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.

Cold shoulder or pit bulls? On Peter Beinart, the Atlanta Jewish Book Fair and how to act when you disagree with a writer

I don’t often comment on news items, but this one is both Jewish and book-related, so I thought it would be worth mentioning.

Earlier this year, Peter Beinart–blogger and professor–wrote a book blaming the lack of peace in Israel on the Israelis. Even to someone whose politics are somewhat atypical for an Orthodox Jewish American, I found the premise of Beinart’s book both offensive and intellectually flimsy.

Should we set the dogs on ‘im?

This week Atlanta’s JCC hosts 10,000 visitors at its annual Jewish Book Fair. Initially, Peter Beinart was scheduled to appear there to promote his book. But, due to the outrage of many Atlantans who disagree with his public attacks of the Israeli government, Beinart will no longer be welcome to speak at the book fair. Instead, he’s speaking this evening at a different venue. (For more coverage, see here.)

Was this the right reaction? Continue reading