Jewish Group's Board Agrees to Sell Newspaper

Times Religion Writer

The Jewish Federation Council voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to sell its weekly newspaper, the Jewish Journal, after hearing three bids.

The federation board voted 117 to 1 to sell the Journal, whose advertising revenue has not improved enough in its 15 months of publishing to break even financially.

The Journal was launched with a federation loan of $663,000 and a subscription list of more than 50,000 contributors to the federation, which is an umbrella organization of 500 Jewish community agencies. Although allowed to operate with editorial independence, the Journal carried news of federation activities and the United Jewish Fund campaigns.

"By selling the newspaper the board expects to get its loan repaid more quickly than if we continued with the Journal the way it is," said Wayne Feinstein, executive director of the federation.

Besides an earlier offer of an undisclosed amount from the publisher of the Baltimore Jewish Times, the board Tuesday received a written bid from publisher Yale Butler to merge the Journal with his own 90-year-old B'nai B'rith Messenger and a third offer from a group of Los Angeles businessmen.

The latter group, whose members were not identified for the board, "have put an attractive offer on the table," Feinstein said.

Frank Maas, a Beverly Hills attorney who is a federation vice president, was named to chair a subcommittee to negotiate with the bidders and bring back a recommendation to the board before mid-June. All bidders have said they would publish news of the federation if they took over the newspaper, Feinstein said.

Feinstein said there has been no discussion of whether the Journal's present editor, Gene Lichtenstein, and the staff would be retained by a new owner.

In its first few months of publication, the Journal drew the ire of some Orthodox Jewish leaders who felt it was biased and irreligious in its approach and choice of subjects. But as more columnists and contributors were added, the furor died.

The Los Angeles Jewish community, estimated at 550,000 people, already has three independently owned English-language newspapers. One of them, the Heritage, has been especially unhappy that the Journal solicits advertising, contending that its competitor gets an unfair advantage from the large circulation provided by the federation.

Federation officials said they have sought through the Journal and a predecessor publication, the Bulletin, to communicate with contributors and to reach other Los Angeles Jews who are uninvolved with any Jewish community organization.

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