1st Anniversary at Jewish Philosophy Place (“Hitler” and “Starry Skies”) (Friends, Family, Colleagues, Strangers)


I’m sure I spend too much time at “Jewish Philosophy Place.” I started it a year ago, almost to the date, because I was frantically bored with Jewish Studies and modern Jewish thought, because I crave attention, and because I wanted to try something “new.” When I was thinking about how to start this thing up, I promised myself that I wouldn’t let it take over my life. It’s not the way it has worked out. In fact, I’m in up to my neck in worlds of new media, the very time suck and social crush I wanted to avoid all along. Some 500 posts and 36,000 hits later at JPP, meeting up with old friends and making new friends both here and on Facebook, the ability to synchronize all the different worlds of friends, family, colleagues, strangers, well, I couldn’t be happier with the results, with the way Jewish philosophy looks at JPP and with the kinds of social extension it makes possible.

When I first started JPP, I spent huge amounts of time trying to figure out how to set things up, how to post pictures, how to size pictures, how to extend the blog’s web-presence, how to fix technical things that went wrong. I then figured that I could promote Jewish Philosophy Place on FB, a medium which I had avoided doing for years, fearful of the new medium, the time suck, and the social crush that I was sure I didn’t want to be bothered with. Part of me was that I didn’t want to burden old friends from my deep past with all this Jewish Studies, Religion Studies, Jewish philosophy nonsense. I went onto FB kicking and screaming, because it all seemed too much, which it probably is. But I’ll have to say that LP (nee LY) was right all along and that I was wrong about FB. And then my nephew recommended that I set up a special page for JPP, which I did. (I also revamped the FB page for the Judaic Studies Program at Syracuse University). Since then, I’ve gone onto Twitter and Tumblr. The former I haven’t quite figured out and find frustrating, and the latter, I actually enjoy because I find it visually interesting.

Truth be told, I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing here at JPP really warrants the name “philosophy.” But I really don’t care. I made a very conscious decision not to extend any single thought or group of thoughts out too far. I just don’t think blogs are the proper format for long, extended works of excursus. I wanted the posts to be short, ad hoc, and image rich. Without the inclusion of pictures I don’t think I even would have bothered starting this thing. For me, the whole thing is a kind of thought lab. It’s an experimental throwing of things together, the things that interest me, like art, religion, Jewish thought and philosophy, art, and also the places in which I find myself. On the one hand, the posts are intended to be short and to the point. On the other hand, they systematize what I am already thinking about and looking at while at work, on my walks, at museums, galleries, or synagogue, or in the car up and on the road to and back from Syracuse. That’s part of the meaning of “place” in the name “Jewish Philosophy Place.”

I like the exposure, the new contacts, the collision of worlds both here at JPP and on FB and on the JPP-FB page. There are new friends, old friends, and really old friends, past life and current life. And I’m writing every day, which was actually not the case before I started the blog. The blog-site is proving itself to be a good place to work out ideas on a small frame-format. Several posts, sometimes directly related, sometimes only incidentally so, have been composited into more scholarly objects (a conference paper and an essay, maybe two). The blogsite is, I think, uniquely able to bring together and re-assemble a broad range of varied interests onto one single “place.”

Odd things happen online at JPP, so much of which is completely serendipitous. It means a lot to me that some of my old, old friends from Habonim and Park School read some of these posts along with friends, colleagues and students at the Department of Religion at Syracuse, as well as Jewish Studies and Jewish philosophy people. I’m always grateful to feedback from MK, GH, SM, NL, and HR. My mother, brothers, and at least one first cousin sometimes chime in, either here or over at FB. I’m incredibly surprised and gratified by the company at JPP of regular readers and accidental readers, especially those who, to the best of my knowledge, are complete strangers to myself, to Jewish thought, to Judaism or to the academic study of Religion. I don’t know where you come from or how you found JPP. They come from all over the world, from all parts of Europe, and also from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Morocco, Algerian, Ethiopia, and Indonesia. They and others like them like this picture or that post, they might like the art, or this or that political content. That’s the way things work in a network environment. There are two kinds of traffic, intentional and random.

Most odd: trying to figure out why some posts receive a lot of interest. Sometimes it’s obvious. When I wrote something nasty about a leading public intellectual, I got a lot of hits. Other posts aren’t so easy to figure out. A post I posted about Purim received a ton of traffic. So did a post about the composer Arvo Part. Why? As it turns out, people stumbled across the Purim post at JPP because they were looking for “Hitler” on Google; they found JPP because I had mentioned and posted a picture of Hitler as part of the holiday gag. As for Arvo Part, the post relates to my listening to a piece by him and stopping the car to look at the stars on way home from Syracuse. I had posted a picture of a “starry sky,” which is how people found JPP on a Google image-search.

In other words, it seems then that a lot of people who find Jewish Philosophy Place online were looking for “”Hitler” and “starry nights.” I think that’s kind of funny.


About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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1 Response to 1st Anniversary at Jewish Philosophy Place (“Hitler” and “Starry Skies”) (Friends, Family, Colleagues, Strangers)

  1. David says:

    happy birthday to JPP. I have enjoyed reading the blog.

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