2001-01-20 / Columnists

On The Beach

These are just two of his most favorite things. For John C. McLoughlin, words and people are perhaps the most important gifts that life has to offer. As Editor of Rockaway's hometown paper, The Wave, the two intersect on a moment by moment daily basis. Irving Thalberg, the late Hollywood studio executive, once contemptuously stated, "Writing is easy. You just put one word in front of another!" For John McLoughlin, there is a deeper respect for the art. "There's such a responsibility that one has with their words. Words can build people up, knock them down, or take them to another world." He also marvels that when you open up a word and get behind its meaning, it’s very much the same sense as when you open up a person and discover what makes them unique.

As the adage says, "you can't judge a book by its cover," so too, can a person have a myriad of meaning. Like a "book", one would only have to open up and look beneath the surface. So, too, with the McLoughlin family name. As a third generation Rockawayite on both his paternal and maternal sides, John McLoughlin's family's history in many ways is a metaphor and mirror of Rockaway’s diversity. His mother, Sheri (nee Weiss), grew up in the Edgemere section, and his father, John Caputo McLoughlin, grew up on Nameoke street in Far Rockaway. His maternal grandmother, Florence Feldman Weiss, was raised for a brief time in a Catholic orphanage. His father was raised surrounded by the Jewish cultural influences of Far Rockaway. It was in this seaside setting, amidst music of the boardwalk and the summer sounds of waves crashing on the beach that brought his parents together on one fine Rockaway night. John sr. was the lead D.J. at the famed Fascination arcade and Sheri was smitten! It was in this setting of Rockaway-lore that John Christopher Richard McLoughlin III was born.

   "I always say about Rockaway, that if you're an insider, you're seeing things very different from someone who is from somewhere else. If you were born here, you're seeing everything through the eyes of your heart." He was raised not only in Rockaway, but "on Rockaway". "I grew up on the stories that are the heart and soul of our town's history." 

The McLoughlins are a very close knit family and they very much mirror the closeness of our "Rockaway family". Their spirit of failte goes back to his family’s Jewish side, when grandma Weiss "adopted" a local street kid named Richie Solomonic and took him in, raised him, and gave him a second chance and showed him a better life. Even John's second middle name, Richard, honors him.  

Although the McLoughlin name is Irish, John was raised in the Jewish faith of his mother. He attended kindergarten at Temple Beth-El Yeshiva and he is a product of a public school education attending P.S. 225, where he was valedictorian, M.S. 180, and Beach Channel High School. Although he had his choice of out of town colleges, he decided on Hofstra University, so that he could still reside in the town he loves so well.

From the moment we met, I always sensed and recognized a profound spirituality in John. At the time, we were both enthusiastic Republicans working feverishly on Al Stabile's campaign. Although I was extremely impressed by John's intelligence, it was this spiritual sense about him that endeared him to me.   He has a remarkable sensitivity to the needs and feelings of others. In this respect, he is utterly selfless, a quality that is evident in his work and his dealings with people. 

The three men who shaped his life are his father, his grandfather David Weiss, and Rabbi Joseph Weiss. It was at West End Temple where John was introduced to the "I - Thou" relationship. He has a very profound relationship with God. He describes his personal relationship stating, "For me, God isn't convenient for problem-solving purposes. I walk with him in my life on a daily basis. I feel I can best serve God in my life by serving his expression: people. It is through my relationship with people that I can serve God better."  It seems so appropriate that John was once a recipient of the Rockaway Catholic Jewish Council's Brotherhood Sisterhood Award. He truly represents what the organization stands for. 

John regards his time at West End Temple as having the greatest impact on his life. He learned how to speak in public from Pauline Emmanuel. He made his Bar Mitzvah there, and at the unusually young age of 14 he began study of the Talmud with Shelly Friedberg. A year later his father converted to Judaism and his parents were re-married by Rabbi Weiss. At 16, he became the Youth Group leader, involving youngsters with recreational activities and community service projects. He also created the Post Bar/Bat Mitzvah Class, a program to keep students interested in the temple. He taught for three years. The program's mantra was "Tikum Olam," which means, "repairing the world". 

At 24, John is the youngest editor of a community newspaper. He sees the issues that will surely dominate the political scene to be education, with the focus being on community schools, how we discipline unruly students, and how we treat teachers. The second issue is health care. Forty-five percent of people in Rockaway are uninsured. There are seniors within our community who have to make a harsh decision each month between buying their necessary medications and buying food to eat. The third issue is housing and how we provide low-income housing without bringing down those who live in them.

John has brought many fresh ideas to The Wave. Among his initiatives have been feature stories on outstanding members of the community, the construction of new housing in the Rockaways, the poor condition of the Far Rockaway Shopping Center, overcrowded schools on the east end, new school development, senior citizens and senior housing, and sponsoring fundraisers for Steven Morales and hosting community forums.

Another program he is most proud of is the Most Wanted Fugitives From Justice column, which was started three years ago by Joan Ward George. The N.Y.P.D. wants to replicate it through out the city. The column has helped capture 80 fugitives who have committed crimes in our community.

John has sought to literally bring the paper out into the community by readily going out on speaking tours. He considers his role at The Wave as being one of a public relations person. He was the guest speaker at a P.S. 183 graduation ceremony in 1999 and at a honor role ceremony at Beach Channel High School last winter. He has worked to establish "News In The Schools", a program he developed to help students start their own school newspaper.

For the near future he is working on stories about Hope VI, which will bring money into the Edgemere housing development; he has established a reader survey, asking for the community's input on how the paper can better serve them; and he wants to expand the sports pages, including more coverage of games played at B.C.H.S., Far Rockaway HS, and Stella Maris HS.

He is currently serving as chairman of the Rockaway Park Association, serves on the Community Advisory Council at Peninsula Hospital Center, has worked to re-structure the Claddagh INN where he served on the Board of Directors for one year, and he is a patron member of the Jewish War Veterans.

Among his so many achievements, John has been successful in changing the personality of the paper from being considered a mostly "west end" paper to being more inclusive in its representation of the entire peninsula. It is this very spirit of inclusiveness, which John wears so well, is why the Saint Patrick's Day Parade Committee has chosen to bestow its honor of deputy grand marshal upon John.

John feels he has been lucky to be blessed with the best of literally all worlds. He cherishes his Irish, Jewish, Italian, and Russian heritages; and he draws a commonality between the Irish and the Jews. They both have a history of slavery and of repression; and Israel's quest to maintain their homeland is very much similar to the troubles in Northern Ireland. He smiles with pride at being honored recently by both Hadassah and the Saint Patrick's Parade Committee. For this "skinny Irish Jewish kid from Rockaway", as Councilman Stabile calls him, being honored by both is really a validation of who he is. His name is John McLoughlin and his name means so much more! 

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