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“For instance? Well, for instance, what it means to be a man. In a city. In a century. In transition. In a mass. Transformed by science. Under organized power. Subject to tremendous controls. In a condition caused by mechanization. After … Read More

By / November 15, 2006

“For instance? Well, for instance, what it means to be a man. In a city. In a century. In transition. In a mass. Transformed by science. Under organized power. Subject to tremendous controls. In a condition caused by mechanization. After the late failure of radical hopes. In a society that was no community and devalued the person. Owing to the multiplied power of numbers which made the self negligible. Which spent military billions against foreign enemies but would not pay for order at home. Which permitted savagery and barbarism in its own great cities. At the same time, the pressure of human millions who have discovered what concerted efforts and thoughts can do…” — Saul Bellow’s Herzog (1964)

With What Matters Now as Jewcy's tagline, it might seem strange to reach back four decades for an epigraph that describes our intention to move forward. But though the world we live in has changed much since Saul Bellow wrote Herzog, the contours of the quest for meaning remain the same. It's as he described…only more so.

In the thick, messy context of contemporary American life, it’s a remarkable moment to be a Jew. There is unparalleled opportunity for people hell-bent on making a meaningful difference with their lives, but also an unprecedented uncertainty about the relevance of old traditions and institutions.

This much we know: we’re hungry. Hungry for meaning. For community. For continuity and clarity and inspiration. For intelligent, thoughtful analysis of consequential ideas and issues. Our affluence, our boundless access to information, our education and unprecedented acceptance into the cultural mainstream carry with them unlimited possibilities – and unlimited possibilities carry equal measures of hope and fear.

With all this in mind, we present Jewcy, an experiment in irreverence, humility, collaboration, and a journalism of ideas. We will chronicle both the people changing Judaism and those it is helping to change; we’ll challenge conventional wisdom and show impatience with people and organizations who think they've got it all figured out; we’ll reinvent and play with the ideas, shedding light on (and making light of) unquestioned ideologies, sloppy thinking, and agendas that help shape policy, culture, behavior, and belief.

Enough already. What is it?

Jewcy is basically an online ideas-and-culture magazine. But it’s a magazine born of and for a time when technology has made personal expression far easier and far more democratic. The site attempts to integrate original top-down editorial (hatched, crafted, and made pretty by terrific writers and editors and artists in the traditional production process) with content that users generate with the new tools of participatory media, such as blogs, comment sections, wikis, and forums.

We want users, not just readers. Our articles are only the first – not the last – word on the site; and the best of them will stimulate debates in our forums, provoke arguments in the comments' section, create healthy tension between users in our community (that they’ll hash out on their own Jewcy blogs), and catalyze collaborative projects in our wiki pages.

If you’re talking, then Jewcy is succeeding.

We’re aware that allowing for such bottom-up talk makes us vulnerable to the hate-addled ugliness and stupidity pervasive on the Internet. But we’re real believers in this whole World Wide Web thing: to borrow a phrase from Paul Simon, we think there are “angels in the architecture.”

Take a little stroll around. I suggest first logging in and setting up a profile. Our events-sharing network allows you – and organizations in your area — to post events and to see who else in the community is attending. Head over to our blog, the Daily Shvitz, where Jewcy’s editors and writers will give you the spin on the news and the latest from inside Jewcy.

On the Interact page, you can jump into a particular forum and vent or begin collaboratively editing one of the ongoing projects in our wiki. Then there’s the shop, which needs little introduction. It started with two words: Shalom. Motherfucker. And it’s only getting better.

And what about the articles?

As a creature of our medium, we like our articles opinionated and our features participatory. Associate editor Michael Weiss’s story “The Jewish Jihad for Jesus” exemplifies the first dictum, revealing the Jewish converts who lead the Evangelical movement and arguing that Jews are attracted to Evangelicalism for the same reason they were once attracted to Marxism: because it captures the messianic zeal that post-Haskalah Judaism has lost. As for the second, our Big Question debate—the first of many e-mail–driven features enabling spontaneous, informal debate between smart people—stars author and radio host Dennis Prager squaring off over the pride and rage of disbelief with Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. Novelist and former managing editor of the Paris Review Fiona Maazel explains how an inability to derive pleasure from everyday life makes us hilarious. Former New York Press editor Jeff Koyen reports on the (often deserved) horrible reputation of Israelis throughout the world, and why that’s a joyous development. And Arye Dworken, Heeb’s music editor, tracks down the mother of New York’s punk porn empress Joanna Angel, a first generation Jewish immigrant. It’s a fascinating interview with both mother and daughter. There’s the brilliant literary reminiscences of Leigh Buchanan in Dog-Eared (life as a reader); Novelist Jon Papernick’s edifying, and often hilarious, journey towards understanding and possibly recovering a religion he’s rejected in his column “The Perfect Jew”; Neal Pollack’s adventures in parenthood; and really, so much more. Throughout the site, you will find places to leave comments. We hope you take advantage of the opportunity to give us feedback. Your ideas, reactions, and innovative contributions will make this community grow. A final word from Bellow, in one of his more optimistic moments: “The light of truth is never far away, and no human being is too negligible or corrupt to come to it.” We'll test those two propositions, and have some fun along the way. Let's get started.

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