Jewish Journalism

In my never-ending frenzy of filling out internship applications, the same question always catches me off guard: Why do you want to be a journalist?

It’s not that it’s an unfair question to ask a person applying to be a reporter. The question is within reason; my answer is just hard to articulate.

Why do I want to be a journalist? Truthfully, it’s because I’m Jewish.

As a senior in high school, I was torn when the daunting moment was upon me to check off that box on college applications that declared a major. I spent two years on my high school yearbook staff and loved the work of storytelling and editing. At the same time, though, I was in my fifth year of working as a teacher’s aide at my synagogue and loved the idea of shaping people’s lives through education. I could easily see myself teaching middle and high school math as a career.

Unfortunately, college applications do not accommodate the indecisive, and I had to make the tough call. And so I needed a guide that would help me decide what work I’d want to spend my life doing.

The standard became tikkun olam. I long ago internalized a commitment to doing acts of loving kindness and supporting those who were in need. The field in which I would devote my time and energy would have to be the one in which I could see myself most contributing to the world. Both fields, in my humble opinion, are centered around the idea, but I had to decide in which I’d personally be able to have the greatest impact.

I won’t bore you with the minutia of how I finally settled on journalism being that outlet, but I’m confident that I made the right choice. Through journalism, I meet a variety of fascinating people who are all passionate about their own lines of work. They teach me about the world as they see it through their persepctives, and I expand my understanding of my local, national and global communites. I report on societal issues and seek to improve the world through my reporting.

In no way do I mean to diminish the significance a teacher has on his or her students’ lives. Teachers hold enormous potential to shape whom people will become — which is both an incredible opportunity and an incredible responsibility. And I also do not mean that I am not up to the challenge of that responsibility. In choosing journalism instead of education, I looked at my skill set and passions and determined that I would best be of service to the world by bringing awareness to the issues our society faces and putting faces on those issues.

Similarly, as an active member of Illini Hillel at the University of Illinois — especially as the external communications intern, I see the work I do as inherently Jewish. My strength is in writing and editing, and so I find our community members platforms to express their ideas and help them do so in the most effective way possible.

Although I am not pursuing work at a Jewish institution, I see myself as a Jewish professional. The work I will be doing allows me to constantly strive to better my communities, a value Judaism taught me to always pursue.

About the Author
Sari Lesk is a journalism student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is pursuing a career as a backpack journalist and hopes to use her career to carry out the old adage of "afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted." Sari draws her passion for journalism from the Jewish value of tikkun olam and hopes to improve her local, national and global communities through the media.