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B'siyata d'shmaya - With the help of Heaven

Diaspora Jewish Intellectual Life Hits Bottom


13 October 2003

by Shelomo Alfassa

On October 13, 2003 The New York Times ran a story entitled, "A Sardonic Jewish Magazine Expands Its Ambitions." This was an article on the so-called Jewish magazine "Heeb." Named after the ethnic slur many Jews heard prior to being attacked or murdered, Heeb is a self-described hip magazine with a bi-line, "We're the kids your rabbis warned you about." It is a traditional paper magazine, but they also have a website, one which reads, "The New Jew Review." The cover of one issue of Heeb has a topless young woman with a tattoo of a snake on her right breast. The woman is holding an apple, of which part of it is in her mouth, and the caption reads, "Oops!...I did it again."

When it first came out last year, the New York Times, CNN, and the New York Observer all sang its praises. The inaugural issue included an interview with a Jewish porn star and punk singer grabbing her crotch in a shocking close-up photo. Newsweek magazine wrote in September 2002 that Heeb content is more odd than controversial, "with articles celebrating Jews in boxing, fashion, pornography, lefty politics." Last year they interviewed many unusual Jewish celebrities including Al Goldstein the godfather of American pornography, a man who runs a magazine which title is so vulgar it can't be written here. Jennifer Bleyer, the editor and founder promoted the magazine on all the major television stations. She even was on the raunchy Howard Stern show for 40-minutes where Stern made jokes about the Holocaust, and even talked the 25 year old Heeb editor into taking her pants off for him! Not to mention Stern made fun of Steven Spielberg for giving $60,000 to start such a magazine.

Rosanne Barr, posing in a 2009 edition of Heeb magazine as a Nazi,
with burnt people-shaped cookies from an oven

Heeb was established by Jennifer Bleyer a Jewish woman raised in an American Conservative Jewish family. As an adult she considers herself a "post-denominational" Jew. Her seed money to develop Heeb came from a $60,000, two-year grant she was awarded by the Joshua Venture fellowship program, jointly supported by Spielberg's Righteous Persons Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, as well as several others. Consulting publisher Mike Edison told the Village Voice that Heeb landed a four-year, $40,000-a-year grant from the New York Federation of the United Jewish Appeal's Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal. The UJA donated $160,000 for the development of this magazine.

Oven from a concentration camp where Jews were burned into ashes after being gassed to death.

Heeb was a strategic media magnet from the beginning, where it was opened with an extravagant party. On the corner of Essex and Rivington street in the heart of the old Jewish lower east side Jews where Yiddish and Ladino were the language of the neighborhood, you can today find the Essex Restaurant where Heeb held its opening party. They packed into the upscale Essex "Jewish" restaurant where patrons today can dine on shrimp, lobster and pork. The party was a great event, with both gay dancers dressed like Hasidim as well as women with fake peyos, all drawing stares. Photos of the party on Heeb's website demonstrate a woman licking a mans face, people with purple hair and pierced faces, bleach blonde women in lingerie.

The New York Times article this week was talking about how clean cut Joshua Newman, the Heeb musical editor will be taking the main editorial role of the magazine. Newman teaches two classes in Jewish philosophy at NYU, including one in Post-Holocaust Theology. Part of his plans for the future of the magazine are parties in Chicago, Boston, New York and Los Angeles. His scheduled entertainment includes a break dancing troupe called the Spinning Dreidels. Heeb is also working with the mega-expensive William Morris Agency to circulate a book proposal that Neuman calls, "Heeb's take on the history of Western civilization."

The topic of Israel came up in an interview with Jennifer Bleyer after the bomb killed seven at Hebrew University back in the summer of 2002. Bleyer said the event was horrifing but when asked to articulate Heeb's view of the situation, she said, "A lot of American Jews are questioning whether this eye-for-an-eye military strategy is going to be good for Israel in the end." It is clear the editorial staff does fully understand the fact Israel (the Jewish people) is fighting for its survival. The magazine was developed to promote the editors' brand of Judaism, but growing up in a non-Torah observant families, with an obvious lack of Jewish history, values and principles has left them grasping for some type of feel-good religion, one they think is-but is not-Judaism. Conversely, what the magazine demonstrates is knowledge of some minor American Jewish cultural memories. These are nothing but near-marginalized secular American Jewish culture ornaments which they mistakenly see as Judaism.

It is amazing while the Jewish homeland is being destroyed by sworn enemies, Torah education is at an all time low in the Diaspora and a generation of Jews has no leadership, philanthropists like Spielberg and organizations such as the United Jewish Appeal are funding "Jewish" projects promoting topics which are as far from Judaism as you can get. There is no sense in even making a witty analogy to demonstrate Heeb's lack of Judaism, for it is just that-absent of anything Jewish. It is most abhorrent that once fine organizations such as United Jewish Appeal are now funding imprudent projects like this. While pious people in Jerusalem go hungry, Torah loving Jews in Judea beg for flashlights and body armor, and everyday Jews are being pulled into the grasp of the missionaries, so much money and potential energy is developed which promote juvenile topics of appealing fluff.




© Shelomo Alfassa