Virtual Journalism

By Daniel Treiman

Published April 13, 2007, issue of April 13, 2007.
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Second Life — the burgeoning online virtual world with more than 5 million registered users — already has synagogues, a Jewish museum, a Holocaust memorial, a Western Wall replica and, yes, antisemitism.

Now it has its own Jewish magazine.

The first issue of 2Life, an English-language magazine chronicling Jewish life in Second Life, hit the virtual streets last week.

2Life is a project of Switzerland’s Jüedische Medien AG, publisher of the German-language Jewish magazines Tachles and Aufbau. It is edited by Julian Voloj, a New York-based journalist and photographer who has written articles on Second Life’s Jewish scene for Tachles and for the Forward.

2Life’s first issue features an interview with the builder of Matzohenge — a towering Second Life edifice made from virtual unleavened bread; a meditation on the meaning of Passover from the creator of the Second Life Kotel, and an article from the founder of Second Life’s first synagogue, Temple Beth Israel. “My first concern was that there might not be enough stories to write, but actually I’m now preparing the next issues, and I think for four or five issues I already have enough material,” Voloj said.

The monthly magazine will be distributed free via virtual news boxes at Second Life Jewish sites and on the Web at www.2lifemagazine.com. 2Life even has its own Second Life headquarters, a two-story virtual Bauhaus-style building that houses a café and an exhibition space.

As Second Life’s first Jewish journalist — Reuters already has a full-time correspondent covering the virtual world’s multimillion-dollar economy — Voloj shows up at Jewish events in the form of his animated avatar, “Kafka Schnabel,” and conducts interviews via instant messaging. Voloj says that many of those involved in Second Life’s Jewish scene are spiritual seekers who don’t necessarily have a strong real-life Jewish identity.

“This is an outlet where they feel secure to be Jewish. Because you’re just a computer animation, you can basically do whatever you want. So a lot of people are discovering Judaism there,” he said. “And there are people who really go and they study Torah and so on, who are not even Jews, which is fascinating. You go there, and you can’t tell if someone is Jewish or not. You can look like a dragon and come to the synagogue — who cares?”


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