From the Newsletter | Moment Wins First Place from Religion News Association!

By | Apr 26, 2024
image shows a black and white blurred train station with people walking through it. The words Moment Minute and the outline of a clock overlay the train station image.

Congratulations are in order! Moment took home two major First Place prizes from the Religion News Association (RNA) at its annual awards banquet on Saturday night at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA. In the category of Magazine Overall Excellence, RNA recognized our Artificial Intelligence issue, published last summer with the coverline: “AI: Meet the New Golem. Same as the Old Golem?” And it was indeed an issue chock-full of intelligence, mainly of the human kind (but not completely!), all focused on pondering this new frontier.

You may not know that I’m a science and a sci-fi geek, and devoting an issue to AI was a longtime goal of mine, inspired, in part, by a steady diet of speculative fiction, long talks with folks in Silicon Valley, and concerns about the impact of AI on democracy. The main feature of our AI issue was a prescient Big Question that cut right to the heart of the matter: “Is Artificial Intelligence Good for Humanity?Moment’s editors asked cognitive scientists, computer programmers, physicists, futurists, robotics engineers, politicians, journalists, psychologists, linguists, philosophers, artists, cartoonists and, yes, sci-fi writers to tell us what excites them and terrifies them about AI, and how best to approach this astounding moment in human history. They had very different takes, but at the core lurked the biggest question of all: In an era of thinking machines, what does it mean to be human?

Some of the people we interviewed explored AI through a Jewish framework (including golems), but to dive deeper into the Jewish angle, we also published an edition of “Ask the Rabbis” that is not-to-be-missed: “What Impact Will Artificial Intelligence Have on People’s Spiritual Lives?” And nerd that I am, I couldn’t resist writing about lessons to be gleaned from Isaac Asimov (no, it’s not just about his laws of robotics), and how sci-fi has not only shaped our understanding of “good” and “bad” AI but how it can be a tool to help us think about the future. In addition, Books & Opinion Editor Amy E. Schwartz hosted the fascinating Robots Get Religion,” a roundtable on the spiritual life of fictional artificial beings with writers Judith Shulevitz and Helene Wecker. And finally, we put AI to work, tasking “Chef GPT” to come up with an original Jewish recipe. It did, and I leave it up to you as to whether you want to eat it.

But wait, you’re thinking, you said Moment took home two first prizes. The other was awarded to Amy E. Schwartz for commentary for her piece “No, Jews Aren’t Being Erased—We’re Just Sharing the Pie.” Published online March 20, 2023, it was born out of a late-night text fest I had with Amy after Tablet magazine published Jacob Savage’s “The Vanishing,” a lengthy essay making the case that  Jews were being erased in academia, in Hollywood, in the halls of government and in cultural institutions in New York and beyond. Amy masterfully dissected the essay in what we dubbed her “Savage Rebuttal.” Arguing against the conflation of practical concerns over demographic change with what she called inflammatory accusations of prejudice “based on nothing but a feeling that we should be more overrepresented than we are,” Amy minced no words in concluding it was “tendentious and reckless to take all these conflicts and create a myth of antisemitic conspiracy.”

Amy was on hand to accept both awards at the RNA awards banquet, and in accepting her award, she noted that she wrote her column as “pushback against arguments we were hearing from those who think all Jews’ problems are the fault of DEI and that diversity is a zero-sum game that can only lead to losses for Jews.” While the piece was written and published before October 7, I believe that her arguments hold up and are more important than ever.

Congratulations to Amy and to the entire Moment editorial team that brought you the AI issue, and to our RNA finalists Tom Gjelten, whose “Miami Is Changing. So Are Miami’s Jews” was nominated for Religion Story of the Year, and Marshall Breger, nominated in the Analysis and Commentary category. I am constantly amazed by Moment’s editors and contributors, and I am proud to have them as colleagues.

All of us here at Moment wish you a good Passover. Let us hope that spring can bring healing to the world.

One thought on “From the Newsletter | Moment Wins First Place from Religion News Association!

  1. Ronnie Kweller says:

    Way to go, Moment! Mazal tov to all staff members!

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