- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2002

NEW YORK — Binyamin Jolkovsky is looking for a Jewish millionaire not just any millionaire, but one willing to help fund his Web site, JewishWorldReview.com.

"I have a lot of friends," he says from his third-floor garret in Borough Park, N.Y., one of the world's largest Jewish communities. "I just don't have a lot of money."

Aren't there, he is asked, any Orthodox millionaires among the crowds of black-coated, fedora-capped men who attend the dozens of synagogues in his neighborhood?

"There's a whole bunch of them," he says a bit gloomily, "but they don't invest in Web sites."

Which is why his wife, Rivky, still is commuting downtown to her job as a systems analyst, to tide things over until Mr. Jolkovsky's dream turns a profit. But ideologically based Web sites rarely do.

The site is a melange of the practical, the political and the pietistic. Columns range from Jewish ethics, rabbinical commentaries, Yiddish recipes, an advice column called Ask Wendy, and Partners in Torah, which offers online instruction in the basic tenets of the faith. But it is the collection of 200 syndicated columnists on the site that gains the most attention.

"It's about ideas," he says. "Even if it's ideas I don't agree with. At least they are good points of contact."

The 33-year-old founder opened the site on Dec. 10, 1997, with a handful of columnists. Now the site receives more than 20,000 hits a day from 69 countries.

"I admire what he's done," says Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol. "It's impressive and I know a lot of people who go to it as one of their regular stops. I think he's got a corner on the Jewish conservative Web site market but as sympathetic as I am, I am not sure there's a big market for it."

Julian Hurst, administrator for www.TowardTradition.com, a Seattle-based Jewish think tank that gets 1,610 hits per day, agrees the market is limited.

"We know there are conservative Jews in this country because we have 12,000 Jews on our database," he says. "But the people who support nonprofit organizations tend to be older and less technology-friendly. I get calls from conservative Jews all the time who are interested in the issues but are not on the Internet."

But Sen. Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican and a Presbyterian, is a fan. So is talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who reads the Web site regularly and finds its content "excellent," a spokeswoman said.

"Binyamin has two competing goals," syndicated columnist Debbie Schlussel says. "One is getting liberal Jews interested in conservatism. The other is getting politically involved but non-observant Jews interested in religion. So he does a lot for Judaism and the conservative movement. Most other Web sites have lots of people working for them but his is a one-man shop."

Evidenced by the cot in his dining room, Mr. Jolkovsky welcomes his share of visitors, but his job is that of a loner. His typical day begins with a morning minyan, or prayer meeting, then work at the keyboard at 9 a.m., with breaks for meals and prayer, until 4 a.m. He receives 1,000 e-mail messages a day.

"It's almost impossible for a stand-alone news site to make money," he says, adding that his server costs him well over $1,000 monthly.

Yosef I. Abramowitz, chief executive officer of the Boston-based Jewish Family & Life, located at JFLmedia.com, producer of a dozen specialty Jewish Web sites, credits Mr. Jolkovsky with "amazing energy" with keeping the site going single-handedly, "when most Jewish Web sites have thrown in the towel or settled on stagnation."

"Binyamin keeps going, driven by his mission of sharing his Jewish and political values," he says. "There is no business model to create profit from this kind of site, but the return on investment for Binyamin and others is in reaching people and affecting how they view the world."

Mr. Abramowitz's $3.3 million budget is bolstered by contributions from more liberal Jewish sources, such as film director Steven Spielberg and Edgar Bronfman, former owner of the Canadian liquor giant Seagram Co.

"We continue to attract the top philanthropists in Jewish life," he says. "Because Binyamin has an unusual mix of content and a unique mission that includes Torah-true Judaism and conservatism, it limits the universe from which he can draw financial support."

According to the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey the most recent figures available American Jews are 2 percent Reconstructionist, 8 percent Orthodox, 40 percent Conservative, 38 percent Reform and 12 percent mixed preferences.

Mr. Jolkovsky insists all Jews have a duty to make a difference.

"We created the 'Judeo' part of the value system," he says over a plate of hamantaschen, a triangular jam-filled cookie eaten by Jews on Purim, a traditional holiday, "but who is reflecting that part today? The more I've met secular Jews, I've realized this old paradigm: If you want to succeed on the outside, shed your Jewishness." There used to be a name for such a person: "A Jew in the home; a man on the street."

Mr. Jolkovsky has never hidden his religiosity. CNN "Firing Line" co-host Tucker Carlson recalled meeting Mr. Jolkovsky a decade ago when Mr. Carlson was writing for "Policy Review."

"He just kind of showed up one day," Mr. Carlson said. "He struck me as one of these guys who lives through magazines. He actually came in and said, 'I'm a right-wing Jew.' All of my Jewish friends were conservative, so I didn't think that was all that unusual."

Mr. Jolkovsky moved to New York to find a wife "After a certain age, you go where the numbers are," he says and met his intended through a 28-year-old matchmaker. They have been married six years.

He has spent the bulk of their married life in his green-carpeted computer room, piled high with Israeli, Hasidic and "heavy metal Jewish music" compact discs. His computer stand is from Home Depot. A tallit , or prayer shawl, bag sits on his scanner. A stack of magazines Baltimore Jewish Times, Philadelphia Jewish Exponent and others sits nearby. One light bulb illuminates the room.

"There is no reward in the Jewish community for being conservative," says Rabbi Daniel Lapin, founder of Toward Tradition, which honored Mr. Jolkovsky two years ago for founding the site. "A fair percentage of American Jews are interested in the Torah, but they have bought into the insidious notion that religion and politics should not be intertwined.

"But what Binyamin and I both would say is that politics is the most practical application of your most deeply held values. Many of the utopian dreams of Jewish liberals evaporated with [the failed Middle East peace agreement in] Oslo and the revelations of the final days of Clinton.

"When the history of this period of American Jewry is written, Jolkovsky will emerge as a hero. The man's tenacity and endurance is legendary. He is a content genius.

"But what he really needs is partnership with a top-rate business manager."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide