By Jacqueline Hyman & Daniel Ofman
Opinion editor, staff writer
In the early 1980s, a publication called Ha Koach died out and left the University of Maryland without a Jewish newspaper; thus Mitzpeh was born.
Former Mitzpeh editors-in-chief Neil S. Rubin and David M. Fishman created the publication together in 1983 in hopes of producing something better than Ha Koach. Fishman came up with the name Mitzpeh: the Outlook. “I liked the way that sounded, so I just kept Mitzpeh and [got] a calligrapher to make the Hebrew masthead,” he said. “I liked calling it the Outlook because it’s sort of thoughtful.”
Fishman’s goal was to have an unbiased publication in terms of international and local conflicts. “We provided kind of a forum for discussion,” Fishman said. “It was important to me personally that we not take a particular stand … particularly fresh on the heels of moving Mitzpeh to the center from where Ha Koach had been.”
Ten years later, editor-in-chief Dana Talesnik (Steinberg) strayed from Fishman’s philosophy and was willing to publish controversial content. Talesnik once published a cartoon in response to Black Student Union guest speakers who expressed anti-Semitic sentiments. It depicted the BSU president introducing Hitler as their next speaker. The cartoon blew up, and she said she received a barrage of hate mail.
“We tried to be objective where we could,” Talesnik said, “but we also … weren’t really in anybody’s pocket so to speak.”
Many past Mitzpeh editors have changed the processes of production and altered the paper’s focus.
“Prior to me becoming editor a lot of the editor-in-chiefs had issue themes, so a lot of the stories would revolve around a certain theme,” 2013 – 2014 editor-in-chief Samantha Piccirillo said. “I thought that was kind of limiting, so I got rid of the central theme idea.”
In the early ‘90s, editor-in-chief Rani Schlenoff (Einziger) assigned each staff writer a specific beat, such as Greek beat, political beat and more.
Chabad Rabbi Eli Backman used to write a monthly column for the Mitzpeh called “Backman’s Corner.” Backman said that he enjoyed the freedom that the Mitzpeh gave him and he enjoyed getting a response from the community.
“Writing ‘Backman’s Corner’ was fun. Sometimes I would write about something that came up at the dinner table, sometimes it was something that based on a late night discussion with a student …” Backman said.
In addition to being a creative outlet, Mitzpeh was also a place where staff could form work relationships with other student journalists.
“One of the things I really liked in addition to putting Mitzpeh itself out [was] hanging around getting to know the staff of the daily newspaper,” Fishman said. “That was at least as memorable as putting together a monthly tabloid.”
Fishman and Schlenoff both said Mitzpeh’s relationships with the Diamondback and Maryland Media Inc. were extremely strong during their time with the Mitzpeh.
“I am forever indebted to Maryland Media for teaching me those wonderful skills on the electronic media,” Schlenoff said.
Twenty years ago, getting the word out about the Mitzpeh was very different. “It used to be that you had the boxes with the paper all around campus and walking by everybody would pick one up,” Backman said.
After this issue, Mitzpeh will move forward into its online-only state, which these editors have mixed feelings about.
“This generation is much more used to reading things and accessing things immediately through your magical devices,” Schlenoff said.
While Schlenoff said it’s simply a sign of the times, Piccirillo laments the lack of physical copies. Piccirillo said, ““I love the Internet, but there’s nothing like having a paper in your hand. It makes me a sad a little bit.”
And Fishman, who created the Mitzpeh 32 years ago, said he is excited to see the future of the publication.
“Turning it into an online publication? I’m kind of excited about that, if for no other reason than now I can go read it whenever I want,” Fishman said. “Even though I’m 30 some years and 3,000 miles away, I can keep up with what I did once upon a time.”