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2016-07-15 digital edition

TODAY in the Jewish World:

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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 © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


July 15, 2016  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

TIMELINE: Jewish Press headlines 1996-2005


6/12: A fundraising campaign begins for a $3.9 million synagogue at Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg.

7/17: Jewish Press wins a national excellence award for its annual Bar/Bat Mitzvah Planning Guide.


4/30: The Tampa Bay Holocaust Memorial Museum and Educational Center purchases a building at 55 Fifth St. S. in St. Petersburg and will move there soon.

11/21: JCC of Pinellas County is putting its Kapok Tree facility up for sale and will relocate to a new site, as yet to be determined.


1/23: Temple Beth-El art show observes 25th anniversary. It has become one of the top fine arts shows in the Tampa Bay area.

3/6: Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel attends the grand opening of Tampa Bay Holocaust Memorial Museum and Educational Center in downtown St. Petersburg. Later in the year the facility is renamed the Florida Holocaust Museum.

8/14: Menorah Manor expansion is complete, adding 60 beds to the 120 existing beds and renovating the entire facility.

8/14: JCC of Pinellas County closes its doors after four decades. It will keep what money it has in an account until such time as south county Jews decide they want a JCC again.

11/6: Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg breaks ground for new synagogue.


6/11: Menorah Manor and Suncoast Hospice launch the Toby Weinman Jewish Hospice Program. Menorah Manor gets full-time rabbi for the program.


1/28: The Florida Holocaust Museum honors founders Walter and Edie Loebenberg with its first “To Life” award. During the ceremony the Loebenbergs announce they will match donations dollar for dollar up to $1 million.

4/14: Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg moves into its new synagogue.

10/20: A campaign to establish a Hillel Center on campus at USF takes on sense of urgency. It must raise $1.2 million in two months or lose a chance to lease on-campus land for $1 a year.

The late Harold Wolfson, production manager of the Jewish Press, works at a light table in the days when the papers’ office was in the home of owners Jim and Karen Dawkins. The late Harold Wolfson, production manager of the Jewish Press, works at a light table in the days when the papers’ office was in the home of owners Jim and Karen Dawkins. 12/1: Pinellas County Jewish Day School launches major expansion, breaking ground for a media and learning center.


1/12: A fundraising campaign is a success, allowing Hillel USF to secure an on-campus site.

1/12: Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg dedicates its new synagogue.

Karen and Jim Dawkins Karen and Jim Dawkins 9/21: Three representatives of the Jewish Federation of Pinellas County, Margot Benstock, Bonnie Friedman and Karen Reich, are on a solidarity mission to Israel when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occur. They tell of a great outpouring of sorrow among Israelis and of sympathy and support from Israelis for America. They return home on an unannounced, unscheduled flight under heavy security.


3/29: A large crowd turns out for a Bat Mitzvah for Ariel Goldman at Temple Ahavat Shalom on March 8. After Ariel died in May 2001 at age 11½ of a massive brain hemorrhage, her parents decided to continue with plans for the previously scheduled event, knowing she would be there “in spirit.”

4/26: About 2,000 people from Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco counties gather at Congregation Schaarai Zedek in Tampa for a solidarity with Israel rally. It is the largest ever gathering of Jews in the Tampa Bay area. More than $70,000 is raised for Israel at the rally.

5/10: Construction begins on Hillel Jewish student facility on USF campus.

7/19: Jewish Press moves to its new offices on Belcher Road.


5/9: Menorah Manor plans to open an assisted living facility, with 21 private apartments, in St. Petersburg. Moving-in day is set for June 2.

6/10: Menorah Center, a 16-story high rise overlooking 58th Street N. in St. Petersburg is renamed Philip Benjamin Tower, in memory of one of its founders. The apartment complex, which caters to seniors with limited income, recently underwent a $1 million renovation.

9/5: Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services campaign reaches $4.7 million goal – allowing agency to burn two mortgages and freeing up funds to expand the agency’s 40 programs in the Tampa Bay area.

12/19: A “Coexistence” exhibit sponsored by the Florida Holocaust Museum is vandalized when someone rips large holes in outdoor 14-by-10-foot posters on display in St. Petersburg. The exhibit has been traveling around the world to culturally divided communities and has never been damaged before.


1/16: Rabbi Jacob Luski of Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg participated in a Chanukah party at the White House with President George W. Bush.

9/10: Almost 600 gather at Temple B’nai Israel in Clearwater to bid farewell Charles Rutenberg, 80, who died Sept. 10. He was remembered as a giant in the development of the Pinellas County Jewish community.


4/26: Plans for a $16 million north county campus for Menorah Manor are in the works, but still a few years off for an 8-acre tract in Palm Harbor, off Belcher Road between Tampa Road and Nebraska Avenue.

4/26: The JCC of Pinellas County tries to revive itself into a functioning community center. It partners with Philip Benjamin Tower and will lease office space and a location for activities.

12/2: Jewish Federation of Pinellas County buys its formerly leased property at 13191 Starkey Road in Largo.

Jim and Karen Dawkins were veteran journalists when they left established daily newspapers to create the Jewish Press, putting out the first issue of the Jewish Press of Pinellas County on July 25, 1986, and the Jewish Press of Tampa two years later on July 22, 1988.

Jim left the Evening Independent in St. Petersburg and tapped into retirement funds to start the paper. Because the new venture did not bring in enough revenue, Karen remained a reporter for the Tampa Tribune for the first two years, working many hours in her “spare time” to help Jim.

When they began the papers, the Pinellas County Jewish Day School and the Kent Jewish Community Center in Clearwater were on the verge of expansion projects. Both those Jewish institutions, as well as the Independent and Tribune, are now defunct.

After the Dawkins left a meeting where they signed documents to create their new corporation, the Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., an attorney present for the event told another, “They’ll never last six months.”

To this day, every time they celebrate another year in business as owners of the Jewish Press of Pinellas County and the Jewish Press of Tampa, Jim takes a moment to reflect and think, “We proved you wrong, again.”

Not bad for a couple who had no business experience, but a strong desire to serve the Tampa Bay Jewish community.

When they began, the papers contained no more than eight pages and no color. The papers were produced on very early Apple computers, using one of the first versions of a computerized layout and design program known as pagination. Designing the pages and the ads actually remained a hybrid system with some cut and paste still necessary until about 2005.

The first Jewish Press logo was made primarily by hand using a Letraset type transfer rub sheet. The paper still uses the same font, Ondine, but of course with a digital version in the computer.

There were early challenges, including unsuccessful battles with the U.S. Postal Service over retaining favored mailing privileges for newspapers with paid subscriptions. The result has been hefty increases in mailing costs and much longer delivery times.

Just about the time the couple was to start the Jewish Press of Tampa, Jim began suffering severe back pain. It was unclear the Dawkins would be able to make their first deadline. With the help of a friend who built a frame to hold Jim’s computer keyboard so he could type while laying on his back, they made it.

In the beginning, the Dawkins turned a home playroom into an office and operated from there. It saved money and provided flexibility for the couple to be at home with their children, Rachel and Jeremy. “I know in many respects it was hard on the kids. We were there, but I don’t think they could understand we couldn’t always stop what we were doing and give them our undivided attention,” Jim said. “But I cooked dinner almost every night and we sat down together, which I think was important.”

Finally, in 2002, (the kids were in college by then) the Jewish Press moved into its current office in Largo. That allowed for an expansion of the staff.

“We could not have made it this far without our past and present staffers including reporters, editors, graphic designers, advertising sales and office assistants. All of them have been willing to ‘go the extra mile’ to produce a product we can all be proud of,” Karen said.

“I do want to single out two employees for special kudos – Gail Wiseberg and Harold Wolfson,” Karen continued. “The mast says Gail is an editorial assistant but I always say she is my right and left hand. She has been at the Jewish Press so long that neither she nor I can remember when she started. As for my dad, Harold Wolfson, he worked cheerfully for peanuts (actually dinner a couple times a month) from 1988 to his death in 2014. He was the Jewish Press part-time production manager, responsible for all that cutting and pasting and then graduating to assisting the production process when computers totally took over.”

One other staff change in the last few years has been Jim’s semi-retirement, forced by chronic health issues. He retains his publisher title and remains the conscious of the operation.

While the Dawkins maintain editorial control over their papers, they receive financial assistance from the two Federations to pay costs to mail the papers, free to all readers, to more than 12,000 homes in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco Counties.

“We appreciate the continued confidence the Federations show in us and our part in bringing the community together,” Jim said.

Still the papers rely largely on support from advertisers to remain in business. They say a lot of people run ads in the Jewish Press for business reasons alone, but some also do so because they want to support the paper’s mission. “We so appreciate our loyal advertisers who see value in spending their precious dollars with us,” said Karen. “We try to return the favor by putting out the best product possible.”

In exchange for Federation support, the papers puts first priority on Federation news, making sure significant events and programs of the Federation are covered.

This does not mean the Jewish Press serves as a mouthpiece for the Federation. From the start, the Dawkins vowed to remain professional journalists and not allow the paper’s credibility to be compromised.

This means they have final say on what stories are written and what they say. The story selection is based on news value. In keeping with journalistic principles they learned at other papers, stories have to be accurate and sources have to be attributed.

The Dawkins’ only exception to traditional newspaper practices is that in choosing what to cover and what to avoid, “our mission is community building,” Karen says. “We don’t want to tear down the community. We do know of situations we have not written about … if it would not benefit the community; if it would not serve any positive purpose.”

Because the couple approach their endeavor as a mission for the community as well as a professional occupation, they often make decisions that favor journalism more than business.

They have plowed much of the profits back into the papers, expanding the number of pages per issue, adding spot color, then full-color, and improving the product in many ways, including a contract to carry national and international Jewish news stories from the JTA news service. In late 2009 the paper added three websites: JewishPressTampaBay. com, and On the websites are basic information about the paper, and on the individualized sites, the current editions and archives are located.

As the Jewish Press has grown, so have the Jewish communities in Pinellas and Hillsborough, and the Dawkins are proud to have chronicled many of the milestone events along the way.

“We have few regrets. We’ve lived our dream. It’s what both of us always wanted to do,” says Karen. “We realize some people think newspapers are dinosaurs, but we firmly believe there is an important place for a newspaper to continue to tell the story of the Jewish community for years to come.”


n Reflections: As the Jewish Press celebrates its 30th year chronicling the community, we asked newsmakers - present and past - to reflect on the changes they have witnessed and/or look at the future. The thoughtful answers of those who responded can be found throughout this issue.

n Jewish Press Timeline: The stories that made news locally during the past 30 years.

About the cover

At left, are samples of the Jewish Press through the years, beginning with yellowed copies of the July 25, 1986 inaugural issue and the first Bar/Bat Mitzvah Planning Guide.

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