Reports that a popular communal Berlin Jewish newsletter must now be distributed under wraps does not make happy reading.
But this is the fate of Jewish Berlin, read by about 10,000 people each month and which until the start of February, was circulated by mail and placed in recipients’ mail boxes directly, with only an address label. Now it’s being sent in a plain envelope.
The measure, explains community chairman Gideon Joffe, is to help “reduce the likelihood of hostility towards members of the community. For this reason, from now on Jewish Berlin will ship in a neutral envelope”.
So this is it: The seventieth anniversary year of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp and we’re back to square one.
Indeed Henryk M Broder, a German expert on contemporary antisemitism, has criticised tough security measures to protect Jews as an illusion.
He warned in a column for the Die Welt newspaper, headlined ‘More Protection for Jews Means Less Dignity’ that “it will not become better. It will become worse. Toulouse was the prelude to Brussels and Brussels led to Paris. Copenhagen will not be the final station. The list of attacks will become longer”.
‘But don’t worry’, insist communal leaders in the U.K. ‘We’re fine in our liberal British society. It will never happen to us’.
But while they and other self-appointed grandees continue to play a futile game of hide-and-seek with our perennial enemies, I have an opportunity to look briefly at the nature of all small publications and their production.
I would love to know, for example, how much is spent on producing and distributing Jewish Berlin each month.
If I use the average estimate of four people per household that means 2,500 hard print copies, plain manila envelopes and attendant postage, even if some are delivered by hand.
I suggest that’s a helluva lot of publicly owned Euros that may be spent much more usefully on practical security, education and charitable endeavours. We are now well into the age of relatively painless e-publication that costs a micro-mini fraction of traditional print methods in terms of labour and materials.
So here I repeat what I first wrote some days ago specifically about Jewish Berlin as I consider it holds true of all small communal publications:
Such newsletters and magazines do a very important job in keeping people together. So-called ‘parish pump’ outfits exist because those who run them know instinctively that people love to read about themselves. It’s a sort of legitimised gossip!
But I can’t understand why they do not become digitalised. The most secure, cheapest and cost-effective way would be to distribute them in a simple pdf format by email or to send a pdf link over something like a secret Facebook page so only subscribed members may view them.
There are now so few people without access to the internet that this method makes plain common sense. If something grander were possible, I'd recommend a well respected publishing platform like Issuu.com.
To those religious (Jewish) people who say they cannot use the internet on the Sabbath and festivals I answer first, that there are many other days on which to read such material. Second, I suggest that the astute technicians who have found so many methods to circumvent Sabbath laws should be set to work to find a way for folk to use e-readers on holy days.
Meanwhile, I insist that the appearance of any small, communal journal must mean much more to those who produce it than anyone who reads it. Of course, the same argument applies to this blog – but it costs me nothing more than the price of my internet connection. Q.E.D.!
© Natalie Wood (25 February 2015)