Having started to get the hang of my new print editorial internship at Tikkun Magazine in Berkeley, CA, I guess it is time to write my long-overdue first blog post!
This internship I found over the internet at bookjobs.com. Although I am from Virginia, it seemed like a good enough opportunity to be worth checking out a new area. I was mostly drawn in by Tikkun’s policy of getting interns involved with magazine production beyond basic clerical and office tasks, their small staff (yet high production values), and their philosophy.
To give you the basic idea of Tikkun’s philosophy, I’ve included exerpts from the About Us section on their website (http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/about).
“Tikkun is a magazine dedicated to healing and transforming the world…. We build bridges between religious and secular progressives by delivering a forceful critique of all forms of exploitation, oppression, and domination while nurturing an interfaith vision of a caring society — one whose institutions are reconstructed on the basis of love, generosity, nonviolence, social justice, caring for nature, and awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe….Tikkun brings together progressive Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, secular humanist, and agnostic/atheist voices to talk about social transformation and strategies for political and economic democratization. These authors discuss the best ways to support the evolution of consciousness needed to save our planet from environmental destruction and from the perversion of human relations generated by the globalization of selfishness and materialism popularly known as capitalist globalization. In this way, Tikkun creates space for the emergence of a Religious Left that can not only counter the power of the Religious Right, but can also cross certain Left/Right boundaries by speaking to the deepest needs of human beings—needs that are obscured by the “values-free” education and media discourse that predominates in contemporary Western societies….while the traditional Left primarily focuses on the ways our society is unfair in its distribution of economic well-being and political rights (both domestically and globally), many Americans face equally pressing spiritual, love, and respect deprivations, which are too often ignored by the liberal and progressive world. By failing to address the hunger for love, kindness, generosity of spirit, and a framework of meaning and purpose that transcends the selfishness and materialism of the competitive marketplace, the Left often makes itself irrelevant to the yearnings of many Americans. Tikkun began in 1986 in part to address this hunger for love and meaning…pushing back against neoconservatism in the Jewish world and U.S. politics, with strong coverage and analysis of issues related to Israel/Palestine, the politics of the U.S. social theory, philosophy, and cultural critique, as well as including fiction, poetry and reviews of books and film. It became world-famous as the first serious Jewish intellectual and cultural magazine to systematically critique the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and to challenge the materialism and spiritual deadness that a new generation of Jews were experiencing in many of the formal institutions of the Jewish world….we helped provide the intellectual foundation for the emergence of a rich array of social justice-oriented organizations in the Jewish world and of organizations critical of Israeli policy toward Palestinians yet supportive of Israel’s right to exist.”
This philosophy struck a certain chord with me, because I am politically liberal, but I grew up in a fairly conservative, heavily Christian part of rural Virginia. I definitely noticed throughout my lifetime that conservatives with whom I had political arguments often used the Bible to back up their views. That would not be a problem for me because I understand that the way these people interpret the Bible is a huge part of their basic life philosophy, but it did bother me that they often got on a high horse with me about ethical/religious issues, as though I were automatically godless as a liberal. In fact, I was also raised Christian and tend to make political decisions with (my interpretation of) Christian ethics in mind. For that reason, I immediately appreciated Tikkun’s validation of the spirituality in progressive politics when I first read about their philosophy.
However, as the time came nigh for me to move to Berkeley, I began to feel apprehensive about Tikkun’s vision. I did spend the majority of my life in a small town in southern Virginia. I have a natural tendency to be skeptical of anything that sounds too out there. Anything described as “anti-capitalist” (aka…COMMIE!). Definitely anything that includes the word “spiritual.” I felt awkward telling friends and family about the magazine’s philosophy, because I knew they would have the same gut reaction as me. Although I continued to have positive hopes for the internship, I was a little worried that I might show up to find a bunch of bead-laden, incense-drenched people who judged me heavily for shopping at Walmart and were way too open on a daily basis about their innermost feelings.
While I can’t change my gut reaction to some things, I have found the staff at Tikkun and the articles published to be very kind, reasonable, and intelligent. None of the other interns or staff make me want to run in the other direction as fast as I can. Actually, they all seem like clean, coherent, relatable individuals. And most of the articles are written by activists or professors who have a strong base of knowledge about a particular subject, which makes the articles interesting and worth reading. Considering that I have been reading each roughly five times during the editing process, that is incredibly important!
So far I have been working on the summer and fall issues of the magazine. Both have special sections, which focus on immigration policy and the relationships between identity, class, and spiritual politics, respectively. More about these topics in my next post, and thanks for reading!