Moment Magazine, the nation’s largest independent Jewish magazine, celebrated its 35th Anniversary with a Symposium & Dinner at The Four Seasons, Washington, DC, on Sunday, October 24, 2010.
The symposium, entitled “The Influence of the Jewish Ethos on American Culture” featured The Red Tent author Anita Diamant; BP Gulf Fund Administrator Kenneth Feinberg; artificial intelligence expert Judea Pearl; New Yorker cartoon editor Robert Mankoff; NPR host Robert Siegel; and President Emeritus of George Washington University Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. The symposium was moderated by Moment editor and publisher, Nadine Epstein, who relaunched the magazine in 2004.
“Among great journalists who have taken on powers that be,” said Siegel during the symposium, “…it never surprised me at all that they were Jewish. Something seemed entirely consistent with a stance of questioning authority and also a feeling that what you’re doing serves a very important role.” Siegel went on to discuss the hot-button topic of whether Jews controlled the media or not. Kenneth Feinberg addressed the question “What is a life worth?” while Judea Pearl explored the impact of Judaism on science, particularly on the field of artificial intelligence, and Stephen Joel Trachtenberg explained why so many Jews enter public service.
Throughout the symposium, the subject of Jewish humor riveted the standing-room only crowd. “Jews are really the foundation of American humor,” said Mankoff. “It’s really quite remarkable because the People of the Book are not the People of the Joke. In the Bible, if God laughs at you, you’re toast.”
The tone of the discussion changed dramatically when an audience member asked about the role of Israel in the American Jewish community. Mankoff and Pearl, father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, sparred over Israel’s centrality to American Jewish identity.
The symposium was followed by a dinner chaired by Moment co-founders Elie Wiesel and Leonard Fein. Renowned violinist Daniel Heifetz, presented “The Jewish Artist in America,” in honor of Daniel Pearl World Music Days. Actor and folk singer Theodore Bikel accompanied by his wife, pianist Tamara Brooks, gave an impromptu performance. The dinner honored Rabbi Harold S. White, the recently retired Jewish Chaplain at Georgetown University. Among those in attendance were the Chilean Ambassador Arturo Farmendos, New Republic, literary editor Leon Wieseltier, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, Pulitzer prize winning columnist Clarence Page as well as Biblical archeologist and former Moment editor Hershel Shanks.
Nadine Epstein spoke of the importance of independent journalism and why Moment has thrived at a time when many publications are closing their doors: “Every generation couches the discussion in its own way but what is of most importance is that the conversation continues.”
The event raised funds to launch the Daniel Pearl Investigative Journalism Initiative (DPIJI), created in memory of the 38-year-old reporter executed by terrorists in 2002. “This project is designed to encourage young journalists to research and write in-depth stories about modern manifestations of anti-Semitism and other deeply-ingrained prejudices,” says Epstein. “We believe that, given the tenor of the times, they need additional support in order to focus on these difficult subjects.”
Members of the DPIJI panel of advisers include Wolf Blitzer, Clarence Page, NBC’s Martin Fletcher, Pulitzer Prize-winning former Washington Post reporter Glenn Frankel, former Wall Street Journal foreign affairs reporter Robert S. Greenberger, founding director of the Committee of Concerned Journalists Bill Kovach, ProPublica editor-in-chief Paul Steiger and many others.
CONTACT: For interviews, a transcript of the symposium, photographs and/or more information, contact Amelia Cohen-Levy, firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-363-6422