January 26, 2009
Remembering a prophet of Jewish journalism
Fascinating story by the incomparable Samuel G. Freedman about the short-lived and long-defunct New Jewish Times. The editor was a young Yossi Klein Halevi and first cover was drawn by The Art Spiegelman; an associate editor was Israel Lemberg, senior producer of CNN’s Jerusalem bureau, and the office administrator was “Sex and the City” creator Candace Bushnell.
“With their very first issue, those opinionated slobs declared their independence from the norms of Jewish journalism, whether sober journals like Commentary and Dissent or the boosterish newspapers sponsored by local Jewish federations,” Freedman wrote. “The entire cover consisted of an illustration of a mushroom cloud with the deadpan headline asking, ‘Next Year in Jerusalem?’”
Of course, as Esther predicted, this story has been republished all over since Friday. But what’s even more interesting is that a search for “New Jewish Times” yields a 2004 interview Luke Ford, the consummate critic of Jewish journalism, conducted with Mark:
Ford: “Who funded New Jewish Times?”
Mark: “New Jewish Times was funded by a cousin of Yossi’s, and a scoundrel or two, for who else would publish us? Honestly, I forget their names of these assorted backers and they were forgettable to the process. We often went without pay, and Yossi, Izzy and I were actually shareholders in New Jewish Times, as well, so we stiffed ourselves to pay other writers and workers. We were like a garage band that made the music, pressed our own records, and did did our own distribution, or that’s how it seemed, at least, since we would oversee the whole process from writing to printing to the newsstand. This was in the days before computers, and the magnitude of what that added to the editorial and production process, and to our limited manpower, was too much for us to keep going. Then, one of our backers wanted us to do a mainstream cooking column, or something like that, to mainstrem us into a typical Jewish paper of that era, and we said the hell with it. If we were going to do that, something that was outside the reason we went into Jewish journalism, there was no point. Such are the liberties of youth. We could walk away. As Gertrude Stein might have said, if we were going to work for someone else, we could work for someone else.”