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With Rise in Anti-israel Activism, News Service Helps Jews Connect

When David Twersky arrived at college in September

1968, he found himself in “a schizophrenic position.”

He considered himself left wing, but after the 1967 Six-Day War the student

anti-war movement had added anti- Israel activism to its agenda, creating

an “incredibly hostile” atmosphere for left-leaning Zionists like Twersky,

he says.

The desire to connect with like-minded students led Twersky — who now is

editor in chief of the New Jersey Jewish News — and counterparts at other

colleges to start dozens of Jewish student newspapers. Within a few years,

they had formed the Jewish Student Press Service as a wire service and

professional network for the student papers.

Today’s Jewish students face an increasingly well-organized,

pro-Palestinian public relations campaign that produces highly visible

anti-Israel activities on college campuses across North America. More than

three decades after its founding, the JSPS is still there for them, this

time with a magazine called New Voices.

Now is in its 10th year of publication, New Voices is the only Jewish

magazine written for and by Jewish college students across North America.

Besides helping Jewish students connect with their peers on other campuses,

New Voices has helped breathe new life into JSPS. By the mid-1980s, as

anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activity on campuses died down — and as the

Reagan “revolution” drew many students away from campus activism — Jewish

student papers seemed to be dying out.

The JSPS gamely limped along until 1991, when its director, Sandy Edry,

decided use it as a vehicle to produce a national Jewish magazine.

The students producing New Voices are “the same as the student movement

back then,” says J.J. Goldberg, editor of the Forward newspaper and another

of JSPS’ founders.

The magazine “shows in a very effective way that you don’t have to be

either/or” — that is, either blindly pro- or anti-Israel, he says. “You

can think for yourself, you can draw your own conclusions and you can still

be a proud Jew.”

“Students hear anti-Israel voices” all the time, says Daniela Gerson, a

recent Brown University graduate who currently is New Voices’ associate

editor and who will become editor next month. “They want answers to these

questions that are coming up.”

Articles such as “A Lonely Struggle,” “Combating Anti-Zionism” and

“Coloring in the Conflict” explore how Jewish students are dealing with

anti-Israel sentiment on campus.

The magazine is read by students across the political spectrum, but

probably is most needed by those on the left.

Students who consider themselves “liberal in their political views are

suddenly caught in this place where they realize that Israel plays a

stronger part in their identity, and they want to figure out a way to

understand how this puzzle fits together,” Gerson says.

But the editors also note that the magazine carries a wide range of

viewpoints.

“Even though our politics lean toward the left, we try to be as pluralistic

and diverse as possible,” Gerson says.

New Voices is run by two full-time, straight-out-of-college editors, and

has a team of volunteer student editors and writers from across the

country, some of whom serve as foreign corespondents while studying abroad.

Its annual budget of slightly more than $100,000 comes from a mix of Jewish

organizations, private philanthropies and individual donations.

Since the JSPS is not under the control of any Jewish organization, New

Voices has “the freedom to write with a more nuanced voice,” provide a

voice for the “pro-Zionist left,” and print “the types of articles “that

ordinarily wouldn’t be heard,” says Daniel Treiman, a 1999 graduate of the

University of California at Berkeley and New Voices’ outgoing editor.

“When Israel needs to be criticized, we’re critical,” he says. “It makes us

a more credible pro-Israel voice.”

In fact, it was the magazine’s independence that first attracted Treiman as

a reader.

At the Berkeley Hillel, Treiman noticed a cover story that criticized the

“March of the Living,” a popular Holocaust- education program for Jewish

high school students.

“I really didn’t know what to make of it, because here was this Jewish

publication criticizing a Jewish program aimed at Jewish youth,” Treiman

says. “I wasn’t used to the idea of students creating Jewish life for

themselves that was independent of other Jewish organizations.”

Treiman later went on to contribute his own critical article condemning

Birthright Israel for accepting a donation from Marc Rich, the financier

who fled the United States to avoid charges of tax evasion and racketeering

and was pardoned by President Clinton in 2001.

Other students are drawn in by the magazine’s unconventional nature. New

Voices first caught Gerson’s eye when it ran “The Sex Issue.”

“A lot of our readers are students who are interested in something that’s

Jewish, but also something that they feel is cool,” she says. “They want

something that’s hip, that’s edgy, that speaks to their generation.”

Recent topics have included Jews in hip-hop, the intersection between

Jewish and Chinese cultures, Reggae Judaism, Kabbalah on campus and

eco-Zionism.

For other students, the magazine’s attraction is simply that it is Jewish.

For students at schools with small Jewish populations, New Voices can be

one of the few ways to connect with other Jews.

“One student in a school outside of Middlebury, Vt., wrote to us that

there’s no other Jewish outlet for him,” Gerson says.

“What New Voices does so well is that it reaches a lot of different types

of students,” she adds. “Because it’s a publication that is written by

students, students can take what they want from it.”

The magazine distributes between 8,000 and 10,000 copies free to students

on some 350 campuses across North America, six times a year. Students can

pick up the paper at distribution points or sign up for free subscriptions.

Gerson and Treiman hope to expand readership through their revamped Web

site and a program that allows synagogues to buy subscriptions for their

student members. Some 3,500 students currently have the paper mailed

directly to them, with the synagogue program accounting for 1,500 of these

subscriptions.

“When I was in school, my synagogue sent me sweets and holiday packages,”

Gerson says. “This is something that is much more meaningful.”

As editor, Gerson hopes to expand international coverage, do more articles

“responding to the question of how to be both Zionist and left” and raise

the magazine’s profile.

She also recently began working with the World Union of Jewish Students to

make New Voices articles available to Jewish student publications around

the globe.

But Gerson’s primary goal is to make the magazine more financially stable.

“I’d like to find a way for the young people who run New Voices not to have

to worry about finding funds.” she says. “Most of the editors have had to

choose between paying themselves or getting out the issue on time.”

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