The story of Essex Jewish News

THERE are not many areas in Britain– if any – that can boast a community newspaper devoted entirely to one particular area and to one particular community, so the Essex Jewish News, formerly The Bridge, could be in a class of its own.

And this Pesach, we mark the 41st anniversary of the first publication, a 12 page glossy magazine and nothing like the 28 or 32 page tabloid paper seen and read today by nearly 20,000 people.

It all started in April 1980 and was the brainchild of Israeli Itu Aviram, a journalist and former shaliach (emissary) in Redbridge. He contacted publisher the late Frank Cass who set the whole thing in motion by contacting two well known local journalists, Bernard Joseph and Manny Robinson, and sounded them out on the idea for a community newspaper.

At its launch, a company was formed called RDJCC News Ltd with Frank Cass as chairman, the late Philip Finlay in charge of accounts and the late Geoffrey Phillips in charge of advertising.

The paper which was printed for many years under the cut-and-paste method by Speedprint’s Martin and Vincent Goodman, was to be called ‘The Bridge’ after the borough it served – Redbridge – and because both Bernard and Manny were working for newspapers themselves and were under contract not to write for any other publication, the first Editor appointed was Jackie Berg but then Bernard, who had been news editor of the now defunct London Evening News, was able to take over as Editor and use his professional skills to enhance the content and style of the paper.

Bernard went on aliyah to Israel and handed the role to Manny Robinson, then a journalist on the London Evening Standard who had been instrumental in launching the paper in the first place. He had to step back for a while remaining as an editorial consultant and two women, Wendy Levy and Anne Krisman, took over before Manny came back with another former journalist, the late Freddie Gold, who had been Editor of the Hackney Gazette as his deputy.

So popular was the paper that the Jewish Chronicle agreed to include it in their issues, a partnership that lasted for several years. Manny also changed the name of the paper to the Essex Jewish News because of the demand from areas outside Redbridge for their own news items to be included and was instrumental in switching it from a magazine style publication to a tabloid. He also paved the way for the introduction of colour into the paper.

In many ways this switch from magazine to tabloid was made possible through the sheer determination of the late and much missed Barbara Newman who had taken over as advertising representative. She built up an impressive advertising base by sheer hard work and determination that was the envy of many big circulation professional papers.

A new company Essex Jewish News Ltd had been formed to replace RDJCC Ltd and the paper went on to twice win the Community Newspaper of the Year at the Board of Deputies magazine awards and was runner-up once. Manny, who is now a director and editorial consultant, stayed as Editor for a further 35 years before retiring and handing over to the present Editor, Simon Rothstein two years ago.

Melvyn Weinberg, a former director on the Jewish Chronicle became managing director of the new company and he gave way last year to Clive Bayard, another former Jewish Chronicle employee as managing director who also designs the paper and has enlarged the circulation by getting the paper to other outlets like Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. The company also appointed its first chairman, Phillip Leigh.

Under Simon Rothstein’s leadership, the Essex Jewish News has moved into on-line publication with a greater emphasis on attracting younger readers and more writers. The paper now has a readership of around 20,000 and is published three times a year, at Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Chanukah.

The Team

Simon Rothstein Essex Jewish News

Simon Rothstein

Editor and Director

Simon Rothstein is a journalist and public relations professional with more than 20 years’ experience in the national media. He has worked for The Guardian, TalkSPORT and The Sun, where he was the Online Showbiz Editor for almost a decade.

In 2010, Simon founded the boutique PR and social media company SRX Consultancy, which has grown substantially in the last decade to encompass many clients and areas of work including business, sport, entertainment and charity.

Simon represents a number of clients in the Jewish world including Mitzvah Day, Liberal Judaism and Work Avenue. He is proud to have edited the Essex Jewish News since 2017.

Simon lives in Chelmsford and has two children. He is a member of Chelmsford Jewish Community and East London & Essex Liberal Synagogue and enjoys attending services and events put on by all denominations, including Chigwell United Synagogue and Chabad Epping where his parents are members.

Manny Robinson Essex Jewish News

Manny Robinson

Former Editor now Editorial Consultant and Director

Manny Robinson began his journalistic career on the Stratford Express at the age of 20. Three years later he was offered a position as sports sub editor on the London Evening Standard and, when he retired in 1991, he had been the longest serving journalist on the paper. He was also a columnist for the Jewish Chronicle over a four year period.

Manny became Editor of the Essex Jewish News shortly after the community paper started (then named The Bridge) and remained in the post for 40 years.

He received a Long Service to the Community award from Jewish Care and a Certificate of Honour from the Redbridge Jewish Community Centre for his work in the community.

Well known as a speaker, Manny has given talks on cruise ships and to local groups in Essex on the Men Who Made Hollywood like Sam Goldwyn, Louis B Mayer and the Warner Bros.

He is a long-standing member of Ilford (now Cranbrook) United Synagogue and has three sons, twins Paul, medical director of the pharmaceutical company Merck, and Stuart, who is sports picture editor of the Daily Express and Howard, who runs his own public relations company.

Clive Bayard Essex Jewish News

Clive Bayard

Managing Director and Production Manager

Clive Bayard has been involved with the Essex Jewish News since the early 2000s. He joined the paper after leaving the Jewish Chronicle, where he had worked for 35 years.

Clive’s background is in newspaper production and graphic design. He undertook a major redesign of the Essex Jewish News in 2007 and at that time became responsible for its production.

He became a Director of the Essex Jewish News Limited in 2015 and took over from Melvyn Weinberg as Managing Director in January 2019.

Clive and his wife Ruth live in Brentwood and both are founder members of Sukkat Shalom Reform Synagogue, having served in various council positions in the early years of the Synagogue.

Phillip Leigh

Chairman and Chair of Trustees

Phillip Leigh holds a number of important positions in the Essex Jewish community.

As well as being Chairman of the Essex Jewish News, Phillip is also Past Chairman and now President of Jewish Care’s Redbridge Jewish Community Centre, President and Chair of Trustees of Loughton Synagogue, and Vice Chair of The Epping Forest Holocaust Educational Trust.

Phillip along with the late Ellis Berk and Frank Cass were instrumental in negotiating the merger of the then Redbridge Jewish Youth and Community Centre (Sinclair House)
with Jewish Care. Phillip is a member of Jewish Care’s redevelopment programme for Sinclair House.
 

Phillip has been a leading local Residential Estate Agent since 1966 and advises various charitable Institutions, local and central Government, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham Football Clubs.

He is an advisor and supporter to Haven House Children’s Hospice, past Captain of Abridge Golf Club, member of The Royal Automobile Club and has advised Prime Minister Boris Johnson as Mayor of London and Dame Eleanor Laing MP on matters concerning Judaism.

Melvyn Weinberg MBE

Director

Melvyn Weinberg has been a consistent presence at the very heart of the Essex Jewish News – as Managing Director until 2019 and now as a Director.

His career in the newspaper industry also included serving as Executive Director of the Jewish Chronicle.

Active in the local community, Melvyn’s former positions include as Chair of the Jewish Scout Advisory Council, Governor of Carmel College and Chair of the Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group Forum. He is also Chair of a large medical practice PPG group.

Melvyn is Life Vice President of Ilford Federation Synagogue, where he has also seved as Chair.

Jonathan Bloom

Director

Jonathan Bloom is an experienced public affairs, communications and external relations specialist, with a bachelor’s degree focused in Political Science and Government from Goldsmiths College, University. of London.

Jonathan has spent a number of years working within UK Government, the private sector and non-profit organisations. He is currently the Head of Public Affairs at Galliard Homes, the largest privately owned developer in London and the South East.

Jonathan grew up in Redbridge and attended King Solomon High School and had barmitzvah at South West Essex and Settlement Reform Synagogue in Newbury Park. He now lives in Loughton with his wife and two children.

Jonathan is very active in the community and is a member of Loughton Federation Synagogue, a Governor at Clore Tikva Primary School and a board member of the Epping Forest Holocaust Memorial Educational Trust.

Marc Shelkin

Marketing Consultant

After graduating from Staffordshire University in Product Design, Marc entered the working world recruiting creative roles at advertising and marketing agencies. Over an eight-year period Marc worked his way up to become a Director of a leading recruitment and retention agency. In 2013 he decided to launch The Social Shop, a social media and digital marketing agency. The focus was on supporting SME’s and has grown through word of mouth and recommendations. Marc works with tech startups to award winning international brands generating £100+ million turnover, The Social Shop has built a solid and trustworthy reputation.

In 2021 Marc joined the Board of Trustees at the Essex Jewish News helping them bring their business online. He balances this with another long-term volunteer role with The Prince’s Trust, helping young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds launch their business ideas. Lastly, he has previously volunteered at BIMA (British Interactive Media Association) helping bridge the gap between education and industry working with the government to ensure policy is in place to give young adults the best chance of landing a job when they graduate.

In 2015 Marc was a finalist at The Jewish Businessman of the year awards.

Mark Harris Essex Jewish News

Mark Harris

Editorial Consultant and Contributor

Mark Harris is a solicitor, writer, artist and author, with a trilogy of his own Jewish short story anthologies and three novels published in the last 12 years.

He was a government lawyer for 30 years, and a Whitehall chief legal adviser (retired).

In 1996, he first volunteered as a journalist for the Essex Jewish News and has been part of the team ever since. Mark is the writer of the regular travel, comment and Watcher in the Rye pages. He also brings the paper comprehensive coverage of Jewish life in Cambridge, where he now lives after moving from Clayhall.

Mark was a chorister with The London Jewish Male Choir for 20 years. Since 2007, he has been a first tenor with The London Cantorial Singers.

He and his family were members of Ilford Federation Synagogue for 35 years, and now of the Cambridge Synagogue. He has served on the committee of the Cambridge Jewish Residents Association.

Micaela Blitz Essex Jewish News

Micaela Blitz

Reporter, Features Writer and Ad Rep

Micaela Blitz is a freelance journalist and TV producer with extensive and varied experience working for major broadcasters including BBC, Channel 4 and Netflix on projects including Who Do You Think You Are? and Phil Spencer’s Stately Homes.
Micaela grew up in Gants Hill where her parents still live. She first started writing for the Essex Jewish News whilst she was at school and after a hiatus – which saw her go to university, travel the world and working in production – she re-joined the team in 2017.

Micaela’s work can also be read in a variety of different newspapers and online publications, including both the Jewish News and Jewish Weekly. She also produces a regular podcast relating to the production-industry called ‘How Many Producers…?’

Despite moving out of the area, Micaela is very proud of her Essex roots, often comes ‘home’ to visit family and friends and enjoys a beigel pronounced properly.

Pat Lidiker Essex Jewish News

Pat Lidiker

Reporter and Beauty Writer

Pat Lidiker began her long journalistic career as features writer, columnist and reporter for the Leicester Mercury. Her specialities included interviewing personalities from politics, sports, theatre, films and TV plus regular fashion, beauty, travel and business columns.

She went on to edit two glossy magazines and contributed to national publications including the JC, for which she was regional correspondent. Pat was co-author of a book marking the Centenary of Leicester Synagogue with which her whole family were deeply involved and her husband was President.

On so-called retirement, she and her husband moved to Bournemouth where she helped run Wessex Jewish News while still continuing to contribute to the JC.

After coming to Woodford Green in 2016 to be closer to her daughter and growing family (she also has a son in Melbourne) Pat joined the Essex Jewish News team. This allows her to continue in a job she loves and is also a unique opportunity to be involved with and get to know the different people and organisations within this vibrant Jewish community.

Shelley Posner

Cookery Writer

Shelley Posner has no formal cookery training apart from over 40 years of marriage and family life.

After growing up in North London, she moved to Redbridge when she got married and then to Loughton as the family grew.

After the family joined Loughton Synagogue, Shelley started her first cookery column after being asked for a recipe for the shul’s magazine. Shortly afterwards she set up a small business cooking homemade Kosher meals for time-pressed working women.

She started writing for the Essex Jewish News by accident from an advert asking for new contributors. Her first cookery page appeared in the Rosh Hashanah issue in 2012.

Years later she has contributed hundreds of recipes to this and other publications including a fortnightly column for the Shenley United newsletter. In 2019 she won an online competition with a prize of ten new cookbooks from well-known chefs which has only increased the repertoire of dishes.

Shelley now lives in Borehamwood with her husband and has two grown up children and three grandchildren.

Jan Shure Essex Jewish News

Jan Shure

Fashion Writer

Jan Shure held senior editorial roles at the Jewish Chronicle for three decades, including Woman’s Page Editor, Magazine Editor and Fashion Editor. She also served as Deputy Editor of the Jewish Observer and wrote regularly for Huffington Post until 2018. 

Jan took a break from journalism to be a web entrepreneur, co-founding SoSensational.co.uk – a fashion website for women over-50 – and returned to freelance writing in 2019. 

She is now an author, writer and blogger. 

Renee Bravo Essex Jewish News

Renee Bravo

Columnist

Renee Bravo was among the very first students at the Open University, having left school at 14 with no qualifications at all do to moving around so much in the war. She became a Bachelor of Arts after four years.

She and her husband had an old-fashioned sweet and tobacco shop in Ilford.

Renee has been a committee member of the local branches of the League of Jewish Women, the JIA, and British ORT. For many years, she was chair of the Wanstead Jewish Literary Society, and for 25 years was a representative on the Board of Deputies.

Renee is a member of the Council of Christians and Jews, and for twelve years served on its national executive as well as President of her local blanch.

She part of the original organising group of the New Essex Masorti Synagogue and is now President.

Renee proudly stands as the only woman in the country who is Past Lady Captain of a golf club and President of a synagogue.

Brenda Soskin Essex Jewish News

Brenda Soskin

Contributor

Brenda Soskin grew up in Hackney for 20 years before “moving out” to Redbridge where she lives with her husband Steve. Although her background isn’t in journalism, she worked for 17 years at the Docklands Light Railway as PA to the Managing Director, where her responsibilities included liaising with the press and preparing statements.

Brenda is a Justice of the Peace, having been a Magistrate Bench Chair for Barkingside and Romford Magistrates Courts for 11 very interesting years. She also sat with judges on appeal cases at Snaresbrook Crown Court. She retired from the magistracy when she reached the statutory retirement age of 70 but still retains her JP status.

She is involved with the U3A in Redbridge and leads a monthly antiques and collectables group.

Brenda and Steve are active members of South West Essex & Settlement Reform Synagogue.

Alfred Levy Essex Jewish News

Alfred Levy

Columnist

Alfred Levy was born in East London “a long time ago”. He served in the army during and just after World War II, latterly in Italy in the British Forces Broadcasting Network, presenting and writing.

Now retired after over 70 years in pharmacy, he enjoys writing, painting and completing the million things which suddenly need doing.

Alfred has enjoyed a long and happy marriage and three children, with grandchildren and great-grandchildren all over the place.

Alfred has many articles and correspondence published in newspapers and magazines nationally, mostly on humorous themes.