Online magazine with a twist
Mashu Mashu is a labor of love for Laura Goldstein and her husband, Boaz Rotaro. They recently celebrated the first anniversary of their online arts and culture magazine – described as “a cultural cocktail with a Jewish twist” – and are pleased with the interest it has generated in that time.
“We’re thrilled – we went from zero to over 100,000!” said Goldstein about the magazine’s readership.
Originally from Toronto, Goldstein has worked in both Canada and the United States for more than 25 years as a performing arts, design and celebrity publicist, and as a professional writer, contributing to national newspapers and magazines such as the Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Star, Chatelaine, Nuvo, Canadian House and Home and many others. But it was her Tel Aviv-born husband, an IT professional who manages the technical aspects of the website in his free time, who encouraged Goldstein to start Mashu Mashu.
“It was my husband’s idea because I’d always come up with 10 ideas to pitch to a magazine and they’d pick one, [which was] so frustrating. So, he said to me, ‘Why don’t you do this for yourself?’”
And so she did. Goldstein parlayed her love of the arts and writing into the founding of Mashu Mashu, which translates roughly from Hebrew to “something really special and unique.”
Goldstein’s features cover a broad range of themes, including arts, culture and style, design, food and wine, and travel. This involvement brings her into contact with people at the local, national or international level who contribute or link to a vibrant Jewish and Israeli life.
When asked which area of the arts is she drawn to most, Goldstein answered enthusiastically, “I’m equally excited about everything! The only thing we don’t do is politics. We don’t need to dip our toes into that. Frankly, there are so many Jews and Israelis that are involved in every aspect of culture and the arts and high-tech, I think let’s leave the politics and focus on the fun stuff and the interesting people.”
To date, Mashu Mashu has almost 100 diverse features that include profiles of many noted Vancouverites, such as designer Omer Arbel, philanthropist Jacqui Cohen, restaurateur Herschel Miedzygorski, as well as Vernon resident and extreme athlete turned motivational speaker Leah Goldstein (no relation).
Goldstein’s profiles also include Israeli photographer Asher Svidensky, who wowed National Geographic Traveler readers with his photos of young Mongolian eagle huntress Ashol Pan. More recently, Goldstein highlighted Svidensky’s photo of female Israeli soldier Moria Bross, which was included in Jeep’s 60-second Superbowl Sunday television commercial.
Of all the pieces Goldstein has written, two in particular stand out as perhaps the most meaningful to her, “because there’s so much history there.”
First, her piece on the recent Hollywood film Woman in Gold, about the famed Gustav Klimt painting stolen by the Nazis. For this, she interviewed British film director Simon Curtis and L.A. lawyer Randol (Randy) Schoenberg (played by Vancouver actor Ryan Reynolds in the movie), as well as author Anne-Marie O’Connor. The piece has attracted more than 10,000 readers.
Another memorable profile for Goldstein is food enthusiast, cookbook author and television personality Nigella Lawson, who “comes from a fascinating Jewish family.” Lawson’s father, for example, became British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s chancellor of the exchequer, and her maternal grandfather was a member of the catering corps’ famine relief during the Second World War. Moreover, research undertaken by Lawson at the Imperial War Museum indicates that he may have been attached to one of the regiments that liberated the German concentration camp Bergen-Belsen.
“I’m constantly researching – all the time. I’m reading, reading, reading,” said Goldstein about her inspiration. “Because I come from a TV/researcher background, and as a publicist, I always look for information that other journalists might not find.”
Goldstein points to her well-earned reputation as an arts writer, as well as Mashu Mashu’s mission and established success to date, for her ability to secure interviews with high-profile personalities, including William Shatner and Christopher Plummer. That, and, “I never give up. If someone says no, it’s no for now, not necessarily in the future. I’m persistent and persistence pays off!”
Goldstein posts new features on Mashu Mashu approximately twice a week, depending on the amount of research the piece involves or “how quickly things come up.”
Her posts attract readers – Jewish and non-Jewish – “from all over!” According to the analytics, the magazine has readers from across North America, in Europe, notably the United Kingdom, Israel, Australia, South Africa and South America. The site also has “likes” from countries across the Middle East, including Iraq, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan. Goldstein noted that her piece about Vancouver painter Joyce Ozier’s depiction of the Jewish legacy of the village of Chefchaouen gained traction among readers in Morocco. Her interview with the star of the Israeli television series Fauda caught the eyes of readers from the United Arab Emirates, as did her piece on luxury floating homes.
Beyond Mashu Mashu’s global reach, another point of pride for Goldstein is the large, colorful photographs that accompany each of her pieces. No longer constrained by the space limitations she had when writing for print media, Goldstein delights in her newfound freedom to include “huge” pictures that dramatically complement her features. “They’re so important,” she said. “If you just have reams of copy, who’s going to be interested?”
As Mashu Mashu (mashumashu.com) enters its second year, Goldstein reflects on the niche the site fills by providing an international audience with contemporary, modern stories and features – whether on design, food, film, photography – that have a Jewish twist (and often a Vancouver connection). She genuinely enjoys researching and profiling people and expositions, and discovering new links to stories.
“That’s what excites me – to make all these connections!”
Alexis Pavlich is a Vancouver freelance writer.