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Joshua Neuman

Heeb Magazine threw a big party at 1707 N. Vine St in Hollywood Tuesday night, 4/29/03. (Jewish Journal party write-up. Earlier story.)

I meet Joshua Newman, the new publisher of Heeb. Joshua teaches two classes in Jewish philosophy at NYU, including one in Post-Holocaust Theology. He's clean shaven and clean cut, dressed like a professor or businessman.

A man from Toronto, Ontario, writes Heeb Magazine: "I'm reading Heeb #2 right now and I'm already figuring out how you can fit into my life plan. I just returned from the Ukraine where I went with the innocent intention of visiting Hasidic gravesites on a Breslov pilgrimage. My hotel in Odessa was in the prostitution district however, and I ended up making a 21-minute shock-erotic-trash video using some of the local pros. The entire film was shot in eight hours using a home video camera on a budget of $300! The next morning, I was off to Berditchev to visit the grave of Rabbi Something-or-Other. Talk about extremes! Anyhow, I have found my calling and am looking for someone to take me under his wing, promote my hilarious brand of deviant sex tales and produce me. Screw the Torah, I was miserable there. I just want a life of pleasure now. Enclosed is my video. I expect you to love it and publicize it in your next issue. Get back to me on this!"

P.R. GURU QUITS OVER 'PASSION'

From NYPost.com, 2/12/04:

SUSAN Blond - the public relations powerhouse who is also an Orthodox Jew - has quit representing Heeb magazine because she was so offended by a 10-page photo feature mocking Mel Gibson's controversial movie "The Passion of the Christ."

Some Jewish leaders have attacked the film, fearing it could foster anti-Semitism for showing the role Jews played in the Crucifixion.

Heeb, the hip quarterly dubbed "The New Jew Review," had used Blond to promote its launch in 2002. The magazine's new cover announces "Back Off Braveheart" to tout a photo feature inside called "Crimes of Passion."

Editor-in-chief Josh Neuman wasn't very forthcoming in describing the offensive photos: "It's our interpretation of Jesus' final hours. It's what you'd expect from Heeb magazine." But Blond said one photo showed a Jewish prayer shawl being used as Jesus' loincloth and another depicted the Virgin Mary with nipple rings. Blond said she's open-minded, "But this was too much." Asked who will be offended, she answered: "Any Jew, any Catholic, and anyone who has any taste."

The magazine will hit newsstands Feb. 25, the same day Gibson's epic opens.

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2/18/04

I emailed Joshua Neuman, editor and publisher of Heeb Magazine, for a comment. A few days later, he called me back.

Josh: "Susan Blond didn't see it in the context of the magazine. She only saw JPEGs that were forwarded to her. This is not an attack on Christianity and Judaism or anything other than Mel Gibson's own pomposity, that somehow he optioned the story rights from Jesus.

"I haven't seen the film. I may be pleasantly surprised. I don't necessarily think he's anti-Semitic.

"This photo shoot was so appropriate for Heeb magazine. We've never dealt with anti-Semitism before. We're from a generation that grew up largely unaware of anti-Semitism. People my age are confused about this movie. We're trying to make sense of this narrative. We're having feelings bubble up within us that we're not used to.

"We got together a bunch of our friends, Jews and Christians, on a Sunday afternoon in November. We argued back and forth. This was a true interfaith dialogue. What you see on these pages are young, not necessarily religious, people struggling honestly with a narrative that they have complex and powerful feelings about. Some of it is sexy. Some of it is irreverent. Some isn't. It can't be understood without the text accompanying it. This is a work of art directed towards Mel Gibson's pomposity."

Luke: "Who's more offended by this layout?"

Josh: "Right now, Susan Blond, an Orthodox Jew, is the only one offended. The real issue is that we're offended by Mel Gibson. The hubris, the Latin and the Aramaic, and the twisting of the narrative, and basing it on this nun's amalgamation of the Gospels and passing it off as an expression of history, and not taken into account that these texts were written a hundred years after the Passion of Jesus took place. I'm not asking him to become a detached, post-modern Biblical scholar. Where's he most radical is in his departure from Catholic teachings. This commission of bishops is an issuing a manual on this film on how to respond to people who mistake this film for history itself."

Luke: "Is it true you used a Jewish prayer shawl as Jesus's loincloth?"

Josh: "Yes, it is true."

Luke: "Where did you get that from?"

Josh: "From Marc Chagall, from his apocalyptic paintings of the crucifixtion. Each tableau in the photospread is inspired by a classic image in Western art."

The humor and music editors of Heeb are Orthodox Jews. "Everybody on our editorial board has their nuanced relationship with all things Jewish."

Luke: "Have you seen the movie The Believer (2001)?"

Josh: "Yes. That party you went to was the DVD release party for The Believer. They advertised in our magazine for the movie. I thought it was a flawed interesting movie. It didn't offend me. Palm Pictures who took out the ad. We had that banner on our website for months. We got them a lot of publicity. They opted not to pay us. They didn't even say the check is in the mail."

Luke: "How much do they owe?"

Josh: "Not a lot. It would be embarrassing to say. But to a struggling start-up with an all-volunteer staff it meant a lot. We've never been treated that way."

Luke: "The movie disturbed me."

Josh: "It was a parable. These weren't real people. They were caricatures thrown on to the screen and duking it out for a higher moral purpose. I was surprised that I didn't dislike it as much as I thought I would."

Jennifer Bleyer, the former editor of Heeb, is now an editor at large.

Josh: "I loved The Last Temptation of Christ. I love historical drama. I support his right to struggle with his faith in an artistic way.

"This is satire. We could've written an editorial that no one would've ever read. We're pissed off and we want people to notice."

Josh has taken the semester off from teaching Jewish philosophy at NYU. He's writing a book with Dave Deutsch for St. Martins. It's an irreverent survey of Jewish conspiracy theories throughout the ages.

Dave Deutsch comments: "I'll admit when I first heard the loincloth thing, I was disturbed. I imagined it would really be wrapped around his crotch and ass-crack. But having seen the Chagall painting (White Crucifixion), and having heard Josh's description, I'm fine with it now--I haven't seen the actual photos, but it sounds fine. Similarly, I won't judge The Passion, since I haven't seen it, and have just heard descriptions of it. I certainly don't think that adhering to a Gospel account of the death of Jesus makes on an anti-semite, but I will add that insofar as he allegedly moved beyond his account, and given his own curious family background, I don't know that we have to automatically presume Gibson is innocent until proven guilty.

"I haven't seen The Believer, but any movie that involves Jewish nazis can't be all bad (if only he were gay it would have been a trifecta."

Heeb — A Slur Of A Magazine

By Jason Maoz, Senior Editor of The Jewish Press, 2/12/04

If Heeb magazine were a person, it would be a creature of indeterminate gender and sexual preference, body festooned with numerous piercings and sundry other exotic modifications, given to mouthing swatches of radical and anarchist flapdoodle.

Another profile introduced Heeb’s readers to a poor soul claiming to be an “Orthodox comedian” whose act includes this line destined for the Comedy Hall of Fame: “A lot of people say to me, ‘Dave, how can you, an Orthodox Jew, use a Braun razor made in Germany?’ And I say, ‘Hey, give credit where it’s due: Those people know how to take the beards off of Jews.’”

Despite its negligible impact, Heeb deserves our fleeting attention, not so much for its product as for the cautionary tale it tells about what happens when organizational desk jockeys think they’ve found the key to being cool — and end up looking silly in the process.

For the first two years of its existence, Heeb was also sponsored by UJA Federation of New York, which spent $108,000 on the magazine. After a recent flurry of negative publicity, UJA announced the funding would stop immediately, a year ahead of schedule. Heeb’s new editor says he’s determined to keep the magazine going.

Here's an excerpt of a Newsday article published in the LA Times 3/4/04:

[Jewish hipsters] listen to bands like the Hasidic New Wave and Hip Hop Hoodios, delight in the Yiddish-inflected humor of the magazine Heeb: The New Jew Review, and read a new raft of young, transgressive Jewish writers.

"I think it's too soon and too inchoate to call it a movement yet, but I really do believe there is something profound and exciting going on right now with young Jews who are trying to connect with Judaism in thoroughly untraditional and in thoroughly new ways," said Joshua Neuman, 31, publisher and editor of the 2-year-old Heeb.

"These are people who are really comfortable in their identities and so they can be playful about boundaries and make fun of themselves," says Alicia Svigals, a Jewish music pioneer whose work with the Klezmatics starting in the mid-'80s set the stage for the hipsters.

"I think this time is going to be seen, in hindsight, as the beginning of a golden age," says Heeb's Neuman. "You could call it post-denominational Judaism. Our staff includes Jews from every denomination … all of whom think of ourselves as trapped, for better and for worse, in the same historical narrative. And we want to have a dynamic, interrogating, nuanced, at times critical and at times irreverent relationship with all things Jewish."