The Inside Story of The Jewish Observer


jewish-observerThe following was submitted to by Rabbi Yosef C. Golding, Executive Director, RCCS. This article comes on the heels of’s initial exclusive report that The Jewish Observer would be closing. Our report was followed by a statement by the Agudah and now Rabbi Golding’s thoughts:
It’s hard for me to believe that your (usually) astute readership does not realize what really precipitated the events leading to the award being given this coming Sunday night to The Jewish Observer.

Plain and simple. It is a way to circumvent the reluctance of the Wolpin family to accept any personal honors, and to give Rabbi Nisson Wolpin a small slice of recognition due him for his forty years of service to the Klal.

As the former managing editor of the JO, I had the zchus to work hand-in-hand with Rabbi Wolpin for over twenty years. It was a zchus I did not take lightly. Through our morning strategy sessions (over office-brewed Starbucks coffee, together with home-baked oatmeal cookies), I often picked up tidbits of inside information on the early years of the JO, of which I was not a part.

I guess the number one insight came from hagaon Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky zt”l. When Rabbi Moshe Sherer and Dr. Ernst Bodenheimer, zt”l first approached Rabbi Wolpin to assume the editorship of the JO back in 1970, he was serving as a mechanech par excellence at Yeshivas Ohr Yisroel, in Queens. Rabbi Wolpin was reluctant to give up a career in chinuch, groomed by his formative years in Mesivta Torah Vodaath and Beis Medrash Elyon. Of course, he would have to discuss the offer with his rebbi, Reb Yaakov zt”l, and abide by his decision. Reb Yaakov listened carefully and then gave his da’as: “Until now you were a mechanech of children; from now on you will be a mechanech for adults.”

Thus began an illustrious career of serving as a conduit to disseminate Da’as Torah, under the tutelage of Gedolei Torah. And it wasn’t always easy.

I recall the internal debate within our offices in November of 1999, when the JO was preparing its blockbuster issue on the problems of Children at Risk. Because of the sensitivity of this topic, members of the Moetzes Gedolei Torah were sent pre-publication drafts of the articles. One of the Roshei Yeshiva called Rabbi Wolpin, and with a tear-choked voice, implored him NOT to publish the issue, as it will cause untold grief to parents suffering from this malady. Another, after listening to that point of view, responded that the overarching need to bring this subject to the fore, in the hopes of helping those already suffering, as well as with the goal of preventing further such tragedies, pushed for its publication. The rest is history. The issue sold out within days of publication, necessitating a reprint equaling to triple the usual amount of copies, followed by another special issue of Readers’ Responses to that issue.

The JO delved into the topic of Shidduchim years before the term “Shidduch Crisis” became a household term. One of the several special issues on Shidduchim included a cover blurb with a quote from Rav Matisyahu Salamon, shlit”a: “If one becomes sidetracked from what his focus should be, and concentrates on extraneous matters – such as beauty, wealth or honor – he is in effect losing sight of the purpose for which marriage was created.” This was just one example of the instructive purpose of the JO.

To give your readership an inkling of the depth and consistency of Rabbi Wolpin’s work, one has but to look at the eleven volume ArtScroll Judaiscope Series, a compilation of hashkafah- filled books, collected from the pages of The Jewish Observer. Besides for the five biographical books on the Torah world, also published were Timeless Parenting, Of Home and Heart, The Ethical Imperative, A Path Through the Ashes, and Shidduchim, Shalom Bayis, and Beyond, each one an instructive and informative guide for various facets of Torah-true Judaism.

I guess the memories that remain with me most are the many times I walked into his office, seeing him exhausted from marathon phone sessions with Rabbanim, Roshei Yeshivas, or editorial board members. The article(s) he was working on had to be correct; had to be as perfect as possible. Like a master mechanech, mistakes could be costly and efforts were always made to try to avoid the inevitable faux-pas. But no matter what, he followed the directives of the Gedolei Torah.

The HaGaon Rav Aharon Kotler Memorial Award for distinguished service to Torah should appropriately be bestowed upon those who were most responsible for the years of accomplishments of The Jewish Observer.

Rabbi Yosef C. Golding
Executive Director
Rofeh Cholim Cancer Society

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  1. Among many things Rabbi Golding mentiones a very important role of prserving oral history of Shearis HaPleita that JO carries for more than 40 years
    Wise descision of Reb Moshe Sherer, ztz’l was to show that without this Baalei Mesora American “McJudaism” will end up where “reformers” already are: female clegy performing same-gender marriages.


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