For those of us in the news business, each year brings a new set of challenges and opportunities.
The stories only seem to get bigger, the news cycle only gets shorter and the demand for different ways of telling stories (think Twitter, Facebook, the now-ancient medium of the Internet) only gets greater.
These challenges make our annual selection of the Forward’s top stories of the year, all the more impressive.
Who’d have thunk that a small news organization with a handful of full-time reporters could break international stories or ferret out scandals that shake the entire Jewish community?
If 2012 was a great year for Jewish journalism at the Forward, the diversity of our top stories was particularly noteworthy.
One of our most-read stories of the year came from a book. Its topic, “Are Jews a race?” attracted a lot of attention.
Reporter Paul Berger doggedly followed the claims of sexual abuse in the Orthodox community, from Hasidic neighborhoods to the halls of Yeshiva University. In 2012 he held authorities to account for their secretive policies, leading larger media outlets to mimic his coverage in the process.
Larry Cohler-Esses, the assistant managing editor, scored a historic scoop in April when he won the first-ever interview with a top Hamas leader for a Jewish publication. His clear-eyed report shed new insight on the Palestinian terror group, which just months later engaged in a major confrontation with Israel in Gaza.
Few outside the world of gymnastics heard of Aly Raisman before the London Olympics. For a few magical days, you couldn’t turn on your TV without seeing the young Jewish athlete from Boston prancing her way to a gold medal to the tune of “Hava Nagila.”
The Western Wall is the iconic symbol of Judaism. So why is it controlled by one branch of the faith? Women who object to the Orthodox monopoly on the Wall stepped up their campaign for access, and protests and arrests followed.
This was the year George Washington’s letter to the Jews finally saw the light of day. After a remarkable campaign led by the Forward, the letter’s secretive owners relented and allowed the document, in which our first president famously offered “to bigotry no sanction,” its rightful place in public view.
We were warned that Hurricane Sandy would be bad. No one knew how bad. And absolutely no one suspected it could deal the Jewish community such a devastating blow, which may continue to be felt for years to come.
With the country bitterly divided, President Obama’s re-election campaign was of course a major story in 2012. But Jewish issues played a defining part in the national drama, from Sheldon Adelson’s big bucks donations to Republicans’ (mostly failed) effort to pry away Jewish voters.
Hanukkah reached six candles, and the year neared its close, when a deranged gunman went on a murderous rampage in an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. He killed 27 people, mostly children, including a little Jewish boy named Noah Pozner. Unfortunately, this added another top Jewish story of the year, although it was one none of us wished for.
What follows is a collage of highlights from our coverage.
— Dave Goldiner