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.
David A.M. Wilensky says
My thoughts exactly! Read about my own crap reading and writing at Jewcy here: http://davidsaysthings.wordpress.com/2009/02/18/im-ein-kemach-ein-jewcy/
emman chehade randazzo says
Richard, glad you’re not part of that superficial crap anymore. You’re too smart for that junk. Good riddance to them.
What is this obsession with David Abitbol? And how does badmouthing him whenever you get the chance fit into your so-called purpose of “Tikun Olam”?
Richard Silverstein says
I didn’t realize that making the world a better place meant I couldn’t point out those who make the world a worse place. Tikun Olam doesn’t require that you never say anything critical about those who merit criticism.
You must never have read the lies that he’s written about me because you’re so busy basking in his aura.
But right-wingers like Michael Steinhardt are never going to sink money into such a project since it runs counter to their political philosophy.
Do you mean that “progressives” WOULD sink money into a project that “runs counter to their political philosophy”?
Richard Silverstein says
I would think if Michael Steinhardt’s PRIMARY concern is Jewish continuity that he would create programs and websites that did that most successfully. Personally, I believe investing in the kind of site I described would be such an effective project. I would think he would be able to leave politics aside & consider what will work.
However, if his primary interest is promoting continuity only for neocon Jews as I believe, then he would have no interest in my suggestion.
If I could fund such a project I would be willing to include a variety of principled Jewish voices including those who represent views other than mine.
Yehudit Brachah says
Richard, I want to make sure you know that here at Jewschool we are still going strong with cutting-edge, introspective, counter-cultural blog pieces that have become the home for those “thousands of unaffiliated or outsider Jews who would embrace a true counter-culture enterprise.” I should note that we too were approached to merge with Jewcy, and approached it with apprehension. I invite everyone to check us out at http://www.jewschool.com.
Richard Silverstein says
Yehudit: Yes, of course. I’ve always admired Jewschool & feature a link in my blogroll. I didn’t know you were approached by Jewcy. I guess I figured since you were a multi author blog they wouldn’t have approached you. Glad you also felt apprehension. Have you written about Jewcy’s possible demise at yr blog? Curious what other progressive folks have to say about it.
Don’t know anything about Jewcy other than what was written above, but I’m glad it didn’t work out!
You have a BLOG that is interesting, educational, at times funny…It would have been a petty to see it disappear and reappear on a different website where you were now more censored as to what you could or could not say. Where your readers/commentators were moderated by, possibly, someone other than yourself.
Your website is too good to disappear into never, never land!