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On September 19, the Association for Jewish Studies (AJS), the largest membership organization for scholars in the field, posted an email advertisement on its listserv. GatecrashersA podcast about Jewish history at Ivy League universities, produced by an online Jewish magazine Tablet. The ad included a quote from former AJS president Pamela Nadell praising the podcast as “an exciting new resource for courses on anti-Semitism and American Jewish history.” (The email also states that the AJS accepts “limited advertising in its publications” but “does not endorse the views, organizations, or products contained therein.” Sasha Senderovich, professor of Slavic and Jewish studies at the University of Washington and longtime critic Tabletwas his first response when he saw it in his mailbox tweet In the association: “Don’t take a plus [Tablet’s] money. It’s on his party line. . . fascist press. After that, he sent an email about his complaints Tablet‘s information to an AJS member, who forwarded it to the association’s management on his behalf. AJS executive director Warren Hoffman said the association has also received complaints about the ad from other members.
The criticisms made by Senderowicz et al are the focus of several articles Tablet over the past five years, including a June article attacking gender-affirming care for trans people and last year’s article urging synagogues not to require Covid-19 vaccines. Several of the magazine’s regular contributors are outspoken Trump supporters, such as attacking the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago raid and highlighting the former president’s ultra-nationalist remarks, and much of the magazine’s content is aimed at debunking the liberal “wokeness.”
On September 29, AJS announced that it had “sustained” its advertising relationship Tablet In response to member complaints by sponsored email. (Tablet (who had previously participated in publishing exhibits at AJS conferences, but none of the AJS members interviewed for this article could recall seeing the email ads prior to this month’s publication.) In an email statement Jewish currents That day and later posted on its website, AJS said it plans to “review its policies regarding advertising and sponsored content,” a process that “[talking] to its members, some of whom feel directly harmed by some of the views expressed in the Tablet. (Tablet Editor-in-Chief Alana Newhouse did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
Some AJS members interpreted the incident as a sign of changing political norms within the association and in academia. Raphael Rachel Neis, a professor of rabbinical history at the University of Michigan, said the decision was made to freeze the financial relationship, no matter how passionate, where AJS previously valued diversity and meant no point of view should be censored. Tablet instead suggests a growing embrace of a “liberal understanding” that prioritizes the inclusion of people of all identities. Others have pointed out that AJS is simply keeping pace with advanced opinions Tabletand the tendency to present anti-democratic and hyper-nationalist views as one side of the argument. “I don’t think this in any way represents a leftward shift in Jewish studies,” said Sam Schuman, a Jewish studies professor at Davidson College. “On the contrary, it shows that it is a criticism TabletOnce considered to be from the left, it is now mainstream even among liberals who make up most of the AJS base.
Tablet Launched in 2009 with the support of philanthropist Mem Bernstein, her late husband, Zalman Bernstein, founded the Tikvah Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting conservative thought. (Tikvah describes itself on its website as “politically Zionist, economically free-market oriented” and “culturally traditional.”) The journal’s funding sparked some early controversy: In 2011, Syracuse Jewish studies professor Zachary Breiterman said. TabletHis connection to Tikva is in his widely read criticism of the foundation, which he accused the nonprofit of hiding its ideological project under the rhetoric of promoting intellectual debate. From the first years of the magazine, many Tablet There are articles by current Editor-in-Chief Liel Leibovitz, who identified as left-wing when he started as a video producer at the magazine in 2009 but has since embraced Donald Trump, and articles by noted neoconservative Lee Smith. right-wing Zionist position. Nevertheless, the editors of the journal insisted on maintaining complete editorial independence from their funders and Tablet sought to represent all political views. Shaul Magid, professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth College, was its editor Tablet He says that from 2016 to last year, none of his work was censored, even when we wrote pieces defending anti-Zionism or criticizing Zionism as a form of ethno-nationalism. Meanwhile, the magazine has gained a reputation for publishing high-quality arts and culture content; In addition to the works of dozens of distinguished Judaic scholars, it has published contributions by writers such as Michael Chabon, Etgar Keret, Ayelet Waldman, and Umberto Eco.
But as the Trump era dawned, the magazine’s political leanings became harder to ignore. Senderovich published seven articles on Soviet Jewish literature and culture Tablet Between 2011 and 2015, but in 2017, Leibovitz was dismayed to watch a series of pieces defending Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka, who was accused of having ties to Nazi groups in Hungary. Senderovich called the academician on Facebook Tablet participants in organizing to protest the magazine’s “racism and Nazi apologetics.” (In response, Newhouse accused Senderowicz of following a form of Stalinism).
From then on, Senderovic began to publicly dispute that record Tablet masked what he saw as its contradictory content. “His dominant party line has become very clearly Trumpist, and he’s already been Islamophobic,” he said. Jewish currents.“We were helping the company. I gave Liel a long article about contemporary Soviet Jewish writers that was in the mail of people who take Jewish culture seriously. [Leibovitz]increases the reliability of the item. Magid did not agree: his policy contradicted many things TabletAs a result, he decided that it was better to continue participating. “I felt that my voice in the magazine was important to create some sort of balance,” she said.
In the following years, Tablet began to produce more right-wing works that pushed the boundaries and were provocative reader reaction. In June 2020, Newhouse’s husband, the literary editor David Samuels, published a 10,000-word interview with anti-Semitic white nationalist scholar Kevin Macdonald, arguing in a lengthy introduction that exposure and understanding of his views is more effective than censorship. In a June 2021 article, former Soviet dissident and Israeli politician Nathan Sharansky and Canadian historian Gil Troy labeled Jewish anti-Zionists “anti-Jewish” and accused them of trying to destroy Jewish identity from within. As the magazine became increasingly associated with such views, less leftist and liberal writers saw it as a suitable forum for their work: Last year, after a long period of criticism of it. Tablet The content of direct interviews with Newhouse and other editors, he said, left Magid out of the bag. “Finally, I felt it was moving in a direction that I wasn’t comfortable connecting with,” she said.
For some AJS members, Tablet Last June, amid legislative attacks on the rights of trans children across the country, the magazine made a particularly unforgivable decision when it published an article by Jennifer Bilek, a long-time anti-trans rights crusader, in support of philanthropic support for gender-based care. As a vast medical, legal and educational conspiracy to “reinforce the idea that humans are not a sexually dimorphic species” from the billionaire family of Illinois Governor JB Pritzker. “It’s not a scene that’s going to upset a few woke people,” Neis said. Bilek’s works are part of a “broader campaign to increase intimidation and violence against trans people, with legal effects that include harm. AJS cannot be neutral about this.’
AJS’s decision to distance itself Tablet It came at a time when the political identity of the association was being discussed. Last year, scholar Noam Pianko, a well-known sociologist of American Jewish life, Stephen M. After admitting to attending invitation-only events with Cohen, AJS resigned as president. reputation. In extensive reading Statements of religion Neiss and scholar Gilah Kletenik have argued that the reluctance to sanction Cohen is a sign of Jewish studies’ widespread preoccupation with “neoliberal priorities, markets, and fashion.”
Some AJS members will see ads suspended Tablet as a sign that the association is listening to such criticisms. Magid said he was “shocked” that the association had decided to reconsider its approach tablet, because “AJS is so committed to the middle ground and won’t take a stand on such issues.” He saw it as a signal that “AJS is going through a generational transition and it has a desire to take an activist stance.” (CEO Hoffman said in the past that AJS has exercised its right to “reject ads from various outlets that are inconsistent with AJS’s mission statement or mission. [its] core values”; the statement suggests that the organization plans to develop clear guidelines for which organizations will accept ads.) Nays argued that there is room for a stronger position in the AJS statement. Tablet: “I have no problem with my professional organization not being affiliated with an outlet that promotes far-right ideology,” they said. “It’s good for a professional organization to say, ‘We are against transphobia.’ In this regard, it is right to go to politics.”