Passover looming ahead: Not quite panicking yet

Due to the onslaught of housework, etc., that Pesach entails, as well as some nifty work assignments, I’ll be posting less for the next month or so. However, I do want to share with my readers several bits of good news: Continue reading

The Role of Periodicals in Jewish Life: Rob Eshman’s “Why We Write”

I read a fascinating essay in The Jewish Journal today.

Publisher-about-to-go-on-sabbatical Rob Eshman relates a recent visit he had with young Israelis, when he had the opportunity to explain why Jewish newspapers have had such a prominent and consistent role in the life of Jewish Americans.

The major reason Eshman highlighted was the importance of communication between communities and unifying them to promote certain, common agendas. He also touched on how this role has changed, from an institution what taught Jews how to become good Americans–find jobs and acclimate to their new environment–to an institution which “teach[es]Americans to be Jews.”

Teaching Americans to be Jews

This latter element particularly struck me. As Eshman mentioned, many Jewish magazines and newspapers exist primarily on the web. In fact, that’s where they now find the majority of their readers.

Jews who live outside major Jewish communities–due to geography or due to a lack of affiliation–can now access information about their co-religionists via websites like The Jewish Journal‘s, The Forward‘s, Kveller, and so on. Need a latke recipe? Look online. Need advice about how to handle the funeral of a relative? Look online. Such sites bring community to people who previously felt excluded.

In the Orthodox world, even, you find magazines devoted to Jewish cuisine, divrei Torah (words of Torah, including all of Tanach, the Oral Law, and commentaries), inspiration, and advice from the Jewish standpoint.

What’s your favorite Jewish magazine or newspaper? Why? What role do you think periodicals have in contemporary Jewish life? Please share your comments.

Jewish magazines still jockeying for market share

Hamodia front page.jpgYated Neeman
In the last few years, English-language Orthodox (charedi) periodicals have proliferated. (A little disclosure is appropriate here–I’ve written for both Aim! and Mishpacha Junior, am a long-time subscriber to HaModia.) Interestingly, as new publications show up, the older ones change formats (sometimes repeatedly) in order to improve their market share.
For example: HaModia came out with an online edition and now so has the Yated (honestly, I don’t know which happened first, but I heard about HaModia’s first). HaModia came out with a unique format for the kids’ mag that competes more with Weekly Reader than with any other charedi publication and sets it apart. Supplements targeted towards kosher “foodies” are in vogue almost across the board. Most recently, I noticed that Binah Bunch is now divided in two–one half “Clubhouse” (which seems designed to compete with Mishpacha Junior) and one half a tween magazine (more similar to Aim!).
Watching these “renovations” is sometimes entertaining (trying to guess the reasons behind different editorial decisions, for example), but it’s also a little depressing because these magazines HAVE to compete in order to make money. I enjoy all of them, but I can’t afford to purchase all of them on a regular basis. Neither can the average Jewish consumer, so these magazines and newspapers have to compete for our subscriptions.
It also has implications for us writers. If there’s more variety out there, there are more niches writers can develop for their writing…which is fabulous. But if everyone just tries to do the same thing, just better, (how many food magazines do we really need?) writers get locked in. I’ve seen a little of both in these format changes.
On a happier note, I think the competition has forced all the magazines to strive for a level of excellence that I don’t think has been reached before. Not only are there more magazines, but they are better than ever, I think.