Stacey Maslow
Hadassah Writers' Circle

A Conversation with Hadassah Magazine Executive Editor Lisa Hostein

Hadassah Magazine Executive Editor Lisa Hostein. Photo courtesy of Hadassah.
Hadassah Magazine Executive Editor Lisa Hostein. Photo courtesy of Hadassah.

Dr. Stacey Maslow, Vice-Chair, Hadassah Medical Organization: Lisa, thank you for joining us to discuss your role as the award-winning executive editor of Hadassah Magazine. With the publication of the May/June special issue focusing on Israel’s 75th anniversary, this the perfect time to talk about the magazine and your role there. Let’s start by discussing your Hadassah story.

Lisa Hostein, Executive Editor, Hadassah Magazine: My Hadassah story is part of my Jewish journalism story. I was always aware of Hadassah and its important role in the landscape of Jewish organizations while I was covering the Jewish world for other publications. Then, back in the 1990s, when I began commuting by train from Philadelphia to New York to work at another media organization, I would regularly see three Hadassah volunteers I knew who were also commuting – in their case, to Hadassah’s offices in Manhattan. I was quite impressed by them and their commitment to the organization.

I am not from a Hadassah family. My mother was an early feminist and one of the first female presidents of a Reform synagogue, but she did not believe in joining women’s organizations. Nonetheless, I have been an avid admirer and observer of Hadassah for many years. When the position as executive editor of Hadassah Magazine opened, I was excited. The ability to focus my journalistic energies on Jewish women and issues that matter to Hadassah and to me is a real gift.

Stacey Maslow: Lisa, thank you for that beautiful introduction to your Hadassah journey. Please tell us what changes you have brought to the magazine since becoming the editor.

Lisa Hostein: When I began at Hadassah Magazine in late 2015, I decided to shift the focus of the magazine from that of a general Jewish publication to one that focuses primarily on women. I wanted to find new ways to include women’s voices and to explore issues that would engage, educate and inspire Jewish women of all ages and backgrounds. Some recent examples include a profile of a leading kosher food blogger, a feature about Jewish women of color who have written books about their experiences and a story about the mental health challenges facing teenagers. For our special issue celebrating Israel’s 75th birthday, we featured mini-profiles of Israeli women who were “firsts” in their fields, from arts and politics to sports and medicine.

Stacey Maslow: What have been some of your favorite articles in Hadassah Magazine?

Lisa Hostein: There have been so many! Hadassah Magazine featured articles in 2016 about Israel’s innovation with medical marijuana and the growing use of the substance among seniors. The image we placed on the cover of the magazine of an older woman smoking marijuana was fabulous and powerful. That article earned a first prize Rockower Award, a prestigious honor from the American Jewish Press Association.

We also garnered three top honors for an important series of articles in 2018 devoted to the #MeToo movement. The series examined how #MeToo was affecting the Jewish world, female clergy and Israel.

Last year, we did a deep dive into the lives of Ukrainians who have taken refuge in Israel, including dozens of teenagers who have found a new home at Hadassah’s Youth Aliyah villages in Israel, which provide services for teens at risk.

We hope our articles about women, health and Israel, including the President’s Column, written for the last few years by Hadassah National President Rhoda Smolow, and Hadassah Medicine, which focuses on the Hadassah Medical Organization,  Hadassah’s medical center in Jerusalem, touch people and make them aware of Hadassah and the issues our almost 300,000 members and supporters care about and act upon.

Stacey Maslow: Tell us about the One Book, One Hadassah and Hadassah Magazine Discussion programs that you began.

Lisa Hostein: Each month, we alternate between our national book initiative, One Book, One Hadassah, and the Hadassah Magazine Discussion, partnering in both with Hadassah’s Engagement Division, the organization’s front-line link to its members. These virtual events draw anywhere from 300 to 1,000 participants and are a great way to engage Hadassah members and potential members all over the country with each other and with the national organization. For the One Book program, we select a novel or work of nonfiction and encourage people to read the book in advance of my Zoom interview with the author. We also provide a discussion guide and urge people to continue the conversation with their local book groups after the event.

For the Magazine Discussion, we choose a topic from the latest issue of the magazine and dive deeper into the subject with a panel of speakers. Such topics have included Jewish genealogy, 50 years of women in the rabbinate, antisemitism on campus and, most recently, Israel at 75: Successes and Challenges.

Stacey Maslow: Please share with us your goals for the magazine as it evolves.

Lisa Hostein: As the head of the leading publication for Jewish women in the United States, my goal is to continue to produce an award-winning magazine, in print and across digital platforms, that resonates with both longtime and loyal Hadassah members as well as new generations of Jewish women that may not be familiar with the organization. With a mix of lively features, profiles and issue-oriented stories, along with our popular sections on food, travel, books and the arts, we want to cultivate a new and younger cadre of women with the hope they, too, will be inspired to join the Hadassah family.

Stacey Maslow: What is your wish for the future of Hadassah?

Lisa Hostein: I love that Hadassah is for and about Jewish women who love Israel and care about issues that matter to women. I chose Jewish journalism as a career as a way to combine my passions for writing, storytelling and Jewish life, and I am very grateful that my different professional positions have enabled me to help chronicle the story of the Jewish people over the past several decades. Being able to now do that through Hadassah Magazine is a real privilege. My wish for Hadassah is that it continues to be a strong, healthy and vibrant organization that attracts Jewish women of all ages who continue to engage with each other and with the wider world.

About the Author
Stacey Maslow is a member of the Hadassah Writers' Circle.
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