JVibe connects with Jewish teens
MINNEAPOLIS — JVibe magazine gets in the face of its teen readers with large, colorful cover photos of young Jewish celebrities. Recent cover stories have featured Shia LaBeouf, star of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; Andy Samberg, popular cast member of Saturday Night Live; and Jake Epstein, who appears in the Canadian TV series Degrassi: The Next Generation. But the magazine stories probe the Jewish side of the young celebs; and there also are book reviews and articles on issues concerning Jewish teens -- all in an attractive, award-winning package.
"For teens who are somewhat connected to their Judaism, they really love it, but also it's really for teens who are not connected to Judaism in any way," Lindsey Silken, JVibe's editor-in-chief, explains in a telephone interview. "Maybe its because they live in a town where they are the only Jew or because they live in a town... where there are tons of Jews but it's easy to feel like it's not something special... JVibe is for those teens who do not necessarily feel proud of being Jewish, and it's something to connect to, it's accessible."
The bi-monthly magazine is an offshoot of the JVibe Web site, which was created in 1998 by Jewish Family and Life (JFL Media). In addition to JVibe, JFL Media publishes several Jewish magazines and online publications intended for all ages, including Sh'ma, a journal of Jewish responsibility for adults, and BabagaNewz for children.
"JVibe picks up right where BabagaNewz leaves off, with the 12- and 13-year-olds," Silken says. "There was a feeling that there was a need for it; there was no Jewish teen magazine."
Each edition of the magazine is centered on a theme. The May/June 2008 edition, for example, looks at the possibility of world peace. In its feature article, JVibe teamed up with a magazine for Muslim girls and hosted a roundtable discussion between Jewish and Muslim American teens.
"Being together and having these kinds of discussions (I think) is the way to peace," Jenna Hagehassen, 17, said in the article.
The magazine's themes occasionally overlap with the themes of other JFL Media publications, though each has its own specific goals.
"At those times when we're not going to overlap, our editorial team sits down and thinks about what issues are relevant right now," Silken says. "It's both about what's going on in the world and at that time of year."
The magazine includes articles by young professional writers, but the Web site is almost exclusively written by teens who are selected from JVibe's Jewish Teen Advisory Board (JTAB). According to Silken, JTAB has about 75 members from across the United States who contribute articles of firsthand experience to which other teens can connect.
JVibe's Web site recently underwent a yearlong redesign to include more features such as blogs, contests and the magazine's archives. The site was honored with a Simon Rockower Award for Best Web Site at the recent American Jewish Press Association (AJPA) conference in Washington, D.C.
"That was a very exciting award for us to win because we've worked so hard for a long time," Silken says.
JVibe also received a Rockower Award for Best Overall Graphic Design for its print magazine.
"It's very mainstream feeling, but at the same time there are Jewish values throughout the magazine," Silken says. "We're covering those issues that affect all teens but through a Jewish lens. I think it's something that helps Jewish teens feel connected to their religion, to their culture and to one another."
For information, visit: www.jvibe.com.
Skai Plotnick and Tamar Zmora are editorial interns at the American Jewish World in Minneapolis, Minn. Intern Jessica Vaysberg contributed to this story.