by Annette van de Kamp-Wright
Jewish Press Editor
When I was little, my grandmother used to tell the following story. When the Germans first invaded Holland, the Nazis would walk into random homes and take all the food. One day, a soldier barged in and demanded to eat. My grandparents said they had nothing. He yelled at them, until my grandfather had had enough, grabbed the man’s head and shoved it into the refrigerator.
“See?” He said, “no food!”
I made her tell me the story again and again because A) It made my sweet, mild-mannered grandfather sound extremely brave, and B) I was fascinated by the idea of my grandparents as young people, the way I would never know them.
Until I was about ten or eleven years old and developed a smart mouth.
“You know, grandma,” I said, “there were no refrigerators in 1940.”
At which she rolled her eyes and said: “Hello, I know that. It was an icebox. Same thing.”
She knew what I didn’t: it’s not about getting all the details right. It’s about the essence of the story.
We all have stories to tell, and we don’t always get the details right. We embellish a little here and there, or we leave something out; quite often we make ourselves look a little bit better than we deserve, and that’s okay. Ultimately, it’s those combined stories we share that make us a community. And in the telling of those stories, we remind ourselves where we belong.
Good stories are the backbone of any self-respecting publication. They can be told with words, in big headlines, placement and photographs; sometimes the story everyone is talking about is the one that wasn’t published. Sometimes stories are urgent, other times they have to mature like a good barrel of wine. That’s true from the smallest community publication to the biggest international news channel.
Next week, we publish our annual Rosh Hashanah issue, and soon after we’ll start working on the 2014 Passover edition. But there’s more: our education issue comes out Sept. 20, we plan to mark Temple Israel’s move to Sterling Ridge in our Oct. 4 issue (call Jessie Wees at 402.334.6559 to wish Temple well) and we have a camping issue scheduled for Oct. 11th. Later in November, there will be a sports issue, and in November there’s the business guide, shopping guide, and Hanukkah. We finish the special issue list with the Senior Living issue on Dec. 20. The reason I am giving you, our readers, such a detailed list is we are hoping one of these topics will trigger a story idea for one of you.
I am currently working on one such story, that of Bernie Meyers, who went to Israel recently for a very special reason. If you want to know what that reason is, you’ll have to read it here in a few weeks. I thought this might be a good opportunity to give you all a little glimpse behind the curtain. Where do stories come from, and how do they make it into the Jewish Press?
There are several ways for us to select stories. Sometimes synagogues or agencies and organizations in the community send them to us. Sometimes we commission or buy stories, if we can match the right freelancer with the right topic, as was the case with the recent stories Julianne Herzog wrote about the BRCA 1 and 2 gene mutations. We receive stories from the news wire, such as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the Jewish News Service. We have columnists who query us with the materials they write, sometimes we say yes, and other times we say no; Teddy Weinberger is one such example. Then there are the stories that are possibly the most valuable of all: when a community member calls and wants to share something. I like doing these myself, if I can find the time. They usually take longer to produce because time to write, believe it or not, is not really built into my daily schedule (what do I do all day? That’s a topic for a different editorial; stay tuned).
The reason I like doing some of these stories is it allows me to get to know the community better. When you sit face to face with someone, and they tell you their story, you learn a little bit more about how the community operates. And so, story-by-story, I discover the many layers in the world around me. Just like my grandmother’s story taught me something about my grandfather that I would have never learned on my own, the stories I am privileged to hear teach me about you.
Stories are more than just words on a page. They require someone willing to share, take a risk, talk to this editor and hope she does the story justice. Sometimes I’m not confident I do; if it happens, the credit goes to the subject, for without a good subject, a writer doesn’t get very far.
Keep telling me your stories, keep sharing, keep teaching me—please. Be patient with me when I take my time; after all, a good story does not spoil.