Yaakov is Back, Too

While Eytan Kobre wasn’t referring to me when he wrote “Jack is Back” early last week, it would be true in any case. [Yaakov -> Jacob -> Jack. In my Yeshiva days it was a nickname at one point. Assigned by others, of course!] It’s been two months since I wrote an article, as a few people have noted, and I’m happy to be back to writing. As I do so, I reflect upon why we created Cross-Currents in the first place, and what we can hope to accomplish in its next several years (yes, it has really been that long).

The idea of publishing Cross-Currents in blog format came from the 2004 Presidential elections, when I recognized that blogs like Power Line were able to influence public debate when the “Mainstream media” — largely comprised of Democrats with their own biases — was lining up behind the Democratic candidate at that time, Senator John Kerry. The Jewish media was similarly biased, but worse — at the time, there were no more than a handful of charedi reporters in the largest Israeli / Jewish media outlets, and the biases (and simple ignorance) of the secular writers was often evident. I brought that to Rabbi Adlerstein’s attention, and the result was a new face and new home for the Cross-Currents email journal that he created and briefly operated perhaps a decade ago. Presto, we became part of the new media.

The depiction of the Orthodox does seem to be somewhat more balanced than it was four years ago, and Cross-Currents has played its own not-insignificant part. For that, we are grateful — but we also recognize that there is a great deal of ground left to cover before we could claim an equal playing field in the Jewish press (small ‘p’). It is also worth noting that when we started off, little was known or predicted about the less constructive uses of blogging; at a certain point, it became detrimental to our mission to have the word “blog” associated with Cross-Currents. But we’re stuck with it, and besides, Cross-Currents is a stand-alone entity — much of its content is either published elsewhere, or at least fit for publication elsewhere. Whether called a journal, a blog, or simply “Cross-Currents,” its content can be judged by its own standards. And while I hope we will return a bit towards the warmer, more interactive tenor of blogs vs. traditional media, I think we can do so without diminishing how seriously we treat our subject matter and the reader’s intellect.

Given, as well, our description of Cross-Currents as a journal about the intersection of current events with the timeless Torah, and the blogs that first inspired Cross-Currents, it is unavoidable that we will talk about politics — as we always have, on two continents. Cross-Currents isn’t an official organ of Project Genesis, and is supported no more or less than over 100 other Jewish web sites. So I will venture my opinions — not those of my organization — on U.S. politics as I have in other areas. Which brings us to Michael Bloomberg, Barack Obama, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and telecommunications… the subject of my next post, iy”H.

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9 Responses

  1. Bob Miller says:

    Unless the new contributions cast some uniquely Jewish light on US politics, what need do they meet that a zillion opinions on other blogs don’t already meet?

  2. Chaim Fisher says:

    I took your advice and looked at power line. There’s loads of other “blogs” out there that are very, very popular. I think Kos is at 1 billion hits about now.

    If you are going to take a page from the book of successful blogs, consider moving towards them in one very important area: be more flexible in allowing readers to post comments critical of your blogs.

    Such posts vastly increase your credibility. Otherwise, reading post after post of party line praise, people subconsciously start wondering why criticism needs to be excluded from the forum so much.

    Don’t worry. So long as your bloggers are right on, any improperly critical post will just make the poster look foolish.

  3. Ori says:

    Bob Miller, even if Rabbi Yaakov Menken’s opinions don’t cast a uniquely Jewish light on US politics hopefully the ensuing argument will.

    However, I think there is another agenda here. Reform and Conservative Judaism are fairly liberal(1) politically, and pretty loud about it. This leads outsiders to equate the two. Rabbi Yaakov Menken probably wants to break this equation, to show that Judaism does not contradict political conservatism.

    I doubt it’s a coincidence that this Web site and the politically conservative Jewish World Review are hosted on the same network.

    Note: To reveal my own biases, I am heterodox and politically conservative.

    (1) In the US sense of using the government to fix society. Historically and in Israel the word means something else.

  4. HILLEL says:

    A uniquely-Jewish viewpointn would put you at odds with over 90% of what’s out there in the increasingly-Meshuggah Gentile world.

    So prople would stop by just to get “the other side of the issue.”

  5. Mark says:

    Chaim Fisher,

    “If you are going to take a page from the book of successful blogs, consider moving towards them in one very important area: be more flexible in allowing readers to post comments critical of your blogs.”

    If I might ask – how long have you been around? I, at times, get frustrated at CC’s moderation policies but rarely are comments of mine critical of the blog withheld. If anything, positions I’ve taken in support of the writers are the ones withheld. On the average post, fully 2/3rds are critical of the writer unless he took a position critical of the Hareidi world, in which case 3/4ths will be supportive. I’ll venture that there is less diversity of opinion among Kos’s billion than there is in CC’s limited readership.

  6. LOberstein says:

    I find it interesting that on the daily AOL poll, McCain wins every day. Obama is supposed to have a lock on the election,but it may not turn out that way. There is a racial undercurrent here that works both ways. As Jacie Mason has pointed out, Jewish guilt and white liberal guilt make these people irrational about Obama’s deficiencies. On the other hand, there is a lot of anti black prejudice,which may turn the election. I may be wrong, but I am one Democrat for McCain,but for intelligent reasons, not prejudice or racism. If Obama loses, the blacks will be mad, very mad. Watch out. If their hopes are dashed, they will say that Rev. Wright was right all along. This is a dangerous time in American politics, not a normal election. It can lead to anti semitism either way, as always in history, We will be blamed if he wins and blamed if he loses.

  7. Calev says:

    Bob – can’t you at least wait until Rabbi Menken has filed the article before you criticise them?! Horses and carts come to mind.
    Bob’s criticism raises the issue of critical posts general. Mark has addressed this point but I’d also like to remind/inform Chaim of the lengthy explanation of CC’s moderation policies posted a few months ago. As I remember it, the article reminded CC readers that moderation policies would be enforced in accordance with the Torah values that CC espouses. That means that there will not be the same leeway provided in the comments section as you’ll see in blogs like Kos (where, incidentally, you will find plenty of antisemitic content). This does not mean that dissenting and/or critical views are not published, only those comments which are deemed beyond the pale of halachah are not published. I believe this will only undermine CC’s credibility in the eyes of those who either do not have an appreciation of halachah or are antagonistic to it.

  8. Charlie Hall says:


    As the resident professional statistician who spends too much time on the Internet, I would warn you against relying on internet polls. The AOL poll right now has McCain winning all 538 electoral votes! Scientific polls listed at realclearpolitics.com have the popular vote anywhere from tied (Gallup tracking) to a 15 point Obama lead (Newsweek). (I also think your dire prognostications regarding the election are unwarranted.)

    Regarding CC’s moderation policy: I say it is their blog and they can make whatever rules they want! I once submitted a post that contained a questionable halachic statement and got a very nice email from Rabbi Menken as a result. (I now owe him for the rest of my life as he taught me some Torah!)

  9. Bob Miller says:

    Calev, I was only trying to convey that CC’s forays into general politics should have a Jewish slant to justify their being here. If that was Rabbi Menken’s intent, I don’t see his idea as being a real change from CC’s current mission.

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