Full Circle for a New Voices Editor

My first day at New Voices, I remember scanning my desk. It had all the randomness and quirk of the magazine I’d been hired to run: a picture of the original 1970s staff sporting impressive Jew-fros, an old student comic about Israeli politics, and a golem figurine seeming to guard the office stapler.

The New Voices golem solemnly guards our office supplies from harm.

Later that day, a former editor met me over kosher Indian food and described my list of tasks for the next couple years. I smiled. I nodded. And internally I channeled Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.”

I was fresh out of college, new to New York City, and in that moment, I was excited –

but I also had no idea how to take the subway to my job, let alone do it. I had never run a national publication. I had never headed a nonprofit. I contemplated why I thought moving cross-country to take on a scrappy Jewish student magazine sounded like a good idea.

Now I know why.

Since I took this job, folks have often asked me if the kids are alright – if Jewish millennials are meaningfully engaged and how we as a community are supposed to measure that engagement. After working with students for two years, it’s a simple question to answer. Yes, they’re engaged, in ways that are thoughtful, creative, diverse, and sometimes wonderfully weird. And to see that engagement, all you have to do is read what young Jews have to say.

Across New Voices, students are delving into what Jewish identity means in an age of intersectional activism. They’re investigating their complex relationships to Israel and diaspora. They’re challenging storied Jewish institutions and independently exploring and innovating their Jewish practice as adults, often for the first time. Every pitch in my inbox, every brainstorm session with a student writer, every piece I’ve edited, whether I agreed with it or not, has shown me just how vibrant the Jewish future looks. And I have been awed and entertained by that glimpse.

Today, per New Voices tradition, I hand over my bright orange Jewish media baby to a brand new editor close to the Jewish college experience. Her name is Abby Holtzman, she’s awesome, you should read her bio to see just how awesome and then write her lots of articles.

Per millennial tradition, I also thought about ghosting without a final post. Because goodbyes imply finality and let’s be real, I will live on in the New Voices’ comments section forever. Goodbyes are also universally terrible. They’re either too clipped or too drawn out, too sappy or too cavalier.

So, instead of goodbye, I just want to say thank you. Thank you to this crazy organization for putting a platform in the hands of the young and inexperienced since 1970, for trusting in their vision. Thank you to the New Voices veterans who mentored me over many phone calls and cups of coffee. And most of all, thank you to New Voices’ student writers, whose hard work, journalistic inquiry, and unadulterated chutzpah made me excited to go to work every morning – and keeps me continually excited about where American Jewish life is headed. You’ve created this magazine, and I’ve been honored to watch.

The New Voices desk has some new paraphernalia now: a postcard of Jewish anarchist Emma Goldman, old stickers and schedules from the past two Jewish student journalism conferences, a complimentary punk klezmer album for review… I can’t wait to see what Abby will add and how the desk will look to incoming editors, wondering to themselves what they’ve just taken on.

Whoever you are, don’t worry. You made the right choice.

Sara Weissman was the Editor in Chief of New Voices from October, 2016 through June, 2018. She’ll be starting Columbia Journalism School in the fall.


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