Tikkun (magazine)

Tikkun (magazine)

January/February 2007 issue
Editor Michael Lerner
Frequency quarterly
Country United States
Based in Berkeley, California
Website tikkun.org

Tikkun is a quarterly English-language magazine, published in the United States, that analyzes American and Israeli culture, politics, religion and history from a leftist-progressive viewpoint, and provides commentary about Israeli politics and Jewish life in North America. The magazine was founded in 1986 by Nan Fink Gefen and Michael Lerner, who remains the editor-in-chief.


Origins and content

The title of the magazine comes from mystical Hebrew concept tikkun olam (Hebrew: תיקון עולם‎; "healing or restoring the world") which suggests humanity's shared responsibility (with the Creator) "to heal, repair and transform the world." Tikkun Magazine was first published in the fall of 1986. According to the cover of each issue, Tikkun is a "Critique of politics, culture and society". Nan Fink Gefen, Michael Lerner and Peter Gabel were primary architects of the magazine. According to the founding editorial statement,[1] political concerns of the 1960s civil rights, anti-war and feminist movements and psychological studies of workers in the 1970s and 1980s were their most direct influences. Additionally, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel's legacy of "prophetic" Jewish activism has been honored and analyzed from the first issue onward. Non-Jews also made key contributions to the intellectual framework of the magazine. These include the late historian Christopher Lasch, an original contributing editor, Harvey Cox of Harvard Divinity School and philosopher Cornel West. Although clearly on the Left, Tikkun used a "Current Debate" format as one way to encourage open discussion of ideas and move beyond some of the stifling tendencies of political enclaves.

Tikkun introduced itself in 1986 with prominent ads placed in leading intellectual papers and journals declaring a new voice for the Jewish Left, obliquely challenging Commentary Magazine's conservative drift and the perception that the American Jewish community had grown overwhelmingly conservative. Several members of the Editorial Board, including Elie Wiesel, resigned due to this confrontation with Commentary.[citation needed]

Over the first few years, Tikkun held conferences in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles to capture the energy of its readers and address pressing issues of the day. Throughout its history Tikkun has tried to engage readers in broader activism through numerous distinct organizational entities. In 2001 Tikkun announced the founding of an interfaith activist arm, the Tikkun Community, in the Sept/Oct issue of its magazine, and held its founding conference in January 2002. In 2005, the Tikkun Community was reorganized and renamed the Network of Spiritual Progressives (see below).

Financial support for the magazine has come from three individuals in addition to the assets and efforts of Editor Michael Lerner. Initially, Nan Fink Gefen, at the time married to Lerner, devoted financial resources and served as a hands-on publisher. She left the magazine as their marriage ended in 1991(cite last publisher's page). In 1997 fellow 1960s activist Danny Goldberg, a major music industry president heavily involved in the ACLU, became co-publisher with his father Victor. During these years, prominent journalists such as Jack Newfield interviewed national and international leaders such as Mario Cuomo and Haiti's embattled President Aristide to bring more credibility to the growing influence of the magazine. Finally, in 2002 George and Trish Vradenburg (Lerner's sister) became co-publishers.

Tikkun consistently publishes the work of Israeli and Palestinian left-wing intellectuals in English, and also includes book and music reviews, personal essays, and poetry, generally on Jewish themes. Some writers who have contributed recently to the magazine include Michael Bader, Noam Chomsky, Shaul Magid (a contributing editor), Benny Morris, Or N. Rose] (also a contributing editor), Edward Said, Jim Wallis, and Stephen Zunes. In every issue, Tikkun states that its articles "do not necessarily reflect Tikkun's position on any issue,"[2] and its editor, Rabbi Michael Lerner, has written that he "often consciously seeks to print articles with which he disagrees."[3] Beyt Tikkun Synagogue, led by Rabbi Michael Lerner, is loosely affiliated with Tikkun magazine. It describes itself as a "hallachic community bound by Jewish law".[4]

The Network of Spiritual Progressives, still affiliated with Tikkun, has broadened the magazine's appeal to non-Jewish readers. In their own words, NSP members define themselves as "a community of people who support each other [and] pursue a highest vision of a world healed and transformed". This project is based on three ideas: Changing the bottom line in America to maximize love and caring behavior; replacing world domination with generosity based on the implementation of a Global Marshall Plan, calling upon the United States to donate two percent of its GDP to end poverty and hunger; and finally, challenging the anti-religious and anti-spiritual biases within liberal culture.


The Utne Reader awarded Tikkun its Independent Press Award for Best Spiritual Coverage in 2006[5] and 2011[6]. Tikkun was praised for its "adept analysis" of the political influence of American fundamentalists, the international conflict among religious zealots, and the inability of many progressives to understand people's yearning for faith. Utne also cited the magazine's "pragmatic vision for change."


In 2005, Manfred Gerstenfeld cited an article published by TikkunJoel Kovel’s "On Left anti-Semitism and the Special Status of Israel" (May/June 2003) — as one of two examples of "essays of Jewish authors using anti-Semitic arguments."[7] In his article, Kovel described Israel as a racist state that "automatically generates crimes against humanity and lacks the internal means of correcting them," adding that such a state "cannot have that legitimacy which gives it the right to exist."[8]

In a 2006 column, Alan Dershowitz wrote that "Tikkun is quickly becoming the most virulently anti-Israel screed ever published under Jewish auspices" and that "support for Tikkun is support for the enemies of Israel."[9] Dershowitz and his books have been the targets of criticism in the pages of Tikkun (for example: May/June 1997, September/October 1997, November/December 1997, January/February 1999).

On January 28, 2007, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) convened "Finding Our Voice", a conference co-sponsored by more than 50 Jewish organizations for the purpose of discussing the rise in antisemitism. Its co-sponsors represented a wide range of Jewish opinion, including the ADL and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on the right and Americans for Peace Now and the Jewish Labor Committee on the left. Tikkun and Jewish Voice for Peace were not invited to co-sponsor the conference.[10]

Alleged impropriety regarding letters to the editor

In 1997, former Tikkun editors accused Lerner of publishing pseudonymous letters to the editor that he himself had written. While many of the letters were laudatory ("Your editorial stand on Iraq said publicly what many of us in the Israeli peace camp are feeling privately but dare not say."), a few were critical ("Have you gone off your rocker?"). Lerner admitted that he had written the letters but said his only mistake was not informing readers that the authors' names were pseudonyms.[11]


  1. ^ "Tikkun 5 Year Anthology edited by Michael Lerner". Tikkun Books. 1992. http://www.amazon.com/Tikkun-Heal-Repair-Transform-World/dp/0935933034/ref=sr_1_3/002-2929806-7815211?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1186208537&sr=8-3. 
  2. ^ "Disclaimer". Tikkun. p. 4. 
  3. ^ "Ask the Rabbi". http://www.tikkun.org/rabbi_lerner/ask_the_rabbi_form. Retrieved February 7, 2007. 
  4. ^ "Founding Perspective" (PDF). Beyt Tikkun. http://www.beyttikkun.org/fmd/files/FoundingPerspective.pdf. Retrieved February 6, 2008. 
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ Gerstenfeld, Manfred (March 1, 2005). "Jews against Israel". Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism. http://www.jcpa.org/phas/phas-30.htm. Retrieved February 7, 2007. 
  8. ^ Kovel, Joel (May/June 2003). "On Left anti-Semitism and the Special Status of Israel". Tikkun. http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=3597. Retrieved February 7, 2007. 
  9. ^ Dershowitz, Alan (October 20, 2006). "The accusation: 'Moral pervert' hit piece shouldn’t have been spread". The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California. http://www.jewishsf.com/content/2-0-/module/displaystory/story_id/30647/edition_id/575/format/html/displaystory.html. Retrieved February 7, 2007. 
  10. ^ Harris, Ben (January 23, 2007). "'Progressive' anti-Semitism? S.F. meet considers phenomenon". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Archived from the original on January 21, 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080121070438/http://www.jta.org/cgi-bin/iowa/news/article/20070123ProgressiveantiS.html. Retrieved January 31, 2008. 
  11. ^ Katz, Leslie (March 21, 1997). "Tikkun editor calls letter-writing policy 'a mistake'". Jewish News Weekly of Northern California. http://www.jewishsf.com/content/2-0-/module/displaystory/story_id/5763/edition_id/107/format/html/displaystory.html. Retrieved September 30, 2010. 

External links

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