Commentary (magazine)

Commentary is a monthly American magazine on religion, Judaism, and politics, as well as social and cultural issues.

Founded by the American Jewish Committee in 1945 under the editorship of Eliot E. Cohen (editor from 1945 to 1959), Commentary magazine developed into the leading postwar journal of Jewish affairs. The periodical strove to construct a new American Jewish identity while processing the events of the Holocaust, the formation of the State of Israel, and the Cold War. In its heyday, the magazine was edited by Norman Podhoretz from 1960 to 1995. Besides its strong coverage of cultural issues, Commentary provided a strong voice for the anti-Stalinist left. Podhoretz, originally a liberal Democrat turned neoconservative, moved the magazine to the right and toward the Republican Party in the 1970s and 1980s.[1] Today, Commentary is regarded as providing well sourced information with a right wing bias in wording and story selection[2].

Commentary has been described by Benjamin Balint as the "contentious magazine that transformed the Jewish left into the neoconservative right",[3][4] while, according to historian and literary critic Richard Pells, "no other journal of the past half century has been so consistently influential, or so central to the major debates that have transformed the political and intellectual life of the United States."[5]

Commentary magazine cover
EditorJohn Podhoretz
Frequency11 issues / year (monthly, but with a combined July–August issue)
Circulation33,000 / month
First issue1945
CompanyCommentary Inc.
CountryNew York, United States
OCLC number488561243


Founding and early years

Commentary was the successor to the Contemporary Jewish Record. When the Record’s editor died in 1944, its publisher, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) consulted with New York intellectuals including Daniel Bell and Lionel Trilling: they recommended that the AJC hire Elliot Cohen, who had been the editor of a Jewish cultural magazine and was then a fundraiser, to start a new journal. Cohen designed Commentary to reconnect assimilated Jews and Jewish intellectuals with the broader, more traditional and very liberal Jewish community. At the same time the magazine would bring the ideas of the young Jewish New York intellectuals to a wider audience. It demonstrated that Jewish intellectuals, and by extension all American Jews, had turned away from their past political radicalism to embrace mainstream American culture and values. Cohen stated his grand design in the first issue:[6]

With Europe devastated, there falls upon us here in the United States a far greater share of the responsibility for carrying forward, in a creative way, our common Jewish cultural and spiritual harmonize heritage and country into a true sense of at-home-ness.

As Podhoretz put it, Commentary was to lead the Jewish intellectuals "out of the desert of alienation ... and into the promised land of democratic, pluralistic, and prosperous America".[6] Cohen brought on board strong editors who themselves wrote important essays, including Irving Kristol; art critic Clement Greenberg; film and cultural critic Robert Warshow; and sociologist Nathan Glazer. Commentary published such rising stars as Hannah Arendt, Daniel Bell, Sidney Hook, and Irving Howe.[7]

Although many or even most of the editors and writers had been socialists, Trotskyites, or Stalinists in the past, that was no longer tolerated. Commentary articles were anti-Communist and also anti-McCarthyite; it identified and attacked any perceived weakness among liberals on Cold War issues, backing President Harry Truman's policies such as the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and NATO. The "soft-on-Communism" position of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and Henry A. Wallace came under steady attack. Liberals who hated Joseph McCarthy were annoyed when Irving Kristol wrote at the height of the controversy that "there is one thing that the American people know about Senator McCarthy: he, like them, is unequivocally anti-Communist. About the spokesmen for American liberalism, they feel they know no such thing."[8]

Norman Podhoretz

In the late 1950s the magazine sagged, as Cohen suffered from mental illness and committed suicide. A protégé of Lionel Trilling, Norman Podhoretz took over in 1960, running the magazine with an iron hand until his retirement in 1995.[9] Podhoretz reduced the space given to Jewish issues and moved Commentary's ideology to the left. Circulation rose to 60,000 as the magazine became a mainstay of the Washington liberal elite in the heyday of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

The emergence of the New Left, which was bitterly hostile to Johnson, to capitalism and to universities, angered Podhoretz for what he perceived as its shallowness and hostility to Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Articles attacked the New Left on questions ranging from crime, the nature of art, drugs, poverty, to the new egalitarianism; Commentary said that the New Left was a dangerous anti-American, anti-liberal, and anti-Semitic force. Daniel Patrick Moynihan used Commentary to attack the Watts riots and liberals who defended it as a just revolution.[10] The shift helped define the emerging neoconservative movement and gave space to disillusioned liberals.

As the readership base shifted to the right, Commentary filled a vacuum for conservative intellectuals, who otherwise were reliant on William F. Buckley, Jr.'s National Review. In March 1975 Moynihan's article "The United States in Opposition" urged America to vigorously defend liberal democratic principles when they were attacked by Soviet Bloc and Third World dictatorships at the United Nations. Moynihan was appointed ambassador to the UN by President Gerald Ford in 1975 and was elected to the United States Senate in 1976. Jeane Kirkpatrick's November 1979 denunciation of the foreign policy of President Jimmy Carter, "Dictatorships and Double Standards", impressed Ronald Reagan, who defeated Carter in 1980. In 1981 Reagan appointed Kirkpatrick ambassador to the United Nations and Commentary reached the apogee of its influence.

Recent years

Norman Podhoretz, who served as editor-in-chief until 1995, was editor-at-large until January 2009. Neal Kozodoy, at Commentary since 1966, was editor between 1995 and January 2009; he is the magazine's current editor-at-large. Since January 2009 the journal has been edited by John Podhoretz, Norman's son.

The magazine ceased to be affiliated with the AJC in 2007, when Commentary, Inc., an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit enterprise, took over as publisher.[11]

In 2011 the journal announced plans to give its archives from 1945 to 1995 to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.[12]

Currently, Commentary prints letters to the editor that comment on various articles three issues earlier. The more critical and lengthy letters tend to be printed first and the more praiseful letters last. The author of the article being discussed almost always replies in a follow-up to his critics. Each issue has several reviews of books on varying topics. Commentary usually assigns a review to books written by notable contributors to the magazine.

Popular culture

Commentary has been referred to in several Woody Allen films. In Annie Hall (1977), Allen (as character Alvy Singer) makes a pun by saying that he heard that Dissent and Commentary had merged to form "Dysentery." In Bananas (1971), as an old lady is threatened on a subway car, Allen hides his face by holding up an issue of Commentary. This image is featured at the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn Heights. In Crimes and Misdemeanors, an issue of Commentary lies on a character's bedside table.

In his sitcom Anything but Love, stand-up comedian Richard Lewis was often shown holding or reading a copy of Commentary.


Over the decades the magazine has attracted top American intellectuals—many of them Jewish. The magazine's home page lists 1072 different authors.[13] including notable authors such as:


  1. ^ Nathan Abrams, Norman Podhoretz and Commentary magazine: the rise and fall of the neocons (2009) "Introduction"
  2. ^ "Commentary Magazine". Media Bias/Fact Check. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  3. ^ Benjamin Balint, Running Commentary: The Contentious Magazine That Transformed the Jewish Left Into the Neoconservative Right (2010). New York: PublicAffairs. ISBN 1-586-48749-3.
  4. ^ Cohen, Patricia (11 June 2010). "Commentary Is All About Commentary These Days". New York Times. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  5. ^ Quoted from Murray Friedman (ed.): Commentary in American Life, Philadelphia 2005, pg.1, Temple University Press.
  6. ^ a b Ehrman, John (June 1, 1999) "Commentary, the Public Interest, and the Problem of Jewish Conservatism", American Jewish History
  7. ^ Rosenberg, Yair (6 June 2014). "Commentary Opens its Archives". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  8. ^ Richard H. Pells, The liberal mind in a conservative age: American intellectuals in the 1940s (1989) p. 296
  9. ^ Thomas L. Jeffers, Norman Podhoretz: A Biography (2010) pp. 20, 62, 129, 145
  10. ^ Tanenhaus, Sam (2009-09-01). The Death of Conservatism. Random House Publishing Group. p. 72. ISBN 9781588369482. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  11. ^ "Commentary, American Jewish Committee Separate". The New York Sun.
  12. ^ See announcement
  13. ^ See Commentary search Archived March 12, 2012, at the Wayback Machine


  • Podhoretz, Norman. Breaking Ranks (1979), memoir
  • Nathan Glazer, Thomas L. Jeffers, Richard Gid Powers, Fred Siegel, Terry Teachout, Ruth R. Wisse et al. in Commentary in American Life, ed. Murray Friedman. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2005


  • Balint, Benjamin. Running Commentary: The Contentious Magazine That Transformed the Jewish Left Into the Neoconservative Right (PublicAffairs; 2010) 290 pages
  • Ehrman, John. "Commentary, the Public Interest, and the Problem of Jewish Conservatism", American Jewish History 87.2&3 (1999) 159–181. online in Project MUSE, scholarly article by conservative historian
  • Jeffers, Thomas L. Norman Podhoretz: A Biography (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

External links

Aaron Friedberg

Aaron Louis Friedberg (born April 16, 1956) served from 2003 to 2005 in the office of the Vice President of the United States as deputy assistant for national-security affairs and director of policy planning.

After receiving his PhD in Government from Harvard, Friedberg joined the Princeton University faculty in 1987 and was appointed professor of politics and international affairs in 1999. He has served as Director of Princeton's Research Program in International Security at the Woodrow Wilson School as well as Acting Director of the Center of International Studies at Princeton. Friedberg is a former fellow at the Smithsonian Institution’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Norwegian Nobel Institute, and Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs. He also serves as Chairman of the Board of Counselors for the National Bureau of Asian Research's Pyle Center for Northeast Asian Studies.In September 2001, Friedberg began a nine-month residential appointment as the first Henry Alfred Kissinger Scholar at the Library of Congress. During his tenure he researched "the rise of Asia and its implications for America." Apart from many articles for Commentary magazine, Friedberg has written several books on foreign relations.

He was one of the signers of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) documents Statement of Principles (June 3, 1997) and a letter on terrorism submitted to President George W. Bush (September 20, 2001). His name has been connected to the Aspen Strategy Group at the Aspen Institute.

Friedberg represented the Romney campaign in his capacity as the campaign's National Security Advisor during a debate on US policy toward China in October 2012.

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein (born 29 May 1981) is a Jewish political adviser, writer and activist. She is a contributor to Israel Hayom, The Jerusalem Post, Ricochet, Washington Examiner, Commentary Magazine, and Mosaic Magazine, where she writes on the Middle East, religious affairs, and global anti-Semitism. She is also a strong supporter of multiculturalism and a pro-Israeli activist in Sweden and organizes annual solidarity with Israel parades in that country.

Bette Howland

Bette Howland (January 28, 1937 – December 13, 2017) was an American writer and literary critic. She wrote for Commentary Magazine.

David Hazony

David Hazony (born 1969) is an American-born Israeli writer, translator, and editor. He was the founding editor of The Tower Magazine from 2013 to 2017, and is currently executive director of the Israel Innovation Fund.Hazony has written for the New Republic,, The Forward, Commentary, Moment, the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Chronicle, the New York Sun, and Jewish Ideas Daily. He is a regular contributor to Contentions, the weblog of Commentary Magazine. Until 2007, he was a fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, founded by his older brother Yoram Hazony. In 2004–2007, he served as editor in chief of Azure, its quarterly. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News.Hazony has studied at Columbia University, received a B.A. and M.A. from Yeshiva University, and completed his Ph.D. at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is a contributing editor at The Forward, where he has published a series of essays about the growing distance between American Jews and Israelis.

Hazony is an expert on the Jewish philosopher Eliezer Berkovits.

Dictatorships and Double Standards

"Dictatorships and Double Standards" is an essay by Jeane Kirkpatrick published in the November 1979 issue of Commentary Magazine which criticized the foreign policy of the Carter administration. It is also the title of a 270-page book written by Kirkpatrick in 1982.The article in Commentary Magazine in 1979 is credited with leading directly to Kirkpatrick's becoming an adviser to Ronald Reagan and thus her appointment as United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Hence, the views expressed in Kirkpatrick's essay influenced the foreign policy of the Reagan administration, particularly with regard to Latin America.Kirkpatrick argued that by demanding rapid liberalization in traditionally autocratic countries, the Carter administration and previous administrations had delivered those countries to anti-American opposition groups that proved more repressive than the governments they overthrew. She further accused the administration of a "double standard" in that it had never applied its rhetoric on the necessity of liberalization to the affairs of Communist governments.

The essay compares traditional autocracies and Communist regimes: [Traditional autocrats] do not disturb the habitual rhythms of work and leisure, habitual places of residence, habitual patterns of family and personal relations. Because the miseries of traditional life are familiar, they are bearable to ordinary people who, growing up in the society, learn to cope. [...]

[Revolutionary Communist regimes] claim jurisdiction over the whole life of the society and make demands for change that so violate internalized values and habits that inhabitants flee by the tens of thousands.

Kirkpatrick concluded that while the United States should encourage liberalization and democracy in autocratic countries, it should not do so when the government is facing violent overthrow and should expect gradual change rather than immediate transformation.

Elliot E. Cohen

Elliot E. Cohen (March 14, 1899 – May 28, 1959) was the founder and first editor of Commentary Magazine.

John Podhoretz

John Mordecai Podhoretz (; born April 18, 1961) is an American writer. He is the editor of Commentary magazine, a columnist for the New York Post, the author of several books on politics, and a former speechwriter for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

Jonathan S. Tobin

Jonathan S. Tobin is the editor in chief of, the Jewish News Syndicate. His opinion columns appear there on a daily basis. He is also a contributing writer for National Review, a conservative magazine of opinion and ideas, a columnist for the New York Post, a contributor for The Federalist, a columnist for Haaretz, a columnist for the New York Jewish Week, a contributor to the Gatestone Institute and to the Israeli magazine, MiDA.He is a frequent commentator on domestic politics, Israel, and Jewish affairs. His column, "View from America," appeared for many years in The Jerusalem Post. His work has also appeared in Israel Hayom, the Christian Science Monitor, The Forward, Britain's Jewish Chronicle, the New York Sun and many other publications. Tobin lectures widely across the United States on college campuses and to Jewish organizations and synagogues. He tours North America debating political and Jewish issues with J.J. Goldberg of the Forward and has appeared on CNN, BBC Radio, Fox News, Newsmax, i24News and local network affiliates to discuss politics, foreign policy and Jewish issues.

List of Jewish American photographers

This is a list of notable Jewish American photographers. For other notable Jewish Americans, see List of Jewish Americans.

Bob Adelman

Merry Alpern

Diane Arbus

Eve Arnold

Bill Aron

Ellen Auerbach

Richard Avedon

Ernest Bloch

Lucienne Bloch

Erwin Blumenfeld

Josef Breitenbach

Robert Capa

Solomon Nunes Carvalho

Eddie Cohen

Lynne Cohen

Manny Cohen

Ted Croner

Bruce Davidson

Alfred Eisenstaedt

Elliott Erwitt

Louis Faurer

Nat Fein

Trude Fleischmann

Robert Frank

Leonard Freed

Nina Glaser

Judith Golden

Nan Goldin

Milton Goldstein

Milton H. Greene

Lauren Greenfield

Sid Grossman

Philippe Halsman

Lotte Jacobi

Lee Jaffe

Clemens Kalischer

André Kertész

William Klein

Max Kozloff

Alma Lavenson

Annie Leibovitz

Saul Leiter

Herman Leonard

Leon Levinstein

Helen Levitt

Danny Lyon

Linda McCartney

Mary Ellen Mark

Jeff Mermelstein

Joel Meyerowitz

Lisette Model

Carl Mydans

Arnold NewmanNew York City to a relatively poor family of second-generation Jewish immigrants." Contemporary Jewish Museum

Helmut Newton

Ruth Orkin

Irving Penn

Joshua Eli Plaut

Man Ray

Joe Rosenthal

Ben Ross

Arthur Rothstein

Steve Schapiro

Paul Schutzer

David Seymour

Ben Shahn

Art Shay

Cindy Sherman

Julius Shulman

Aaron Siskind

Rosalind Fox Solomon

Phil Stern

Marcel Sternberger

Joel Sternfeld

Alfred Stieglitz

Ezra Stoller

Lou Stoumen

Paul Strand

Stanley Tretick

Doris Ulmann


Dan Weiner

Sandra Weiner

Garry Winogrand

Lost in the Meritocracy

Lost in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachiever is a 2009 memoir by Walter Kirn. It describes his own trip through the American education system from rural Minnesota to Princeton University.The author also wrote an earlier essay under the same title for The Atlantic.The book was reviewed twice in the New York Times. The Times also listed it as a "notable book of 2009".Other reviews appeared in the Washington Post and Commentary Magazine, and the book was recommended on Time Magazine's "Short List of Things to Do".

Norman Podhoretz

Norman Podhoretz (; born January 16, 1930) is an American neoconservative pundit and writer for Commentary magazine.

Our Crowd

Our Crowd: The Great Jewish Families of New York (1967) is a history book by American writer Stephen Birmingham. The book documents the lives of prominent New York Jewish families of the 19th century. Historian Louis Auchincloss called it "A fascinating and absorbing chapter of New York social and financial history. ... " It has been reprinted 14 times as of 2007.


Podhoretz may refer to:

Norman Podhoretz (born 1930), neoconservative writer and former editor of Commentary magazine

John Podhoretz (born 1961), conservative writer and editor of Commentary magazine

Robert Warshow

Robert Warshow (1917–1955) was an American author, a film critic and essayist, who wrote about film and popular culture for Commentary magazine and The Partisan Review in the mid-20th century. He was born and resided in New York City and attended the University of Michigan.

Among the articles published in Warshow's short lifetime were "The Westerner" and "The Gangster as Tragic Hero", analyses of the Western movie and the gangster movie genre from a cultural standpoint. He also penned essays praising playwright Clifford Odets as well as George Herriman's newspaper comic strip Krazy Kat. "The 'Idealism' of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg" showed the executed American Stalinists in a brutally honest light. In an critique of The Crucible Warshow argued that Arthur Miller was not as competent a dramatist as was perceived. After Fredric Wertham and Gershon Legman, Warshow was the first serious critic to write about EC Comics and its Mad magazine.

Warshow died of a heart attack at the age of 37. Most of his published work was collected in the book The Immediate Experience in 1962, expanded in 2001.

Shmuly Yanklowitz

Shmuly Yanklowitz (born 1981) is an Open Orthodox rabbi and author. In March 2012 and March 2013, Newsweek and The Daily Beast listed Yanklowitz as one of the 50 most influential rabbis in America. The Forward named Yanklowitz one of the 50 most influential Jews of 2016.

Tale of the Goat

Tale of the Goat is a short story by S. Y. Agnon. It is also known as The Fable of the Goat. The story was originally written in Hebrew.Tale of the Goat is also a short animation, in Yiddish, by Max Cohen, inspired by the story. Its Yiddish title is Di Mayse fun di Tsig, it is a winner of the coveted Judge's choice "Palm d'Schnorrers" at Heeb Magazine's first film festival, the Heeb Film Fest London 2004. An English translation by Barney Rubin of the Fable of the Goat was published in December 1966 in Commentary magazine.

The Atlantic

The Atlantic is an American magazine and multi-platform publisher.

Founded in 1857 as The Atlantic Monthly in Boston, Massachusetts, it was a literary and cultural commentary magazine that published leading writers' commentary on abolition, education, and other major issues in contemporary political affairs. Its founders included Francis H. Underwood, along with prominent writers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Greenleaf Whittier. James Russell Lowell was its first editor. It was also known for publishing literary pieces by leading writers.

After financial hardship and ownership changes in the late 20th century, the magazine was purchased by businessman David G. Bradley. He refashioned it as a general editorial magazine primarily aimed at a target audience of serious national readers and "thought leaders." In 2010, The Atlantic posted its first profit in a decade. In 2016 the periodical was named Magazine of the Year by the American Society of Magazine Editors. In July 2017, Bradley sold a majority interest in the publication to Laurene Powell Jobs's Emerson Collective.Its website,, provides daily coverage and analysis of breaking news, politics and international affairs, education, technology, health, science, and culture. The editor of the website is Adrienne LaFrance. The Atlantic also houses an editorial events arm, AtlanticLIVE; Atlantic Re:think, its creative marketing team; and Atlantic 57, a creative agency and consulting firm. The Atlantic's president is Bob Cohn.

Zhang Jingyao

Zhang Jingyao, ; IPA: [ʈ͡ʂɑ̄ŋ t͡ɕìŋi̯ɑ́ʊ̯]; 1881–1933), was a Chinese general, the military governor of Chahar and later Hunan Province. He was known as one of the most notorious of China's warlords, known for his troops' atrocities and the looting of Hunan of its wealth during his administration. He was removed from office for his abuses and assassinated in 1933 for aiding the Empire of Japan by attempting to set up the monarchy of Puyi in northern China with Japanese money.

Born in 1881, he eventually joined the Beiyang Army, rising to the rank of general, and then was part of the Anhui clique. He was Military Governor of Chahar Province from October 18, 1917, to March 29, 1918. He was then given the post of Military Governor of Hunan province from March 1918. While he was governor his troops committed many atrocities, including killing civilians, robbing the wealthy and rape. He was also accused of reducing the province to a state of beggary.

In August 1919 he censored Mao Zedong's "Xiang-jiang River Commentary" magazine because of Mao's efforts to organize a movement to expel him from the governorship. Mao led a Hunan students' delegation to Peking, where he appealed nationwide for support and revealed Zhang Jingyao's atrocities in Hunan Province.

At Yochow on June 16, 1920, Zhang's troops murdered an American missionary, William A. Reimert. This provoked the intervention of the American gunboat Upshur, which sent ashore a landing party of one officer and 40 men on June 25 to protect the American mission. Two days later—when local tensions had eased—they were re-embarked. On the 29th Jingyao was removed from office; the Chinese foreign office investigated the incident and expressed its profound regrets to the Americans. Zhang was later pardoned, in obscure circumstances.

In 1933 Zhang became involved in the scheme of the Empire of Japan to set up the monarchy of Puyi in northern China with Japanese money. An assassin shot and fatally wounded him in Peiping's Grand Hotel.

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