Deep thoughts, random insights, and musings by Susan Jacobs

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Pleasantly full

Isn't it funny that we can compensate for 25 hours of not eating in less than an hour? When Yom Kippur ended tonight, I hurried home with great anticipation, feeling that I could eat all the food in my refrigerator. Truth be told, after consuming one sensibly sized starch-studded meal, I felt quite full. The highlight of my break-the-fast meal was a bowl of potato-lukshin soup, which I had prepared before the fast. The name says it all -- the soup contains diced potatoes and thin egg noodles, plus salt and pepper to taste, with milk poured over it at serving time. It's not fancy, but it's a soup my Bubby often made when I was growing up, and is on my list of favorite comfort foods.

Thankfully, the fast was relatively easy this year, and I was pleased to feel more familiar than ever with the liturgy. After years of plodding through the Hebrew, it is a wonderful feeling to look at the words on the page and actually know what they mean (at least most of the time, when I'm concentrating). Going into Yom Kippur after finishing my first week on the new job, I was afraid I'd be too tired to daven well, but fortunately, that wasn't a problem.

Speaking of the job, so far so good. I LOVE working for a newspaper again. Everyone in the office is really nice, and the executive editor is really taking my suggestions/criticisms to heart. And believe me, I've been voicing them.

All of my life I've been fairly shy, and started my other jobs with trepidation and self-consciousness. This time, however, I quickly overcame my nerves on the first day, and dove right into the job. It helps that I am part of a very small staff, all of whom welcomed me warmly, and were interested in my input from day one. (They also needed my help immediately, so there was no time for frivolous things, like learning how to retrieve voice mail from the system.) And it also helps that I have worked for a newspaper before, and know how to do my job. But even so, I was shocked last week to hear myself saying things with authority. We had an editorial meeting on Thursday to discuss next week's paper, and I disagreed with the executive editor about whether to cover a particular story. He didn't think it was newsworthy. I did, and I told him why. In the end, he agreed with me. I was surprised by my frankness, but proud that I had voiced my opinion.

I think there are a few reasons I feel so comfortable so quickly at this job. First, for the last two years, I have been reading The Jewish Chronicle with great frustration, knowing that I could make it better. As someone deeply involved in the Jewish community, I have a lot of ideas for articles that should be written and issues that should be covered. Second, unlike my two years as an associate at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I feel I am working with the same level of competence as my fellow staffers. At the Post-Gazette, I was working with very smart, seasoned journalists who were sometimes an intimidating bunch. The paper also had firmly established beats, and senior staff writers got first dibs on all the most interesting stories. I loved my two years at the PG, and soaked up every bit of journalistic know-how that came my way, but I was also relieved to leave the intensity of that job behind me.

The new job is intense too -- each day of my first week was packed solid with interviewing, writing, and editing. But it was also a lot of fun, and I felt freer and more confident in my writing than I ever did at the PG. The first consideration in writing a newspaper article is, "What will the readers want to know?" At the PG, the audience is large and very diverse, and as a young, single, Orthodox Jewish female, the topics that interested my editors weren't always all that important to me. At The Chronicle, it is much easier for me to understand the concerns of the community, because they are my concerns too. The Jewish community here is reasonably large and diverse, and there are lots of viewpoints that need to be represented in the paper, but from the start, I feel that I understand those views, or can learn to understand them in time.

In a few weeks, I may be complaining about my coworkers, or the job itself, and wondering why I was so excited at the beginning, but for now, I am really happy.


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