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When it comes to Jewish innovation, what's your big question?
Last week, I presented on Jewish innovation at the Milken Community High School in Los Angeles, California. The school prides itself on its pluralism, as well as its "moral, spiritual, and intellectual way of life which, in the context of community, refines the human being (tikkun atzmi) and repairs the world (tikkun olam), and the students are diverse in terms of their denominational affiliations and interests. The class was doing projects on the subject of American Judaism today, and I was given free reign to either do a discussion or to discuss my work and do a Q&A with the students.
I did a little bit of both - we started by talking about Jewish innovation and what it might mean, and then moved on to my "introduction to Jewish innovation through YouTube." With limited time, I couldn't talk about all 400+ innovators in the ROI network, and focused on a few of the Jewish innovators who regularly visit the L.A. area: beginning with the second 2008 ROI video, we went on to focus on Marcus Freed's Bible-based plays and Bibliyoga; followed by Sarah Lefton's G-dcast; then Y-Love's "State of the Nation" song, which is based on the National Jewish Population Survey; the robust rap scene in Israel featuring the Israelity Tour which toured California in 2007 with a bunch of ROI alumni as organizers. Then we moved on to how ROIers William Levin and Michelle Citrin decided to work together, yielding the Rosh Hashanah Girl, 20 Things to Do with Matzah, Let My Parents Go, I Went to Israel - I Liked It, and Light the Candle videos. You can see the YouTube playlist here.
Then we opened it up to questions, of which there were only a few.
We last had a new episode of 'Lost' last May, which left us with crazy questions and cliffhangers to ponder during the rest of the spring, the entire summer, the entire autumn, and part of the winter before we got to our month of promised new episodes in "January" - which we all now know means "February 2."
Some people are going to great lengths to avoid spoilers for the upcoming season, eschewing all promos lest some essential moment be spoiled. Others are taking this opportunity to go back and review everything that happened since Jack first opened his eyes to find he had survived Oceanic 815. Me? I want new 'Lost' episodes as much as Benjamin Linus probably wants bandages and healing ointments (which is probably a lot: that guy gets a beatdown nearly every episode - and pretty much deserves it every time).
So if you're not among those who are avoiding anything 'Lost'-related until February 2 (dude, that's two whole months, come on...) then maybe don't watch this Spanish-language promo. But my opinion is that it's mostly review and dramatic representation of the characters with little-to-no real footage, so it wouldn't constitute a spoiler for anyone unless you haven't finished Season 5 yet.
But what do I know? Listen to me or don't. After February 2, it's all the same. Or...it's all DIFFERENT. I guess it depends on whether the Constant and the Variable get nosebleeds, or whether What Happened, Happened, or if Jughead really exploded, or if baby Miles and adult Miles existing in Dharmaville led to some space-time continuum paradox precipitating Doc Brown to jump out of a Delorean, or whether Hurley becomes the writer of "Empire Strikes Back."
Another theory? 'Lost' is Jack Shephard's Flash Forward. Witness the Oceanic Air billboard, the kangaroo (representing Australia, point of origin for flight 815, the presence of Penny and Charlie, etc...)
If you're like no one I know, then you've always dreamed of envelopes without that gummy adhesive taste, and instead with the taste of smoky, meaty bacon. Now your dreams - and many rabbinic nightmares - come true, with Mmmvelopes, made by Baconnaise, a company (with an engagingly written website) that makes everything bacon-flavored. Their bacon salt, as a point of fact, was inspired by a kosher wedding.
Technically, EatMeDaily reports, the flavoring is vegan, and therefore, one can reasonably assume contains no pork product that would render it unkosher. But why leave it up to assumptions? J&D's went out and got itself some Kof-K supervision.
Plus, the halakhic problem that I can invent here is the slippery slope caveat: one might assume that if an envelope can be bacon-flavored and contain no bacon extracts or derivatives, then other non-food products that taste like bacon also are bacon-free and vegan. (Some of J&D's products are actually dairy, leading to further adventures in kashrut supervision.)
While the rabbis ponder this modern challenge, kids today have another question:
Some facts about TweetBookz: 5.5 inches high and 8.5 inches wide, the books are composed of up to 200 tweets, one per page, starting from your most recent. You can chose to remove any tweets you don’t want included. All covers are printed in full color, and all insides of books are black-and-white. You can choose a hard cover ($30) or soft cover ($20) for your book, and the books can support characters in English, Hebrew, French and Spanish.
Personally, I can't wait for My Tweets: The Book to be turned into "My Tweets: The Movie," and eventually, of course, "My Tweets! The Musical."
The endeavor has been covered in the Wall Street Journal and Gawker today, but otherwise, you are among the first to know of this endeavor...check out their video to see if you notice any other ROIers namedropped in the video. We'll give you a hint: if you enjoy social media, this could be the Best Week Ever.
(The above quote comes to you courtesy of Sarah Lefton, the talented leader of the animated G-dcast series, longtime member of the ROI Community and all-around inspirational human being.)
Look, I know America's obsessed with "Twilight: New Moon" this week. But for about four minutes, why don't you forget "Team Edward" and "Team Jacob": try on "Team Leah" and "Team Rachel"? This G-dcast does not have Jacob's rock-hard wolf abs, but it does have me talking about the baby wars and sibling rivalry, so that's something.
You'll want to pay special attention to the part where I overenunciate the word "handmaiden." (Go on, try it with your friends for some post-'cast hilarity!)
I "virtually attended" this year's JFNA General Assembly via Twitter, specially noting the tweets about the social media workshops and the night-time Tweetup: the sense of excitement was palpable, not just that people who already use Twitter showed up for drinks, but that there were many older people there, people who were less experienced with social media, but wanted to learn.
There was a time in my life when I might have considered myself primarily a freelance writer. But as Jewish journalism struggles with its relationship to technology, it has also cut back on freelance budgets. Although I still primarily define my life's work as writing, this year I've done more paid work in blogging, social media and online marketing/PR consulting than I have Jewish journalism. My clients have been individuals and non-profit organizations, have hailed from both New York, Los Angeles and Canada, as well as Israel. (Some L.A. clients I still haven't met in person). Nearly all of my work is through personal referrals - people who trust my expertise and approach and refer me to other people they know and are inspired by. I felt comfortable moving to L.A. last October because I had "met" enough people online to build a community with offline, even starting over in a new city. This world - of social referrals and connections - is my professional and personal world, but increasingly, it's how we all live.
The good news is that lots of people who either wanted to ignore or minimize the importance of the rapid rise in social media, are now paying attention. The not-so-good news is that they are stressing over their own ignorance about how to effectively use the new tools, how to respond to pressures from some of their younger, hipper supporters to get proficient and get onboard, and most importantly worrying about where to find the talent to lead their newly important technology-driven marketing and communications efforts and make them look good.
Stress over ignorance
While this fear and stress is true for some organizations, I've found a steady demand from Jewish organizations who need decently-priced, accessible expertise to help them understand the culture of social media and suggest solutions to take them to the next level. (I know that some of my colleagues, including my friends at Darim Online, will agree.) These organizations are a delight to help, because they a) are forward-thinking enough to consider what their futures look like in the technology age, and b) acknowledge that they need someone to help who can respect organizational history and still offer solutions that will advance their mission. To invoke the old "how many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb" joke, "the lightbulb has to want to change." The culture of change is very difficult to embrace, but if there's anything that Jews believe across denominational lines, is that ignorance is not a chronic condition, and learning is good.
This post is in honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week, and celebrates two women entrepreneurs who have taken the Jewish merchandising world by storm. They started separately, in two different cities, both answering their needs for more Judaica and Jewish-themed gifts.
Sara Schwimmer Marcus walked into a New York City department store one holiday season and found herself "inundated with red and green merchandise and Christmas carols over the loudspeakers. I felt as many Jews feel at that time of year - left out. With PopJudaica.com, I wanted to create a site that had the feel of a mainstream retailer but catered specifically to the Jewish demographic. I wanted the merchandise to embody the sense of fun and tradition that I had grown up with."
In Atlanta, Jennie Rivlin Roberts launched ModernTribe.com in fall 2007: originally created to sell the company’s flagship product, No Limit Texas Dreidel, it "quickly became the place for youthful Jews to buy modern design Judaica and design-forward Jewish gifts."
Last week, Schwimmer Marcus announced that PopJudaica had been acquired by ModernTribe.com. In a press release about the merger, the women explained why the sites are so well-suited to one another:
“With more novelty oriented items and an emphasis on funny Jewish gifts, Pop Judaica fills a merchandizing space we don’t already cover, “ explains Jennie Rivlin Roberts, founder of ModernTribe and inventor of No Limit Texas Dreidel. “Plus, Pop Judaica is a great brand! It was a pioneer in the online Jewish gifts space, one of the first to bring the world funny Jewish t-shirts and novelty Judaica.”
“The two sites have always made a great pair, “ says Sara Schwimmer Marcus, founder of Pop Judaica. “Jennie is the most qualified mamaleh to take on my baby and I know she's going to take Pop Judaica to the next level.”
Schwimmer Marcus isn't abandoning the online Jewish resource scene: after she got engaged, she found that none of the online wedding resources specifically addressed the needs of planning a Jewish wedding. Her new endeavor, JewishWeddingNetwork.com is a one-stop resource for Jewish wedding planning needs; from finding vendors, to researching traditions, to connecting with others who are sharing the same experience.
Now ModernTribe.com sells over 500 items for the modern Jewish home. Through the acquisition of Pop Judaica, ModernTribe continues its growth in the Jewish gifts and Judaica home goods market, working with Israeli and Jewish designers to supply style-conscious shoppers with design-forward Jewish ritual items. Rivlin Roberts notes her excitement "about the design momentum in Israel and can't wait for the economy to improve so we can continue bringing in designer non-Judaic items such as handbags and jewelry."
"Put ModernTribe and Pop Judaica together and you have the whole spectrum of Jewish items that is appealing to the youthful Jewish culture," says the new owner of both sites, "both with great merchandising and great shopping experiences".
ModernTribe and Pop Judaica will continue to maintain their basic look, feel, and function, with changes coming in early 2010.
Seriously, because all these people are going to be at the LimmudLA Conference in February. Want to see a list of presenters (being updated all the time!)? Check it out to read names such as, well, everyone I've met in Los Angeles in the last year, and the Greenbergs (Yitz and Blu), and one Yonatan Gordis from the Center for Leadership Initiatives (which organizes ROI, among other programs). Oh yeah, and me: I proposed a bunch of sessions, and will keep you informed as to which ones were Chosen.
But if you can't wait till then (and let's face it, who can?) then check out LimmudLA's ongoing events series: happy hours and Tastes of LimmudLA, which are held in different L.A. neighborhoods (the next two are this Sunday in Pasadena, and in two Sundays in Mar Vista). So if you're commitment-phobic, check out a Taste, and see what you think. Make sure to add Happenings LimmudLA on Facebook to stay updated on all the fabu events.
If you have any other questions about the Conference, check the FAQ, and you can hit me up in the comments, or ask @limmudLA on Twitter.