Bay Area: Home of many alternative Jewish magazines

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With its beat poetry, cutting-edge fiction and nose-pierced, tallit-covered woman, Davka is, well, something new.

The San Francisco-based national Jewish magazine, however, is only the most recent in a series of underground Jewish periodicals to emerge over the years.

"One of the greatest things about this area is there's a tremendous amount of Jewish cultural innovation and a kind of entrepreneurial spirit," says David Biale, director of Jewish Studies at Berkeley's Graduate Theological Union.

Biale was involved with one of the earliest Jewish alternative media scenes back in late 1960s Berkeley, when Jewish college students put together The Jewish Radical.

The newspaper, a largely political journal, "had a certain Yippie influence," Biale recalls. "It was very irreverent, but its shock value was more political."

The Jewish Radical, for instance, issued "Golden Calf Awards" to what it felt were deserving members of the Jewish community. One year the Anti-Defamation League was a winner when it had given an award to then-Gov. Ronald Reagan.

Surprisingly, The Jewish Radical even received some funding from the more mainstream Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay, he recalls.

In an era when the alternative media was flourishing generally, other underground Jewish publications such as The Leviathan in Santa Cruz and Genesis2 in Boston also raised hell.

Genesis2 and The Jewish Radical both committed near-heresy in Jewish journalism in that period by calling for Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians for peace.

By the early 1970s, most of the alternative Jewish media died out, although one national Jewish feminist magazine, Lilith, has survived.

Among the periodicals Biale recalls that did not make it: a leftist political and poetry paper out of Los Angeles. Its name: Davka.