Jewcy is a Jewish internet portal featuring original writing about the arts, culture and politics. When I first encountered the site I was quite excited because when it comes to Jewish media, there is very little that is hip, unconventional or provocative. Jewcy appeared to fit that mold with bold graphics, outrageous headlines, challenging ideas.
I even spent a week writing blog posts for Jewcy at the invitation of editor, Michael Weiss. The fact that I was drubbed in the comment threads quite savagely seemed a price worth paying for breaking out of the isolation of my own blog (this was before I began writing for Comment is Free or Huffington Post). After my guest blogging stint, I couldn’t even get anyone at Jewcy to reply to queries, let alone publish anything.
Then a few months ago, out of the blue, Weiss approached me about moving my blog, lock, stock and barrel, to Jewcy. He said that Meryl Yourish’s blog and my own would be the only political blogs included in a larger project to feature a variety of Jewish blogs on the Jewcy site. We would be paid based on the site traffic we generated. It seemed an intriguing idea and frankly I was flattered, especially when Weiss told me I was the blog with the largest existing audience that had been invited to join Jewcy.
I looked over a deal memo and with a few exceptions liked what I saw and told Weiss that. The next step was to receive a formal contract, which Weiss promised. I waited, and waited, and waited. For weeks. Nothing. Weiss reassured that the project was still going forward.
Then the Gaza war happened. For some reason (I never spent much time reading the Jewcy site), I looked at the politics section of the site to see how Jewcy was covering the war. Of the 20 or so stories on the main page, only one by Dan Sieradski (which announced a demonstration), was remotely critical. The rest more of less savagely denounced Hamas and cheered on Israel’s assault. There was no doubt and certainly nothing remotely approaching criticism.
I began thinking about the role David Corn and Marc Cooper had played as house liberals when Pajamas Media first launched. I wondered whether perhaps I was being used to provide a liberal veneer on an otherwise right-wing pro-Israel site. I wrote to Weiss and asked whether he could offer more balance in the politics section regarding the war. I expressed some of my concerns about the site’s rightward slant and whether I might be a token liberal voice.
And that was how I was disinvited from joining the Jewcy family. Weiss took humbrage at my criticism and said it must mean I didn’t want to participate in the blogging project. That’s not actually what I’d meant, but it’s just as well he interpreted it that way. If we hadn’t had the falling out, I still be waiting for that contract.
The resulting exchange between Weiss and myself was vituperative, ugly and defensive. It made me realize that despite the fact that the Jewcy editor had invited me to join the site, he was holding his nose while doing so.
JTA announced today that its founders and financial backers, including Jewish neocon Michael Steinhardt, no longer felt Jewcy was a viable business venture in the prevailing economy. They were pulling the plug, though allowing staff to retain the site name and domain in order to continue it independently.
Before agreeing to join Jewcy, I asked a few friends if they’d had any contact with the Jewcy folks. What one wrote was eye-opening:
I personally think the leadership is a bunch of depraved, Heeb style, designer drug type Jews – and having gone to their […] party, I can tell you that the experience showed me a kind of depraved night club, money / sex / celebrity scene that I thought only existed in LA and didn’t happen in an explicitly Jewish context. Anyways, that’s my ringing endorsement!
[Founder Michael] Steingart started Jewcy as a Jewish themed party night at his Ars Nova theater space in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan. That eventually spawned a clothing brand that sported off-beat Jewish products, such as women’s underwear and t-shirts bearing such slogans as “Shalom Motherfucker.”
All this makes me think that Jewcy was much closer to David Abitbol of Jewlicious notoriety than to something truly innovative and culturally and politically challenging. Jewcy was shock for shock’s sake, titillation for titillation’s sake. Its politics, such as they were, were much more Wieseltier or even Pipes than Waskow or Burg.
It’s a shame because there are thousands of unaffiliated or outsider Jews who would embrace a true counter-culture enterprise that Jewcy promised to become but never did. But right-wingers like Michael Steinhardt are never going to sink money into such a project since it runs counter to their political philosophy.