A new Chabad House publishing model allows Shluchim to create a fully personalized magazine for their communities that’s as beautiful as it is engaging.
Earlier this year, just in time for Rosh Hashana, Chabad of Palm Springs and the Desert Communities launched a glossy quarterly, aimed for the local community. Dedicated to the late famed writer and Chabad of Palm Springs member Herman Wouk a”h, it was given the title “Midbar,” or “Desert.” The name reflects the provenance of the publication and its subject matter – locals often refer to their arid patch of Southern California simply as “The Desert” – but also to an ethos.
“There are a lot of wonderful Jewish publications out there these days,” says Rabbi Boruch Werdiger, educational director at Chabad of Palm Springs and editor of the new magazine. “The point of our magazine was to put something together that our locals can really connect with, and something they’ll be excited to open when it arrives in the mail. Especially with so many of our services and classes now on Zoom, it’s important for us to try and keep that sense of community strong.”
Together with Sholom Denebeim of the Mintleaf Creative, Chabad of Palm Springs set out to create a magazine that looked as good as any other national publication, but was made by, for, and about the local community.
The High Holiday edition, and then its Chanukah follow-up, featured profiles and interviews with local Jewish personalities, film reviews and poetry by community members, excerpts from recent Torah classes, a story about a touching encounter between a local student and a Holocaust survivor, and a Chanukah gift guide that included products from local businesses.
After launching the project, its creators came to appreciate another important side-benefit, according to Werdiger: Contributing to the magazine was an excellent way for community members to become more active participants. While most lay members are not able to lead a shul davening or teach a class, that doesn’t mean they ought to suffice with a donation now and then and be otherwise passive recipients of Chabad services. “With our magazine, people are happy to contribute a piece of writing, sell ads, share a story, or just proofread the next issue,” he says.
With success of their project thus far, Denebeim and Werdiger are now keen to provide other Shluchim and Chabad communities with the same opportunity. Their new project, Aleph Magazine, will use a blend of syndicated and localized content to allow other Shluchim to publish high-quality magazines for their own communities, without the exorbitant expense that comes with making one from scratch. Aleph will prepare articles and content of general interest, such as Holiday Guides, and then incorporate locally-oriented material from other Shluchim to create a unique magazine for each participating Chabad House. Their next issue is set to be out for Pesach, and they are currently offering an early-bird discount for interested Mosdos.