From the Editor | Summer 2020
I have always been exhilarated by anything that gives me a chance to touch another time, past or future, even for an instant. So for years I’ve dreamed of devoting an issue of Moment to time. We planned this special summer double issue months before the coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter protests, and despite the difficulties in producing it under quarantine and curfews, we forged ahead. The topic now seems more relevant than ever: It’s an ideal time to reflect on the past in order to create a better future. So hold onto your seats as we rev up the Moment time machine to explore Jewish time, and time in general.
Let me start with this issue’s Big Question: What was a year when everything changed for Jews and for the world? We’ve asked a diverse group of thinkers to weigh in, including philosopher and novelist Rebecca Goldstein, author Judith Shulevitz, physicist Brian Greene and historian Simon Schama. Separately and as a whole, their thoughts provide insight into Judaism and humanity. It’s my hope that this Big Question will begin a conversation that can help build a foundation for thinking about the future.
In “When the Past Is Present and the Present Is Past,” we examine why there’s no word, beyond the modern Greek adaptation historia, for history in Hebrew. Our rabbis in the “Ask the Rabbis” section ponder if and why people become more religious as they grow older. Cookbook author Joan Nathan (she wrote her first article for Moment in 1976!) shares her favorite timeless Jewish foods. We learn how virtual exhibitions allow us to look back through time at ancient sites that have been destroyed. In “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” we zero in on the origins of the Jewish calendar and take you on a historical, scientific and cultural tour of thinking about the nature of time through the ages. There is another reason why this is a keepsake issue. It’s a milestone year for Moment; it is our 45th anniversary. Yes, 45 years ago, Leonard Fein and Elie Wiesel published the first issue of Moment. Both men are gone now, but we have dug into past issues to tell you the story of Moment—just a taste of it, really, since our archives are so rich. As you’ll discover in the anniversary section, Moment’s archives mirror what has troubled, concerned and excited American Jews from 1975 to the present. We also travel back to the era of Der Moment, the independent Yiddish daily in Warsaw for which Moment is named. Der Moment thrived from 1910 until 1939 when the Nazis invaded Poland. It lives on through us.
As with every issue, Moment captures a moment in time. Moment Debate considers the merits of small versus big government in the time of COVID-19. Moment’s Jewish Political Voices Project delves into the growing economic inequality in our country, a problem that is of deep concern to many of us. In our renamed Perspectives section, Naomi Ragen and Fania Oz-Salzberger share different, yet not so different, takes on what’s going on in Israel today. Sarah Posner sheds light on the bond between modern American evangelists and President Donald Trump. And an 18-year-old activist tells us why climate change is important to her generation and explains what she’s doing about it. We didn’t plan it this way, but all the opinion columns are women’s voices. It’s a far cry from earlier days when few non-male perspectives were published in the pages of Moment and other influential publications.
Speaking of women, we profile attorney Debra Katz, who rose to national prominence during #MeToo, but was fighting sexual harassment and defending whistleblowers decades before the movement got its name. Meanwhile, our book section, Literary Moment, dives into the thinking of great American writers such as Philip Roth and William Faulkner. The latter, unbeknownst to most of us, was a powerful voice against fascism.
We are so proud of what we accomplish at Moment. So many publications have gone completely online or are closing altogether. We have no endowment or magic wand, only a commitment to keep going. And as you will notice, our print issue has been gently redesigned. Another feat.
Which leads me to the incredible team of people without whom we could not publish Moment. Besides our magazine, they produce a website that is updated daily, three weekly newsletters, Zoom lectures and classes, and so much more. Not to mention Moment’s online Guide to the Global Pandemic, which we hope has helped sustain people throughout recent months in quarantine. My deepest thanks. You are my heroes.
And to all of you, thank you for being a vital part of the Moment community. Your comments, suggestions, criticisms, compliments, subscriptions and support make Moment the success that it is. Publishing for 45 years is a wonderful accomplishment—but provoking debate, and sparking conversation, creative thinking and hope for all these years is even more of an achievement. Stay safe and enjoy this special issue!