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A Hanukkah Message From Editor-in-Chief Arielle Angel

Dear reader,

We hope you are finding time to gather with friends and loved ones during these difficult days. We’re grateful to be a part of your community, and, as we did last year, we want to celebrate Hanukkah by introducing you to some of the writers, editors, and organizational staff who make Jewish Currents what it is. Each night, you’ll meet a different member of our team, who will reflect on work they found particularly meaningful from the last year.

The support of this staff is only made possible through the generosity of you, our readers. We don’t take advertisements or have an angel-investor, and we make all our work accessible to all. So it’s your engagement and support that makes the labor of our writers, editors, artists, and fact-checkers possible, and allows us to continue exploring the issues and questions most vital to you. We’re proud to shine a light on the people behind Jewish Currents, to share with you who and what you are supporting when you read, listen, donate, and subscribe to our magazine.

I’m Arielle Angel, the editor-in-chief of Jewish Currents. This past week, we launched Jewish Currents’s new merch line—including my personal favorite item, the Bummer Hat, which has been in the works for a long while. Two years ago, our brilliant art director, Marc Jonathan Costello, presented the staff with a little sad-faced magazine, emblazoned with the “JC” end mark that concludes our articles. The image immediately resonated with the staff. Partially inspired by the “smiling sun” of the 1970s anti-nuclear campaign and ironically reminiscent of Microsoft’s Clippy, the “Bummer mag” became emblematic of a particularly Jewish Currents vibe.

I think the name for that vibe might be political disappointment—a structure of feeling quite familiar to the left as a whole, and to Jewish Currents in particular, from its earliest days. The magazine began in 1946 as a Communist publication, which soon had to contend with world-shattering betrayal, as the full extent of the USSR’s violence and repression came into view—a betrayal compounded by the knowledge of having misled the magazine’s own readership in turn. In our 2022 Soviet issue, we revisited the magazine’s writing during the Soviet Jewry movement. Here JC’s writers and editors appeared more clear-eyed: sharply critical of anti-Jewish oppression in the Soviet Union, while suspicious of the way the movement was being used to bolster mainstream Cold War and Zionist politics. Still, their insight was politically moot, their voices inaudible against the collective roar of Jewish communal vehemence and pride.

I am writing from another such moment of tremendous political disappointment with Jewish communal life, perhaps the most consequential one of my own life. It is hard not to feel total despair, to wonder if anything can be salvaged amid this collective swan dive into moral oblivion, to wonder what this article or that one can do against the deathly machinery of empire. But if pessimism and disappointment can be debilitating, they can also, I am trying to remind myself, be generative. The Marxist philosopher Michael Löwy explores doom’s constructive potential in a reflection on the German Jewish theorist Walter Benjamin’s urgent plea for the “organization of pessimism,” in which that affect is understood not as passive defeatism, but rather as “an active, practical and ‘organized’” stance “that is totally dedicated to preventing, by all means possible, the advent of the worst.” And it’s worth recalling, as scholar of political disappointment Sara Marcus explained in an interview with contributing editor Ari Brostoff this past summer, that the last 2,000 years of Jewish history is a lesson in the creative possibilities of loss:

The whole history of Judaism after 70 CE is about having lost the structure of the Temple and ritualistically voicing a desire to get it back, while at the same time building a completely other structure that’s rhizomatic—iterative, decentered—and incredibly durable and flexible. To continue elaborating that structure while never taking our eyes off the fact of loss, and in fact keeping active a longing for the lost object, grounds Jews in a profoundly generative historical experience of disappointment.

I’m trying to keep this long view in mind, to remind myself that this rupture will allow for something new to emerge, and that the organization of our pessimism within Jewish Currents and among our readership could be a force in shaping it.

To continue producing insightful and challenging work, we rely on our supporters and subscribers. Please consider sustaining our work by making a donation, becoming a member, or subscribing to Jewish Currents today. Our subscriptions also make great gifts.

As a small token of our appreciation for our community of readers and contributors, we are also offering newsletter subscribers 30% off of anything in our online store if you use the code GELT2023. Shop Jewish Currents gifts—including that new line of merch!—for your friends and family, or to treat yourself.

Thank you for your continued support. We wish you a restorative and meaningful holiday season.