 30th year serving up news and stories of interest to our community (30 years this side of the bay, and a respectable 28 on the Tampa side). There’s only one thing that I can think of that I’ve felt enough passion for to do consistently for the last 30 years of my life: writing. The written word has always held a near-supernatural place in my world, and for that reason, I acknowledge the Herculean champions that Jim and Karen Dawkins are for launching and sustaining our source of Jewish news.

I’ve been working my way through the book, The 1940s: Story of a Decade. It is a catalog of pieces from The New Yorker throughout the 1940s, each piece bearing a modern-day introduction by one of today’s editors or authors, giving context to the history at play and what happened in the moments following the piece’s publication. The fascinating aspect that keeps me coming back is not the writing, not even the content, but the sheer lack of a crystal ball available to these 1940s authors. The book, as a whole, succinctly captures the idea that once we put things into print – a written record of our understanding – our world view, at least for a moment, is cemented in time.

Our Jewish Press is just that: a record of our current community developments using only the facts we have on hand today. The Jewish Press has covered up-to-the-moment happenings related to our own synagogues, our citizens, our organizations. It’s the record of our people, as our people experienced and understood what we think of today as history, but was really our present.

Have you ever gone back and re-read your childhood diaries? I did years ago and was so horrified that I threw them away – an action I have regretted many times since. I recall reflections on waiting for phone calls from boys, oscillating emotions about my “best” friends and family members, and hopes and certainties about my future. Many entries began with things I swore I would “never forget,” which I have long-since forgotten. Similar to the 1940s tome: I had no idea that the phone call would come (just a week later than I wanted), that my best friends would remain true until my family moved away (despite seasonal spats) and that my family would both expand and contract in unexpected ways.

To look at those journals on the whole, I see my own creation, the emergence of the self that I have today.

In 2002, a cultural phenomenon called “Mortified” was born. Originally spawned from an email circulating around Los Angeles asking if anyone would be willing to “share the shame” in reading their own adolescent diaries as part of a stand-up comedy act, the “Mortified” movement went on to be a national comedy tour, followed by two seasons on Sundance TV, a Netflix documentary, and now, a podcast with PRX. The “Mortified” mission? “There are a million stories buried in the pages of people’s lives. Our mission is to help people find them.”

In watching the documentary, the same sense of discovery of today’s identity through yesterday’s pages takes hold immediately. Adults who read their entries about their passion for music, their self-doubt on their own sexuality, and their worry about family members reveal that they became a musician, they embraced their gender preference, or they lost a family member.

The tiniest hunches, themes, and hints in their youthful writing became threads woven into their adult lives, a running history telling a tale of future tomorrows.

The Jewish Press gives us that same community journal – with hopefully better grammar and more legible handwriting. Looking at it over decades, we see the expansion, contraction, ideas, hopes, predictions, and momentary realities. What better resource could we hope for in documenting the emergence of our community “self?”

When I was going through employee orientation in 2003 at the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, we had a session with then-marketing director Michael Bennett. I’m sure he talked a lot about how to request jobs from the in-house print shop, how to meet deadlines, and so forth. But the most memorable piece of advice he gave was “… And before you do anything – and I mean anything – in your work with the Jewish community, think about how you would feel if it were printed on the front page of the Cleveland Jewish News.” In other words, be ready to stand by your work because if it appears in print, it’s a part of our permanent record.

Our Jewish newspapers are the trusted source of information for our community, and the voice of our community.

I’ve only written this column for the Jewish Press for one year, but I’ve had the pleasure of submitting press releases and stories to the paper for the last decade in my work with the Tampa Federation and the Tampa Orlando Pinellas Jewish Foundation. I’ve gotten to know the Dawkins and their team well and have come to understand that their commitment to providing us with a community voice is ineffable and unquestionable. On behalf of all who came before, of all who read it today, and those who will read it for decades to come, todah rabah for making sense of our community’s story and helping us understand ourselves that much more.

Liked it? Loathed it? Want to react? I would welcome your feedback and can be reached at emilie@jewishpinellas.org.


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