Heeb Hobbled By Publisher Problems?

1456.jpgOn March 31, Rebecca Wiener, editorial director at Heeb, the quarterly magazine aimed at fashionable young Jews, emailed friends and colleagues last week to inform them she was leaving Heeb to “pursue other opportunities.” While she didn’t specify her reasons for leaving, several insiders surmise that she’s the latest in a string of staffers who’ve left due to personality conflicts with Heeb publisher Joshua Neuman.

First published in 2002, Heeb started as a project by then-Columbia Journalism School student Jennifer Bleyer. Bleyer put out a few issues of the magazine before graduating and landing a job as a The New York Times reporter. Neuman, who had already been serving as the magazine’s publisher, took over as editor-in-chief after Bleyer’s departure. He spent several years as an adjunct professor of religion at NYU before getting involved with Heeb, his first foray into journalism.

Editors who started at the magazine during Bleyer’s tenure largely disliked Neuman and his new lifestyle-mag vision for the publication. “There was a palpable difference when Josh took over,” one ex-editor said. “He gentrified the magazine. The magazine became less serious and less fun at the same time. Everything needed a PR hook. We didn’t just write about things because they were interesting. Josh saw [running Heeb] as an opportunity to meet famous people.”

After Neuman alienated this staffer and others who didn’t appreciate his changes, he reportedly succumbed to internal pressure to become less involved in Heeb‘s day-to-day operations. Admitting to having no professional journalism experience, he agreed to remain on staff as publisher and hire an editorial director to bring credibility to the masthead and oversee the editorial schedule. Wiener, previously managing editor at Index, landed the gig despite being only two years out of college. Many Heeb staffers said they liked Weiner’s professionalism and hoped she’d be the person who could turn the magazine around.

Neuman didn’t exactly dispel rumors that he and Wiener didn’t get along. “I know that I got along with her, but I can’t say whether she got along with me,” he said cryptically, before referring to her as a “superstar” and saying that he “thinks the world of her.” According to Neuman, Wiener left to work on rapper Eminem‘s upcoming book, and her departure came as a surprise to everyone, including Neuman himself. He noted that Heeb staffers are working on a book, Sex, Drugs, and Gefilte Fish, due out next year, and said he is eager to keep Wiener involved in the project despite her exit from the magazine.

— Lilit Marcus