Fan mail: the way to make an author’s heart go pitter-patter

I haven’t been posting much this month because I’ve been very, very busy. Thank G-d, in a good way. After failing to write any fiction for a couple months, I wrote three short stories – bang! bang! bang! – and a few teensy other projects besides.

I had the kids home with me on Friday because of the Mid-Winter Vacation many Jewish schools stick between semesters. I was a bit under the weather and had to shop AND cook for Shabbos because I’d been too tired after painting with the kids and taking them to a museum on Thursday to do the grocery shopping then, as I usually do.

The exhaustion! The squabbles! The noise! It was ugly.

And then I opened up Inyan magazine and saw this:

Fan mail for The Perfect Shabbos

Instantly, all was better.

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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.

Reading is for everyone, even those with no bookshelf

In The L.A. Times, I just read a touching article by YA author Amy Goldman Koss about her efforts to offer reading material to the homeless. Her program is in a Glendale, California homeless shelter, but I was reminded of the role libraries play in the lives of the homeless, as well.

In local libraries, I’ve encountered the homeless on nearly every visit. Continue reading

The 3 Comments I Hate to Find on my Articles

Last week, a personal essay of mine appeared on Tablet Magazine online. As it hit the front page, I braced myself. A couple of my previous contributions to Tablet received a lot of comments…including a bunch of nasty ones. I figured this latest essay–about being Jewish during the holiday season–might ruffle the feathers of readers.

A couple days after the story was published, much to my surprise Continue reading