As the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman has led a series of high-profile battles against antisemitism, Holocaust denial and, most recently, Mel Gibson and “The Passion of the Christ.”
And now, his son Ariel Foxman, 30, is stepping into the limelight with what some might see as an equally challenging mission: enticing men to shop.
As editor in chief of Condé Nast’s latest venture, Cargo, a shopping magazine — or, as some cynics prefer, “magalog” — for men, the younger Foxman told the Forward he’s out to “empower” men. “Cargo’s information is so actionable,” he said. “It’s an undervalued accomplishment, coming home with something that works for you.”
Sitting in his corner office on the 15th floor of the Condé Nast Building in Times Square, Foxman shows off a bunch of purple “mazel tov” balloons — a gift from his parents — and declares: “I feel great.”
“It’s really an exciting time,” Foxman said. “At times it seemed like the launch would never happen — it was theoretical for so long.”
Indeed, mag-hags of all stripes had been impatiently waiting for 10 months to catch a glimpse of what many have deemed a male version of Lucky, Condé Nast’s wildly successful women’s shopping magazine. It’s a description that’s only partially accurate, Foxman said. “If we were really Lucky for Men, it would be called that,” he said. “We share a certain DNA, that’s excitement about product, product being the celebrity. But it doesn’t translate equally.”
Indeed, as Lucky’s pages are filled with clothes, accessories and a smattering of makeup, Cargo — which hit newsstands this month — covers the panoply of male consumerist fantasies: power tools, futuristic cars and jeans that boost the appearance below the belt-line. Of course, there are lots of helpful how-tos on everything from suits to body-hair removal; there’s even a short piece on kosher for Passover cabernets.
At a time when the word “metrosexual” — in short, a sensitive, city-dwelling man concerned with his physical appearance — is threatened with overuse in the modern urban lexicon, Cargo is the first in a series of new magazines that aim to capitalize upon the shopping habits of men. While it’s ostensibly aimed at straight men — one feature asks, “Honey, does this embroidered shirt make me look gay?” — that hasn’t stopped some sniggering folks at 4 Times Square from jokingly re-naming the magazine Closet.
“Women shop differently than men,” Foxman said. “For many women, shopping, the activity, is an entertainment. Men prefer to shop around rather than shop.”
Cargo, he said, aims “to maximize buying and minimize shopping.”
Foxman, too, despite the zippered cardigan — a fashion tip straight from the pages of Cargo’s premiere issue — and artfully rumpled hair, says he’s no shopaholic. “I can completely, 100% relate to the frustrations men have when shopping,” he said, confessing to a recent stressful shopping trip to Bergdorf Goodman, during which he declared, “I hate shopping!”
Nonetheless, Foxman admits to being an “above-average shopper.”
Sipping a Diet Pepsi, Foxman said it was the writing and editing that attracted him to his latest gig. “Journalism was an early love for me,” he said. “I’ve always been involved in the whole process.”
Growing up in Teaneck, N.J., Foxman attended the Frisch School, an Orthodox day school, where he was the co-editor in chief of the newspaper, The Struggle (bizarrely, the paper’s name was inspired by Hitler’s ideological manifesto, Mein Kampf). “I remember writing an op-ed about whether religious studies should be conducted in Hebrew or not — but I honestly can’t remember which side I came down on,” he said. “There’s not many big stories to break in a local yeshiva.”
While at Harvard, double-majoring in English/American literature and languages — that’s the first part — and comparative religion, he wrote for the Crimson and the Independent and interned at Spin and Random House.
Upon graduating in 1995, Foxman moved to the city, and after assistant stints at Crown Books, Details and The New Yorker, he landed a gig at InStyle. In his four years there, he climbed the masthead to the role of senior editor, writing celebrity profiles and editing the “scene + heard” section, as well as numerous — you guessed it! — shopping packages.
“In the media today, there’s always a lot of opportunity to perpetuate something negative,” he said. “None of that has ever appealed to me. Service journalism is helpful, not negative. At the end of the day, it doesn’t challenge you, doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself.”
Of Cargo, Foxman said: “It’s helpful, nice, useful — values my parents always instilled in me.”
Growing up the son of one of the most prominent Jews in the U.S., Foxman said his father and mother, Golda, instilled a strong sense of Jewish values in him and his sister, Michelle. “Jewish culture, and being proud of Judaism, was at the bedrock of everything we did,” Foxman said. “I remember long talks about Israel, bringing black Cabbage Patch Kids dolls to Falasha [Ethiopian Jews]…. Judaism was always very vibrant, very real.”
Foxman said he’s involved “in a relationship,” lives on the Upper West Side, and, although he’s not particularly observant today, he keeps kosher.
“Because I come from the family I come from, it would be close to impossible not to be active [in Judaism],” he said. “It’s an extension of me and my upbringing. It never stops; it never will stop. It’s just my life; it’s who I am.”
His father wants to know what’s in the pages of Cargo, Foxman said, and although he has yet to see “The Passion,” he added that he “would never be complacent about the things my father feels passionately about.”
He’s stumped when asked what he likes to do in his free time — “I spend a lot of time with family,” he said after a pause — and preferred instead to give a sneak preview of Cargo’s next issue. “There’s a huge, huge bathing suit story,” he said. “Whether you love or hate shopping, you still need a bathing suit.”
“We want our readers to be empowered by information; to come home with the right product,” he said.
Lisa Keys is a staff writer for the New York Post.