When I launched this newsletter in November 2021, I wrote that my goal was to cover “the stories behind the stories; the people off the beaten track who don’t appear on all your podcasts; the things and communities we think we understand but don’t.” Beyond that, when tackling the same subjects as others, I wanted to ask different questions about them, illuminating the issues at play in entirely new ways.
One year later, here’s just a small sampling of what appeared in your inboxes:
- The untold story of Albert Einstein’s unlikely 20-year friendship with an Orthodox rabbi, and how it explains why the physicist promoted the Talmud when he couldn’t even read it
- An unstinting exploration of the reasons so many of us get trapped in online culture bubbles that distort our understanding of the world, and how everything from viral videos to Twitter often obscure reality as much as they reveal it
- Conversations with leading scholars about why “following the science” is much harder than it sounds, how the state of Israel was paradoxically a non-Jewish project, and the ways in which the Ivy League became what it is today through policies designed to exclude Jews
- An eight-year investigation into the surprisingly poignant and tragic tale of how a religious Jewish character appeared in one of science fiction’s most celebrated television shows
- Impassioned arguments for creating space for forgiveness and personal growth in a polarizing and unforgiving age
- A straightforward explanation of how anti-Semitism manifests not merely as a social prejudice, but as a mendacious conspiracy theory about how the world works, and how this has enabled anti-Jewish bigotry to persist to this day
- Accessible answers to complicated questions like “Are Jews a race?”
- Alternative approaches to current events, like an extensive profile of Yair Lapid, the most successful Israeli politician not named Benjamin Netanyahu, who had been regularly overlooked by the international media—right up until he became prime minister six months after this piece was published
Looking back, I think it’s safe to say that many of these were stories you couldn’t read anywhere else, and that likely would not exist if they hadn’t appeared in these pages. As is evident from the selections above, the newsletter often covered controversial ground. But instead of tackling sensitive subjects in ways designed to make your blood boil, I tried to use each edition as an opportunity to unpack our differences and how we might bridge them. My hope was to use journalism to humanize, rather than to demonize; to educate and explain, rather than label and lecture.
The fact that I had the platform and opportunity to tell stories in this way is a tribute to each of you who read, shared, and supported this work. But for every story that I got to tell, there were many others that I didn’t have the bandwidth to tackle. Until now.