The logo for My Personal Judaism, featuring a multicolored Star of David, the name of the site in a cartoonish font, and the tagline: Many Paths... One Place
Religion

My Personal Judaism – A Review of a Jewish Start-Up

“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.

3 thoughts on “My Personal Judaism – A Review of a Jewish Start-Up

  1. We’ll take your challenge! Thanks for sharing your “inspired” post about our launch!
    We’d even like to answer all the AMAZING points you brought up! Yes – especially that “game changing google platform” – that literally drives people insane with its algorithms and adwords – and pity the poor Rabbi or educator that doesn’t have enough shekels to compete in a crazy adword world – or even hire a web designer for that matter.

    You shared SO many great objections – we’d LOVE another opportunity to tell you why $720 (but till April 5, directory listings are still 50% off for the WHOLE YEAR!) is a bargain! Ever try to advertise in a sea of Ministers and Notaries for a spot as a Wedding Officiant? $2,400 for the year is what you’ll pay!

    MPJ – is NOT just a directory. It’s ALL social media platforms rolled into one, and we’d love for you to share your objections about our site LIVE with us – because we think you brought up great ones, and we have even better answers!

  2. Ok, Cantor Ballard. I’ll assume you are sincere in your tone and not sarcastic. I’d be sarcastic but I don’t think you are…

    Anyway, let’s dance.

    1. With the use of at least one discount from your favorite podcast you too can design, run, and launch a website for less than you charge, even with the discount. Why would a professional choose to be one of among many, if they can target their smaller region with a similar or smaller investment? Why would they bother advertising with those insanely expensive outlets? Yours seems to be a product of a different period. What is the value prop for the professionals? For users?

    2. How is your site more than a directory if you simply roll social media feeds together? I don’t get it and your site doesn’t explain that either.

    3. Did you solicit feedback from unaffiliated Jews? How many people actually need this kind of non-directory directory?

    Finally, unaffiliated Jews don’t affiliate with traditional institutions for the reasons you outline in your pitch. But that isn’t to say they don’t have some sort of connection to their Jewish community life. Through family congregations, minyan groups or newer versions of them, preschools, or just online stuff like this site here and your site there. There is a sense of community that exists outside of traditional institutions. It lives within emerging institutions and personal engagement choices. But all of that comes with commitment and time.

    So when you say you cater to this group what is it that you serve? Are you providing them with a sense of community or services for hire? Honestly, if you said, we simply make it easier for people to find high-quality Jewish services for a price, I’d find that refreshing and likely of value to a growing segment of the community. But you aren’t–your site outlines how there is a need for educated Jewish professionals to provide this kind of community feeling through traditional services outside of traditional institutions. People may need those particular services for a bris, a wedding or, funeral, but they want a sense of community that can only come from their commitment to building it. I doubt they want the same thing they left or chose never to attend presented in a different manner. The “unaffiliated” you target represents a number of different groups of people.

    I honestly wish you the best and hope you succeed in building a “next-generation” Jewish experience.

  3. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your questions! I am NOT sarcastic at all – and I am thrilled to “dance” with you – because these are critical questions, and I fully intend to answer them with as much thought and passion as I have put into this project.
    Working through Passover, now, but – please don’t think I’m not working hard on formulating the perfect answers to your amazing questions. Thanks! Looking forward to the tango, or salsa, or whatever spiciness your dance prefers!

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