Nine years ago this month, I got my first paying journalism commission. If memory serves, I was tasked with interviewing a Florida grandmother who had been kicked out of her senior living complex because she had taken in her grandson, which was against housing rules. For the life of me, I couldn’t reach the woman. I called every single person with her last name in the Florida phonebook, I called the housing development, I called the lawyer she had allegedly hired, I called the AP and Miami Herald reporters who had written about the story—no one would get back to me. After two days of trying, I gingerly approached the Forward‘s news editor, Ami Eden, and conceded defeat. He barely looked up from his computer, but I knew that he was secretly rolling his eyes at the young intern who couldn’t get some Bubbe on the phone.
Years later, Ami would admit that this was, in fact, exactly what he was thinking. But that afternoon, as I sulked dejectedly at my desk, he did something deeply, profoundly generous: He gave me another assignment. I got this one right, and over the next few months, I became—in no small part because of his guidance, insight, and friendship—a journalist.
Yesterday, Ami was given responsibility for overseeing (and, I hope, revamping) JTA, the historic Jewish news agency. It’s a move that is good for the Jews, good for JTA readers, and even good for non-JTA readers—since, if my experience working with Ami is any indication, he will give every one of his competitors a run for their money. That includes Tablet Magazine, as well as that other official publication of American Jewry. In short, yesterday was a banner day not just for Ami and the JTA and the Jews, but for American journalism.