Chicago Jewish Star

Chicago Jewish Star
Chicago Jewish Star
250 Front Page.jpg
Front page of the December 7-20, 2001,
issue of the Chicago Jewish Star
Type Free semi-weekly newspaper
Format Tabloid
Owner Star Media Group, Inc.
Editor Douglas Wertheimer
Gila Wertheimer
Founded February 22, 1991
Headquarters Skokie, IL
ISSN 1054-1365

The Chicago Jewish Star is an independent twice-monthly general interest Jewish newspaper based in Skokie, Illinois. It provides news analysis and opinion on local, national and international events of relevance to the Jewish community, with a focus on literature and arts, politics, and the Middle East. It is a continuation of The Jewish Star (Alberta), a Canadian newspaper operated by the same principals from 1980-90.

The Chicago Jewish Star was founded in 1990 by Douglas Wertheimer, Editor and President of Star Media Group Inc., and Gila Wertheimer, Associate Editor, with its first issue appearing February 22, 1991. It entered a Chicago Jewish newspaper field dominated by a Jewish Federation-run, controlled-circulation JUF News, and the long-running independent weekly, The Sentinel. The Jewish Star was thought to be the first new English-language Jewish newspaper published in the Chicago area in some 50 years.[1] Since 2000, it has been the sole independent, for-profit Chicago Jewish newspaper, the only one not associated with a charity.

The Jewish Star was the first Jewish newspaper in Metro Chicago to receive news by fax or electronically;[2] the first to be distributed for free at locations throughout Metro Chicago; the first to be distributed via street corner news boxes; and the principals were the first to publish Jewish newspapers in both Canada and the United States.


Editorial, Advertising, Circulation, Design

Local news, editorial, advertising and design is generated mainly in-house, with additional news and feature contributions from syndicated columnists, news services and occasionally freelance writers. The editorial position has been consistently independent; politically, its stance has changed on some issues. Following the signing of the Oslo Accords in Washington in 1993, for example, the paper remained cautiously optimistic about Mideast peace even in the face of Palestinian violence against Israel. But by 2007, it was in the camp of those who question the two-state solution.[3]

A tabloid-sized newspaper ranging from 12 to 36 pages, it had a circulation at its launching of 10,000 copies,[4] rising to 24,500 by 1996.[5] The paper is available free for pick-up at locations throughout Metro Chicago, by mail subscription and in an email PDF edition (since December 2008). Its masthead was designed in 1990 by Chicago graphic artist Gerry Kalvelage of BBDO, and includes the newspaper’s motto "Useful Information Faithfully Recorded" (a loose translation from the Hebrew of Ecclesiastes XII:10).[6]


In the annual Chicago Headline Club-sponsored Peter Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism competition, the Jewish Star was a winner in both the Best Arts Reporting and Criticism, and Best Design categories, covering 2010.[7] It was a Lisagor Awards Finalist for Best Editorial Writing (covering 2009), and for Best Editorial Writing, Best Arts Reporting and Criticism, and Best In-Depth Reporting (covering 2010).[8]

Controversies and Issues

First Amendment rights and newspaper distribution

After World War II, newspapers had increasingly relied on distribution of single copies from news boxes on public streets across America (a right recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1988 in City of Lakewood v. Plain Dealer Publishing Co.).[9] Nonetheless, publishers were urged to remain vigilant about a practice which was challenged by some municipalities.[10] The Jewish Star began distributing its free newspaper in its own street-corner news boxes (also referred to as news racks, honor boxes or vending machines) in March 1991,[11] the only Chicago Jewish newspaper ever to do so.[12]

In January 1992, the administration of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley began a program to have newspaper publishers voluntarily re-align their news boxes along North Michigan Avenue;[13] at the time, Chicago was typical in having no permit or licensing requirements concerning the placement of news boxes on the public way.[14] A few months after the Chicago beautification program was launched, the Jewish Star complained to the city about mysterious damage to its news boxes.[15] "If you have any evidence that this damage was caused by an employee of the City of Chicago," the city advised, "the City Department of Law would be happy to review it."[16] The news box "clean up" soon expanded to other downtown Chicago areas,[17] and the Jewish Star continued to encounter unauthorized movement of its news boxes.[18] The Jewish Star maintained a surveillance of its news boxes, and on the night of June 22, 1994, photographed a City of Chicago Streets and Sanitation employee using bolt cutters to slice through the chain on a legally positioned Jewish Star news box at Michigan Avenue and Adams Street, and then moving it.[19]

A Chicago Jewish Star news box
(in green) in the South Loop, 2005.

The Jewish Star enlisted the support of local city aldermen, an Illinois state senator, the Illinois Press Association and the American Civil Liberties Union in protesting what it termed "a blatantly illegal act."[20] The city claimed that "no City employee has removed or destroyed any Chicago Jewish Star boxes or newspapers."[21] Writing on behalf of the Jewish Star, the ACLU responded: "For your information, the Star has a photograph of a City employee, who was driving a Streets and Sanitation truck, in the process of removing the box in question."[22]

In September 1994, a Jewish Star news box on the near north side of Chicago was blown up;[23] a few days later, the Jewish Star and two politicians met with a top city official,[24] and shortly thereafter resolved the dispute.[25] After the refusal of its offer of a cash settlement for damages to Jewish Star news boxes,[26] the city paid the requested amount of $1,600 to the Jewish Star in the form of a cashier’s check.[27]

In the ensuing years, the city adopted an ordinance restricting news box placement.[28] At that time, the Jewish Star criticized the Daley administration for considering news boxes no more than "visual clutter," and fellow newspaper publishers for failing to fight the city on First Amendment grounds.[29]

Journalistic ethics

Plagiarism[30] and circulation falsification have long been problems in the journalistic profession, and continued to be apparent during the 1990s.[31] In March 1995, Jewish Star Editor Douglas Wertheimer asserted to the Ethics Committee of the American Jewish Press Association (AJPA) that two member publications "are engaging in questionable journalistic practices, and have been doing so for a considerable period of time." [32] The allegations were made against the Chicago Jewish News and The Sentinel, weekly Chicago Jewish newspapers, in a five page letter with 98 pages of documentation, subsequent additions and an oral presentation by Wertheimer before the Ethics Committee. In August, the AJPA Ethics Committee issued a four page report upholding the Jewish Star claims.[33] Concerning the Chicago Jewish News, the AJPA stated, "We censure the apparent violations that have taken place to date," noting that "there is substantial credible documented evidence of a pattern of neglect on the part of the Chicago Jewish News of failure to obtain advance permission and/or to properly credit the source of various items used since it began publication." Concerning The Sentinel, the report stated, "There is substantial credible documentation of the use of circulation figures claimed by The Sentinel which are substantially in excess of the publication’s official figures." The report characterized Wertheimer’s allegations against the two newspapers as "made in good faith." In response, Chicago Jewish News editor and publisher Joseph Aaron accused Wertheimer of "immoral, underhanded, and anti-Jewish actions"[34] and claimed the charges "were absurd."[35] Sentinel editor and publisher Jack Fishbein said, "Why don’t you just sell your own ads and worry about your own product?"[36]

In June 1995, Wertheimer complained to the Consumer Fraud Bureau of the Office of the Attorney General, State of Illinois, about what he alleged were The Sentinel’s "fraudulent circulation figures."[37] On December 1, 1995, The Sentinel entered into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with the State of Illinois over the newspaper’s alleged violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, and paid the state $1,000 to "cover investigative costs."[38]

As a result of the Jewish Star complaint, in December 1995 AJPA amended its by-laws "to make clear the various violations we dealt with in the recent Chicago matter."[39]

Legislation affecting the Jewish community

Although a common custom among the vast majority of Jews,[40] affixing a mezuzah on a doorpost became an act increasingly likely in Chicago to come in conflict with the rules of condominium associations, as that city typified a country which "has been condo crazy the past few years."[41] In May 2004, two Jewish condo owners at Shoreline Towers Condominium in Chicago protested the association’s instruction that all exterior objects, including mezuzot, be removed.[42] Later, other condo associations in Illinois[43], Florida[44] and Texas[45] were revealed to have adopted a similar restriction. In Chicago, unable to successfully resolve the matter by bringing pressure on the condo associations to allow Jewish residents to fulfill their religious obligations, litigation followed beginning in 2005.

Detailed reporting on the controversy by the Jewish Star resulted in city and state legislation prohibiting mezuzah banning.[46] After reading the first media coverage of the dispute, by the Jewish Star in July 2005,[47] Chicago Alderman Burton Natarus composed in 10 minutes an ordinance amending Chicago’s Municipal Code to legally prohibit condo associations from banning mezuzah placement on exterior unit doorposts.[48] Four months later, the ordinance was adopted.[49] Meanwhile, though there were signs that the condo boards would resolve the legal dispute,[50] Illinois State Senator Ira Silverstein, having read the same Jewish Star report as Natarus, was likewise appalled and introduced a bill in the Illinois Senate to prevent such rules by condo boards.[51] The law was passed and came into effect in January 2007.[52]

Notwithstanding this legislation, lawsuits involving Shoreline Towers Condominium Association proceeded.[53] At one point, the Jewish Star successfully fended off an attempt to subpoena its records;[54] at another, an Illinois law barring expensive, intimidating lawsuits to prevent challenges to unjust conduct was applied for the first time;[55] and in yet another instance, a Federal Appeals Court in Chicago overruled an earlier decision,[56] and determined that the Fair Housing Act can prohibit discrimination that occurs after homeowners occupy a dwelling.[57]

Other controversies

Among other controversial issues appearing in the Jewish Star are: coverage of the expulsion of five students at Chicago’s Ida Crown Jewish Academy;[58] the Chicago Jewish Federation pursuit of the estate of Sol Goldstein for an unpaid pledge;[59] an Edgar Degas painting looted by the Nazis housed at the Art Institute of Chicago;[60] reader outrage when the Jewish Star published a paid ad inviting Jews to a feast on Yom Kippur;[61] Jewish surgeon Raymond Pollak’s whistleblower lawsuit against prominent Chicago-area hospitals;[62] coverage of the controversy surrounding Jewel-Osco food stores’ aggressive move into the kosher food business;[63] the city of Chicago’s sponsorship of anti-Israel activity during Arab Heritage Month[64] and Chicago Arabesque;[65] and an exhibit at the Spertus Museum which compared the plight of Palestinians and Jews.[66]


  1. ^ Chicago Jewish Star, Feb. 22, 1991, p. 4.
  2. ^ Helen Davis filed reports to the Jewish Star on the Madrid Middle East peace conference by fax from Madrid on Oct. 29, which were printed for the next day’s issue (Ibid., Oct. 31, 1991). The Jewish Star received material from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in New York electronically from its first issue in 1991 until the fall of 2010.
  3. ^ For the former, see Editorial, "Too early to give up," Ibid., Nov. 19, 1993, p. 4; for the latter, see Editorial, "No Time for a Terrorist State," Ibid., Aug. 24, 2007, p. 4.
  4. ^ Ibid., Feb. 22, 1991, p. 1.
  5. ^ Greg Hinz, "Pulp Friction," Chicago magazine, vol. 45, April 1996, p. 26.
  6. ^ Chicago Jewish Star, March 19, 2004, p. 15.
  7. ^ "Chicago Headline Club Announces Winners of Peter Lisagor Awards"
  8. ^ Chicago Jewish Star, April 16, 2010, p. 12; May 6, 2011, p. 12.
  9. ^ Ibid., July 15, 1994, pp. 1-2.
  10. ^ Lawrence R. Levin, "News media must meet challenge of newsbox regulation," Editor & Publisher, Sept. 21, 1991, p. 28.
  11. ^ Chicago Jewish Star, March 8, 1991, p. 3.
  12. ^ Ibid., July 15, 1994, pp. 1-2.
  13. ^ "For Immediate Release: City Cleans Up North Michigan Avenue Vending Machines," Chicago Department of Planning and Development (press release), Jan. 11, 1992.
  14. ^ Letter, Thomas Smith, City of Chicago Planning Department, to Paul Wertheimer, Chicago Jewish Star, Aug. 17, 1992.
  15. ^ Ibid.
  16. ^ Ibid.
  17. ^ Robert Davis, "City again seeking to put tighter lid on newspaper box clutter," Chicago Tribune, April 6, 1994, sec. 2, p. 4.
  18. ^ Other newspapers had similar problems, and complained to their city alderman; Edward R. Allen, "Ward crews grab free papers’ boxes," Skyline, May 6, 1993, sec. 1, p. 3.
  19. ^ The photograph was reproduced in D. Wertheimer, "On Chicago streets, free speech succumbs to 4' long bolt cutters," Chicago Jewish Star, July 15, 1994, p. 1 (b&w); Mark Fitzgerald, "Refusing To Get With The Program", Editor & Publisher, Aug. 6, 1994, p. 16 (b&w); Joel Kaufmann, "Jewish Star newspaper boxes under siege on Chicago streets," Chicago Advertising & Media, Sept. 1-15, 1994, p. 1 (color); and reported on by Jean Davidson, "Strength in numbers," Chicago Tribune, July 22, 1994, sec. 5, p. 2.
  20. ^ Chicago Jewish Star, July 15, 1994, pp. 1-2.
  21. ^ Letter, Susan Haerr Zucker, Assistant Corporation Counsel, City of Chicago to Jane M. Whicher, ACLU Chicago, Aug. 15, 1994.
  22. ^ Letter, Jane M. Whicher, ACLU to Susan Haerr Zucker, City of Chicago, Aug. 18, 1994.
  23. ^ "Jewish paper’s box target of blast," Chicago Tribune, Sept. 3, 1994; "Police Blotter," Skokie Review (Pioneer Press), Sept. 8, 1994, p. 8; "Chicago Jewish Star newsbox vandalized," Editor & Publisher, Sept. 17, 1994, p. 33; D. Wertheimer, "Stars are blown-up and stolen, but a City meeting provides some promise," Chicago Jewish Star, Sept. 23, 1994, p. 1.
  24. ^ Michael Laff, "News box dispute with City may end," Chicago Jewish Star, Sept. 23, 1994, p. 1.
  25. ^ Karen Bennett, "Dispute with city over newspaper boxes resolved", Skokie Life, Sept. 22, 1994, sec. 1, p. 5; D. Wertheimer, "City, Star settle news box dispute," Chicago Jewish Star, Oct. 14, 1994, p. 3.
  26. ^ "'Is cash in an envelope enough?'", Chicago Jewish Star, Aug. 19, 1994, p. 2.
  27. ^ Mark Fitzgerald, "Chicago Jewish paper settles newsbox dispute," Editor & Publisher, Oct. 8, 1994, p. 32.
  28. ^ Mark Fitzgerald, "Chicago Publishers Howl As City Imposes Rack Law," Ibid., April 18, 1998, p 24.
  29. ^ D. Wertheimer, "Shop Talk at Thirty: Ill Winds Blow Over Windy City News Racks," Ibid., August 29, 1998, p. 56.
  30. ^ In 1930, the Chicago Jewish Chronicle was accused of reprinting articles without permission and changing the names of the authors (Joseph Salmark, "An Unethical Practice," The Sentinel, Aug. 22, 1930, p. 2).
  31. ^ Mark Fitzgerald, "Editor [at the Chicago Sun-Times] Quits After Admitting He Plagiarized," Editor & Publisher, March 18, 1995, p. 11; Trudy Lieberman, "Plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize," Columbia Journalism Review, July/Aug. 1995; see also D. Wertheimer, "In Chicago: Circulation inflation," Chicago Jewish Star, June 25, 2004, p. 1.
  32. ^ Letter, D. Wertheimer to Robert A. Cohn, March 14, 1995.
  33. ^ Robert A. Cohn, Chair, AJPA Ethics Committee, "Report of the AJPA Committee on Ethics and Professional Standards on the Allegations by the Chicago Jewish Star against the Chicago Jewish News and The Sentinel," Aug. 21, 1995.
  34. ^ Greg Hinz, "Pulp Friction," Chicago, vol. 45, April 1996, p. 26.
  35. ^ Ibid.
  36. ^ Michael Laff, "Ethics group faults 2 local papers over journalistic conduct," Chicago Jewish Star, Sept. 8, 1995, pp. 1, 3.
  37. ^ Letter, D. Wertheimer to Office of the Attorney General, State of Illinois, June 29, 1995.
  38. ^ Letter, Charles G. Fergus to D. Wertheimer, Dec. 13, 1995; AVC Registry CPC 9500155, Dec. 1, 1995; CJS, Dec. 22, 1995, p. 3.
  39. ^ Letter, Robert A. Cohn, Chair, AJPA Ethics Committee to D. Wertheimer, Dec. 19, 1995.
  40. ^ "Chicago condo bans mezuzahs," Chicago Jewish Star, July 15, 2005, p. 1.
  41. ^ Alex Frangos, "Chicago: Fear of Heights?" The Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2005, p. A17.
  42. ^ "Chicago condo bans mezuzahs," Chicago Jewish Star, July 15, 2005, p. 1.
  43. ^ "More mezuzah bans," Ibid., Aug. 5, 2005, p. 1.
  44. ^ Joe Kollin, "Lauderdale condo bans religious symbol on doorposts," South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Feb. 3, 2007; "Florida condo bans mezuzahs," Chicago Jewish Star, Feb. 9, 2007, p. 1; "Florida mezuzah ban ends," Ibid., April 20, 2007, p. 1; "Florida gets a mezuzah bill," Ibid., May 23, 2008, p. 3.
  45. ^ "Illinois, then Florida – is Texas next?" Chicago Jewish Star, April 3, 2009, p. 1; "No mezuzah law for Texas," Ibid., July 3, 2009, p. 1; “Texas gets a mezuzah law,” Ibid., May 27, 2011, p. 1.
  46. ^ Mark Fitzgerald, "Chicago Law Inspired by 'Jewish Star' Articles May Go State-wide," Editor & Publisher, Jan. 26, 2006; Mark Fitzgerald, "Illinois Gov. Signs Mezuzah Law Inspired by 'Chicago Jewish Star'," Ibid., April 12, 2006; Ruth Eglash, "The case of the confiscated mezuzah," Jerusalem Post, June 8, 2006.
  47. ^ D. Wertheimer, “Not on our doorposts: Chicago condo bans mezuzahs,” Chicago Jewish Star, July 15, 2005, pp. 1-2.
  48. ^ "Ordinance to stop ban on mezuzahs; one condo concedes," Ibid., Aug. 19, 2005, p. 1; Mark Fitzgerald, "Mezuzah muckraking gains legal huzzahs," Editor & Publisher, Oct. 2005, p. 13.
  49. ^ "A Holiday gift: Natarus’ Religious Freedom law," Chicago Jewish Star, Dec. 16, 2005, p. 1.
  50. ^ "Condos end mezuzah ban," Ibid., Sept. 30, 2005, p. 1; Editorial, "Condo boards gone wild," Ibid., Sept. 30, 2005, page 4; Howard S. Dakoff, "Why I Opposed the Mezuzah Ban," Ibid., Nov. 4, 2005, p. 4.
  51. ^ "Silverstein: No more mezuzah bans in Illinois," Ibid., Jan. 13, 2006, p. 1; Mark Fitzgerald, "Chicago Law Inspired by 'Jewish Star' Articles May Go State-Wide," Editor & Publisher, Jan. 26, 2006; Mark Fitzgerald, "Illinois Gov. Signs Mezuzah Law Inspired By 'Chicago Jewish Star'," Ibid., April 12, 2006.
  52. ^ "Amplification & Update: Mezuzah legislation and litigation," Chicago Jewish Star, April 28, 2006, p. 3.
  53. ^ “Mezuzah cases dismissed,” Ibid., Aug. 25, 2006, p. 1; Editorial, “Judge: Jews Not Welcome,” Ibid., Sept. 8, 2006, p. 4.
  54. ^ Ibid., July 27, 2007, p. 1.
  55. ^ “Fall-out from mezuzah case impacted by new law,” Ibid., April 4, 2008, p. 1; “$36k award in SLAPP-mezuzah case”, Ibid., Aug. 7, 2009, p. 1.
  56. ^ Neil A. Lewis, “Potential Justice [Judge Diane P. Wood] Offers a Counterpoint in Chicago,” The New York Times, May 12, 2009, p. A17; Peter Slevin, “Possible Court Pick [Diane P. Wood] Is Used to Dueling on Bench,” The Washington Post, May 16, 2009.
  57. ^ Abdon Pallasch, "Suit over doorpost symbol hangs in there," Chicago Sun-Times, Nov. 14, 2009, p. 7; Kenneth E. Kraus, “Court takes a new view of FHA, mezuzah case,” Chicago Jewish Star, Nov. 20, 2009, p. 4; John Schwartz, “Fight Over Jewish Symbol Heads to Trial,” The New York Times, Nov. 21, 2009.
  58. ^ Chicago Jewish Star, Jan. 14, 1994, p. 1.
  59. ^ Ibid., Aug. 19, Sept. 2, 1994; Feb. 24, April 28, 1995; Jan. 26, 1996.
  60. ^ Ibid., March 21, May 23, Nov. 7, 1997; Aug. 7, Aug. 21, 1998; March 12, June 25, 1999; Sept. 29, 2000.
  61. ^ Ibid., Sept. 26, p. 14; Oct. 10, p. 4; Oct. 24, 2003, p. 4.
  62. ^ Ibid., Oct. 10, 2003, p. 1, Editorial, p. 4; Nov. 21, 2003, p. 1; Aug. 19, 2005, p. 1.
  63. ^ Ibid., Sept. 26, 2003; March 12, March 26, Oct. 29, Dec. 24, 2004.
  64. ^ Ibid., Nov. 21, 2003; Nov. 26, 2004.
  65. ^ Ibid., July 13, 2007, p. 1; July 3, p. 1; Sept. 18, 2009, p. 1; July 16, 2010, p. 1.
  66. ^ Gila Wertheimer, “Imaginary Coordinates at a ‘posttribal’ museum,” Ibid., May 9, p. 11; June 27, 2008, p. 1; Jewish Star coverage of other Chicago art exhibits is cited in Michael C. Kotzin, “Pictures at an Exhibition: Art galleries, the academy, and anti-Israel polemics,” Antisemitism International Nos. 5-6 (2010), Special Issue, pp. 87, 89.

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