Journal that "invented the Jewish poetry scene in New York" to close

By Harriet Staff

The Forward's Arty Semite blog bids farewell to Mima’amakim, a journal that could arguably be credited with inventing the Jewish poetry scene in New York according to Hila Ratzabi. Besides its publications, Mima’amakim became known for its performances and parties, the last of which will be held on February 5th when the magazine takes what's being called "an indefinite hiatus" as the all-volunteer staff pursue other obligations.

Originally founded with a narrow religious focus at Yeshiva University, the journal sought to publish "creative artistic expression of the Jewish religious experience within the confines of Halachah,” even limiting the content to exclude “profanities and sexually explicit materials.” While relying solely on volunteers can sometimes be limiting, in this case it probably played a role in allowing the journal to adapt to include the broader, more inclusive concept of identity needed to sustain regular staff and contributors alike, resulting in a publication of shared cultural heritage rather than purely shared faith.

“Pretty quickly the journal went from being a largely Orthodox affair to being a more diverse collection of voices representing the larger Jewish community,” said Aaron Roller, one of the journal’s more recent editors. He also explained that while the journal began by publishing students, it eventually included professional writers as well as hobbyists. When Dena Weiss joined as editor, her goal, she said, was to “raise the bar on the quality of the material” while keeping to the vision of the journal as a home for Jewish creative expression. Accordingly, the journal has published well known poets such as Samuel Menashe, Steve Dalachinsky and Karen Alkalay-Gut.