Baltimore Paper Goes on Auction Block

Jewish Times Faces Bankruptcy After Nearly Century in Print

Old Time Newspaper: Editors mark up an edition of the Baltimore Jewish Times in this photo plucked from the morgue of the Baltimore Sun.
courtesy of baltimore sun
Old Time Newspaper: Editors mark up an edition of the Baltimore Jewish Times in this photo plucked from the morgue of the Baltimore Sun.

By Joel N. Shurkin

Published March 29, 2012, issue of April 06, 2012.
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But Buerger thought it could be better than that, and so he poured his substantial profits back into the paper. “He wanted a real newspaper,” Rosenblatt said.

Under Rosenblatt’s leadership, the Jewish Times “was a Jewish paper that often forgot it was a Jewish paper, and [therefore it] did not cater to the narrow and parochial interests of the Jewish community,” said author Arthur Magida, who was senior editor of the paper (between 1982 and 1995).

A 1984 story by Rosenblatt that questioned the tax status of the Simon Wiesenthal Center was one of two finalists for a Pulitzer Prize.

During that time, the newspaper was fat with advertisements, often running as many as 200 pages; it maintained a circulation of 20,000, making it the largest weekly newspaper in Maryland. During the 1980s it was widely considered the best Jewish newspaper in America.

The owners bought Jewish community papers in Atlanta and Detroit, with Rosenblatt acting as editor from Baltimore. They later added newspapers in Palm Beach, Fla., with an edition in Boca Raton and in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Rosenblatt left for New York in 1993. Buerger died three years later, and the publication was taken over by his son, Andrew. The new publisher sold off the newspapers outside Baltimore but continued to nurture the local property. He created a glossy local magazine, Baltimore Style, and then the more regional Chesapeake Life, the latter folding as Alter’s legal battle erupted.

The average issue is now about 70 pages, and its circulation is down to 8,500.

The Baltimore Jewish community is among the oldest in America, with several synagogues dating back to before the Civil War.

Today, the area’s Jewish population numbers about 93,000, according to The Associated, Jewish Community Federation; about one-third of the city’s Jewish population identifies as Orthodox, compared with 13% nationally. A substantial portion of those are ultra-Orthodox who are drawn to the prominent Haredi institution Yeshivas Ner Yisroel.

The area’s burgeoning Orthodox population has driven down the circulation because the Orthodox community often rejects the newspaper, which accepts ads for nonkosher restaurants and publishes material that some deem offensive, such as stories about women rabbis.

In 2007, Jacobs, who replaced Rosenblatt, published an exposé on sexual misconduct and pederasty in the Orthodox rabbinate, which did nothing to close the gap. And an attempt by the Jewish Times to produce an edition expressly for the Orthodox community failed.

Rubin said the relationship “needs work.”

For the paper’s 40 employees, the roller-coaster ride has been a horror. Health insurance payments will keep the employees covered through April.

Contact Joel N. Shurkin at feedback@forward.com


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