They say that a ray of sunlight can shine through even during the darkest hours. I always thought that was a bit of a cliché, but there are times when I can see what they mean.
On this week’s cover of the BALTIMORE JEWISH TIMES, you’ll notice a grouping of our previous covers, some old and some fairly recent. At the center is a JT dating back to Feb. 13, 1953, with its cover partially showing a well-dressed lady chatting with a man driving a car with logos on the doors: “MD. SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND” and “DONATED BY THE FRIENDSHIP SISTERS I.O.B.S.”
Our cover story this week is about the JEWISH TIMES’ current legal and financial situation, something that’s received a great deal of community interest lately. I won’t get into that here, you’ll have to read the cover story package.
But I want to give you a little background on that particular issue from 1953—and that lady in the photo.
Until about seven years ago, I had an elderly next door neighbor who lived alone named Jeanne Goldberg. We always called her “Miss Jeanne.”
Miss Jeanne was a wonderful neighbor: friendly, pleasant, thoughtful, generous, and mainly kept to herself and lived her life. When my kids were born, she sent over gifts. When I shoveled snow from her driveway and cleared off her car, she always later sent over chocolates to show her appreciation.
Miss Jeanne was all class.
She lived a full, rich life. She had lots of friends and interests, and even belonged to a bowling league well into her 80s.
Unfortunately as she got older, it became increasingly difficult for her to maintain the house where she’d lived for 40 years and raised a family. She eventually decided to clean out her house, sell it and move in with her daughter, Doris.
But at one point, Miss Jeanne called and asked me to drop by her house. She had something for me, she said.
When I went over, she handed me a mint-copy JEWISH TIMES from 1953. The editorial that week, penned by managing editor Bert Kline, was about anti-Semitism in the former Soviet Union.
“I thought you would like this, since you work at the JEWISH TIMES,” Miss Jeanne said. I didn’t even know she knew where I worked. It never came up in conversation before.
Thumbing through the issue in utter amazement, I said, “Jeanne, why do you even have this?” She said, “That’s me,” and pointed to the lady chatting with the driver in the top right photo of the cover. “I belonged to the Friendship Sisters, so I was on the cover that week. I had it somewhere in the house for many years, forgot about it, and when I was cleaning out my stuff, I saw it and thought you would enjoy having it.”
She was right. A couple of days later, I brought the issue to work, left it on my desk and have shown it occasionally to people over the years.
Not too long after that, Miss Jeanne moved in with her daughter and passed away. The world lost a wonderful, gentle, kind soul.
Now fast-forward to earlier this week. Our art director, scrambling to put together a collage of images conveying the legacy and relevance of this publication, asked me if I happened to have any “loose” copies of old JTs. All of our back issues are bound in volumes in our storage area, and that would be hard to photograph independently and well. She needed a loose one, and it seemed no one had one available.
Immediately, I thought of Miss Jeanne’s copy in my office and gave it to the art director. This week, Miss Jeanne is again gracing the cover of the JT, albeit in a very different way.
But it seems to me appropriate that she’s on the cover, helping us out. After all, it was people like Miss Jeanne who helped make the JT what it is. They considered the paper an essential, integral part of their lives, read it voraciously every week, and took personal pride in the JT’s national reputation. They reported their weddings, kids’ births and other simchahs in the JT, not to mention the times when they were trying to do some good in the world (like the Friendship Sisters).
May that tradition go on for a long, long time to come.
May Miss Jeanne’s memory always be a blessing. And may the JT always be a relevant, authentic part of our lives.