It was time to drop in again on the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute's bimonthly eZine known as 614. Geared mostly for women, it debuted early in 2007, and I first wrote about it several months later.
At that time, I noted that HBI's intention, according to a press release distributed before the launch, was to spark "conversation among Jewish women" by diving headfirst "into heated and controversial topics, including the ethics of selling our eggs, [and] why Jewish women are now notably in charge of religion for their families ... ."
As part of its mission, 614 was bent on not having just one writer expound on an issue, but rather present multiple perspectives "from artists and activists, observant and secular Jews, and scholars and authors around the world who are analyzing cutting-edge topics."
The eZine came into existence following a discussion at an HBI board meeting. Staff members and the board of directors were interested in publicizing the innovative work the institute does, as well as tackling other hot-button issues in the Jewish community, in a manner that might engage "a new audience of often disillusioned Jewish women in their 20s, 30s and 40s." The goal was to fashion "a non-intimidating environment" where such women might "learn, share and explore ideas," and a Web site seemed the ideal spot.
Michelle Cove, 614's editor, has explained that she "wanted to offer a space where Jewish women could learn about topics that affect their lives, without imposing a specific agenda."614 would offer its multiple viewpoints, then let readers come to their own conclusions. Or, better yet, readers would be left with questions and "go digging for even more information."
The two most recent issues of the eZine, dated January and March 2008, have kept up the pace as far as issue-oriented discussions are concerned. In January, the overall topic was: "How is JDate shaking up Judaism?" The answers were numerous and always provocative, just as earlier issues of 614 have been.
One of the articles was called "The Online Shtetl." Written by Hinda Mandell, the piece argued that JDate is "a reprogrammed and updated version" of the old, dusty towns where our ancestors resided.
"The shtetl has gone live," she noted, "online, that is -- and its fundamental purpose reinforces the fundamental purpose of yore: procreate so your Jewish babies can make more Jewish babies, and make your mammele proud. Let her nachas pervade the remodeled rooms of her Boca Raton condo. In other words, there's hope for you yet on JDate."
The March issue featured Danielle Josephs, who, as a college senior, created the Middle East Coexistence House at her college, where young women of various ethnicities lived together. A number of the students wrote about their experiences, stressing what they'd learned as part of this undoubtedly bold and risky experiment.