The journal Sh’ma was first published in 1970 by the liberal theologian Eugene Borowitz (z”l, of blessed memory) and has been in continuous publication ever since. In the very first issue of Sh’ma, Borowitz wrote of the importance of “creating a dialogue in difference.” He said, “I do not know whether it can succeed; I know it has to be tried.” In that spirit, Sh’ma published 715 issues focusing on topics addressing specifically Jewish issues and others where we brought a Jewish lens to a set of questions and considerations of a secular nature.
The journal began at Rabbi Borowitz’s kitchen table as a “no frills” forum for Jewish ideas. He recognized this sort of publication was crucial to American Jewry’s intellectual and communal vibrancy, and the magazine helped situate then-marginal, critical issues (from spousal abuse to the need to confront the challenge of Palestinian claims) onto the Jewish intellectual and communal agenda. Borowitz sought to create a place where theology addressed the pressing needs of politics and society, a place where the political pulse converged with a chorus of Jewish voices. Pluralism, in those early years of publication, meant—above all—the need for a plurality of viewpoints on issues with broad social implications.
In 1993 Sh’ma was acquired by CLAL: National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership and edited by Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin.
In 1998, Yossi Abramowitz, CEO of Jewish Family & Life acquired Sh’ma and Susan Berrin became its editor.
In 2009, Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah became the chief funder of Sh’ma. Susan Berrin continued as the editor and Josh Rolnick became the publisher.
In 2010, Robert J. Saferstein became Sh’ma’s first Online Editor, and later transitioned to serving as Market Development Director. He currently sits on our advisory board.
As Sh’ma’s editor, I often return to the bound archives that Gene Borowitz sent me. I return to them for inspiration and guidance as I set out each month to create conversations that span a spectrum of political, religious, cultural thinking. Reading through our archive, I am awed by the array of issues, the timeliness of many issues. I hope you’ll peruse our archive through this portal.
Finding a New Home and Focus
Over the past two years, in conjunction with several partner organizations, we have been designing, prototyping, and testing new iterations of Sh’ma in order to hold onto the best of what we’ve been while noting that the ways of accessing information and reading have changed. At the end of that iterative process, Sh’ma partnered with the Forward, where we have now landed as a four-page monthly insert designed to spur new thinking about “Jewish Sensibilities.”
-Susan Berrin, Editor-in-Chief