“I see them as human values, not to say those aren’t Jewish values also. But I think it would be unfair to credit them to a certain sect of humanity. Listen, I think there is great stuff in Judaism; I think there is great stuff in Christianity; I think there is great stuff in the Islamic faith. I think there is great stuff in the Boy Scouts and Little League, all these different manifestations of these value sets. At the end of the day, I think they are just logical principles that one would arrive at if one didn’t know who they were going to be. It’s like ‘Alright, this is a basic set up for how to do right.’ Which you could say is a stronger word than good.”
Ben Goldhirsh, the 27-year-old millionaire behind GOOD magazine, told me that when I asked him if his company, which is aimed at people with a strong social conscience—like Mother Jones or Sojourners from a more humanistic perspective—was rooted in the Jewish values he learned as a kid. I profiled him in this week’s Jewish Journal:
Goldhirsh sees the GOOD brand, which also includes Reason Pictures, a film company he started in 2004, as much more than a media organization. It’s “a meta-company,” he said, “a lifestyle brand” that appeals to the “reason-based sensibilities” of people like him. People who know privilege and yet want to change the world in a big way.
“It is a revolution of self-interest,” said publisher Max Schorr, a prep school friend of Goldhirsh’s who skipped law school to help start the magazine. “In the past, if you pursued your self-interest, it was considered selfish. For us, the process of pursuing our self-interest leads to more than ourselves. If we just pursued ourselves all the time, it would lead to a lousy life.”
The timing for GOOD was not a month too soon. Not long before the first issue was published in September 2006, Al Gore (whose son, Albert Gore III, happens to be associate publisher) and “An Inconvenient Truth” made combating climate change fashionable; going green and being eco-friendly got downright trendy. Suddenly, it was cool to care not just about the environment but societal issues and the whole world around you.
“If doing good used to be a pejorative and kind of lame, or somehow was characterized that way by culture, which I don’t know how the hell that happened, then certainly being ignorant and living an irrelevant life is now that way,” Goldhirsh said. “An engaged life is where it is at, which is thrilling to me.”
Personally, Goldhirsh is “cause agnostic,” so he didn’t want to encourage some passions and stifle others; he simply wanted to celebrate a social awareness, which is why the magazine’s debut cover featured in white block lettering “_____ LIKE YOU GIVE A DAMN.”
“If this doesn’t become the dominant sensibility,” Goldhirsh said, “we are f—-ed.”