Josh Mitnick, a veteran reporter from Israel for a variety of international publications, died Saturday at age 50 after a prolonged battle with cancer.
A gifted journalist, writer and analyst, Mitnick, a native of Highland Park, New Jersey, moved to Israel in 1997 after receiving both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in political science from the University of Michigan.
His first reporting job was at Bloomberg News in Tel Aviv, which had recently established its first Israel desk.
Over the course of the next two decades, Mitnick worked for a number of global publications, including The Wall Street Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Jewish Week and Foreign Policy, regularly filing stories and reporting on the many angles of Israel’s triumphs and tragedies.
“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,” said colleague Amelia Newcomb from the Christian Science Monitor. “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.”
Millions of readers relied on Mitnick’s insightful reporting on Israel, said Mitchell Barak, an Israel-based pollster who was frequently interviewed by him.
“Josh was their eyes and brains on the ground here,” said Barak, adding that Mitnick’s thoughts often sharpened his own thinking. “His 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.”
“He did more to inform [his fellow Americans/English readers] about the Middle East than almost any other journalist,” said Scott Lasensky, a lifelong friend, who is a visiting professor at the University of Maryland.
Mitnick wrote for The Wall Street Journal from 2008 to 2015, and most recently for Foreign Policy as well as the Christian Science Monitor, where he had worked since 2004.
Colleagues and fellow reporters expressed their sorrow and anguish on Twitter and Facebook.
“Awful news today,” tweeted New York Times reporter Sheera Frenkel, who previously served as a Mideast correspondent for BuzzFeed News. “Josh Mitnick was a kind and generous colleague. My first year in Jerusalem I was covering a press conference, and failed to hit the record button on my tape deck. Josh saw me nearly in tears and sat with me on the sidewalk while I transcribed from his tape.”
Mitnick was also a lifelong music fan, with a deep, abiding affection for jazz, hip-hop and classic rock — the Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Van Morrison and Traffic in particular — with his favorite artists and jazz sounds providing the background soundtrack in any situation.
“I remember driving with Josh from the east coast to Michigan, windows down and listening to the Allman Brothers really loud on the radio,” said Mark Katz, Mitnick’s close friend from their University of Michigan days. “He always listened to music, loved music, was inspired by music.”
Mitnick is survived by his wife, Lesley Benedikt, their three children, his parents Joan and Stuart Mitnick, and sisters Carrie Mitnick and Julie Leber.