Online Jewish publications seek to fill void left by Canadian Jewish News

Less than two months after The Canadian Jewish News (CJN) folded, two websites have been launched that promise to focus on news and opinion of particular concern to members of the

Canadian Jewish community of 390,000.

Founded in January 1960, the tabloid CJN produced its last print and online editions April 9. It had been struggling financially for some time. Its traditional business model that depended on ad revenue to pay staff, including a full-time editor and journalists in Montreal and Toronto, was collapsing when it announced in June 2013 that it was shutting down. Following broad protests from readers it resumed publication in August, with a leaner staff.

CJN moved to a subscription format for its print edition, but free copies were available at the Jewish Public Library and other institutions in Montreal. It reportedly had a circulation of 32,000 copies when it ceased operations.

The most recent attempts to fill the void are the Canadian Jewish Record, available at canadianjewishrecord.ca and TheJ.ca, but according to its founders they work from differing perspectives.

The CJR was co-founded by publisher Bernie Farber, a former head of the now-defunct Canadian Jewish Congress, a social activist, CJN columnist, and Liberal candidate in the 2011 Ontario election, and veteran journalist CJN Ron Csillag, who is the editor.

Among the first pieces was a look at the history of Canadian Jewish journalism by author and journalist Andrew Cohen, a review of the Israeli-produced Netflix series Fauda by Carleton University political science professor Mira Sucharov, and a physician’s take on how synagogues can consider holding High Holiday services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The contributors volunteer their contributions.

Pro-Israel activists Ron East and Marty Gold are behind TheJ.ca. On its website publisher East defines the publication as a “Zionist News Media platform (that) sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.ca is providing … a welcome alternative and an ideological home.” East is listed as publisher and Gold, an investigative journalist, as editor in chief.

Contrasting approaches appear in the pieces both ran on Fauda, the fictional series which centers on undercover operations in the West Bank and Gaza by an Arabic-speaking Israeli anti-terrorist unit. In a thoughtful piece on TheJ.ca, retired York University professor Barrie Wilson speculates on the “careful and cautious cooperation” depicted between Israeli and the Palestinian security authorities in the West Bank and sees in it a hopeful sign. “Portions of the West Bank could be the nucleus of a Palestinian state,” Wilson suggests. Because Hamas rulers in Gaza are so uncooperative, he suggests a peace deal could eventually separate Gaza and the West Bank as part of a “three-state solution.”

Sucharov writes that the violence-laced action in Fauda that is a feature in its anti-terror operations helps make it binge-worthy, yet watching it can be painful. She notes that reaction to the show from Palestinian viewers has not been enthusiastic.

“What I really try to listen to is the effect the show is having on the viewers who are the most vulnerable to Israeli violence,” Sucharov writes. “I hear the message that Fauda hurts.”

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