Once Mireille Silcoff had been hired to edit a new quarterly Jewish magazine for young people, she needed to give it a name.
"At one point I just started asking people, 'What are the first things you think of when you think about your Jewishness?'" Silcoff recalled. "You can't imagine how many times 'guilt' came up. And 'pleasure' came up enough to be interesting."
Guilt & Pleasure -- "A magazine for Jews and the people who love them" -- hit newsstands across North America last month, offering readers content ranging from long-form essays and memoirs to fiction, comics, photography and archival material.
The magazine aims not only to inform and entertain, its creators say, but to get Jews talking about issues they think ought to be more fully explored.
Each issue of Guilt & Pleasure will revolve around a theme. The first, called "Home & Away," will examine issues of "place and identity and the nexus between them," publisher Roger Bennett said. It includes original contributions from novelists Gary Shteyngart, Lara Vapnyar and Etgar Keret as well as graphic artist Ben Katchor. The second issue will look at fights and battles; the third will be about magic.
Each edition will be connected to interactive Web-based discussion guides.
As a "strong proponent" of secular Jewish culture, Shteyngart -- who wrote the best-selling "The Russian Debutante's Handbook" -- says typical Jewish newspapers, emanating from a "very organized community basis," don't speak to him. Guilt & Pleasure, which he called a Jewish Paris Review, does.
"For as long as there have been Jews in America, there have been Jewish secular cultural enterprises," he said.
Still, he sometimes wonders what, if anything, binds non-religious Jews.
"What among secular Jews makes us a community? Are we a community? I don't have an answer for that," he said.
But he's hoping Guilt & Pleasure will spur some discussion on the topic.
For more information, visit www.guiltandpleasure.com.
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