Any excuse to quote from the Book of Brooks (Young Frankenstein) is good enough for me, but JQ has plenty to shout about. We have a new design – smaller, easier on the hands and eyes, and hopefully more inviting to read. And a new editorial team, which has worked like mad scientists to bring you articles to surprise, delight, provoke and enlighten – perhaps even make your hair stand on end.
At the same time, we’re still the JQ – still Jewish, still a quarterly, still aiming to fulfill founding editor Jacob Sonntag’s dream of bringing Yiddishkeit into English, infusing some of the wit and range of the continental feuilleton – a form whose masters included Theodor Herzl, Karl Kraus, and Stefan Zweig – into Anglo-Jewish journalism. Only you’ll notice we’ve become a bit more ambitious, ranging from Berkeley to Baghdad in this issue alone. Sonntag’s boast that Britain contained “the largest single Jewish community in the whole of Europe (outside the Soviet Union)” hasn’t been true for some time; today France and Russia follow the US and Israel, while Canada has overtaken the UK. Jewish geography, and as a result the JQ, has become far less insular, less parochial, and more – at the risk of cliche – cosmopolitan.
In 1980 the Austrian Jewish writer Walter Abish – whose path from Vienna to Manhattan wound through Italy, Nice, Shanghai, Israel and Germany – published his novel How German Is It? You may well ask: How Jewish is the JQ? In a word: very. A slightly longer answer might quote the Talmudic precept Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Ba-Zeh (“All Israel – or all Jews – are responsible for one another.”) Which as a British-born rabbi I knew in Park Slope once told me can easily, by one of those transpositions of a few letters which drive so many Hebrew puns, be turned into “All Jews are to one another a delight” – in life a patent untruth, but as an aspiration for a magazine not bad.
Turn the pages of the Summer 2018 issue and you’ll find provocative claims about Israel’s PM by my old friend Jonathan Freedland; a new board game – on anti-semitism! – by David Schneider; Momentum founder Jon Lansman schmoozing about Labour’s Jewish question; and Lauren Elkin puncturing the myth that motherhood is bad for writers. Not to mention our cover package about life among the onderduikers in wartime Netherlands. They follow a roll call of Howard Jacobson, Simon Schama, Harold Pinter, Esther Freud, Hadley Freeman, Elie Wiesel, Philippe Sands… the list goes on… who have written for JQ during its 60-year history and whose stories can be found within this wonderful library of a website.
In his first editorial Jacob Sonntag wrote: “At no time was there a greater need for clear thinking and searching analysis.” Which is where we came in. And how we mean to go on. Welcome!