Let It Be Said: We Run This Bitch

Jason Maoz at the Jewish Press has an interesting strategy for making his blog relevant — picking fights with me. I suppose he figures if he pisses me off often enough that I’ll keep driving traffic to his dinky little weblog and increase the Jewish Press’ share of the jblog market. So I’m gonna throw him his last bone here just to make a salient and long overdue point.
Call it my Al Gore moment — an unsettling moment of hubris if you must. But the sheer fact of the matter is that the Jewish Press now has a weblog because of me and everyone else’s other favorite blogger they love to hate, Steven I. Weiss.
I have been blogging on Jewish issues since before any single reader of Jew School had ever even heard of a blog. Hell, I was blogging before even I’d heard of a blog — the term hadn’t been coined yet. I launched my first online journal in 1998, during my freshman year of college. In fact, if you look back through the Orthodox Anarchist archives, which began with my move to Blogger in 2001, you’ll find ruminations on Judaism from nearly the outset.
Jew School and Protocols (Weiss’ original blog and the first ever Jewish group blog), it should be known, debuted within a month of each other (after I’d decided to split my blog up into three sites, Jew School, Jakeneck and SHTV). Weiss focused on the YU scene, and I focused on the burgeoning “New Jew” revival that was then just beginning to take off in NYC. When we started out, Weiss hated me actually, and used to pick fights with me too. Now I’m his webmaster, responsible for the design and hosting of Canonist and CampusJ, as well as the configuration of Iconia and Jewess. Protocols has long since folded, yet Jew School continues to reign as the longest-lived and still-relevant and going Jewish weblog, six years on.
Weiss’ sites reflect only a small percentage of the number of weblogs I have either launched or helped launch in the course of the past six years, and I can hardly tell you how many Jewish organizations contact me in a given week asking for help in getting started in the blogging world. Many of the most popular jblogs that exist today are, in fact, sites that I either inspired or was hired to build due to my experience in the field.
Here’s a trivia question: Do you know why Jewlicious, the most popular and prominent of Jewish megablogs, exists? As CK himself revealed to me, and then affirmed in his ynet interview two years back, he began Jewlicious to stick it to me. He was trolling the threads on Jew School at about the time I started opening up to leftist views on Israel and decided he needed to provide a counterbalance to what he felt was the damaging impression of Israel I was promoting. (He likes to say “other Jewish blogs” — but at the time, Jew School was the only left-wing Jewish blog online, period.) Actually, the first ever reader comment posted to Jewlicious was written by Douglas Rushkoff, who at the time was contributing to Jew School (and who, by the way, despite being a technoculture enthusiast, only began blogging after my repeated insistence that he do so). Likewise, since Jewlicious began, I have been the repeated subject of posts there, both flattering and unflattering. Suffice to say, my biggest competitor is only successful because he took the model I pioneered and sought to do it “better” than me.
Thus, the truth is inescapable: Jew School set the gold standard. We developed the jblogging genre. We taught the Jewish world how to blog. We set the agenda.
And while everyone else was murmuring about this whole Internet thing being a drop in the bucket and totally irrelevant, we were pushing the limits of Jewish content, design aesthetic and web technology, opening up a world that today comprises the jblogosphere as we know it, with practically every Jewish organization and rabbi on earth now jumping on the blogging bandwagon. There’s hardly a jblogger out there who isn’t familiar with Jew School. And even if they despise everything we’re about, they have defined themselves in relation to us — even Maoz is defining himself in relation to us. We are the rule by which all other jblogs are measured. And man, do they love trading on our success by picking fights with us.
Sure, we have our flat months. The site isn’t always great nor does it always measure up to what I aspire for it to be. And certainly our content and our viewpoints are not for everyone. But nonetheless, we paved the road. We made jblogging relevant and an integral part of the Jewish community. We made it matter.
So, Mr. Maoz — and anyone else for that matter — can talk all the trash they like and pick all the fights they want with me, but there’s a reason the Jewish Press is now launching a weblog and I’m not, for example, launching a shitty newspaper. He can be as smug and condescending as he likes. The sheer fact that he feels the need to contend with us proves beyond a doubt how much we matter, and how much we continue to matter.
Sociologist Steven M. Cohen has said “What impresses me most about Dan Sieradski and the other young creative people at Matzat (Jew School’s parent organization) is that they obviously ‘get it’ — they know how to communicate effectively to Jews of their own generation, with the right issues, language, aesthetics, and technology.” Likewise, Jewish historian Ari Kelman has said that Jew School is “the most important thing happening online in the Jewish community.”
We paved the foundation Maoz is building on. We went from being nobodies to an “obvious target” for the Jewish Press — one of America’s most “established” Jewish newspapers — who have seemingly felt it incumbent upon themselves to bust us down a notch no less than three times since their site launched no more than two weeks ago.
If that doesn’t speak to the power of Jew School, I don’t know what does.
To Jew School’s loyal readers: I love you, and we couldn’t have come this far without you.
Oh, and to Jason — I may be an advocate for the decriminalization of marijuana (which apparently is indicative of being an irresponsible stoner in your book), but hey, at least I don’t protect sex offenders by attacking their accusers, nor do I employ convicted slanderers like Steven Plaut. Or rather, if this is what I have accomplished while stoned, you should fear that which I’m capable of when fully sober.
Carl Sagan, stoner astrophysicist, rest in peace.

11 thoughts on “Let It Be Said: We Run This Bitch

  1. I thought advocating marijuana decriminalization was acceptable in the jewish world already? Doesn’t every single religious person under a certain age smoke weed already?

  2. Kyle’s mom, I’m actually very glad that Mobius bothered with them. Obviously, others don’t make an effort to look at the achievements made through this website. Maybe they are trying to convince themselves otherwise, and who knows for what reason? Perhaps because their own work pales in comparison.
    If anyone calls this website useless, well, that will nver be a fact. That would be a personal opinion. Why? Simply put – I feel the change. Every other day I come here, I am inspired to do more, and hell, I’m not even Jewish! So you can see the ways in which this community is reaching out to non-Jewish communities.
    I’m an Arab-Muslim reader, and a huge fan of this blog (which I consider more like a growing network, actually.) I can totally relate to the views expressed here and I seriously appreicate the tone in which these views are expressed in – even as a Muslim, I am taken into consideration. I feel hopeful about our future when I see how these young intelligent folks react, the same people that my society refers to as “enemies.”
    I came here to learn more about Jews without the whole socio-political propaganda that bores the hell out of this generation, and I’m getting what I’m coming from: people to relate to. So many other Jewish blogs are hideously boring, and sometimes plain threatening and thus stupid, this one gives an entirely different perspective, one which we are not really aware of. I encourage my Arab and Muslim friends to visit this when they express a lack of a connection with Jews their age, because even though this place revolves around Jewish writers and their thoughts, events, and experiences, you can definitely see the many similarities we share. I first found out about this place during the summer and couldn’t get enough of it ever since – more than that, I am interested in Jews and my hope is restored that I can actually befriend and reason with them. What do you call that? I call it power. These are people who know what they’re doing. The majority of the other bloggers are just people with a keyboard who are going through a blogging phase, but this is more than that. You can tell from the effort. This place is alive and will stay alive and refreshing.
    Jewschool is one of the best things to happen to the internet since Google. It’s a cyber movement. Way more than just a mere group blog – I bet many of your “silent” fans believe that.
    You are inspiring. Keep it up. As a practicing Muslim I feel closer to Jews through this blog and I know that many of them are decent people who do consider our thoughts/feelings. Never have I been offended throughout my stay here, just comforted, relaxed, and hopeful. Very, very hopeful. I hope this comment is proof of the fact that you should never give up no matter how many annoying people try to get under your skin.

  3. I think Jewschool’s diversity of opinion — between the articles and the comments — are what make Jewschool so great.
    My lamentable omission from the “favorites” list notwithstanding, Jewschool will go down in history as the blog which started it all. This JBlog revolution, now extending from Lakewood to Le Marais, was all started by the one who “stays running Yerushalayim like a treadmill.”
    Act like a Congressional Budget Committee and give yourself MAD credit. 😀

  4. Here’s my Mobius imitation: “Waaaaaaa, I’m old school! Waaaaaaa – I was here waaaaaaaaaay before you! Waaaaaaaa – Matisiyahu sold out and is now suffering from depression because he knows I hate him. Waaaaaaaaaa! Waaaaaaaaaa! Waaaaaaaaa!”
    Seriously, I haven’t seen anything this self-congratulatory, nor homoerotic (let’s face it, it’s a sausage-fest around here) since my last all-ages matinee at CB’s…

  5. funny… the thing that keeps me coming back to jewschool above all others is NOT its revolutionary approach to jewish news crowdsourcing, NOR its ability to represent the full-tilt jewish experience of the intarweb… it’s the everlasting amusement i derive from reading mobius’ self-indulgent, self-righteous back-patting about how he singlehandedly invented jewish blogging, how he found out about matisyahu before matisyahu was matisyahu, and how he is responsible for an entire culture. seriously, dude, who gives a shit who got here first!!! quit waving your wang in our faces and get on with it!

  6. yeah, i do it every single day of the week. in six years, all i’ve ever written about is how awesome i am and how much everyone else sucks. and how i invented jewish culture. and how i was first to land on plymouth rock. that’s how jewschool developed its large readership, in fact: people are just enthralled with me endlessly talking about the fact that i rock. that’s why i get to speak at conferences for the uja, the nfjc, and so forth: they want to hear me talk about how great i am, because i clearly have no knowledge or experience of anything else.
    after all, i’ve maybe three times in six years defended a venture that comes under virulent attack from those to the right of me every single solitary day of the week, including from say, major north american jewish newspapers. and we all know that such biannual check-ins in which i tell these jerks to kiss my ass amount to my sum total contribution to the jblogosphere.
    or maybe i have in fact accomplished something and in doing so made myself a target for attacks like yours which serve only to make you feel big by believing that you’re making me feel small.
    maybe right now you think you’re the fuckin’ coolest park ranger on the planet. kol hakavod. it doesn’t make you any less of a douche than say, me…

  7. it’s a necessary part of the package. People who make waves and start new things generally come with a lot of ego. So in order to get all the crunchy goodness that is Jewschool, we occasionally have to put up with self-indulgent rants. It’s the price of admission, and one I can live with.

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