By Daniel Ofman
What are some characteristics that one would look for in the editor-in-chief of a Jewish newspaper?
At Mitzpeh, being Jewish hasn’t necessarily been one of those characteristics. This publication has had many students in leadership positions who were not Jewish and who initially knew little about the community.
In May 2001, editor-in-chief Kenneth Boda and head consultant Mike Sarzo wrote their final columns for Mitzpeh. Both addressed the phenomenon of non-Jews leading in a Jewish setting.
“I think that both I and the Jewish community didn’t know what to do with each other,” Boda wrote. “I found myself the subject of harassment solely because I am not Jewish, yet I was still editor of the paper.”
Boda believed that many readers were “irritated” by the fact that a “goy” was the editor of Mitzpeh. However, both Boda and Sarzo were impressed by the uniqueness of the Jewish community at Maryland.
“My respect for the Jewish community has not waned,” Sarzo wrote. “I can now look back on my year of work with the Mitzpeh and realize that my life has been enriched by the experience.”
Samantha Piccirillo’s experience while working for the Mitzpeh, as the most recent non-Jewish editor-in-chief during 2013-2014, was strikingly different compared to those of Boda and Sarzo.
“Once I got to Maryland I learned how tight-knit the Jewish community is,” Piccirillo said. “I also didn’t realize the sense of home that Israel has for every Jewish person even if your family is not from Israel.”
For Piccirillo, working for Mitzpeh was a learning process one that others such as 1993 staff writer Carolina Pica also experienced.
“Many times while reading people’s copy I thought the Jewishness was too blatant,” Pica wrote in her final column. “Now I think, why shouldn’t it be fervently expressed and celebrated? I do the same with my heritage.”