Donald Harrison is a true mensch, and I am sure many would agree with me. He has been a voice for the Jewish community in San Diego County for many years with his highly regarded online newspaper, San Diego Jewish World. However, he is also aware of time moving on and the value of new and younger voices, so he has decided to hand down the reins and semi-retire. At the end of the year, Jacob Kamaras will take over as editor and publisher of SDJW with Harrison staying on as a contributing writer and editor emeritus.
Harrison has positively influenced many people, including myself. Thanks to him, I began a second career as a published writer in my 50s in 2010. His guidance inspired me to actively pursue freelance writing and submit articles to various publications, including L’CHAIM Magazine and San Diego Jewish World. More importantly because of his mentorship, I entered a new world where I got to meet fellow journalists, interview a wide variety of interesting people, and make friends outside of my ESL teaching world. This has broadened my horizons in San Diego, and I am grateful to him for that.
One of things I admire about Harrison is his sense of adventure and not being afraid to try or learn new things. I am also appreciative of his graciousness with newcomers. He actively participated in a pen pal program I started with my ESL students and took several of my students on tours of San Diego.
Another thing I admire is his knowledge of Judaism and his ability to find a Jewish story in the most unlikely places! He has written several books about traveling and finding Jewish stories, including Schlepping through American West, 77 Miles of Jewish Stories, and Schlepping and Schmoozing through San Diego County.
His charisma and friendliness draw people to him. But don’t just take my word for it. Fellow writers also admire Harrison.
“I don’t actually recall the year that I began writing for San Diego Jewish World, but I do know that it was such an ego-rush to see my name and words in print,” From Eva Trieger (who also writes for L’CHAIM Magazine). “Harrison is a great editor and taught me so much about writing and how to make a piece publishable. I am eternally grateful for the numerous opportunities Harrison gave me. I learned about so many aspects of San Diego that I would otherwise have been ignorant of. Thank you, Harrison, for being an amazing editor, teacher, and friend.”
Like Eva, Harrison also gave me numerous opportunities to review local plays and meet some very interesting people.
“Harrison has been a dear friend for many years, a cousin of my wife Paula, and a source of positive inspiration for us all here in San Diego,” writer Michael Mantell and his wife, Paula said. “His standards of excellence, passion for delivering the very best source of relevant news to our community and quest to bring together like-minded people, make him particularly special to us. Being a part of his journalism “family” for so long has been a genuine honor. We know his dedication to family above all, serves as his remarkable fuel. We wish Harrison and his family the very best in their next chapters of life.”
Thanks to Harrison, I was able to conduct a delightful interview with Michael and Paula and write several articles on them. I also admire Harrison’s dedication to his family, and they have become part of my own.
“Over the years, I have learned much about newspaper article writing, thanks to Harrison’s kindly critiques and wonderful modeling,” Eileen Wingard said. “He has not only been my editor since Heritage days, but we have been like family. My mother, Rose Schiff z’l, adored him and [his wife] Nancy — which is why he was the only non-family pall bearer at my mother’s funeral. For many years, Harrison and Nancy were close friends to my sister, Zina Schiff and her husband, Ron Eisenberg, and Harrison wrote and published many articles about my family, my concert violinist sister, Zina Schiff, her radiologist/author husband, Ron Eisenberg, their children, conductor/law professor, Avlana Eisenberg, Rabbi Cherina Eisenberg, and my husband z’l, language educator/song writer, Hal Wingard and our children, violinist/ Jewish educator, Myla Wingard, actor, Dan Wingard, educational consultant, Tamara Wingard and humanities teacher, Harriet Wingard. The Harrisons attended many of our Pesach seders. Harrison and Nancy were my guests last Sukkoth and Harrison most recently interviewed me about the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, in which I played for 37 years, to write about the orchestra in his forthcoming book about Jewish stories from the off-ramps of Highway 5. Harrison, through his journalistic talent and big-hearted generosity continues to be a great treasure of our San Diego Jewish Community.”
Indeed, Harrison’s impact on writers throughout the San Diego community cannot be overstated.
“As I neared retirement, Harrison asked me to write a column for the San Diego Jewish World. I began by writing The Wandering Review, a column devoted to reviewing films of Jewish interest, and then moved on to writing a political satire column, and subsequently a satire column written from my dog’s perspective. After undertaking these writing obligations, I came to appreciate Harrison’s crisp journalistic style which was far more compelling and comprehensible than the overly technical and pedantic prose that typified my scholarly articles and books. Although I continue to write for scholarly journals, I now emulate Harrison’s writing style because it is much clearer and more engaging.”
Outside of journalism, Harrison’s impact has also been felt by friends and colleagues.
“They say that in tough times, you find out who your real friends are.,” Eric George Tauber said. “Well, last year, when my life fell apart, I learned that Harrison and Nancy Harrison are indeed true friends. Because of COVID, my school shut down. I was laid off and every other intensive English program in town was in the same boat, either shut down or barely hanging on. Nobody was hiring. About this same time, my greedy landlord decided to terminate my lease so that he could renovate my townhouse and jack up the rent. With no proof of a stable income, I couldn’t sign a new lease and the deal that I thought I had turned out to be a scam. When I called Harrison to thank him for everything and say goodbye, he and Nancy extended an invitation to stay at their guest house until I figured out my next move. I still wound up moving back to Cincinnati, but they softened my landing. That summer, I was able to process what had happened, lick my wounds, and make proper plans to move back East.”
Although Harrison is passing on the reins to a new editor at the helm of San Diego Jewish World, he is not really retiring as he will continue writing. His legacy will not be forgotten, and that legacy will be carried on under Kamaras’ capable leadership.