From Yoni’s Desk: A bitter first: saying goodbye

There have been a lot of firsts in my life over the past seven years. Tops among them are undoubtedly the births of my two children. But a close second was the call I got one evening a little over six years ago. “Are you interested in being the editor of The Canadian Jewish News?” the speaker inquired out of the blue.

“Yes,” I responded incredulously.

Pretty much everything since that moment has, at least professionally speaking, been a first for me – first time as an editor-in-chief, first time as a regular columnist, first time running a newsroom, redesigning a publication and a website, first time getting creamed on social media for something I wrote or said (though interestingly enough, not the first time being heckled in shul), my first grey hairs. The list goes on. And now we’ve arrived at another: my first last “From Yoni’s Desk.”

I have a lot to be thankful for, and plenty of people to thank. First, to Elizabeth Wolfe and The CJN’s board of directors, who took a big risk when they hired me to reimagine a Canadian Jewish institution. They were there to nurture and help me when I needed it, and otherwise left me to my own devices. As an editor, you couldn’t ask for anything better than that.

When I started this job, I was concerned that the staff, some of whom had been with the paper for decades, and all of whom had just been through its near-death, wouldn’t buy a 33-year-old with zero management experience running their baby. But they welcomed me with open arms. It’s been a privilege to share in your work, in your family.

Maybe it would be a bit easier saying goodbye to so many great colleagues if we could at least be together in the office, reminiscing about the good times, kibitzing as we toast one final edition off to the presses. Instead, we’re winding things up on Facebook Messenger and Zoom. It’s not sufficient to express the emotions of the moment, but that’s all we’ve got for now. Perhaps it’ll make it all the more special when we are finally able to get together again in person. I’m looking forward to that (and will bring the scotch).

One of the things people tend to confuse about journalists is our perceived power. The truth is: we have little, if any. That force actually lies with readers. So, to the tens of thousands of Canadians who have subscribed to The CJN for decades, todah rabah on behalf of the hundreds of people who have worked here over the years. Without you, our work wouldn’t have mattered.

As a thank you for keeping us on our toes all these years, we will be sending print subscribers a parting gift this spring (assuming the world doesn’t end first) – our inaugural book, Northern Lights, an illustrated history of Canadian Jewry. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

I am gratified that, at the time of its closure, more people are reading, engaging and interacting with The CJN than ever before. Our online presence has grown leaps and bounds in recent years, we just launched a handful of new podcasts and our CJN Today newsletter has been attracting a steady audience. The interest is definitely there.

Canadian Jews need a national publication to call our own, whether that’s The CJN or something else. I trust that when the dust clears, we will have one. And if I have a part to play in it, I look forward to speaking with you again.

Until then, lehitraot.