The St. Louis Jewish Light won four Simon Rockower Awards, the annual prizes for excellence in Jewish journalism given by the American Jewish Press Association (AJPA). The categories in which the paper earned honors were feature writing, interfaith relations reporting and writing about seniors. All of the competition’s more than 700 entries in 25 categories were for work done in 2018.
The awards were presented Tuesday, June 25 at the annual Simon Rockower Awards banquet, held at Third Degree Glass Factory. The awards ceremony was part of the AJPA annual conference held in St. Louis from June 23-26, which also included a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the organization. AJPA has roughly 100 members from Jewish newspapers and media outlets throughout North America.
Light Associate Editor Eric Berger won two first-place awards. The first was for his story, “Jews just the tip of mohel’s practice,” about Rabbi Mike Rovinsky, which took the top honor over all other newspapers, broadcast outlets; magazines; special sections and supplements and web-based outlets entered in the category.
Berger also took a first-place award in feature writing in the smaller newspaper category for his story, “Love and Judaism inspire long-distance conversion.” The story told of a yearlong conversion to Judaism of an engaged man from Amsterdam facilitated by the rabbis at Congregation B’nai Amoona.
The Light also won two awards in “excellence in writing about seniors,” a category that is new to the Rockowers this year. Freelancer Susan Fadem won first place for newspapers with a circulation under 15,000 for her story entitled, “‘Scared every day’: WWII bombardier shares his story.” It told of 95-year-old Ralph Goldsticker Jr., of Creve Coeur, a World War II bombardier who flew the maximum of 35 missions in 1944.
Another Light freelancer, Bill Motchan, won second place for his “Cemetery mitzvah” story. It focused on 75-year-old Steve Weinreich’s unusual hobby of documenting gravesites in Jewish cemeteries. In winning, Motchan beat out larger newspapers as well as broadcast outlets; magazines; special sections and supplements and web-based outlets.
“These four Rockowers are a testament to the work our talented, dedicated staff and freelancers produce week after week,” said Ellen Futterman, editor of the Light. “The competition for the Rockowers is incredibly stiff, which is why I am so proud and humbled that our newspaper stands out among so many others.”
Craig Neuman, director of programming at the Jewish Community Center, served as emcee for the Rockower Awards. Light Editor-in-Chief Emeritus Bob Cohn was honored there and elsewhere at the conference for his 50 years of service to the Jewish Light as well as AJPA. Cohn, who will turn 80 years old in September, served as president of AJPA three different times over the course of his career.
The three-day AJPA conference, entitled “Gateway to Innovations in Jewish Media,” featured panels on photojournalism and visual storytelling; improving customer service; covering Israel in the Diaspora; strategies to grow advertising and readership; audience development and engagement; and physical and digital security, among others. Distinguished speakers included Rabbi Shlomo Weissmann, director of Beth Din of America; Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding; Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union; and Shep Hyken, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author and expert in customer service and experience.
Local sponsors included the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, Congregation Shaare Emeth, Barbara and Michel Newmark and J-Givable.