Troubling, to me personally, a heavy user of words, to advocate for the death of a word; not to mention the fact that I work part-time adjacent to the Partnerships & Innovation department at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, and as a consultant for the ROI Community of Jewish Innovators. Most of my professional work involves being in and around what I once explained to someone was “the emerging Jewish innovation sector.” (The person’s response: “Huh?”) My attempt to name projects in this sphere as explanation – G-dcast, Birthright Israel, PresenTense, ROI, Jewcology, Hazon, Sharsheret – didn’t seem to help. I must have sounded like Hagrid, describing mystical creatures at Hogwarts.
A few years back at LimmudLA, I presented on the state of
Jewish innovation, citing
G-dcast, the Mission Minyan, Kehilat Hadar, Moishe House and Challah for Hunger as examples. A voice of dissent in the room claimed that these projects were not innovations. G-dcast is “just” the weekly Torah portion; independent prayer communities are “just” the reinvention of havurot; Moishe House is “just” group living, like a kibbutz and a fraternity combined; Challah for Hunger is “just” a bake sale. My argument back was that the sum of the product itself might not be innovative, but the lens, venue or methodology used to produce it is creative, in some way “alternative” to the mainstream culture of Jewish life, or directly reflective of contemporary needs and concerns, and that it was that kind of work that was emerging under the term “innovation.”