05212019

Jan Bayer

The entrepreneur and humanist is the father of the German edition of JVG who provided us with generous and unstinting encouragement and support…

Humanity is an expression of the willingness to provide support, of lived solidarity. Here, it is not words that matter most but deeds. As a business executive, Jan Bayer works together with his colleagues to oversee organizational matters at his company and ensure its prosperity. However, administrative activities and maximization of profits cannot be the only goal. From start to finish, it is the wellbeing of people that matters most, as every conscientious businessperson knows.

Jan Bayer (c) Max Threlfall

Jan Bayer (c) Max Threlfall

In the summer of 2013, almost a year after we had founded the Jewish Voice, we were informed that our printing company was closing. We had to find another printer, and so I turned to the Axel Springer publishing company. Its CEO, Mathias Döpfner, referred me to Jan Bayer, a fellow member of the managing board. During our first meeting, I described the Jewish Voice, our goals, and our operational principles. Jan Bayer listened attentively and without any further discussion of technical or financial details asked if I could imagine producing a German edition of Jewish Voice as a supplement to the daily newspaper DIE WELT. I immediately agreed.
At that moment, I postponed any thought of the technical, editorial and organizational considerations such a partnership would entail. For the Jewish Voice, this was a unique opportunity. At the time, we were a team of six to eight volunteers who operated out of my apartment, working on a repurposed ping-pong table. Axel Springer is a global company with 14,000 employees. But I was familiar with the company’s guiding principles, which include a commitment to the reconciliation between Germany and the Jewish people and the State of Israel. This was and remains the impetus behind the Jewish Voice. And so I thought to myself: “Let us venture a tango between our wisp of a newspaper and this publishing giant.”
In 2013, Jewish Voice was a small English-language publication, produced in Berlin for a readership in North America and elsewhere in the world. Jan Bayer’s proposal opened the door to our becoming a recognized and respected publication in Germany as well. This would also require us to expand our journalistic scope. As an independent quarterly, it was our mission to report, analyze and comment upon all matters pertaining to German-Jewish relations. Our voice and our advocacy, our reports and interviews of politicians, artists, academics and economists, now gained a new audience across Germany. Our clear and at times controversial views did not always meet with universal approval, but our independence and originality was acknowledged by all.
At our first meeting, Jan Bayer impressed me with his openness and his generous willingness to provide me and our publication with an unusual opportunity. At the time, I had no idea of the many obstacles that would need to be overcome, even with the surfeit of goodwill on all sides. But fortunately, we had also found our own guardian angel, a man of immense foresight, organizational acumen, and good will. He held fast to his original idea – not simply as a matter of principle, but out of sheer humanity.
Jan Bayer is not just a manager. He has stood by me, offering support and reassurance in times of need. And most of all, he has provided us all with generous and unstinting encouragement. ■

Photo Credit: Max Threlfall

What Next?

Related Articles