5 Ways to Improve the Jewish Reconnection Project: What to Do When the Message & the Medium Aren’t Enough

Photo by Rick Harris

Who is talking? Who is listening?

While we are deep into a discussion of Jewish identity, Israel, Zionism, and our Jewish future, I would like to introduce you to a project that will help us think more broadly about these ideas.

The Jewish Reconnection Project features a series of 6 video conversations between four Jews in New York and five Jews in Israel on:

  • Israel– Diaspora Relations
  • Intermarriage
  • Religion
  • The “Promised Land”
  • Occupation
  • Conflict

Sponsored by the Nathan Cummings Foundation to promote conversations in the Jewish world, these videos remind us of the salon, cafe, node, and think tank models we have been discussing. The names vary by author and details, but the ideas are in essence the same.

Jumpstarting the Conversation

One thing I’ve noticed going through the Project’s press section is that everyone seems to think it’s a good idea, but no one really has much to say about it.

The videos conclude with the recommended, “We want to know what you think” message, but I don’t think we have enough information about the project, either through the videos or on the website, to start our own conversations. We understand the idea in general, but don’t know what to do with it.

Even the longer articles listed from sites that are more formally news oriented than blogs lean toward quoting the video’s participants rather than forwarding the discussion themselves.

Let’s think about how this could be remedied. (Keep reading below)

Suggestions for Improvement: 5 Ways to Improve the Project

So what could the Jewish Reconnection Project do better? Fortunately, they have the easy part down. The Project has produced a series of high quality, interesting videos on serious issues. But there’s room for improvement.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Add a video that profiles each member individually and the team as a whole. The viewer needs to be able to establish patterns and understand each participant’s background in order to form opinions about them and on the conversation in totality. Knowing that someone is an accountant from Phoenix is interesting, but we want to know how these participants were chosen and what ideas and identities they are meant to represent
  • Add text profiles with short interviews and a photograph of each participant to the menu bar. We want to get to know them more personally and relate to them as individuals. Let us use their bios as a reference that we can look at after each video. Include a personal manifesto from each one or a story about what they care about and why
  • So nu, what changed? Clearly great effort went into making these videos, so what resulted? We want details so that we can invest and care about the project as a whole. What were the dynamics like when they came together? How was the project introduced to them? What did they learn from participating? How will it change the way they think?
  • Where should we go from here? We have a Facebook page (which is inactive since November), we have MySpace, and Yideoz– clearly the intent is there– but these are frontal applications until you make something happen. Who is leading the discussion? What questions should we be thinking about? How should we go about formulating our own thoughts? How can we take the intended impact of this project and help make it happen?
  • Integrate the Project’s message and medium more fluidly. Am I alone in wondering where the rest of the footage went? Great editing, interesting shots, and– good news– you left me wanting much more. So where is it? Were these shorts filmed as part of a larger project, a documentary perhaps, or were the six videos, each under five minutes in length, the ultimate product? The problem is that I’ve read the whole website and I don’t know the answer. In appearance, everything looks great, but I still have key questions. take the professional skills that went into making the video and use them across the whole project. A great video can be the heart of your project, but you need to represent yourself more fully in explaining your idea and helping people understand what to do with it

HorizonWhere Do We Go From Here?

Whenever I write a post like this, I always find myself asking, “Have you answered the question: ‘where do we go from here?'” What do you think? What else could the project do to improve their package? What can they do to invest you as a user? What do you need from them in order to feel fulfilled?

In turn, here’s what you can do now.

Photo by Lyonzy

Make Me a Recommendation

For more Jewish and Israel videos, join me on my Youtube channels here and here. I look forward to hearing your recommendations about who else deserves recognition for their work in getting the message across using new and developing media.

Both channels are under development and I need your help to make them as good as possible so that we can use them as a resource for Jewish and Israel issues.

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7 Responses to 5 Ways to Improve the Jewish Reconnection Project: What to Do When the Message & the Medium Aren’t Enough

  1. ARB says:

    The Jewish Reconnection Project videos look very interesting. I’ll have to watch them and get back to you.

    I love your YouTube channels! I’ll frequently check in.

  2. Shai says:

    Maya, I think your comments are on target. I also had the sense that, now that we know our opinions, so what? What are we going to do about it?

    The approach we often take can be traced back to BF Skinner (nurture vs. nature) whose theories had huge influence on western culture, our approach to problems, how we educate, etc. The basic assumption is that if we simply nurture enough and in the right way, we can cause change. Often, this is translated as the need to “educate”, and it’s presented here as “getting people to talk to each other”. The assumption is that if only we know what the other is saying, somehow things will work out. It’s just a distribution problem – how do we get the information from in here, to out there.

    Rarely do we examine whether that theory works and the reason is clear (to me) why. It’s very optimistic. It means we can solve all problems by trying harder, learning more, etc. But it is a biased theory nevertheless, and we’d be better off understanding (I think so anyway) that all of nurture has a personal valence that competes with a universe of other nurturing influences. When we have to make a decision, when we have to order our lives and choose between options, from where do we draw the order of priorities?

    This is where communities are extremely influential, especially those that convey a context within which we learn to act and decide and take a stance and to know why we believe and do what we do. When you compare the interviewees responses, if you noticed the ones in Israel (whether right wing or left) seem to be the most certain of what they stand for, and what they think is right. The ones in America tend to be more relativistic and uncertain. I think that Israel will be there in 10-20 years for sure if nothing is done.

    Which brings me back to the ikkar of my point – what can we do? What should we do? What must be done to regain lost ground? That’s what I’d like to see the sponsors of these videos asking – to these interviewees and to themselves. That’s what leadership requires – to look beyond the horizon a bit, and chart a path to sustainable success.

  3. thenewjew says:


    Thanks! I’ll let you know when I update again as I usually spend a whole day or so on that one project as one video leads to another. I aim to do a full post on it when I am satisfied that the channel is on its way. Please do let me know if you see any videos on any Jewish or Israel related topic you can recommend.

    Be well,


  4. thenewjew says:


    Tell you what. I’m talk to Todd Daniel Schecter, the head of the Jewish Reconnection Project, right now in anticipation of an upcoming interview with him on this blog for my upcoming series on Best Practices in Technology for Jewish Organizations.

    I’m reading the strategic proposals for the project to learn more about its vision and longterm goals and will be talking with Todd in a more in depth manner soon.

    If you have specific questions for Todd, I’ll consider including them in our conversations.

    Shavua Tov,


  5. Shai says:

    I think that Tsvi and PZ were alluding to a sense that to the degree the community is strong, our freedoms to act as indivdiuals are reduced. Jewish communal identity, and Jewishness then, seem to be asynchronous with our personal autonomy by this view and because of this, not only is the idea of “each Jew is the guarantor of each other” anachronistic, even the idea of obligations to others is.

    Now, these powerful ideas exist on a continuum – what I’d like to know is how conscious we are of these ideas, how they act as centrifugal and centripetal forces drawing is outward and inward from and to community action, and how these ideas motivate or inhibit our actions.

    If we see they are inhibiting (that’s what I’d expect), I would like to see a frontal assualt on the assumptions that retard our growth as communities and Jews by examining the assumptions openly. I think that would be very thought provoking.

    Lastly, once the thoughts are provoked, I’d like to see whether / if these thoughts lead to action or can be harnessed to result in action, or whether on the whole we just like to talk about things and leave the action to others (consuming vs. shareholding), having faith that having talked about it, people will eventually take initiative on their own.

  6. ARB says:

    Hi Maya,

    I hope all is well! I spoke with Wyman Brent yesterday over e-mail and he should be contacting you ASAP.

    Here’s some more news you might be interested in.

    Vilnius Jewish Library informational table at the International Association of Yiddish Clubs conference, October 24-27, 2008


    Talk to you later.

  7. ARB says:

    The op-ed linked below is interesting, enlightening, disconcerting, and depressing all at the same time. Any thoughts?

    Dialogue to nowhere


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