Shalhevet sponsoring first-ever Jewish high school journalism conference later this month

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Shalhevet sponsoring first-ever Jewish high school journalism conference later this month

Alexa Fishman, Community Editor

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Students from across the U.S. will study topics ranging from ethics of journalism to freedom of the press at a first-ever national journalism conference for students at Jewish high schools Oct. 24-27, sponsored by Shalhevet and the American Jewish Press Association.

The new organization, called the Jewish Scholastic Press Association, or JSPA, was spearheaded by Mrs. Joelle Keene to help students learn how to report about Jewish issues as well as the widest possible range of teen-related topics. The conference will also cover journalism basics like layout, interview technique and privacy laws.

“As a Jewish high school, we cover news that other people don’t,” said Mrs. Keene, who is faculty advisor to The Boiling Point.

“I wasn’t so much thinking of the conference at first, but of creating an organization – JSPA —  where all the schools who are trying to do Jewish reporting could compare notes, encourage one another, and learn to handle the full spectrum of Jewish concerns.”

Attendees will have a choice of journalism workshops and lectures, most presented at Bnai David-Judea Congregation on Pico Boulevard, along with meals and special programs on Shabbat.

Among the speakers will be Gary Rosenblatt, Editor in Chief of the New York Jewish Week, who will give a keynote address on Jewish journalism ethics; Jennifer Medina, a national correspondent for The New York Times, who will speak about life as a Modern Orthodox news reporter; Dana Erlich, Director of Public Diplomacy for the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles; and Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, who will give a shiur on the conflict in journalism between wanting to avoid lashon harah (gossip) and using information to protect others from harm.

Mrs. Keene said she got the idea from attending conferences of the NSPA and CSPA, the National and Columbia Scholastic Press Associations, respectively, and had been thinking about it for several years.

Last June, she attended the annual conference of the American Jewish Press Association, where she met Marshall Weiss, the group’s president. He shared her interest in the subject.

“Mrs. Keene and I discussed the importance of cultivating the next generation of Jewish journalists,” said Mr. Weiss in an interview. “I thought we would go back and gradually put something together, but to my pleasant surprise, Joelle contacted me in the mid-summer and said that she was ready to get the ball rolling.

With the support of Head of School Rabi Ari Segal – who not only agreed to co-sponsor the group but also personally invited Jewish high schools through their heads of school – Mrs. Keene started with 10 schools, all with active journalism programs.

“For years Jewish schools and students have had to choose between full participation in conferences and full Shabbat observance,” Rabbi Segal said. “And while I’m thankful to conference organizers who were flexible and supportive, it still was not ideal.

“This is the best of all worlds and will allow our students to be incredible journalists and fully committed Jews.”

So far, SAR High School in Riverdale, New York, and Jewish Community High School of the Bay, in San Francisco, have registered, while Maimonides of Boston and Marvin Berman Academy of Maryland are among others who have expressed interest.
Local schools have been invited as well.

Over Shabbat, students will eat and daven at Bnai David, hopefully meeting each other and learning from one another’s prior experiences in high school journalism.

Other planned speakers include David Nimmer, a national authority on copyright law and father of five Shalhevet alumni; David Suissa, columnist, publisher of the Jewish Journal and father of freshman Noah Suissa; and Kathy Neumeyer, advisor to the Harvard-Westlake Chronicle.

Boiling Point emeriti Zev Hurwitz ’11 and Rachel Lester ’12 will also be giving presentations.  Zev, currently managing editor of the Guardian at UC San Diego and a correspondent for the national magazine Israel Campus Beat, will speak about covering Israel and Jewish issues on campus and the world of the college newsroom.  Rachel, who has won many national awards for news and yearbook design, will give workshops on layout basics and feature page design.

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