“Are you a Jewish professional who offers a skill, product or service to the Jewish world at large, but wish you had a more direct way of reaching today’s ‘Unaffiliated’ who are searching for you?” asks My Personal Judaism, a self-described proprietary online platform that “eliminates barriers to Jewish participation by bringing Jewish Professionals and Jewish seekers together in a game-changing, go-to-resource for next-generation ‘Judaism on Demand.'”
Boy, howdy, there is a lot to unpack there, isn’t there?
Number one: Anytime you say something is a “game-changer,” it isn’t. You don’t get to decide if your yet-to-launch product is of value to your target audience. Sorry. Thanks for coming.
Number two: Is there a demand for this? Google’s actual game-changing and proprietary online platform finds pretty much anything on the internet. The cost associated with joining this platform seems pretty high for an innovative independent Jewish professional (read: not fully employed by a Jewish communal institution) when for far less than the “best deal” of a $720 per year membership, you could host a dynamic website and pay for well-targeted Google AdWords.
And are there those at the edges of the Jewish community who want a differentiated website with people paying to pitch them services? I don’t have specific data on that question, but if we extrapolate from any recent studies by the big names in Jewish community studies, it’s pretty clear that proudly Jewish and independent younger families will not be logging on to this kind of site. They will ask their parents, friends who went into professional Jewish life or just figure it out themselves. Hopefully not for a bris, but I digress.
Number three: This product offering doesn’t address the problem it says it addresses.
There will be times when unaffiliated Jews need support from educated Jewish professionals, and those professionals need work. As set up today the target audience for this site is not “consumers” but rather professionals looking for work. This is fine, however unneeded a novel solution might be in today’s digital marketing space.
However, My Personal Judaism purports to remove the stumbling blocks to Jewish engagement for the growing population of Jews “no longer content to sit … and listen to a leader who is not speaking their language.” But the site provides on-demand Jewish services, which is very different than Jewish engagement.
Cantor Debi Ballard, one of the site’s founders, writes that “today, people are seeking more on-demand experiences,” which is completely true. But the assumption that this kind of immediacy facilitates a spiritual connection to tradition rings hollow. I’m not going to say that someone who calls a mohel he meets on the day of his first born’s bris cannot have a deep and meaningful Jewish experience because that is what happened for me.
But that is, I believe, the exception to the rule. Predicated on a commitment to communal practice and shared belief of some kind, Jewish tradition and communal life take work. When you pay-to-play, which this site says is the defining trend of our day, you experience your tradition passively; you pay for access to a feeling, not tradition.
It’s almost as if they could change their pitch to say that with our website, you too can have that warm fuzzy feeling with no work – just pick from our selection of people who did the work, and they will do the work for you.
I wish these folks and anyone seeking the support of a Jewish professional who stumbles onto this site the best. Really. For what it’s worth, I found my mohel by calling my rabbi.
Contributor Note: When inspired, I’ll review your Jewish Start-Up. Likely, I won’t be nice to you. But if you’re feeling particularly brave or arrogant (you are a “founder” after all), send me a pitch.