Shmarya Rosenberg announced on Tuesday that, after nearly 12 years, he is leaving his blog, Failed Messiah. Failed Messiah was a one-man powerhouse covering (and uncovering) injustice, hypocrisy, and a variety of issues in the Orthodox world.
Failed Messiah was a big reason I got interested in running a Jewish blog in the first place. In 2004, when PETA did an investigation of a kosher slaughterhouse, Failed Messiah was at the forefront of covering the ensuing scandal and furthering discussion in the Jewish blogosphere. In spring 2005, I wrote a term paper for a college journalism class about the emerging Jewish blogosphere. I talked about how, as one Tikkun article put it, “a flurry of activity on web blogs such as FailedMessiah.com (run by an Orthodox Jew who has worked in kosher slaughterhouses) … quickly brought the issue to wide popular attention.” In summer 2005, I started heebnvegan as a vegan voice in the Jewish blogosphere. As I noted in heebnvegan’s farewell post in 2010, Failed Messiah was one of four sources that inspired and informed the plurality of heebnvegan’s content.
I talked about Failed Messiah often on heebnvegan, and in 2009, I was fortunate to conduct an in-depth interview with Shmarya. As I noted in that blog post:
Shmarya Rosenberg’s blog Failed Messiah has become a one-stop hub for news and commentary about scandals and all-around unpleasantness in the kosher meat industry, among other foibles in the Orthodox community. With muckraking reporting and critical commentary, Rosenberg has held the feet of many in the Jewish community to the fire while providing readers with invaluable information.
One thing I appreciated about Failed Messiah was the vibrant discussion that took place in the blog’s comment session. I’m particularly fond of the lyrics to “Rubbishcan Rock,” a parody of Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock,” which someone posted in a comment in 2008. I thought a punk rock rendition of “Rubbishcan Rock” would be wonderful!
Shmarya’s punk content was limited, but Shmarya was a DIY force to be reckoned with. A more liberal use of the term “punk” (as a compliment!) applies to Shmarya, as explained in the documentary Punk Jews:
[T]he true essence of punk simply refers to people who don’t conform to the mainstream, who express themselves freely no matter what anybody else thinks. … But what [punk Jews] all have in common is taking their Jewish identity and using it to challenge stereotypes, break down barriers, and stand up for what they believe in.
Shmarya noted in his farewell post that he’ll be working on anti-poverty issues. I wish him well!