Rabbi Mark S. Golub has two loves in his life: Judaism and electronic media. So it should not come as a surprise to learn that Rabbi Golub created the first Jewish television channel in America: Shalom TV, located right here in Bergen County.
Rabbi Golub, the President and CEO of Shalom TV, has been involved in the medium for over 20 years. He says of television, “It’s the most powerful and watched medium – bar none.”
He began his career in communications during his college days at Columbia, where he worked as the general manager of the college’s radio station. Later, he worked for WMCA—550 on your AM dial, back in the day. It was the first telephone-call-in-talk station in the country, and he served as the editorial director during the Nixon years. Part of his job involved writing editorials and doing on-air work.
In 1979, Rabbi Golub created Jewish Education in Media or JEM. The non-profit produced the weekly radio talk show, L’Chayim, which continues to air today. Golub is the host of the show whose guests span the world Jewish scene.
In 1991, Rabbi Golub was approached by Michael Pravin, a Russian immigrant who was a successful businessman in Russia. The two created the first Russian Language Television channel in America. Known as RTN (Russian Television Network of America), the network served Russian-speaking immigrants in America. It premiered on cablevision in Bronx and Brooklyn and became an instant hit. Today it has grown and is now part of an 11-channel package catering to Russians.
Golub’s pride, however, is Shalom TV. “It’s wonderfully satisfying and the joy of my life,” he says. Launched in 2006, Comcast offered Shalom TV or the “Jewish channel” as an on- demand option. At that time, Shalom TV had 40 hours of programming focusing on news in Israel, movies, and culture. Now Shalom TV is a standard linear channel. It’s currently available in over 8 million homes. Those who don’t have access to the channel can watch online at shalomtv.com or on a Roku box.
Golub stresses the fact that Shalom TV is not a religion channel. He says, “When we started, our interest was primarily providing information about all things Jewish.” The goal was to appeal to all types of Jews, which adheres to Rabbi Golub’s theory that, “To be a Jew is to be a member of a family.”
Shalom TV reaches all different members of the Jewish family, including people from every age group and movement. He knows this from the email he receives, such as this one: “Because of Shalom TV, I’m now involved in Jewish life, and joining a synagogue and may marry a Jewish girl.”
Shalom TV also has appeal to non-Jews; He estimates that these are 25-30% of the viewers. Email has come in saying, “Because of Shalom TV, I’m converting to Judaism.”
The niche channel has unique programming not found on any other American channel. Some popular shows on Shalom TV include “From Date to Mate.” This originally-scripted reality show features four singles in their 20s dating in New York City. Another series, “Jewish 101,” which hosted by Golub, is for those interested in learning about Judaism and Jewish life. “From the Aleph-Bet” is for those who wish to read and understand the Hebrew Language.
Coverage of Israel is a mainstay at Shalom TV. Rabbi Golub is not a fan of television news as a whole. He says, “Television news is about the rubber neck syndrome: People watch tragedy, so they show suffering—which creates a good visual—and create the story around it.” He laments the fact that news has become more about entertainment and less about information. “Obscene” is the word he uses to describe the mainstream media’s coverage of Operation Protective Edge. “All we see are Palestinian women and children suffering but we’re never shown a Hamas member shooting or firing a rocket from a hospital.”
Finally, Golub is proud of the high quality production and varied programming Shalom TV offers. He says that Shalom TV, “is a non-profit service that benefits the community. The channel creates a sense of community, and excites people who have not been engaged in Jewish life.”
Larry D. Bernstein, a Bergen County Resident, is a freelance writer and tutor. You can find more of his writing on his website: larrydbernstein. com.
By Larry Bernstein