Hanukkah Entertainment That Educates?

in collaboration with guest blogger Rick Recht The ultimate form of ‘cool’ in the Jewish world is when your non-Jewish friends also think it, whatever IT is, is cool. Well, cool just happened – twice. [If you’ve seen the videos, feel free to skip below them to the bottom of this post. Unless, of course, you can’t help yourself but watch them again.] On December 4, the CNN.com top headline picture was a snapshot from a viral video by the Maccabeats, male a capella group from Yeshiva University. The video Candlelight, a parody of teen heart-throb, Taio Cruz’s top 10 hit, Dynamite, and Mike Tompkin’s a cappella version of it. The Hanukkah version has racked up more than 2 million views on YouTube, earning the Maccabeats appearances on The Today Show, The Early Show, CNN.com and The Washington Post, among others. Candlelight includes lyrics about the Hanukkah story and traditions such as latkes and dreidel spinning. The video humorously depicts the Maccabeats reenacting aspects of the ancient Hanukkah story in makeshift gladiator costumes occasionally flash-forwarding to present day Yeshiva college buddies flipping latkes, studying Torah, and singing on camera, Brady Bunch-style. Simultaneously, another new Hanukkah video, by reggae rapper, super star, Matisyahu, attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors. Matisyahu’s song, Miracle, is a contemporary interpretation of Hanukkah, where in a dream sequence Matisyahu meets Antiochus, the King of the Greeks, and the father of Judah Maccabee (the hero of the Hanukkah story), also named (get this!) Matisyahu. At Shabbat services last week, I mentioned the viral videos and then many laughed and nodded in recognition of the achievement by OUR Maccabeats and Matisyahu. We’ve got communal pride because this caliber of media rarely emanates from the Jewish world, and when it does, Jews take notice. These videos have the perfect combination of ingredients — including high-quality talent and cinematography, great humor, a clear connection with popular culture, and a powerful story line that is authentic Jewish history. These guys took it to the next level by unashamedly expressing their Jewish pride by using fun costumes, humor, and symbolism to tell the Hanukkah story. We’re not just talking about playing dreidel, we’re talking about the pressure to assimilate, and the temptation of … well, "chocolate stuff". (Don’t know what I mean? Watch "Miracle"!) While they are surely educational, the approach isn’t shoving historical facts down your throat. I asked my 23 year old office manager, Seth, why he thought the videos were cool and he didn’t skip a beat in responding, “First off, they’re hilarious. They are a great example of the talent that comes from our Jewish community. Now that these videos are viral, not only within the Jewish community but everywhere, it gives us pride to be Jewish because Jews AND non-Jews are watching and loving these videos. Hanukkah has lost a lot of its religious meaning and understanding for many of us (young people) and these videos give us a different way to look at the holiday and put a modern spin on it. They highlight the Jewish people and bring attention, in a very good way, to our Jewish community.” For Seth and many other young Jews, these videos exceed their apparent entertainment value and become more meaningful because they have a clear educational purpose. They don’t just hover around the contemporary iconic Hanukkah symbols such as dreidles and Hanukkah menorahs. They tell the REAL historical story of Hanukkah. They serve as relevant and meaningful sources of Jewish education for this holiday that has lost much of its meaning having become a contemporary American Hallmark holiday. They employ the ultimate tools for reaching and impacting young lives – music and video – and then stream the content on YouTube, the most powerful platform for video sharing. It’s also a powerful place for expression, identity building, and discusComment on Maccabeats Videosion. A few comments on the videos are posted here – they are fascinating to browse to gain insight into youthScreen shot 2010-12-06 at 10.55.39 PM (and not-so-youth) culture today of both Jews and non-Jews. Timing is everything, and the chance of being exposed to anything by or about Jews is dramatically increased during the Hanukkah season. It is no coincidence that these 2 videos hit their rocket-like trajectory on the 3rd and 4th days of Hanukkah. Familiarity breeds popularity. In the case of the Maccabeats, their song Candlelight was a parody of one of the most popular songs in the country. Almost every kid in the country had already memorized Dynamite by Taio Cruz and only had to learn the new Hanukkah lyrics in the Maccabeats’ parody. Screen shot 2010-12-06 at 10.58.49 PMScreen shot 2010-12-06 at 10.57.43 PMSo let us rejoice for the blessing of these two incredible viral videos that have infused our Jewish lives with such excitement and pride during this holiday season. And let us contemplate a time when individuals in our Jewish community can achieve national recognition in between holidays, using the power of music, video, and genuine high-quality talent to not only entertain, but educate both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences about our Jewish rituals, values, and history. Rick Recht is the top touring artist in Jewish music, the Executive Director of Jewish Rock Radio, Executive Director of Songleader Boot Camp, and the JNF National Music Spokesman.

Opportunity: Tell Us How You Tech!

Have you or your organization used new media technology in an effective, creative way to activate your network? Tell us the details of your story, and be entered to win a free pass to the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference (“NTC”) from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and Darim Online. NTC, an annual event organized by NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network, will take place March 17-19 in Washington, D.C. It is a rare opportunity for the tech-friendly and curious Jewish professionals to connect with, learn from and share knowledge with peers and experts who are dedicating their talents to the nonprofit sector. A wide range of nonprofit professionals—executive directors, development professionals, marketing and communication folks, IT staff, program staff and others—from both very small and very large organizations will be present to discuss how technology, marketing, communications and leadership are essential to advancing your mission. Do not miss out on this amazing opportunity to step outside of the silo of our community to learn from the rockstars of the nonprofit technology field while also engaging in facilitated discussions and schmooze sessions with your fellow Jewish professionals. Better yet, you can earn the chance to do it for free simply by telling us how you are using technology! Leave a comment below! Deadline for submissions is December 15! Thank you to the Nonprofit Technology Network for donating this conference registration to the Jewish community!

Need A Hanukkah Gift For Your Boss?

YScreen shot 2010-11-19 at 3.34.26 PMou’re looking for the gift that keeps on giving, right? I’ve got just the thing for you. Pick up a copy of Beth Kanter and Allison Fine’s book The Networked Nonprofit. A fun read with great stories and case studies, this book will help any nonprofit leader better understand the impact and opportunities of working in a networked world. THEN SIGN UP FOR OUR ONLINE BOOK GROUP! That’s right. Starting in January, we’ll be hosting a free online book group to discuss the concepts and their application to our work in the Jewish community. Bonus: experience the joys of the new Facebook Groups feature while you’re at it. You can join the book group now, and we’ll kick off discussion in January. That gives you just enough time to get copies for your co-workers, plus one for yourself, and read it in mid-December while everyone else is still scrambling for that other holiday, or by a cozy fire, or on the beach in Hawaii or where ever you might take a winter vacation… Have you read the book yet? What are you interested in discussing? What ideas grabbed your attention?

It’s Our Birthday – Party Favors For Everyone!!

Photo credit: Flicky user camnjeanaccess We’re 10 years old and positively giddy about it! To celebrate, we are giving out gifts throughout the year! We cordially invite you to our upcoming webinar, Foundations of Social Media, Oct. 19th, 1-2pm ET. This free event is open to everyone — Darim members and those who are not yet members. Click here to register and enjoy this taste of Darim as our guest!* The celebration continues with two more complimentary webinars: our November 3rd event featuring Allison Fine, co-author of The Networked Nonprofit (register here!*), and our January 11th event with the creative team behind Shalom Sesame (register here!*). Sign up for one, two, or all three – but hurry – space is limited!* *Can’t make these webinars? They will be recorded and available to the public; no need to register in advance, we’ll post the links on our blog. Check in for more goodies throughout the year! A very special thank you to our members for being such an important part of our community! As one of our gifts to you, we’re excited to announce our new Open Office Hours program. Drop by for free advice and schmoozing with Darim staff. Click here for our full list of Fall/Winter Events. These webinars are free to all staff and lay leadership of Darim Online member organizations. Not yet a member? Find out more and join us today. Feel free to be in touch with any questions or comments at learningnetwork@darimonline.org

Endings and Beginnings in Perpetual Beta World

JewelsBlogThis post is part of Jewels of Elul which celebrates the Jewish tradition to dedicate the 29 days of the month of Elul to growth and discovery in preparation for the coming high holy days. This year the program is benefiting Beit T’shuvah, a residential addiction treatment center in Los Angeles. You can subscribe on Jewels of Elul to receive inspirational reflections from public figures each day of the month. You don’t have to be on the blog tour to write a blog post on “The Art of Beginning… Again”. We invite everyone to post this month (August 11th – September 8th) with Jewels of Elul to grow and learn. This is the age of perpetual beta. New features, tools and applications are being developed at such a rapid pace, that it’s more efficient to adopt a rapid & agile approach to development and implementation than to try to perfect it before going live. You might notice that Gmail and Flickr are still noted as "beta". Today things move quickly, and being agile and nimble is more important than being perfect. The consequence, however, is that without a defined end point or beginning, we might forget to pause and reflect, or to fully embrace a new beginning. When we’re constantly evolving, and continually focused on what’s next, do we lose the opportunity to get the most out of this moment, and what we’ve accomplished? It’s always hard to carve out the time for reflection, but every time I do it, I am reminded that it’s worth its weight in gold. Looking backwards in an age of constant innovation might seem counter-intuitive, but it is critical for future success, happiness and improvement. This is true whether it’s a new release of some widget or gadget, or a birthday, or Rosh Hashanah. The cycle of the Jewish year is important not only for giving us reason to stop and reflect, but also for giving us a reference point for that reflection. I often remember my thoughts, feelings, regrets, hopes and thankfulness of last year, or the year before at Rosh Hashanah. The intensity of the holidays, the unique feeling of walking into the synagogue on that day, and even the words and tunes of the prayers evoke those memories that were etched into my being a year, or two, or three ago. The power of the day is not in what I’m thinking or feel at that moment, but how much has changed over time. I once read a book, Managing Transitions, about how organizations and people navigate change. The take-home message for me was that change is situational, like a light switch. You close a factory, you require your staff to use a new database system, or the calendar tips from 5770 to 5771. But transition is psychological, and is a process. If we only see the change, and don’t engage in the transition, has anything really changed? If we are truly going to embark on a new beginning, we must take the time to close one chapter before we can transition into the next phase. I’ve always been fascinated by the word "beginning". Seemingly a noun, the "ing" gives it this little boost of a verb’s energy. Maybe it’s just a noun in perpetual beta.