The Future of Jewish Currents

The March-April issue of Jewish Currents, just off the press, is the last that The Workmen's Circle will be publishing. The current recession has hit the organization hard and made it impossible for WC to sustain the magazine. Jewish Currents is therefore once again an independent magazine — as we were before 2005, for nearly 60 years. (The Workmen's Circle is giving us a great deal of support in the form of meeting and event space, office help, and more. This is a sorrowful parting, and both institutions remain in a mutually supportive relationship.)

Now, my father, a cynical man, used to keep a cartoon on his desk: two guys in a dungeon, chained wrists and ankles to the wall on which they are hanging, with beards down to their pupiks. Caption: "Now here's my plan . . ."

Nu, here's my plan — notwithstanding the crisis of print media, notwithstanding the marginality of secular Jewish identity, notwithstanding all the challenges —

Right now I'm fundraising like mad — one-on-one, and through a mailing of a Passover tabloid featuring a rhymed Hagada-in-verse, a magic trick, and a tsedoke appeal. (If you're reading this blog but you're not a subscriber to Jewish Currents — tsk tsk — and would nevertheless like a copy of this Passover tabloid, write to me at this blog, including your address, and I'll send it.)

The next issue of the magazine, May-June, will be a special issue featuring only two items: a lengthy article by April Rosenblum that casts an analytical, historical look at the decline of Jewish secularism, and a full-length comic book (of sorts) by me that searches for a future for Jewish secularism. These features will be widely circulated in advance of publication to prompt discussion within progressive, secular Jewish circles (and beyond) and to some written responses, which will be published in the same issue with the April's article and my cartoon. The issue will, in essence, constitute a discussion of "Whither Secular Jewish Identity?" — which is not irrelevant to the question, "Whither Jewish Currents?" (If you'd like to see a pdf of these items in order to respond, please write to me at this blog.)

We won't be putting out a summer issue (though there will be a special "Jewish Currents at the beach" mailing to subscribers that will be highly entertaining) — and then, starting in the new year, the magazine will be produced as a quarterly, with a new look and 16 new pages (64 instead of 48). These new pages will be devoted mostly to visual art, semiotic irreverence, poetry and fiction, and more — as well as to a new column on Jewish approaches to environmental issues.

All of the current Jewish Currents features will be preserved — the Israel column, the Mameloshn column, Concealed/Revealed," "Our Secular Jewish Heritage," editorials, and all the rest — but there'll be this new aspect of art, creativity, playfulness, and environmental consciousness that will be unique in Jewish publishing and highly attractive, I'll wager, to younger readers, as well as to the Jewish artistic community.

Artists and writers, consider this a call: Send your stuff to Jewish Currents!

We welcome your tax-deductible contributions (you can use PayPal at our home page). In the past month, we've raised $13,000 towards our goal of $20,000 by this summer. It's a reasonable goal, and I hope you'll help us to get there. In addition, we especially need your gift subscriptions, to help build the Jewish Currents circulation to the level we deserve.

This is a 64-year-old institution that is well worth preserving and expanding. As we wrote in our March-April editorial, our magazine has "a basic message that is alive in the hearts of thousands of American Jews who have never even heard of us. It is the message that Jews 'who wish to be true to ourselves,' as the classic Yiddish writer Y.L. Peretz said, must ask 'vital questions' about 'conscience, freedom, culture, ethics.' At Jewish Currents, we believe that there is something fundamental in Jewish thought and experience that fuels dissent and a countercultural perspective, and that seeks, in the words of Leon Blum (socialist prime minister of pre-war France), 'the ideal reconstruction of the world.'"

Jewish Currents will endure and grow. I'm confident of this, and I'm working my tush off to make it so.


Henry Foner Turns 90!

It's calendaring time!

First and foremost, Henry Foner, our beloved labor activist, songster (and Jewish Currents editorial board member) will become 90 on Monday, March 23. Come celebrate: 5:30 to 8:30 at the 1199/SEIU Penthouse in NYC, 330 W. 42nd St., 33rd floor. The event is free. If you’re in the NY metro area, be there or be square!

The day before, on Sunday March 22nd, my second “platform” as a fellow at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture takes place at 11 AM. The topic: “Socialism and Spirituality.” Newsweek magazine headlined a recent cover, “We’re All Socialists Now.” As the current economic crisis makes “socialism” a bit less of a dirty word in America, what spiritual and ethical insights can we bring to the discussion? The Society is located at 53 Prospect Park West (2nd Street, right across from the park, in Park Slope). Lunch and discussion to follow the platform. If you haven’t been to BSEC, this is a great day to check out one of the Ethical Culture movement’s finest and interesting societies. For more, visit www.bsec.org.

Third, Jewish Currents will be sponsoring a weekend at Circle Lodge, July 17-19, in Hopewell Junction, New York, focusing on the line between secularism and religion in Jewish life today. Leaders and participants from both sides of that line will be on hand to make sholem (peace) and to challenge one another to deeper thinking. Details to follow, but save the date for a wonderful, leisurely, provocative weekend. (Daytrippers will be permitted.)