By Larry Gordon
There’s a significant difference between editing and publishing a newspaper like this. An editor discusses ideas with writers and others involved in the weekly production of the paper, and is partially involved in design and layout, such as which photos to use, and so on.
But the publisher has to deal with all the other intricate details, like delivery trucks that break down or delays in the printing plant, etc.
At the 5TJT, I play both roles.
One particularly memorable event occurred a few years ago when we were on our way back to New York from Israel on a Thursday. I’m not sure why, but we were trying to fly with other airlines, and on this return trip we were on Lufthansa with a stopover in Munich, Germany.
We landed in Munich at about 9 a.m., which meant it was about 4 a.m. in New York. I had heard that it was snowing at home, and winter weather always presents a challenge for our circulation crew. I was particularly concerned about Luther, my main man who picked up the papers with his truck back in those days. He would then meet the other delivery people who fanned out in their various directions to deliver the papers.
At that point Luther was in his mid-eighties but was fiercely dedicated to the 5TJT and getting the job done. He lived in Hempstead, so in poor weather conditions it was quite a trek from his home to Long Island City where the printing plant is located.
I knew Luther was already awake so I called him from the airport in Germany to see how he was doing. “Larry, I don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “My truck is snowed in.”
I responded that we needed to come up with a plan to get the truck out—as soon as possible. I then said the magic words: “I don’t care what it costs; get some guys to dig you out.”
I called him back an hour later while still waiting for our flight to New York and he said he was already on his way to LIC.
When Luther turned 90, two years ago, he finally retired. Shortly thereafter he took ill and passed away. I spoke to his wife after his passing and told her how much he meant to us and what a great job he did. Luther was an African American liberal who would sit in his truck reading the 5TJT when his assistant was out delivering bundles of papers. He told me a few times that he liked most of my editorial essays but did not agree with my support for Donald Trump back in 2016. He told me he understood where I was coming from but just didn’t agree.
So why am I relating all this now? Well, about three months ago, one of my sons was at Gourmet Glatt early Friday morning and called me, saying, “Abba, there are no papers here.”
Well, that’s weird, I thought. Not only do we deliver a lot of papers there Thursday morning, but we reload on Thursday night so that there are plenty of papers for the erev Shabbos shopping crowd.
So that afternoon I asked my good friend Yoeli Steinberg, who runs the supermarket with maximum efficiency, if I could see what his parking lot cameras recorded the night before just to satisfy my curiosity about where all the papers had gone.
By the way, whoever took the papers that week did not discriminate between publications—they took them all, leaving every newsstand and box in front of the store squeaky clean. When we reviewed the camera footage we saw a rental van pull up to the front of the store just before 11 p.m. Two people, a man and a woman, got out of the van and systematically scooped up all the newspapers and placed them in the back of the van.
Unfortunately, we were unable to read the license plate, so we were at a dead end in terms of identifying who owned the truck or where it was rented.
Before I tell you what happened after this first incident, let’s explore why in the world people pull up to a busy supermarket and make off with all the newspapers that routinely line the front of the store each week.
One thing is sure: it is not a primitive form of censorship because they object to something in the paper. It’s not like they think we should list a later z’man for Shabbos.
At this point the Nassau County Police Department is involved, and I’ve shared with the investigators my theory about why these people are stealing newspapers. It’s fairly simple. I believe these folks are loading the papers into their truck and taking them to newspaper recycling plants where they get paid for the papers by the pound. These plants don’t pay a lot of money, but if you’re ripping off newspapers, the overhead is minimal and the profit margin is pretty good.
The next step was to hire a security guard to be on the lookout for these miscreants so that people could read their weekend paper. But then it quieted down, and, as annoying as this is, we cannot expect this case to be a high priority, as there are a plenty of serious crimes keeping our police busy.
In conversation with the detectives on the case, I told them that when they locate the perpetrators, they will likely find that these people are not otherwise upstanding citizens. Who knows what else they are involved in? The detectives did not disagree.
Over the last two months, this happened two more times. One time they were confronted by the security guard on duty and just left. Then two weeks ago a guy pulled up in a small white car and loaded as many papers as the car could fit. As I watched the surveillance cameras, this guy hauled about a dozen large still-tied packs of papers into the trunk and backseat of his car.
That was two weeks ago. I was in Israel and we had no one patrolling the place. But last week our security people were there until 6 a.m., and no one showed up.
All this reminds me of another newspaper story. My father, his parents, and his siblings came to the U.S. from Belarus in 1934. My father was 16 years old and the oldest of four children. His mother washed the floors in their apartment on Friday mornings and had a tradition, as many did, to cover the floor with newspapers, I guess to preserve the cleanliness as Shabbos approached.
My grandmother asked one of the younger children to go out and find newspapers she could use to cover the floor. My dad’s little brother walked to the street corner, and, lo and behold—he thought he was experiencing a miracle. Right there on the corner was a bundle of newspapers, neatly tied up and ready for him to lug home to his mom, who would surely be proud.
That was all fine and good until my grandfather came home and observed that the papers strewn across the floors in the house bore that Friday’s date.
You see, there was a store on the corner that sold newspapers, among other items, but my young uncle had no idea they were for sale. As my father explained, my zaide was quite surprised and ran to the store to pay the owners for the papers he had used on the wet floors.
But that was an innocent error. Our current situation is not, and our private security people and Nassau County detectives are working to crack the case. We will keep you updated.
Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at 5TJT.com. Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.