Fellows | 20 February 2013

Leviathan Celebrates a Gargantuan Feat


Leviathan rainbow thumb

Here is the flashy cover art from an issue of Leviathan published in 2012.

The student-run Jewish journal, which turns 40 this year, ranks among the longest-running Jewish-themed campus publications in the country.
Imagine how hard it would be to publish a respected quarterly magazine with a 100 percent turnover rate every three or four years, and keep it going for four decades.

The students of UC Santa Cruz have pulled off this impressive feat with Leviathan Jewish Journal, which ranks among the longest-running Jewish themed campus publications in the country.

The venerable publication will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year at a special event at 3 p.m. April 28 that will include a panel of Leviathan editors past and present, as well as the official launch of the Leviathan‘s online archive of all issues going back to 1972, when the publication started in newspaper format. There will also be a festive reception with food and beverages. This anniversary gathering will be part of UCSC’s Alumni Weekend 2013 celebration from April 26-28.

Asked to explain Leviathan‘s longevity, the journal’s faculty advisor, Nathaniel Deutsch, UCSC professor of literature and history, and co-director of the Center for Jewish Studies, replied: “It is the students. They are really good at ensuring this is handed over to the next generation.

leviathan early cover borscht belt

Over the years, Leviathan has gone through many changes, transforming itself gradually from a newspaper format to a slick magazine style. Here is a vintage cover of the journal from the late 1970s, featuring original artwork and lettering by UCSC students.

Leviathan is the oldest institution at the university that has focused on exploring Jewish themes,” Deutsch continued. “The fact that it has continued all these years indicates the great interest in Jewish culture and history on campus, which is also reflected in the high enrollment in Jewish studies classes.”

Those classes typically attract about 1,000 students a year.

Deutsch took the faculty advisory role at the request of Leviathan staff member Aaron Giannini (Stevenson ’13, history), currently the magazine’s editor-in-chief, and one of Deutsch’s students.

Giannini was drawn to the magazine after hearing about it in his Hebrew class. He started off as a staff writer, penning a quarterly Jewish-themed advice column called “Dear Abbyraham,” covering such issues as the origins and relevance of Kosher dietary laws, and other, thornier issues involving Israel and Jewish identity.

Staff members who write opinion pieces for Leviathan are speaking from their own points of view, and not representing an editorial position for Leviathan as a whole, he said. “One of the main reasons to join Leviathan is to facilitate conversation. Even if someone doesn’t agree, it is important to be able to have that conversation, not feel like you are being censored.”

Bruce Thompson, a past long-term faculty advisor for Leviathan, has a strong sense of the publication’s history.

He talked about its changes and evolutions from the days it started out as a mimeographed newspaper run by a collective of editors.

Leviathan staff group portrait

The hard-working all-student staff of Leviathan is able to put out a thought-provoking journal every quarter – and they have been doing so for almost 40 years.

The newspaper came to life around the time of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, so that topic dominated its early articles and editorials. “During the 2000s there was a tendency to shift away from news to features and include more visual art and photography,” Thompson noted.

Leviathan also moved from newsprint to a slick magazine format, with more expensive production values. Along the way, it accumulated a long list of distinguished alumni, including the American-born Israeli historian Gershem Gorenberg; Tony Mischels, who is the George L. Mosse Associate Professor of American Jewish History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Joshua Zimmerman, a specialist in Polish and Italian Jewish history at Yeshiva University.

All the while, Leviathan keeps publishing a new issue every quarter.

“It is really quite a feat,” Thompson said. “I think it’s partly luck and partly a lot of effort because students who take the lead as editors are aware that they are standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Article written by Dan White.