Vital Moments

Party Politics

In the social column this week: Mari Cohen, Peter Beinart, Jonathan Cohen, Kathleen Peratis, Arielle Angel, Nora Caplan-Bricker, David Meyer, David Walsh, Jacob Pittman, Mark Egerman, and a mask maker on a first date with a poet

It’s been a busy week of public displays of power, politics, and protest. Foley Square saw more than its share of activity, from Sunday’s May Day labor rally to Tuesday’s abortion rights demonstration. The political class in DC and the people who cover them spent the weekend on the party circuit surrounding the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Back in Manhattan, the fashionistas and their clients gathered for The Met Gala. This column could have been about all of it. We could have tried to rush around, but, frankly, we’re tired, and a more focused counterpoint seemed like it might be helpful. So this week, when life was lived in many ways, we’re focusing on one particular party…


Tuesday was the day after Politico published a leaked draft decision from Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito overturning Roe v. Wade, and the crowd at the Jewish Currents Soviet Issue release party at Union Pool in Williamsburg needed a minute to figure out if they should be having fun. “Today was pretty brutal, to be honest,” said outgoing Jewish Currents fellow Dylan Saba. “It was just a doomscrolling kind of day and feeling shit in the pit of your stomach kind of day.” Perhaps a slightly pessimistic sensibility was inevitable at this party. “We’re not very positive at Jewish Currents,” said assistant editor Mari Cohen. “We’re funny, we’re fun, but we’re not optimistic. We should be. We should be creating the world we want to build. But it’s hard to be optimistic when you’re doing this shit all day. I’m watching the ADL president giving fascist speeches and then reporting on them.”

At a table with a stack of issues, Jewish Currents senior reporter Alex Kane talked about his daughter, who was born in January, while struggling with a credit card processing dongle, trying to sell some issues. “She likes her swing, she likes her pacifier, she likes milk in bottles. Just classic baby stuff,” he said. “One thing you may or may not know about babies — I don’t know how much you know — the phrase ‘sleep like a baby’ is incorrect because babies don’t actually, really sleep very well. So, you know, daytime sleep is a daily struggle.” Swiping a credit card turned out to be a struggle too and eventually turned into a three-person operation. With that task dispatched, a happy customer walked off with their copy, leaving only four remaining copies of the Soviet Issue on the table. 

Jewish Currents editor-at-large and former New Republic editor Peter Beinart stood chatting with board co-chair Jonathan Cohen, blocking the path to a taco truck. “I don’t think that there has been a party like this in almost three years,” Beinart said. “When I came to Currents, I had heard about these famous parties they had, but I didn’t actually get to experience any of them. So this is actually my first.” Cohen had been to only one before everything shut down. “Even in terms of knowing the staff, the people who are involved with the magazine, we’ve seen them on Zoom, but they’re not real people, they’re all screenshots,” he said. “This is the first time we actually see the people actually doing the work, which is great.” Neither Beinart nor Cohen had been going to many parties lately, but Cohen’s co-chair Kathleen Peratis was a different story. “I go to every party I’m invited to,” she said. “I am reckless and I intend to remain reckless. That’s my niche.” 

Like a seasoned party reporting subject, Peratis suggested The Fine Print take a photo of the three of them.

Jewish Currents editor-in-chief Arielle Angel wandered up to the group. “You’re in a corner,” she said, “where you can see all of the young people having fun.” She gestured toward a crowd in which stood Jewish Currents web editor Nora Caplan-Bricker, too-many-affiliations-to-list Siddhartha Mahanta, Jewish Currents senior editor Ari M. Brostoff (who, due to an autocorrect inspiration, appeared in The Fine Print’s notes as “Arizona Brostoff,” a name to holster for if high noon ever comes), Jacobin staff writer Alex Press, New York Times and Jewish Currents contributor and unabashed country music fan Britta Lokting, Streetsblog reporter Dave Colon (who had a message for people throwing media parties: “They need to start having these at places where I can watch playoff hockey on TV as long as the Rangers are playing. I know it sounds like I’m joking. I’m dead fucking serious.”), New York Post reporter David Meyer, betweeded historian David Walsh, Jewish Currents publisher Jacob Plitman, Jewish Currents board member Mark Egerman (who introduced himself as “David Klion”), Jewish Currents newsletter editor David Klion (“Quit covering Dave Klion,” Angel later told The Fine Print. “It goes to his head, you should really stop doing that.”), a bookseller who spends his days combing through library sales in small-town Connecticut, or wherever, until he finds things like an old edition of B. Traven’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre with a psychedelic cover priced at a few bucks for which “some dweeb” will pay much more, and a mask maker whose father is also a mask maker. She recently spent a while learning from another mask maker (and puppeteer) in Mexico and decided to come to the party on a first date with a poet. 

At a table off to the side, a couple of Jacobin staffers admitted to being fans of, but not subscribers to Jewish Currents. “I’m a web reader. There’s a lot of things to subscribe to. It’s tough,” said staff writer Branko Marcetic. “I actually do a rolling subscription list where I’ll unsubscribe, pick up something for a while, unsubscribe from that, pick up something else. It’s a good way to do it.” Top editor Micah Uetricht explained the material conditions underlying their lack of subscriptions. “If we worked for a different magazine, we’d have subscriptions to everything, but we have to be judicious,” he said. “We are militantly committed to being poor,” Marcetic agreed. “One subscription at a time,” Uetricht said. “I don’t want to get the Bernie Sanders treatment where I get accused of having three houses,” Marcetic said. Uetricht piped in from an imaginary peanut gallery, “Oh, this guy’s got three subscriptions?!”

There were, it turned out, some things on which the Jacobin staff were willing to spend money. “I’ve read all the Bernie books. They’re mostly useless,” said Uetricht. “There’s one you haven’t, and I can guarantee it. I bought it for $350,” Marcetic bragged. David Duhalde, the former political director of the Sanders campaign PAC spin-off Our Revolution, took a guess: “The Socialist Mayor?” But Marcetic had something else up his sleeve. “Well, I do have that one. But there’s also one that his former campaign aide, his former press secretary did about his ’90 campaign for Congress and it’s a big ass 500-, 400-page book,” he said. “Bernie went on a radio show, denounced it, just absolutely tore into the guy. It’s all Sanders just being like, ‘This is bullshit. This guy’s a fucking idiot,’ just not being the cuddly socialist.” Uetricht revealed a canny awareness of the optics of the moment. “Can you believe that a couple Jacobin staffers have turned the conversation to Bernie Sanders at this party?” he said.


Tuesday: Jacobin is co-sponsoring a discussion on “The Return of Labor Militancy” and the recent wave of organizing at Amazon and Starbucks with The Dig podcast at 7 p.m. at The People’s Forum in Midtown. 

Thursday: Longtime New Yorker staff writer Tad Friend will be launching his book In the Early Times at 7:30 p.m. at the Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene. In an email to friends, Friend encouraged them to pre-register their attendance due to pandemic-limited capacity. “Please sign up ASAP if you want to come,” he wrote, “please don’t if you think the day might roll around and you’d be all, ‘Nah, I’d rather do almost anything else.’”

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