A lot of you who read this site may not know the ins and outs of Jewish publishing. Frankly, neither do I, but, as a writer and editor at Heeb, I’m close enough to the metal that I can set the stage for you.
Tablet Magazine is a wonderful online project with a talented staff and a formidable stable of guest writers. It’s The New Yorker of the Jewish publishing world. Jewcy is a youth-centric blog that was acquired by JDub Records, the label that gave the world Matisyahu, in 2009. JDub also partnered with Tablet in late 2009 but folded earlier this year. Yesterday it was announced that the seemingly homeless Jewcy will now be published by Tablet.
All would be well and good if not for a slight by Tablet’s intrepid blogger, Marc Tracy1. Here he is welcoming Jewcy into his family:
Five years ago today, Jewcy was born. Since then, the online-only Jewish magazine that many of you probably already read has gone through several evolutions and changes of management, with, to my reading, one constant: a dedication to engaging young Jews who may not think of themselves as the likeliest readers of a Jewish magazine, and doing so by winking at the conventions of what a Jewish magazine should be without undermining those conventions to the point of standing for nothing at all. (Cough.)
In his original post, the word cough was linked to Heeb’s main page. Unprovoked, he took the opportunity to winkingly call Heeb out for, if I’m following this correctly, undermining the conventions of a Jewish magazine “to the point of standing for nothing at all.” The joke, by my read, goes past the point of rib-poking. It’s a mean jab that seems out of place in an otherwise meaningful post. I can take it, but I can volley back, nu?
The first thing worth noting is that Heeb predates all the other publications involved here. Perhaps it’s ancient history, but when I hear the words “conventions of a Jewish magazine” my mind immediately goes to Heeb. Before I was a writer I was a reader, and no Jewish publication, not a one, went as far into the mainstream as Heeb did. It was revolutionary. Ultimately, Jewcy and Tablet are taking the road that Heeb paved a decade ago.
But yes, that is ancient history. Things have changed in our little world. Jewcy rose to prominence a few years back (though they’ve been dropping consistently for a year) and Tablet is now one of the dominant forces online. That’s okay, there’s room for a lot of voices, but to suggest that Heeb stands for “nothing at all” is patently false. Our goals are simply different.
We have no interest in seeing a return on our investment by way of Jewish marriages, Jewish babies, Jewish love for Israel or any of the other “goals” that a Jewish magazine could stand for. We don’t prescribe what Jewish life should be. All we aim to do is provide thought provoking writing about the Jewish experience in relation to whatever else is happening in the world. It can be funny, it can be offensive, it can be whatever we want. Former publisher Josh Neuman put it best when we suspended print last summer:
Heeb Magazine has never been about making Jewish “cool.” What we are big believers in, however, is making Jewish fun. We believe that in a world in which Jewish periodicals outdo themselves in attempting to highlight just how endangered Jews are, there should be one Jewish media outlet that actually makes its readers smile.2
We don’t have an agenda, a fact that has hurt us over the years. Damn near killed us, actually. Heeb is viewed as a double-edged sword in the Jewish publishing world. We have the young, unaffiliated audience that none of the other sites can seem to pin down, but we don’t conform to the standards of a hip synagogue newsletter. We take chances and, every so often, we go too far. Sometimes, that makes Jews look bad. But hey, so does tossing an editorial swipe into what amounts to a press release.
Marc, we can talk until we’re blue in the face about what role Heeb should play, what it stands for, what Jewcy stands for, etc. We can argue which site has better content and which reaches what audience. There’s no point though. You’re one of the hardest working writers online and one of my favorite to read to boot. I can’t wrap my head around how many words you get right every single day and I applaud you for it. But this one word, this “cough,” was wrong and you know it. Dick move.
So let’s see how things go for Jewcy under Tablet. Can’t wait.