Culture, Global, Sex & Gender

Jewish Living: New Jewish ladies mag is actually good?!


Okay, so this new magazine just came out. It’s called Jewish Living.
Over here at Jewschool we had a little debate about the magazine, because we got a press release about its launch from the publisher. And frankly, the release makes most of us cringe. Noteable quotables from it:

For the first time ever, a smart, stylish and thoroughly modern magazine will celebrate Jewish home, family and cultural life. *Jewish Living* takes the focus off of religion and places it squarely on the cultural. And in doing so, it seeks to acknowledge and enrich the changing lives of modern Jewish women and their families.

Er… wait, modern Jewish women don’t want to get all bogged down in stuff like religion and politics, so let’s give them recipes?

The concept came to Zimerman, a former senior creative advertising executive at Foote Cone Belding, one wintry Toronto afternoon while making what would prove to be a life-changing stop by a newsstand. “There was an abundance of red and green magazine covers touting the joys of Christmas. I thought ‘Where are all the dreidels? Where are the latkes?'” said Zimerman. “It wasn’t the first time I felt like the only boy without a Christmas tree, but it was certainly the first time I decided to do something about it.”

Wait, the magazine is in response to being jealous that there isn’t a bunch of Chanukah crap all over North American consumer outlets to the same degree there is Christmas crap?

Relocating to New York with his family, including wife and *Jewish Living* Creative Director Carol Moskot, Zimerman designed the magazine to offer inspirational style ideas and practical, how-to information on a wide range of topics. *Jewish Living* aims to make each day more meaningful, functional and beautiful for its targeted demographic of affluent and influential readers…. Headquartered in New York City, *Jewish Living* targets a well-educated urban professional woman between the ages of 25-54 with a median household income of over $125,000.

Ohhhhh, it’s about living a beautiful rich mildly Jewish life without being bogged down with religion or politics. I get it. How narrow-minded and ridiculous!
Or at least, that was the general take on the press release.
I actually got a copy of the magazine. My mom gave me a copy that one of the doctors at her office got for free. And it’s actually good.
In fact, it’s the only Jewish magazine I’ve seen lately that is not:
1) only for brainy insiders (Lilith, Tikkun)
2) only for hipster insiders (Heeb, etc) or
3) only for people already in the organized Jewish community insiders(all the local Jewish mags and papers).
So, it’s for the vaguely affiliated not so knowledgeable American Jewess — which is most Jews in America. (And don’t get your panties in a bind and start posting defenses of Lilith in the comments, I love these brainy and/or hip insider mags, but I am not most Jews. And sometimes, true to press release, I honestly don’t want to think hard.)
It’s actually about, for example, how to make Chanukah meaningful in a Christian world, from a perspective that is populist AND has traditional content. Instead of like, “Bake Chanukah Christmas cookies!” it’s like, here’s the blessing you make, here’s how to put the candles in, here’s how to change the focus from gifts to something meaningful.
Its first issue has a cover story “Change the World: Top 10 Ways to Make a Difference Right Now” with charity and activist ideas, and a Hebrew glossary of Jewish terms about it.

Tzedaka: ‘The Jewish concept of tzedaka involves both personal and communal obligations,’ says Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot of Yeshiva Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School in New York. The root of the word is tzedek–righteousness and justice. Specifically it means that charity is not simply an individual good, but rather a wider commitment that no one be left behind…

I mean, they quote from a Chovevei rabbi! And quote male and female rabbis throughout the magazine, from all denominations. AND, a sidebar with Maimonides’ ten levels of tzedakah. Notably, the 10th suggestion on the magazine’s list is to start your own non-profit. This is great stuff!
It’s even a little edgy, believe it or not. One article was on three (adopted) Asian Jewish girls becoming bat mitzvah. Another was a piece on Jews and tatoos by a tattooed grandson of a Holocaust survivor; in the sidebar where different rabbis weigh in on whether other body modifications (nose job, breast implants, piercings) are kosher, Rabbi Lisa Edwards is quoted as saying, “I’m wondering why circumcision isn’t on this list.” Oh, and (yay!) quick and easy Shabbat dinner recipes. Which honestly, I will probably use.
My conclusion? Don’t judge a magazine by its press release.
(Also, just have to mention that with the tatooing article was an insert of fake tatoos with words like “pisher” and “bubeleh” and, in Hebrew, “kasher.” I will totally wear that last one to the Hazon food conference.)

16 thoughts on “Jewish Living: New Jewish ladies mag is actually good?!

  1. Well, I definitely would check it out. I mean, I see the argument about it not being rich with religion and such. However, I also know that are many magazines about “home and life” that are Christmas/Christian oriented, even if its not the intention of the publishers. I mean, when was the last time you saw Chanukah celebrated on the cover of Family Circle? Ha ha.
    By the way, the magazine that I believe is the BEST Jewish magazine by far is “Moment”. I really enjoy the articles and the themed issues. I like that it comes every other month so I can have time each Shabbat to read the articles. If you haven’t it’s darn good, check it out. Many of their articles are online on their website.

  2. I would love this magazine! I am getting to old for Heeb ( feel it is a bit raunchy) and Lillith is too feminist for me. But sadly I don’t think it will have a big list of subscribers outside NY.

  3. Lillith is too feminist for me
    Rivka- I’m so curious what you meant. In what ways is LILITH too feminist for you? (I’m not being snarky… I’m genuinely fascinated by people’s thoughts on, and definitions of, feminism). As for me, I think LILITH seems stuck in a less-nuanced,1970s-type feminism sometimes, but I do love it that there are people out there reporting on and advocating for women’s equality in Jewish life. Y’all?

  4. I read JL cover to cover tonight and thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought the tattoo article was a little 2004, but again, I’m not most Jews. The writing was smart and fun, the recipes were fairly chic, there was an interview with an author of a book I actually want to read, etc.
    The cover was a bit barfalicious though. But seriously, I did read it cover to cover. Would I subscribe? Maybe not? I donno. It was handed to me by a friend’s mom who had picked it up at the airport – she said she wanted “to support something that probably no one else would buy.”

  5. Also, just have to mention that with the tatooing article was an insert of fake tatoos with words like “pisher” and “bubeleh” and, in Hebrew, “kasher.”
    How is this different from anything “hipster insider”?

  6. $125k/year income in urban Jewish circles (um, NYC) is not even close to rich. Scraping by, perhaps. What with the cost of Jewish living in these urban areas for the age cohort they seek… $15-20k/year pre-school, same or more for day school, $5000+ for camp, and that’s just for one kid….

  7. How is this different from anything “hipster insider”?
    BZ, I think the big difference is that they’re talking about tattoos 10-15 years after everyone else did. (Sorry, sometimes the snark just writes itself.)
    Glad the mag isn’t as horrible as the press release–but I’m curious to know what kinds of gendered assumptions it did make in the texts itself. Any thoughts, YB?

  8. Actually, Rifka, it is going to get around outside New York, thanks to deals made with local federations. (This does not please my friends in the Local Federation Newspaper business.)
    What I found amazing was that the magazine never talked down to me, and never talked down to its readership. It seemed to be very smart, even when writing about a topic (latkes) I would never pay attention to ordinarily. And while it may be “15 years ago,” it beats some magazines that seem determinedly 30 years ago.

  9. Rooftopper: I got several issues of Lilith a few years ago. I am not a homophobe ( disclaimer..members of my family are gay) but it seemed 75% of the articles were about Lesbians. The rest were feminist topics. Now I have worked full time for 25-28 years so I am not a stay at home baking cookies type either. But I do not like “gender neutral” sidurim, I don’t like Mariams cup and the orange thing at seder. I am not unhip or square ( I just went to the Killers AWESOME concert and I know how to do the “soldier boy”).I am a wanna be Chabadnick and I love the traditional roles of women.So I hope that answers you. I also was reading HEEB anytime I could find it..and then when the whole Jesus issue came out a few years back, I was like GAG! Being weired, just to be weird is sort of dull.
    Interesting…my Mikvah lady told me as more women are becoming observant, she is seeing more tatoos!
    REB YUDEL: I used to have to drive 40 miles to get HEEB and then dig for it at Borders.Most of the time they did not have it.

  10. I’ve come up with some of my own magazine ideas. I’m just looking for financing to get me through the next few years.
    1. Shtark: premier issue features fashion ideas (you can never go wrong with black!) and a pull-out guide to buying jarred herring.
    2. Modern Shidduch: plan your dream wedding- in 2 weeks or less!
    3. Ess: Feeding your family of 15 nutritiously- on a budget that won’t push your wife’s parents into bankruptcy
    4. Guitar G-d: Top reform rabbis share their secrets
    5. Maidel: taking the “frumpy” out of “frum”

  11. BZ wrote:
    Also, just have to mention that with the tatooing article was an insert of fake tatoos with words like “pisher” and “bubeleh” and, in Hebrew, “kasher.”
    How is this different from anything “hipster insider”?

    If it were hipster insider, it would say “apicorus” in Hebrew. 🙂
    Danya wrote:
    Glad the mag isn’t as horrible as the press release–but I’m curious to know what kinds of gendered assumptions it did make in the texts itself. Any thoughts, YB?
    Well, I think the magazine is making the assumptions put out in its press release. It’s definitely for an affluent, straight, married female crowd with children still in the house or just in college. It assumes the women reading it have free time to cook meals, throw parties, and create food drives.
    I would be surprised to find a first person article about a lesbian coming out in Jewish community. I would not be totally surprised to find a first person article about how to deal with/help a child or family member who has come out to you with a helpful sidebar of resource websites and soundbites from different rabbis about it. For instance, the tattoo article was written by a man outside the magazine’s demographic, and then a sidebar short piece written by a mother whose daughter came home from college with a hamsa tattoo.
    The assumptions are definitely also that Jewish women are interested in getting married and creating Jewish homes for their families, and also that they are likely to be the ones who have primary responsibility for the Jewish content of their homes. All of which, actually, doesn’t seem so off base on the whole.
    Also, I have to put in what my mom wrote to me when I sent her the link to this post after she gave it to me: “I read it before I gave it to you. I wasn’t sure what you would think of it. I thought you’d think it was too mainstream.” Hee hee.

  12. YH – Sorry I missed you at the HAZON Food Conference. We were there…
    Would have loved to have seen that KOSHER tattoo.

  13. judi – when you do the “Guitar G-d” thing don’t just limit it to Reform. Some of us chassid boys can shred a bit too!

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