During my second year in college, I helped to found a Jewish journal. Our purpose was two-fold: to provide an outlet for Jewish cultural expression and to speak out forcefully on an array of Jewish issues we felt were ignored by the college’s established Jewish group. My own articles and editorials were almost exclusively works of advocacy. I had little interest in writing entertaining anecdotes or historical essays. This was due, in part, to the conflict I was involved in with the college administration over the pittance of school resources dedicated to enriching its students’ Jewish academic and cultural lives. I became a believer in the importance of nurturing a significant oppositional culture within the Jewish community.
After this experience I was particularly well-situated to take the helm of New Voices and its publisher, the Jewish Student Press Service (JSPS). Both had an impressive history of providing a voice to those Jewish students who were dissatisfied with the agenda of the “Jewish establishment” (e.g. Hillel and the Federations). And both had been run by students who were politically progressive or radical. I fit the traditional mold.
During my two years at New Voices, I published 14 issues of the magazine and ran two JSPS conferences for Jewish student journalists. My goal for each issue of New Voices was simple: to make the upcoming edition better than the last. Over time I adopted certain ground rules. Try to publish articles no other publication would touch (because they were either too controversial or too parochial). Involve a diverse group of writers from a variety of campuses. Include articles for different audiences, balancing profiles with parodies, exposés with editorials, news from college campuses with reports from the Middle East.
My attempt to offer New Voices readers a diverse selection of articles in each issue did not extend to ideological diversity. My vision of New Voices was not to create a forum where left, right, and center would be equally represented. I believed (and continue to believe) that the voices of the center and right received adequate amplification in mainstream Jewish forums. As JSPS had always provided progressives and radicals with a soapbox, New Voices would too.
There were numerous highlights from my two years at New Voices. I formed strong connections to a number of New Voices artists and writers. We published many articles I was proud of, including an award-winning investigation into the “Yale Five” dormitory lawsuit, an extensive arts section with regular reviews of new Jewish music, an article from our Israel bureau interviewing Palestinian students at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, and several of the funniest works of satire ever published in a Jewish magazine. Our collaboration with another independent Jewish student group, Lights in Action, ensured a connection to traditional Jewish text in every issue. And many of the editorials and opinion pieces addressed important issues in a forceful but less-than-pedantic manner.
I also instituted a number of non-content based changes at New Voices. The publication was treated to a graphic design makeover. We began to print in magazine rather than tabloid format. And New Voices initiated direct mail subscriptions to students, allowing us to consistently reach the same group of people on a monthly basis.
For two years I reveled in the unique opportunity to write, edit, and publish, free from any form of censorship, and to influence, in whatever way I could, the multi-billion dollar agenda of Jewish communal organizations. The job of New Voices editor involved unreliable writers, impatient creditors, non-communicative readership, few financial supporters, an ever-expanding list of enemies, and long hours for low pay. But it was the only position I considered for the two years following my graduation from college. There are not many people in the world who would appreciate a job like that. But if you have read this far, you might be one of them.