New New York Times editor on her Jewish identity

This story in the Jewish Forward highlights once again the centrality of liberal Judaism and Zionism to modern life in the US. It’s inconceivable that an Arab, let alone a Palestinian, would be appointed top editor at the Times. Jewish privilege is now entirely ensconced in elite society and yet still many Jews claim Jews and Israel are eternal victims. Such comments are made while sipping champagne at an opening at New York’s Kennedy Centre:

That Jill Abramson, the next executive editor of The New York Times, is Jewish does not distinguish her from many in the long line of top editors in whose footsteps she follows. Including her, four of the paper’s last six executive editors have been Jewish.

Yet, as the country’s most influential newspaper faces the critical challenge of surviving the reinvention of modern journalism, its leadership has chosen a top editor who is radically different from her predecessors in ways obvious (she is a woman) and subtle (she is actually kind of hip).

Abramson’s own Jewish identity is of a very particular kind. In an early version of the Times’ own story on her promotion, Abramson declared that “the Times substituted for religion” in her childhood home — a quip that drew fire from some right-wing commentators. But in fact, her upbringing was typically Jewish, in an Upper West Side-in-the-’60s sort of way. The first year that family members decided to light a menorah on Hanukkah, the candles singed their Christmas tree.

Both of Abramson’s parents were born into upper middle-class Jewish families in Manhattan. Norman Abramson ran a family textile-importing firm called Irish Loom Associates; his wife, Dovie, was a housewife, but one who had an undergraduate degree from Barnard College and who had begun but not completed a master’s in political science at Columbia University.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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