By Judie Jacobson
HARTFORD, Conn. — As the Connecticut Jewish Ledger prepared to celebrate a milestone anniversary in June, the 85-year-old weekly – and sister publication of the Massachusetts Jewish Ledger – also marked the end of an era.
Last month, ownership of the newspaper passed from NRG Connecticut LLC, headed by long-time publisher N. Richard Greenfield, to JHL Ledger Publications, a company owned by Hartford, Conn. area philanthropist and businessman Henry M. Zachs. Included in the sale is the Connecticut Jewish Ledger, the Massachusetts Jewish Ledger, and the annual reference magazine All Things Jewish.
“The Ledger has been a strong voice for the Jewish communities of Connecticut and Massachusetts for 85 years – providing lines of communication that unite our community, and supporting the efforts of our day schools, synagogues and organizations aimed at reinvigorating and broadening Jewish religious and cultural life,” said Zachs in announcing the paper’s new ownership.
“Ricky Greenfield has done an outstanding job of serving the Ledger’s broad readership of all ages, affiliations and backgrounds. He has kept our community informed and up-to-date about the important issues affecting Jewish life locally, nationally, abroad and in Israel. He has handed over a publication that is well-respected throughout the country and I am pleased for the opportunity to continue in that tradition,” Zachs added. That is not to say that there will not be changes – especially on the paper’s “opinion” page.
“The Ledger has long served as a forum for discussion and debate,” says Zachs. “We will invigorate that discussion and broaden the spectrum of that debate by allowing for a broad range of opinions and ideas,” says Zachs. “If it’s true, as they say, that where there are two Jews there are three opinions – then we want to hear all three of those opinions. It can only work to strengthen us as a people and as a community.”
Co-founded in April 1929 by Sam Neusner z”l and Rabbi Abraham Feldman z”l, to quote Neusner, “ as a vehicle of expression, a journal of Jewish public opinion, a record of its likes and events,” the Ledger originally published Hartford, New Haven and Springfield editions. The New Haven edition, discontinued at some point, was again added for a short period in the 1990s.
Neusner, who had been raised in Beverly, Mass., worked for the Boston Jewish Advocate from 1924 to 1929, when he founded the Jewish Ledger in Springfield, Mass. That same year, he moved to Hartford and founded the Jewish Ledger in Hartford, covering Connecticut and Massachusetts.
While Feldman, who was spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, limited his role to writing editorials, Neusner was charged with the day-to-day operation of the paper.
In 1958, Neusner hired Bert Gaster to be the Ledger’s managing editor. When Neusner died in 1960, his wife Lee became publisher.
In 1967, Lee Neusner sold the Ledger to Gaster and Shirley Bunis, the Ledger’s business manager. In 1992, ailing after suffering a stroke, Gaster sold the Ledger to a consortium of businessmen that included N. Richard Greenfield.
Greenfield – “Ricky” to friends and associates – bought out his business partners in 1994, assuming the role of publisher and traveling regularly between Hartford and the suburban Boston town of Norwell, Mass, where he still lives with his wife Karen.
A Commitment to Community
Greenfield was no stranger to Jewish communal involvement. An active participant in Jewish affairs and Jewish life, Greenfield was well connected to a host of Jewish organizations: Among his many affiliations, he had served on the New York Board of Governors of the Middle East Forum, the National Board of Directors of the Zionist Organization of America, the New York Advisory Board of CAMERA (the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), and as chairman of the Board of the University of Connecticut Hillel.
Once at the helm of the Ledger, Greenfield eagerly took up the editorial mantel, using its pages to disseminate Jewish news and ideas, and express his own viewpoint. His editorial efforts appeared not only in his own newspapers, but in other Jewish publications as well, both in print and online. Receiving the lion’s share of his editorial support was the State of Israel.
“It has been a pleasure working with Ricky Greenfield to bring Jewish community news to Western Massachusetts,” said Meredith Dragon, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts. “Ricky’s devotion to the Jewish people was made so clear through his dedication to Ledger Publications. He used the newspaper as a mechanism to reach out to all members of the Jewish community, providing interesting stories and information. We are grateful to have worked together with Ricky for so many productive years.”
In 2013, the Ledger began to cover the Jewish community in Central Massachusetts.
“At a time when we were losing the Chronicle, our local Jewish newspaper, Ricky came along and offered us a deal that we could not refuse: an interesting, lively and attractive monthly newspaper that would be mailed to all households currently on the Federation’s database,” said Howard Borer, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts. “The transition was seamless and Ricky did everything he could to make it happen. In partnership with Ricky, the Federation has been able to keep our community informed of local and regional current events. Ricky did not ask for iron-clad contracts of long term commitments. A handshake and his word were sufficient. We wish him good health and a happy retirement.”
“Ricky Greenfield has been a lifelong supporter of Israel with a particular concern about the way Israel is portrayed by the media,” noted Cathrine Fischer Schwartz, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. “For most people, it would be enough to support the efforts of others. Being active with CAMERA or AIPAC would be sufficient – a rewarding avocation. But not for Ricky Greenfield. That’s why it made perfect sense when he retired from Bear Stearns, after a successful career on Wall Street, that he would put his resources where his passion is and buy the Connecticut Jewish Ledger. The Ledger became a platform for his views and an avenue through which he could support the greater Jewish community. The Ledger was a media sponsor of virtually every important event in the community and Ricky was present, more often than not, to show his support.”
As news of Greenfield’s departure spread, community leaders commented on the legacy he would leave behind.
“Ricky has contributed significantly to the unity of the Connecticut Jewish community by keeping us informed of our individual initiatives and our collective goals,” said Sharon Conway, director of the Southern New England Consortium’s (SNEC) Israeli Young Emissary Program. “I believe he qualifies as the all-time best in the category of the Connecticut Jewish Ledger’s [annual end-of-year feature] ‘Movers and Shakers’ for keeping the paper alive and current. Ricky’s quiet humility, his open-mindedness and his generosity will be missed.”