The Archives Journal may be the least visible important Jewish publication in America, available only through subscription, I believe, and probably of interest only to those with an abiding love of Jewish history.
The magazine is published by the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, which is located on the Cincinnati campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. The journal appears two times a year, but is now a little behind itself. The current issue is designated Volume LV 2003, Number 1, and there's a Web site as well: www.AmericanJewishArchives.org .
There are several Philadelphia connections to the archives. Marcus was one of the pre-eminent historians of American Jewish life and the teacher of Rabbi Bertram Korn, himself a wonderful writer and historian, and longtime religious leader of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park. K.I.'s current rabbi, Lance J. Sussman - another splendid writer and historian - was one of the last of Marcus' Ph.D. students, and is now a member of the magazine's academic advisory board.
The current issue is one of those jam-packed numbers, in which almost every article holds intrinsic interest. The two lead essays deal with Commentary magazine. The first is a portrait of Elliot Cohen, who first worked at Menorah Journal before founding Commentary. The accompanying piece deals with Commentary under its second editor, Norman Podhoretz, and discusses the "Jewishness" of the magazine under his stewardship.
The cover story deals with the murders of two emissaries from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, killed in 1920 in Ukraine while distributing relief to pogrom victims.
There are also two review essays, four book reviews, a museum review and a tribute to a recently deceased Marcus Center archivist.
I most enjoyed the Cohen piece. While at Menorah Journal, he wrote a column called "Notes for a Modern History of the Jews."
As author Daniel Greene writes: "In these columns, Cohen remarked on Jewish life by bringing together already published items from the Jewish press, announcements from Jewish organizations, and bits and pieces from rabbis' sermons. Cohen never interjected his own words in this series. Instead, he highlighted contradiction and ambiguity in his source material by carefully and often ironically juxtaposing quotations to construct a fragmented narrative that mocked the prevailing concerns of American Jewish community leaders and rabbis. Moreover, these painstakingly crafted columns sought to disprove American Jewish leaders' grandiose claims about American Jews' exceptionalism." u