Some Musar for the Jewish Review and Some for Our Readers
Volume 3 , Issue 5 (April, 1990 | Nisan, 5750)
Some Musar for the Jewish Review....
As the Jewish Review nears completion of its third year of publication it is fitting that we reflect for a moment on its raison d'etre, on the principles, both religious and journalistic, which guide its production, or better, which its editor and publisher believe ought to guide a periodical of its kind.
Our rabbis inform us that a thing done three times is a chazakah, something done with the strength of habit, and this has a double connotation. ?Strength? connotes that the habit or achievement is likely to continue or endure, but ?habit? connotes that the ?bad? as well as the ?good? is somehow ingrained.? Hence, before this occurs, before our work becomes a chazakah, we think it useful to provide ourselves with some ?musar? on what a Jewish periodical can and ought to be.? Hence our ten principles:
l. A Jewish publication must first and foremost have respect for Jewish tradition. Ours must be a publication which is deeply committed to the values and authority of Jewish law and tradition.
2. At the same time, we must attempt to publish an intelligent, searching and critical review, one which has great reverence for Judaism, but which is not afraid to ask difficult questions about Jewish law, the Jewish community and Jewish faith.? We should be committed to the view that Judaism is only strengthened when subject to the light of reason, and that doubt and controversy, when handled with reason and respect, are a source of genuine faith rather than its enemy.
3. We must be committed to adhering to the Jewish laws of shemirat haLashen (guarding one's words). Our concerns should be with issues and ideas and not with the personalities of those who address them, except insofar as such personalities provide a positive model for engaging in the task of being a traditional Jew in the contemporary world.
4. We must be dedicated to the task of kiruv (outreach), and in this respect we must regard our continued free distribution, e.g., on college campuses, as a critical part of our work.? If Judaism is to remain a vibrant force in the lives of Jewish Americans, it must be presented in an educated and relevant manner which is accessible to any intelligent reader and addresses his or her own daily concerns.
5. A Jewish periodical should educate. By this we mean that it should, itself, contain, and to a certain extent be, Torah in the widest sense of the term.? Thus, we must not be afraid to provide our readers with a piece of Talmudic or halakhic analysis that is relevant to their being informed on important issues such as the Agunah, Torah U-Madda, brain death or abortion.
6. At the same time, we must provide general hashgafic or philosophical perspectives which will enable our readers to integrate the disparate features of their Jewish and secular lives and identities.
7. We must be committed to Jewish unity, but unity without dilution or compromise. Any solutions to the problems that currently beset the Jewish community must respect halakhic values and not call for a violation of Jewish law.At the same time, we must realize that if there is any real chance for Jewish unity it will result from a perspective which is firm in its commitments, but which shows a face of rachamim (compassion) as opposed to din (judgment) to the non-observant world.
8. As a Jewish publication, we should further the expression of Jewish religion, philosophy, art and culture, and provide the reading public with an exposure to the work and ideas of those men and women who are striving to creatively deepen our traditions and to integrate those traditions with aspects of contemporary culture (such as art, film, literature, etc.).
9. We must attempt to further the search for solutions to the outstanding problems in the Jewish community, not simply sensationalize those problems in an effort to stir controversy or attract readers.
10 We must strive to be an independent voice within the Jewish community, one that is unconstrained by any umbrella organization which might attempt to control our editorial content or use that content to further a particular political end. If we are to remain a truly open-minded Jewish publication, we must maintain that independence and provide a forum for all perspectives within the Torah community.
These principles are, it would seem a tall order, and the work of publishing and editing a periodical such as ours involves a constant challenge of integrating and balancing among them.? May we, with God's and our readers' help, be prepared to meet this challenge as we complete the chazakah of our third year.----------------
....and for Some of Our Readers
While Pesach is not usually the time when one takes stock of one's accomplishments and future aspirations, this issue is, after all, the third anniversary of The New York Jewish Review. We are grateful and, I must admit, somewhat surprised, that we have not only lasted this long, but come this far in terms of the quality of articles we receive and the nationwide distribution, albeit limited, that we have accomplished. But if we are to attain the lofty goals stated in this issue's editorial, goals for which not only we, but all of the Jewish media should strive, we will be able to do so only with our readers' help.
In recent months we have received critical acclaim from readers throughout the from prominent rabbis representing a broad spectrum of Orthodoxy to representatives of Conservative Judaism, to those who are not affiliated with any group. Almost all the feedback indicates that we are filling an important void within the Jewish press. Rarely a day goes by now without receiving a phone call or a note from someone complimenting us on our willingness to deal with important issues in a respectful, open-minded, but halakhic way, without resorting to code words like "Torah true"or "authentic" Judaism.
Few people realize that The Jewish Review is produced by a very small core staff of volunteers who work at other full-time jobs for their livelihood; that the periodical currently receives no funding other than through subscriptions and a minimal amount of advertising revenue; and that for the past four issues, only half of our production expenses have been covered. In short, if we are to continue publishing and if we ever hope to grow at all and realize the potential we believe we have, but more importantly the potential that others believe we have, we must find sources of funding. Compliments, while providing us with the psychic energy to continue onward, and while very much appreciated, cannot help us pay our printer, mailing house, etc. And right now, our readers and the organizations they work for are our best hope.
What Do We Need?
To meet our immediate needs, we must raise $30,000 - $40,000 to help offset our production and distribution costs for Volume 4. But if we are ever to fulfill our goals, we will require an additional $50,000 - $60,000 over the next twelve months. This money will, among other things: enable us to hire an advertising staff in the hope that we can become financially self-sufficient more quickly; allow us to expand our coverage, publishing on a monthly schedule; and permit us to greatly increase our kiruv work, making sure that The Jewish Review is distributed free on every major college campus. Is this pie in the sky? We hope not.
What Can You Do?
We are appealing to each of you as individuals and concerned readers to support us ? to spread our appeal to those in your synagogues who receive us for free, to those in your chevrusas who may have contacts with people who can provide substantial amounts of help. At the very least, if we could turn all of our complimentary copies into two-year paid subscriptions (only $18!) we would be turning a major financial corner! At best, you can speak to your rabbis, your congregations, your business associates -- twenty contributions of $5,000 would solve our problems immediately. But more hopefully, 500 people each contributing $200 would also provide the needed help.
I have always watched those who solicit funds in any context with an admittedly misplaced degree of distaste and, perhaps, false superiority. Even if one knows no Yiddish, shnorring is as common a word as gelt or chazer. But necessity seems to be the great equalizer, and I find myself taking on the role I have tried to avoid. Fund raising is not my forte, but I've been told over and over again recently, that the only way to solve some of our financial problems is to appeal directly to those from whom we receive these compliments ? our readers.
It is time on our third anniversary, for you to give us a vote of confidence that will enable us to be here three years from now to celebrate our sixth anniversary. Please take a moment to show your support. For your convenience, we have printed a coupon on the back page. If you rely on others to support us, if your response is "I get it for free, why should I pay for it," it may be the last issue of The Jewish Review that you receive. And once again there will be a void in the world of Jewish media.
Harris Z. Tilevitz