Vaguely interested in Jewish innovation but not committed enough to read an entire blog post each day? Have no fear, Jewschoolers, we’re reading Dan Sieradski’s 31 Days, 31 Ideas blog so you don’t have to! Missed our first two summaries? Start here and continue here. Today, I bring you our final round-up.
Okay, on with the show. Ideas #20 – 25 can all be summed up as “websites.” More specifically, we have:
- #20 Jew it Yourself: The Jewish Catalog 2.0, a collection of instructions for creative engagement with Judaism, presented in jargon-free, accessible-to-newcomers format.
- #21 Hymietown: The Jewish Gawker, “a single blog covering the NYC Jewish community in a thoughtful, entertaining and irreverent way.”
- #22 Mazal Tov Cocktail: An Encyclopaedia of Jewish Radical Culture that would study “individuals, movements, events and concepts within Jewish history that are revolutionary or radical in nature — from Abraham’s iconolcasm through Anarchists Against the Wall — connecting our modern struggles and movements to our intellectual, political and mythical heritage.”
- #23 ProgressiveJews.org: A HuffPo for Progressive Jews, “an online portal for progressive Jewish political news, opinion and action.”
- #24 Jewish Book of the Month Club: “Create an online Jewish bookseller that offers discounted titles on everything” with all the supplementary material (from reviews to author chats) you’d expect.
- #25 Survivors Narrative Project, an online tool for retelling the history of the Holocaust using survivors’ own voices.
#20 has been one of Dan’s dream projects for years, and it’s a worthy one. I would argue that there’s already been a Jewish Catalog 2.0, but that’s just semantics. If there is one idea of this entire project that gets noticed by people who can help Dan make it happen, it should be this one. The idea is simple: give individuals the tools to encounter and engage in Judaism on their own terms, regardless of their prior knowledge, experience or affiliation. There are lots of sites out there doing this in small ways now, but no destination for those seeking, exploring, or just hoping to find a new way to do an old religion.
Not being a New Yorker, I could care less about #21. #22 interests me in theory, but I don’t know that an encyclopedia is the best format to achieve these goals. Wouldn’t a compelling narrative (or a collection of compelling, if competing narratives) be more engaging? #23 sounds good but Dan has never struck me as Progressive with a capital P, so I wonder how quickly he’d find himself pushed out of his own creation. #24 is something of a no-brainer, but I wonder if this is to Amazon what Frumster was to Friendster, Jewtube was to Youtube, etc… in other words, a needless Jew-specific service that attempts to fill a need that is already being filled fairly well by an existing secular site. I was skeptical of #25, but if I’m understanding Dan’s description correctly, it’s a way of organizing and aggregating narratives that have already been captured by various Holocaust history projects rather than an attempt to capture more narratives. I’m all for organizing data into useful models, and as the number of living survivors diminishes every year, making these first-hand accounts accessible to educators and students becomes even more important.
Of the remaining six ideas, three tackle the stresses of trying to survive on a Jewish communal worker’s small salary and crazy work demands, two address political issues, and one addresses lowering the cost of engaging in Jewish communal life.
Starting with that last one (#26), it’s a lovely idea but totally ignores the financial reasons behind organizations offering membership in the first place. Many institutions rely on dues as a major source of their operating costs. While I suppose getting new faces in the door opens up the possibility of fundraising from these new faces, this idea doesn’t feel quite formed enough to make a compelling case to a community to try it out.
The political issues Dan raises are Drug Policy (#29) and Progressive Israel Politics (#30). The former he aims to tackle by marshaling a coalition of like-minded Jews in America. The latter he hopes to foster through a fellowship program for promising young leaders. Both seem sensible and worthy to me.
Finally, we have the ideas for Jewish communal workers: Hechsher Tzedek for Jewish Non-Profits (#27), The Jewish Non-Profit Employees Union (#28), and Joogle Labs (#31). The Hechsher Tzedek, a certification that an organization is being run ethically, sounds great although I wonder who’s paying to run the thing. Joogle Labs (a technology incubator whose costs would be shared across the Jewish community) is a somewhat utopian dream but not impossible to imagine. The union, though well-intentioned, falls a little short of reality. Although many employees of Jewish non-profits would benefit from things like access to group health insurance plans or 403b savings plans through a union, the idea of Jewish communal workers staging a strike or a walkout is just a little farfetched for me to imagine. Are we really going to picket synagogues and JCCs? What if all the synagogue youth directors organized a walk-out and nobody noticed? Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a lot of work to be done to improve the lot of those of us who work for the community, I just don’t think the labor union is the right model of solution.
So all in all, the last 11 ideas were a mix of concepts that excite me, don’t interest me, and perplex me. But I will give Dan all the credit for making me (and a lot of other readers) think about Jewish problems and solutions in a sustained and (mostly) intelligent way.
I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel project, 28 Days, 28 Ideas, to which Jewschool will be contributing four ideas of our very own. (Each day of the week a different co-sponsoring organization will share an idea on their own site, with the main 28 Days site serving as a table of contents.) I myself will be contributing one of our four, and since I already have three in development, I’m not sure how to choose! We should all have such troubles.
Don’t take my word for it – the first idea of the new project has already been posted! Check it out, and join the discussion.