Back in the fall of 1985, the first issue of Jewish Action made its much-anticipated appearance. The brainchild of the then OU Publications Chairman Joel Schreiber and Rabbi Matis Greenblatt, the magazine was to be a thoughtful, intellectually sophisticated publication that would “project the interests, concerns and values of the Orthodox Union and the Orthodox world.” The very first issue, a slim publication with a mere fifty-six pages, included features on the “Mi Yehudi” issue, an article entitled, “Threats to Israeli Air Superiority,” and a survey of adult Jewish education programs.
Eventually, the magazine grew to occupy a unique role in Orthodox life. Known for its refreshing honesty and openness, Jewish Action has featured prestigious rabbis and thinkers representing the full spectrum of Orthodox life, from Rav Aharon Feldman to Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, from Rav Yitzchak Hutner to Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook. It has tackled issues—even uncomfortable ones—such as homosexuality in the Orthodox community; the very real spiritual challenges on the college campus; domestic abuse and the dearth of Modern Orthodox leaders, to name a few.
Thirty years later, the magazine is still going strong. Anniversaries are a time when magazines tend to look both inward and outward; in this issue, we do both. This thirtieth anniversary issue includes a timeline depicting a few high points of the magazine’s history, a fun infographic contrasting 1985 to 2015 (e.g., housing prices then and now) and a list of “Thirty Changes in Jewish Life over Thirty Years.” Each of these features required extensive research. Becoming veritable archivists, our editorial staff diligently plowed through hundreds of issues of Jewish Action.
Coming up with thirty changes that have taken place in the broader Jewish world and, in particular, the Orthodox world, over the past thirty years was not terribly difficult. The challenge, however, was in the selection process: which changes should make the list? I’m sure readers will take issue with some of our choices (how could you leave out—?). Feel free to send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we may include your suggestions in the online version of the magazine.
As part of our thirtieth celebration, we’ve also reprinted some of the best writing that has appeared in our pages over the years. Members of our editorial board spent many painstaking days reading, choosing and debating which articles to include; there were so many excellent choices. With space a concern, unfortunately, we could only reprint a handful of these memorable articles, but I invite you to visit our web site where you can access our online archive at ou.org/jewish_action. (To search for articles, use the search bar on the top of the page.) While our online archive is not comprehensive, we are in the process of making every article dating back to 1985 available to our readers.
When, as an OU board member, I took on the chairmanship of Jewish Action some ten years ago, I knew I had big shoes to fill. For some twenty years, Jewish Action was Joel Schreiber’s passion—he put his heart and soul into making it a first-rate publication in the Orthodox world, one that is found on Ivy League campuses as well as in libraries, yeshivot and in tens of thousands of homes throughout the US and Israel. I am indebted to you, Joel, for enabling me to build on a quality publication that continues to publish some of the best thinkers and writers in the Orthodox Jewish world.
While Rabbi Greenblatt retired last year and is not as involved with the magazine as he was years ago, his contribution to Jewish Action is immeasurable. It was his vision that molded the magazine and created an unparalleled venue for high-level discourse on topics of interest to the Orthodox world. The magazine’s role, to Rabbi Greenblatt, was neither to entertain nor even to educate; it was to enlighten. I am indebted to you, Rabbi Greenblatt, for infusing this magazine with vision and purpose.
Finally, I want to thank the wonderfully dedicated editors who helped shape this magazine: Heidi (Tenzer) Pekarsky (1985-1992); Charlotte Friedland (1992-2001), and Nechama Carmel (2001-present). Each of these talented and capable women has helped make Jewish Action an award-winning publication whose excellence is acknowledged beyond the Orthodox world. I am deeply indebted to each of them as well.
I specifically want to acknowledge our outstanding editor, Nechama Carmel, with whom I’ve collaborated over these past ten years, and who with our amazing Editorial Board, has raised the bar of journalistic standards.
Last but certainly not least, it’s feedback from our readership who expect the very best in Jewish journalism that fuels our desire to meet those expectations. Thanks to each and every Jewish Action reader!
As you read through this special anniversary issue, I hope you enjoy learning about thirty years of Jewish Action, and thirty years of American Jewish life. I know I did.
Gerald M. Schreck is the chairman of the Jewish Action Committee.