Community Donations Flow to Digitize Historical Newspaper Issues

(Repost – originally published June 11, 2014 – the digitization of The Jewish News is nearly complete thanks to their highly successful communitiy campaign.)

Jewish community rallies financial support to digitize the Jewish News’ 68 years of archives.

“What surprised me most of all is that when I announced the project, I got thousand dollar checks from people we hadn’t heard from in ten years.”
Hal Sacks, Author

Author Harold H. “Hal” Sacks has been writing book reviews for his local Jewish community newspaper, the Jewish News in Virginia Beach, Virginia for more than 30 years. Through his work and time in the newspaper office, he had numerous occasions to handle the newspaper’s bound volume archives dating back to 1946. 

It was while browsing through those archives that the retired Navy commander had the inspiration for a new mission. “People would go in there and just tear out a page,” he explained sadly. “It was like tearing out my arm… like going into a library and defacing a book.” 

The heartache of seeing where pages had been ripped from the archive made it clear the printed issues had to be preserved, and soon. Hal enlisted his granddaughter to begin organizing the material for scanning but he says the project lost momentum. Shortly thereafter, when he started looking for copies of the nearly 500 book reviews he had written for the newspaper, the effort was re-energized. The only option was an employee manually scanning each of the reviews and emailing it to him. 

The idea for a professionally-managed archive digitization project was born – one which would scan the pages intact, return the original bound volumes safely to the newspaper and make the digital archive online-accessible and searchable to anyone with Internet access. 

Shayna Horwitz, who is managing the project for the Jewish News, contacted SmallTownPapers, Inc. to see what would be involved in digitally scanning the printed archives which had been bound into hard cover editions. One bound volume was scanned by the company and presented to the newspaper and, of course, Hal. 

“I said wow, that’s fantastic! I really didn’t expect anything so legible and so useable,” Hal said, recalling his first encounter with their digitized archives online. 

After selecting SmallTownPaper’s ArchiveInABox digitization service, the newspaper’s management was anxious to get started. “There were two reasons we wanted to move quickly,” reflects Horwitz. “First, everyone loved the final result and second, completing it in one year gave us a discount on the price.” 

However, the funds for the project simply were not available. 

Eager to see the online archive come to fruition, Hal, a long time and active member of the Tidewater Jewish community, decided that proceeds from his memoir, Hal’s Navy, published in late 2013, would go toward the Jewish News Archive project. A fundraising campaign kicked off in November 2013 and Hal issued an additional community appeal in the newspaper in March 2014. The community rallied raising more than $30K for the project. 

“What surprised me most of all is that when I announced the project, I got thousand dollar checks from people we hadn’t heard from in ten years. For people my age, the only real link to the community is the newspaper.” 

The Jewish News bound volumes are in the process of being digitized and even those working on the project are learning more about the community in which they live. 

“I’ve discovered so much about the history, to see the articles about how much people did for the community and Israel was empowering and gave me a sense of pride. I see endless opportunities this resource will present for our future,” notes Horwitz. 

Hal sees another project on the horizon. “I’m hoping when this archive is available to the public that other organizations in town will want to do the same thing. Synagogues have all kinds of stuff, some more than 100 years old. I’ll help raise the money to make it happen.” 

Visit the Jewish News online archive: http://jnt.stparchive.com/.  Want to learn more about how ArchiveInABox can help your community preserve its written history, contact us at 360.427.6300 or email Paul Jeffko at paulj@smalltownpapers.com. 

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