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By By Lauren Shapiro

It feels almost as though we’ve come full circle: more than a decade ago I sat as a young prospective writer across the table from Hashalom Editor Antony Arkin as he welcomed me on board; today I sit across from him bidding him farewell. It is my pleasure and privilege to interview one of my favourite editors and human beings.

After 15 years at the Editor’s desk, Arkin is leaving his post at Durban’s monthly Jewish magazine to pursue a lifelong dream of making Aliyah.

Hashalom is SA’s oldest Jewish journal, in print since 1923. Arkin accepted the role of Editor in 2002, but he’d been involved with the magazine for almost 15 years previously, both as a writer and on the editorial board. “Hashalom plays a significant role in keeping the community informed and together, especially given the local newspapers’ tendencies towards anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism,” he points out. “We present a more balanced viewpoint.”

He’s written over 160 editorial columns over the years, covering a vast scope of topics concerning South Africa, Israel and the Jewish world. “I write about things that deeply concern me personally,” he reveals. “I ask what issues need to be addressed, and try to provide an overview or explanation of those issues for our community.” Arkin also sources stories from a range of respectable publications that give Hashalom permission to reprint. Because of Hashalom’s long production cycle of 4-6 weeks, he looks for articles that won’t date, focussing less on news than on background and analytical pieces. “This is important because people seldom get this aspect in the daily papers,” he rejoins.

Life in the editorial firing line isn’t always easy. “I’ve tried to have good working relationships with everyone and to respect and represent different – sometimes contradictory – viewpoints,” Arkin asserts. He confesses that it’s been challenging to ensure that important issues are discussed whilst no personal attacks are made. “People don’t always understand the difference,” he muses. That, of course, is the role of a great editor. “I was certainly extremely unpopular at times,” he confides, “but you need a free and robust press to ensure transparency in the community.”

Under Arkin’s 15-year reign, the publication has made a gradual progression from a 20-page black-and-white newspaper to a full colour, glossy magazine of 32 pages (more for the Pesach, Rosh Hashanah and Channukah editions). “We’ve strived to constantly refresh the look and feel,” Arkin declares. This included a logo revamp in 2016, and the launch of Hashalom’s digital edition on its own website in 2013. Of these achievements, he insists: “I’m very proud, but I must say it’s a team effort”.

Arkin’s successor is as yet unidentified. “I’m sure anyone coming in will make changes, which is good,” he affirms. “I’m hoping that Hashalom – like our community – will continue to grow and develop for many, many years.”

This is Arkin’s last edition as editor of Hashalom as he and his wife Marion leave in December to make Aliyah and join their children and grandchildren in Israel. “It’s not a push factor, but a pull factor,” he explains. “I wish every success to the community.”

We wish the family hatzlacha and happiness and send fond greetings to ex-Durbanites David and Tali Arkin, their children Naama (9), Matan
(6) and Aviah (5 months); Talia and Clive Feigenbaum, and their children Gabi (4) and Gina (2).

Arkin wears various “hats” in the community in addition to editorship of Hashalom. He is also:

Chairman of the KwaZulu-Natal Zionist Council Member of the General Assembly of the Jewish National Fund Treasurer of the South African Zionist Federation Ex officio member of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies Member of the Vaad Hapoel, World Zionist Organization Member of the General Assembly of the Jewish Agency Past President of the Durban Progressive Jewish Congregation National Vice Chairman of the South African Union of Progressive Jewry Chairman of Artzeinu, South Africa