She’s Building a Little Jewish Magazine on Big Ideas

Judaism was woven into the fabric of everyday household conversations. But sometimes her family’s faith was tinged with fear. Ms. Angel’s grandmother, a Greek Jew, was a Holocaust survivor who told Ms. Angel bedtime stories of concentration camps, leaving her with night terrors.

Writing, too, came to feel like a source of risk. Ms. Angel kept a journal when she was in a rebellious partying phase. Her mother, now a retired judge, read the diary and called the parents of Ms. Angel’s friends to report what their kids were up to on weekends. Ms. Angel was mortified. She partly blamed the journal itself and more or less stopped writing for a while.

In her 20s, she worked on the novel and painted. She got involved in political activism, and at an Occupy Wall Street spinoff group she met Michael McCanne, a writer whom she later married; they now live in Flatbush. She started dreaming of somehow raising $5 million and buying a Brooklyn building where she would create a center focused on Jewish culture and progressivism. Then she met Mr. Plitman, who was looking to expand Jewish Currents.

“I was like, ‘I feel like I’m manifesting this out of my dreams,’” Ms. Angel said. “I felt like I was for once in the right place at the right time.”

The editors who work at Jewish Currents share Ms. Angel’s sense of kismet. For years the publication had been schlepping along under its prior editor, Lawrence Bush, who had relied on boomer writers. One longtime contributor, Mitchell Abidor, 70, compared the magazine’s former iteration, even before Mr. Bush’s arrival in 2002, to “friendship clubs in Miami Beach, where old Jews would sit around and play canasta and moan.”

A little more than five years ago, Mr. Bush, 71, decided he needed someone younger to take the reins, so he paid a millennial a couple hundred dollars to invite friends to a gathering at the National Writers Union. Mr. Plitman, then a labor organizer, heard there would be beer and showed up with no great expectations. But he was moved by Mr. Bush’s speech — about a magazine that had hung in there for more than seven decades and whose former editor, Morris Schappes, had at one point been jailed for his communist ties.

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