28 Days, 28 Ideas #27: Spiritual Birthright
Today’s idea comes from Jay Michaelson (@jaymichaelson), author of Everything is God: The Radical Path of Nondual Judaism (Shambhala), as well as two other books and over 200 articles. A columnist for the Forward, Huffington Post, and Tikkun, Michaelson was recently named to the “Forward 50” list of the most influential Jewish leaders in America. He is also executive director of Nehirim, a national nonprofit organization of GLBT Jews and allies. In 2008-09, he spent five months on silent meditation retreat, mostly in Nepal.
Ask anyone who’s gone on a seven-day meditation retreat, or a weeklong Jewish spirituality retreat, and they’ll tell you that the experience is life-changing. It’s not merely a pleasant weekend, or interesting few days of text study. Real spiritual retreats – whether traditionally religious, Renewal-style, yoga-based, meditation-oriented, musar-focused, or any number of other flavors – are transformative, not informative. When they work, they change the self, often in radical ways. Spirituality may not be for everyone, but for those for whom it is, it often becomes the center of Jewish identity and practice. Like Israel experiences or immersive social justice programming, spirituality is one of the many items on the Jewish salad bar which, for many people, can become the main course.
28 Days, 28 Ideas #20: The Plan B Institute for a Jewish Future
Today’s idea comes from Charles Lenchner, an online organizing consultant who has worked with nonprofits and political organizations in Israel, Palestine and the United States. He has been active in Israeli and Jewish peace organizations since 1985.
In the movies, when something goes horribly awry, a supporting character will ask, “Do you have a Plan B?” Generally, the answer is no; hilarity or suspense ensues, but in the end the hero saves the day.
Jews don’t have a hero and our history is replete with bad endings. That’s why we need a think tank devoted to Plan B. The Plan B Institute for a Jewish Future will be devoted to asking painfully difficult questions about the consequences of Plan A passing the point of failure. The answers to those questions must include the outlines, at least, of a Plan B that we can fall back on.
28 Days, 28 Ideas #13: Birthright Diaspora
Today’s idea comes from Eli Valley, a writer and artist living in New York. His comics appear monthly in The Forward, and he is the author of The Great Jewish Cities of Central and Eastern Europe. His website is evcomics.com.
Eli’s idea is Birthright Diaspora, a global initiative to provide Jews with immersion experiences in far-flung Jewish communities.
28 Days, 28 Ideas #6: Tzedakah Box 2.0
Today’s idea comes from Ari Wallach, co-creator of The Great Schlep. Ari has been working at the intersection of business, politics and communications for over 12 years. He is a partner at studioBenZion and was formerly VP of Corporate Development at Seed Media Group, where he was responsible for strategic alliances and business development. He serves on the board of the American Jewish Committee’s ACCESS program and has been a past participant of the Hillel Spitzer Forum, The Bronfman Reboot initiative and The Jewish Week’s “The Conversation.” You can follow Ari on Twitter at @ariw.
Ari’s idea is for the Tzedakah Box 2.0, a digital tzedakah (charity) box that enables individuals to make quick credit card donations to the charity of their choice, and which breathes new life into the Jewish tradition of using tzedakah boxes to make charitable contributions.
I grew up, like most Jews my age, plunking my pocket change at the end of the day into a JNF tzedakah box. In terms of (Jewish) acoustical branding, the sound of coins hitting the bottom of that blue tin box is right up there with the shofar and “Hava Negilah.” But in the age of online and mobile donations, the tzedakah box has become a relic of the past. So how can we update this idea into make it relevant for the 21st century?
- Take an iPhone or an iPod Touch and outfit it with Square, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s new credit card reader for Apple mobile devices.
- Put it in a heavy, hard rubber case styled to look like the classic JNF tzedakah box.
- Have the Square credit card reader recessed on top for horizontal swiping, make the glass screen flush against the surface of the box, hide the home button to prevent users from quitting the donation application, provide key-lock access to the mobile device itself for charging, and add a laptop-style lock to prevent anyone from running off with it.
- Create an application that allows users to select their preferred charity, specify a donation amount, enter their email address, swipe their credit card, and get instantly emailed a receipt for their donation. Device owners can pre-configure their favorite charities for users to choose from. Upon a successful transaction, users will hear the classic sound of coins dropping into a tzedakah box.
Here’s a very rough mockup of the device, with a traditional credit card swiper in place of the Square:
I can see this going in a lobby at a JCC or as you walk into the latest JDub powered concert.
Version 3.0? That one is easy: Text the word “TzedakahJNF” to a shortcode like 181818 to give $18 dollars to any org (eg. - TzedakahRepairTheWorld or TzedakahGreenPeace).
The Jewish Week recently asked “Will mobile giving take off in the Jewish world?”
With Tzedakah Box 2.0 and 3.0 the answer to that question could be an emphatic “Yes!”
This post is part of the series 28 Days, 28 Ideas. Check out yesterday’s idea, “The Idea Accelerator Model”, over at the Jewish Federations of North America. And be sure to check out tomorrow’s idea at Jewschool. You can also visit 28days28ideas.com for the full list of ideas as they progress.
31. Joogle Labs
Welp, this is it. 31 of 31. Over the past month, I’ve shared with you ideas for new technology platforms, Web publications, organizations and initiatives that aim to address the needs and transform the future of 21st century Jewry. As I said in the beginning, not all of these ideas are winners, but hopefully most of them have been illuminating and thought provoking in some way.
It’s been an interesting experiment and I am grateful to all who joined me this past month — particularly those who reached out to offer words of support and direct assistance for several of these projects. I am also especially grateful to my fiancee, Ris, who put up with many a late night with my eyes glued to the screen.
30. Progressive Israel Fellowship
I intended for No. 30 to be a completely different and off-the-wall idea (a transnational Jewish republic), but as the crackdown on human rights organizations in Israel continues unabated, now with an officially orchestrated attack on the New Israel Fund, I’ve decided to give preference to another idea I’ve been kicking around: A fellowship program to develop the next generation of progressive Israeli political leaders.
29. Jews for Just & Compassionate Drug Policy
Perhaps the most overlooked social justice issue in America today upon which the Jewish community can have a greater impact is the war on drugs.
28. Jewish Non-Profit Employees Union
In my last post I proposed a hechsher tzedek — a certification of ethical compliance — for Jewish non-profits. This certification would recognize exemplary behavior by our communal institutions with regards to labor practices, financial responsibility, transparency, efficacy, etc.
While such a certification can go a long way in terms of acknowledging the efforts of compliant organizations and incentivizing reforms, there would nonetheless remain those who would shrug off their ethical responsibilities and jeopardize the well-being of their employees, communities and institutions. In these instances, we cannot merely count on these institutions to reform themselves, we must actively seek to reform them.
27. Hechsher Tzedek for Jewish Non-Profits
This idea is one that manifested during the course of a breakout brainstorming session at the recent Jumpstart/JESNA/UJA Toronto confab. As a participant, I had only a hand in seeding the idea and cannot take anywhere near full credit for it — it was a group process. Yet it’s one that will probably go unknown and forgotten unless I mention it here.
26. Universal Jewish Membership Rewards Card
There are only six days left to 31 Days, 31 Ideas. My how the time flies. Today’s idea begins a new theme. No more Web sites from here on out. The next six projects will all be big ideas for organizational initiatives.
25. Survivors Narrative Project
I am a grandchild of four Holocaust survivors. That should tell you a lot about me.
You may also find telling the fact that stacked atop that burdened blessing, my parents are professional Holocaust educators and survivors’ rights activists. My mother, Jeanette, was a cofounder of the 2nd Generation Network and the recent author of “Why Should I Care: Lessons from the Holocaust,” and my father, Philip, is the current Executive Director of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants. The Holocaust has thus, as you might imagine, always been a big part of my family’s identity and vocabulary. So much so, in fact, during high school my friends referred to my mom as Mrs. Holocaust.
24. Jewish Book of the Month Club
This next idea is another one so stunningly obvious, you have to cringe at the fact that it doesn’t yet exist. Jewish Book of the Month Club anyone?
23. ProgressiveJews.org: HuffPo for ProgJews
Continuing on the theme of being unabashedly progressive, as with Mazal Tov Cocktail, my next idea is for an online portal for progressive Jewish political news, opinion and action. It’s called ProgressiveJews.org.
22. Mazal Tov Cocktail: An Encyclopaedia of Jewish Radical Culture
Jewish neoconservative demagogue Norman Podhoretz has given up. Jews are liberals, he accepts in his new book, “Why Are Jews Liberals?”, whether he likes it or not — whether he thinks it consistent with our tradition or not. Though Podhoretz would like to disclaim our progressive heritage, I for one am enamored and emboldened by it. I take much pride in and gain much reassurance from my connection to our radical past, and feel myself to be a bearer of our great tradition, as opposed to a defiler.
21. Hymietown: The Jewish Gawker
My friends and long-time readers are likely aware that I first made my mark in the Jewish community as a blogger, launching one of the first ever Jewish blogs, Jewschool, back in 2001, long before blogging had become mainstream. Even before Jewschool, I had been blogging on Jewish issues on various other blogs I had founded (going all the way back to 1998), and following the success of Jewschool, I was instrumental in launching many other popular Jewish blogs including JSpot, JVoices, The Jew & The Carrot, Israelity, Canonist, and CampusJ to name a few. During my tenure at JTA, in addition to revamping the organization’s overall Web site, I co-created three new JTA blogs, including The Telegraph, The Fundermentalist and Capital J, each of which are now considered essential reading in Jewish professional circles. All of which is to say, that when it comes to Jews and blogging, I’m generally your go-to guy.
So, speaking in that capacity (even though I haven’t been much of a blogger for the last two years), I wish to identify a ginormous hole in the Jewish blogosphere, that is so painfully obvious and yet so easily filled, that I’m kind of embarrassed that I haven’t pulled it together yet.