Jewish Magazines

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


The People of the Periodical

Even our worst enemies call us “The People of the Book”. That phrase is used by Moslems to describe Jews on the grounds that we furnished the Torah to the world. Of course, the enmity shown Israel over so many centuries stems directly from that fact. The Torah requires us to live in a moral community, to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), to refrain from adultery, lying, stealing and murder. Even envy is prohibited and the stranger is to be treated as well as the native.

All this doesn’t sit well with a culture devoted to homicide bombing, bloodshed, killing and the treatment of women as if they were less than cattle. Hence the hatred.

We Jews, however, live by that book, the Torah. In addition we have developed an immense religious literature and conjointly a vast number of writings beyond religion in every field of human endeavor. We are the best educated people on earth. We have proportionately more college graduates than anyone else. We have made almost all the major advances in the sciences and medicine. Our enemies are of course most willing to take advantage of all we have discovered and invented even as they scream their psychotic hatred throughout the world.

Meanwhile we continue to lead. We are not only active in all the secular intellectual activities in this world, we also write and publish incessantly about ourselves. This is visible by taking a look at our publications. It is impossible to list here all the books published about Judaism, Jews, Israel, Torah and other Jewish subjects. Suffice it to take a look at our periodicals.

In this country alone, there are 170 periodicals published on a monthly or quarterly basis. These range from journals emphasizing religion to secular journals promoting the opposite. There are journals devoted to the national liberation movement of the Jewish people called Zionism, to journals such as TIKKUN, which is devoted to the destruction of Israel.

Let us take a look at TIKKUN first. That journal may as well be published by Arafat. For example, one issue included an article entitled: “The Murderous Behavior of the Israeli Air Force”. There is no mention of the murder of Jewish children, women and men slaughtered by homicide bombers. There is even an article by a German born Jew now calling himself Uri Avnery telling his Arab friends that anti-semitism is bad. No doubt the haters will immediately cease to broadcast their hate propaganda including the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other Nazi trash. In the same issue there is an attack on American Jews who come to Israel to make contributions and boost the morale of the beleaguered Jews there. According to TIKKUN these American Jews are fools who ought to side with the “suffering of the Palestinians.” The truth is of course that every Arab immigrant to Israel (now called Philistines or Palestinians) who was ever killed, wounded, disadvantaged in any way brought it on himself. For one hundred years the Arabs have forced Israel to defend itself against Arab murder so that all and every death on the Arab side, all and every destruction of a house, every wounding of an Arab and their poverty was caused by them and by them alone. They are reaping what they sowed. Not one Arab would ever have suffered anything if they had been willing to live in peace with Israel and the Jewish people all these years.

Another journal among the 170 published regularly in the Jewish community is FARBRENGEN, a Yiddish word meaning “to get together”. This periodical is published by Chabad and is devoted to the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Lubavitch is a town in Lithuania where many of the original followers of the Chabad movement lived. Chabad is an acronym for three Hebrew words, for understanding, knowledge and reason.

The publishers of FARBRENGEN are the Lubavitcher Chassidim. The word Chasid means pious. The world headquarters of the Lubavitch movement are in Brooklyn. From there the 200,000 followers of the Rebbe derive their instructions aimed at improving the world by means of charity, study and morality. The last Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, died in 1994 at the age of 92. He is generally regarded as a Jewish saint who was so impressive in his immense contributions to Jewish and non-Jewish life that he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously.

Today, Farbrengen seeks to perpetuate his work. Recent articles published there include a discussion of the “kosher” laws and the need to read the Bible in its original. The language of the Bible is of course Hebrew. Therefore, those of us who do not know Hebrew cannot ever really know the contents of the Bible because translation is never accurate but only approximate and sometimes utterly wrong. I can assure you of this because I have published a number of translations and know that the meaning of the original can seldom be translated into a second language. Verbatim translations are almost always wrong because meaning changes as languages change. Therefore, the article in Farbrengen concerning translations of the Torah is most accurate, succinct and commendable. Let us learn Hebrew.

MOMENT is another journal of some importance in Jewish life. It was founded by the writer and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel in 1975. The co-founder, Leonard Fein, first edited this magazine. Now it is in the hands of Hershel Shanks. This journal discusses almost any Jewish topic and tends to take a “left” position, i.e. it is devoted to the “liberal” point of view. The magazine has 65,000 subscribers and publishes such articles as “Hookers in the Holy Land”, “Adultery: Re-visiting the Seventh Commandment”, “Is Israel Still Important to American Jews?” and other heresies. A recent article discussed the proclivity of Jews to regard themselves as “secular” and non-religious but Jews just the same. This is a phenomenon not encountered very much among Christians and others because the secularists in America usually do not regard themselves as Christians. Evidently, we Jews want it both ways. This is just fine since we all know that wherever there are two Jews there at least three opinions.

My own recommendation is that the Jewish secularists and non-believers should come to “shul”, i.e. a synagogue, a Beth Hatefillah, every Shabbat and meet other secularists there. It is a great experience. We read the psalms, we sing, we study Torah, we enjoy each other's company and we gossip at the kiddush. Come and join us and bring your opinions with you.

I have mentioned three journals here. Do take the time to look at the others in the library of the Bureau of Jewish Education or in a synagogue library or in the public library. If you do, you may even be tempted to write an article for one of them. Try it. It is a great experience.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Grandparents:  A New Look at the Supporting Generation (with Dr. Ursula A., Falk, 2002), & Man's Ascent to Reason (2002).

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