Joshua Mitnick, a veteran Tel Aviv-based journalist who reported extensively on Israel and the Middle East for a long list of high-profile U.S. outlets for decades, died Saturday at the age of 50.
Mitnick was born and raised in Highland Park, New Jersey, and pursued his twin passions – sports and journalism – as a student at the University of Michigan.
He moved to Israel in 1997, where he found a job covering business at Bloomberg News, followed by work as a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times and, most recently, Foreign Policy.
In a profession and a region characterized by strong opinions, outsized egos and sharp elbows, Mitnick was viewed in the local community of journalists as a calm, thoughtful voice of reason, a professional who was considerate and kind to his colleagues and an encouraging and supportive mentor to younger reporters.
“Josh was such a low-key guy that it was shocking to discover how driven he was by very deep passions, which is what sent him from New Jersey to Israel in the first place,” said journalist Jonathan Ferziger, currently a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank.
“We worked side-by-side for five years at Bloomberg until he got bored with financial news and made his way to Ramallah and Gaza to write about [PLO leader] Yasser Arafat. He loved jazz, Joni Mitchell and salsa. He bordered on obsessive about college sports, staying up all night because of time zones to watch the Michigan Wolverines.”
Ferziger said he was “awed” by Mitnick’s “persistence as a reporter. After nailing down the facts, he worked so hard to convey nuance and tone. When I read his stories, I heard the music.”
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Dina Kraft, a Christian Science Monitor colleague and close friend, called Mitnick “a journalist who always wanted to be there on the ground – he was about shoe-leather reporting, talking to many people and getting a real sense of the story before he started putting it together.
Kraft, a former Haaretz correspondent, said that Mitnick "read Haaretz in Hebrew every day: He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the country and was a real student of this place. He loved it, but he saw its complexity and its flaws and was able to dig deep. That’s what made him so good at translating this part of the world to a wide audience for so many different outlets.”
Amelia Newcomb, managing editor of the Christian Science Monitor, noted that Mitnick’s “professionalism and commitment to Monitor journalism over nearly two decades earned him the admiration and appreciation of his editors.”
Added Newcomb: “Chronicling the unfolding history of a region with so many conflicting passions and challenges, Josh wrote with a depth of understanding and compassion that highlighted the humanity of his subjects. In so doing he furthered the ecumenical goal of the Monitor, which at its core is one of tikkun olam, repairing the world. We are so grateful for Joshua Mitnick’s work, and for him.”
Mitchell Barak, a pollster whom Mitnick quoted frequently, recalled that the journalist's “soothing voice, relaxed personality, and non-confrontational style put his interviewees at ease and allowed them to feel comfortable and confident while speaking to him. By speaking with him and analyzing various situations, I found that my own analytical skills improved. He often sharpened my own thinking on many different issues.”
Mitnick died of a rare form of lymphoma, continuing to report and write even as he fought his disease. His friends and colleagues are working to set up an international reporting fellowship in his name at the University of Michigan for students at The Michigan Daily, where Mitnick served as managing editor.
He is survived by Lesley Benedikt and their three children; his parents, Joan and Stuart Mitnick; and his two sisters, Julie and Carrie.