December 12, 2018

A magazine with attitude

She’s young, sexy, defiant and Jewish. And now, journalist Jennifer Bleyer has created a magazine that is … well, young, sexy, defiant and Jewish.

HEEB, out nationwide Feb. 5, promises to be for young Jewish Americans what Los Angeles-based Giant Robot magazine has been for young Asian Americans: a smart, postmodern celebration of cultural kitsch that subverts and reclaims stereotypes (for HEEB, that begins with its very title). A Neil Diamond centerfold, an examination of the “Jewish Afro” and a showdown between actors Steven Seagal and George Segal based on cultural relevance are some of the features that appear in the glossy quarterly’s debut.

HEEB’s 26-year-old editor grew up the cornfed, Midwest-bred daughter of Ashkenazi parents with Russian-Austrian heritage. While Bleyer enjoyed Hebrew day school, she was the mischievous kid calling up Dominos and having pepperoni pizzas delivered to class.

Bleyer says she is aware that HEEB emerges at a time when the mainstream magazine industry is suffering. Last year, industry advertising revenues fell 10 percent. Mademoiselle folded. Even Tina Brown could not keep the just-nixed, Miramax-backed Talk magazine on people’s lips.

The young, hip, Jewish niche has fared even worse. Since the mid-1990s, a half dozen attempts to repackage Jewish culture as “edgy” and “happening ” failed to go the distance.

What separates HEEB from that ilk is that it is both less pretentious and more sophisticated than its predecessors. Bleyer’s tongue-in-cheek humor permeates the first issue, from the rap

DJ-spoofing cover to CDs reviewed by somebody’s grandparents. HEEB also benefits from full-color, high-end production values and a playful visual and verbal aesthetic that is less forced than the defunct art-house Jewish mag Davka. Which makes sense, given that Bleyer — who produced the punk ‘zine (short for magazine), Mazeltov Cocktail, while attending Columbia — has built her journalism career supplying investigative pieces to periodicals, including SPIN magazine.

Initial funding for HEEB — $60,000 — comes from a grant from the San Francisco-based Joshua Venture, a fellowship for young entrepreneurs whose backers include Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation.

Ultimately, Bleyer does not feel that her irreverent publication rebels against the established Jewish community. Rather, it’s another slice of that same babke.

“Jews in this country are not monolithic,” she says. “In the end we’re a bunch of kids having fun. I’m still a punk rocker. I’m just working with a bigger budget.”

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