In a synagogue somewhere on Long Island, there are two seats adorned with plaques bearing my parents’ names. I haven’t been there in decades, but, even during the years when I was in that building often, we never sat in those chairs. That wasn’t the point of them, or of the name plates on the yarzheit wall, or of being a member at all. “You’re not buying the seat,” I remember my mother explaining to a younger woman who was new there, as my parents once were. “You’re buying the whole place.”
When we got older, my friends and I would joke around about this. Once, when I moved into a new apartment, one of them bought me a blender as a housewarming gift, and festooned it with a plaque that said: “Food processor donated in honor of Marilyn and Edward Gorenstein.”
I miss the world that gave rise to that joke.
Even before the dislocations of COVID-19, we saw the fraying and dissolution of countless organizations that once lent structure and purpose to our lives. To think of the mid-20th century Jewish world is to evoke images of flourishing synagogues, Hadassah chapters, Jewish federations, Israeli dance classes, and mahjongg nights. We see a similar development in the world of journalism. Magazines and newspapers were once real sources of identity. We don’t feel that sense of allegiance anymore. We don’t read magazines. We click on links.
We want to help change that. We want to be more than just a web address and an email in your inbox. We want to be a place that offers community and connection, a place where you can come to discuss what’s on your mind with like-minded people—or even un-like-minded ones.
We’ve already built something for readers; now we want to build something with you. Tell us what you want to see talked about, who you want to hear from, what spaces you want opened up, and we’ll do our best to make it happen—together. Think of it as a seat at the table, or, as my mother would have it, the keys to the whole place.
Alana Newhouse is the editor-in-chief of Tablet Magazine.