July 16, 2024
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Getting the Word Out: Developing Responsible Jewish Television

Jewish television, says award-winning television journalist Ron Jacobsohn, “has an appeal far wider than the Jewish community. Whether religious or secular, the consistory and culture of the Jewish community is fascinating to millions—well beyond the 6 1/2 million Jews living in the U.S. and the 6 million in Israel. It’s a natural market. If the material is appealing, a Jewish channel could easily become an automatic “go to” television choice.”

An honoree of the Israeli Film Festival, his pioneering work in fostering Hollywood-Israeli film industry connections helped both important film communities connect and cooperate.

Jacobsohn is a multi-faceted addition to the world of information gathering in both the secular and Jewish realms. With degrees from Tel Aviv University, The Open University and the IBA Academy, he—the Sabra newsman—journeyed to California to found the West Coast bureau of one of Israel’s most renowned newspapers, Maariv, serving as its editorial director. His coverage areas included hard news and major events, as well as the development of an open window on the entertainment industry. His rapport with the entertainment industry led to an executive position as content director of the Hollywood Reporter. Work with the Associated Press, E! and CBS further broadened Jacobsohn’s experience. Working with 21st Century Fox-owned Endemol, Jacobsohn developed reality TV formats including “Living in LA LA Land,” a prime time hit on the YES Network.

Returning to Israel as editorial director of Jewish News One, the award-winning television journalist expanded his multi-tasking experience, turning the young network into “a major player” in the presentation of Israeli news.

Ron Podchlebnik—the very same Ron Jacobsohn—explained the name change. “We adopted the name in 2001, prior to my becoming a member of SAG (the Screen Actor’s Guild). Very simply, I am the son of my father, Jacob. I was able to combine my European roots (“sohn”) and my father’s name. There’s an added benefit—Jacobsohn is much easier than Podchlebnik—a bit unpronounceable for most Americans.

Two years ago, Jacobsohn returned to America as managing director of Shalom TV, the all-Jewish, all the time cable network based in Fort Lee, New Jersey. He has been instrumental in the re-branding: the network is now known as JBS (Jewish Broadcasting Service).

Why turn to Jewish television, after years in the wider, secular world?

“Becoming a Jewish parent changed me,” he said. “I realized a responsibility to my next generation (he is father to twins, Jonathan and Jaden, now 9, and husband to Dorit, a teacher at the Sephardic Academy in Manhattan). My obligation is to help create a world where being Jewish is a source of pride, not fear. For these reasons, I chose to take my skills and use them for the tikkun olam—especially tikkun olam Yehudi—that I am able to add.

Jacobsohn feels that Jewish TV has a special place in the communications universe. “In a multi-channel universe where dedicated channels serve a plethora of interests, there is certainly an opportunity to serve the Jewish community and all those interested in Jewish content. Seventy years ago, European Jews were left bereft of information—half of the Jewish people had no idea of what was happening.

No one knew if a brother or sister, a parent or child had survived. No one had a means to find out. Jacobsohn is a “3-G,” a third-generation descendant of an Auschwitz survivor. “ I carry a personal obligation: never again will Jews be without information. That’s where I can help.” Keeping the community informed, he says, is necessary to keeping the community connected. Anyone who supports the Jewish community and favors the existence of a democratic, Jewish state should be heard on a Jewish channel.” He adds, “Supporters of BDS, physical violence, terror and defamation of the IDF would not be welcome. We have so many different, interesting voices, and I have the ability and the obligation to provide a platform.”

By Maxine Dovere

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