Let’s face it, there’s just too much to read out there. Our local paper for one, the NY Times for another, The Atlantic, New Yorker, Slate and for those of us who enjoy reading about business, the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Fortune, as well as more general offerings such as Wired, Fast Company and some photography magazines. As far as Jewish reading goes, I’ve bitterly given up my Jerusalem Report subscription because they kept asking for $80/year, but there’s still the Jerusalem Post, Ha’aretz, Yediot, The Forward, JTA, some blogs out there and now there’s a new publication online, Tablet Magazine.
I have to say that despite some tough competition, Tablet is holding its own and then some. Their articles tend to possess unusual depth, a high quality of writing, a broad and rich slate of subject matter and leisurely length that permits the authors to explore topics at length.
Take for example Seth Lipsky’s recent article about Marek Edelman, a leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Well, okay, it’s not exactly about Marek Edelman, it’s about the Bund. Mmm, well maybe it’s not exactly about the Bund either, but the loyalty that movement engendered. It’s also about the trajectory of significant movements that have touched the Jewish world profoundly in the past century. Then again, it’s also a lament for the passing of a man who maintained his values steadfastly throughout a challenging life that could and should have thrown his ideology into question on many occasions. And of course, it’s about Israel today and the problems it faces.
Here’s the first paragraph:
A wonderful novel could be written about the year 1897. That’s the year of the first issue of the newspaper known as the Jewish Daily Forward, which became a tribune of the idea that Jews could become Americans. It’s also the year in which Theodor Herzl convened at Basel the First Zionist Congress, which stood for the idea that the Jews could find redemption in the Land of Israel. It was also the year in which, at a secret meeting at Vilna, there was founded the General Association of Jewish Workers, known as the Bund, which reckoned Jews needn’t go anywhere but could find their future in Socialism.
Here’s the concluding paragraph:
What a concluding chapter that would make to the novel 1897â€”an aging Revisionist defense minister of Israel, weeping, if figuratively and from a distance, over the Bundist-bier of Marek Edelman. Let us ask what would prompt a hero like Arens to make this kind of bow to a hero at the other end of the ideological spectrum. We have come through a period marked by a vanishing Bund and an American Jewry in a crisis of intermarriage and assimilation. So it is a haunting question. No doubt Arens knows that we are in a time as dangerous for the Zionist enterpriseâ€”and so for all Jewsâ€”as any in history. We are in a period in which, if we are not careful, the dream of Herzl and the millions whose lives Zionism saved and inspired could be dealt a fate as cruel as that which was dealt to the socialists and to the Bund. It’s a moment when the example of a man like Marek Edelman towers over the generations.
Beautiful. Informative. Deep. Interesting.
I say that because I would normally probably glance over an article such as this and skip it. I read this one and decided it was time to pay homage to Alana Newhouse and the crew she’s put together.
Tablet is built on the foundation of Nextbook, a website and publisher that attempted to bring a focus to interesting Jewish books and writings. I don’t believe Nextbook ever got a large readership primarily because while well written, it was a cerebral approach to Jewish publishing and probably not on many readers’ wavelengths.
Not being from New York, I’m not quite sure of who is funding Tablet (and since I’m not a reporter, I’m not picking up the phone to ask somebody at that publication), but it appears to be getting its funding through Nextbook. According to the JTA, Nextbook is a non-profit which used to receive about $4.5 million a year from Keren Keshet Foundation and now receives about $3 million a year, most of which seems to go toward maintaining Tablet. Tablet has an impressive stable of writers and editors apparently on full time salary and it shows in the product they put out.
Having said that, I found this statement by Tablet’s editor, Alana Newhouse, a bit odd:
â€œThere shouldn’t be the impression that we sunk a big load of money into this.â€
$3 million a year may not be much money for a New York publication, but it seems to be a fair chunk of money by other standards. At Jewlicious, for example, I believe our budget, thanks to the small amount of advertising we get, is a couple to a few thousand dollars a year which ck uses to keep the site running, buy some cigarettes and maybe pay rent once or twice a year. The rest of us are paid nothing but somehow content gets published. Granted, it’s not edited (thank god, since I get to blather on and on), we sometimes post idiotic articles and I cannot compare ck’s or Grandmuffti’s writing to Seth Lipsky’s, but we’re probably running about $3 million bucks a year behind Tablet/Nextbook in our budgeting. This means that Muffti can’t even afford to use a program with a spell-checker, much less compete with Leon Wieseltier ( 😆 ).
Leon Wieseltier? Seth Lipsky? Jeffrey Goldberg? Victor Navasky? Daphne Merkin? Or lesser known, capable writers such as Jordan Hirsch (he’s an intern!) who wrote this fascinating article about Michael Oren and Dore Gold’s common links to a group of young committed Jews at Columbia in the early 1970s. Alright, I get the the $3 million. It appears to be money well spent and Tablet is putting out an excellent publication. Congratulations to Tablet and its leaders on entering an extremely competitive marketplace with a quality product that gives the other publications a run for their money.