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Hello Mazel

Custom & Craft
Los Angeles, California United States
Leadership team

Eileen Levinson, Founder & Creative Director
Wendy Jackler, Program Manager

Organization website
Prize category
1 – 3 years
Target audience
Experiential Learning

Hello Mazel delivers a delightful box of Jewish goods in order to help people live Jewishly. We provide our customers the tools to “do Jewish” in their own ways within their already-existing networks of families and friends. Hello Mazel presents new takes on traditional rituals and tastes for people who participate in Jewish communal organizations or not; who live Jewishly 24/7 or simply want to connect on holidays; who consider themselves Jewish, half-Jewish, partly-Jewish, not-Jewish, or Jew-ish. We are finding and creating the best of Jewish life, while wrapping Torah around “secular” experiences. The results are transformative.

What Jewish wisdom do you use in your work?

All of Hello Mazel is oriented around the application of Jewish values, traditions, customs, rituals, wisdom and stories. In fact, its entire ethos is of delivering Jewish in a box. So the Jewish wisdom we use? Torah, midrash, Hassidic tales, rituals, holidays, history, art, culture. From Etgar Keret’s book of short stories that brings to life modern Israel to Jewish artisans whose craft is passed down from generations of other makers, we are continuing the transmission of memory and tradition.

How does your program work to make that wisdom accessible and directly applicable to your audience's lives?

We have several strategies for making Jewish wisdom accessible and applicable to our customers:

1) Finding the best Jewish life has to offer:

A. For our Passover box, we tasted dozens of macaroons and found the very best in the country. For our Rosh Hashanah box, we have identified a local beekeeper in Brooklyn who is making us a spicy honey, as well as a halva purveyor whose product is absolutely the most delicious we’ve ever tasted. For Hanukkah, we have found a set of gorgeous candles to help people to fulfill the commandment of hiddur mitzvah (elevating the aesthetics of the mitzvah).

2) Creating new products and rituals:

A. At Passover, we created a custom letterpress seder plate that was an elegant design solution to the problem of how to send a lightweight and affordable seder plate to our customers. It was sold by the Jewish Museum in NY, along with our playable haggadah.

B. We created a new ritual and a new wearable Pesach tradition. We encouraged our audience to take a length of a green thread we sent them and tie it around their right wrist for the entirety of the holiday as a reminder of people who are not free.

C. For our summer box, we re-wrote the traditional Traveler’s Prayer and provided a temporary tattoo of some of the text for people to be physically reminded of the plea for safe passage while they are out and about at summertime.

D. For the fall box, we are custom designing, illustrating and printing apology cards to allow people to do their own personal teshuvah before Yom Kippur.

3) Sourcing “secular” products and wrapping them in Torah:

A. For example, in our Passover box we included a pound of organic-direct trade coffee. But with it, we included the following text: "If you’ve been to a seder in the United States some time in the last 80 years, you’ve probably come across the Maxwell House Haggadah. Ever since said coffee purveyor made the brilliant marketing decision to publish their own haggadah, there’s been a cozy connection between Passover and coffee. And there’s beauty and power in taking something that could be really bitter (coffee) and elevating it into something delicious (still coffee). Sure, we COULD send you horseradish (traditional for evoking the bitterness of slavery), but wouldn’t you rather get some incredible beans from a Bay Area gem to convey the same idea? Bonus: Because it’s fair/direct trade, you can feel good about the fact that nobody is living in modern day economic slavery to fill your morning cup."

In other words, although there’s nothing inherently “Jewish” about coffee, we are able to apply Jewish wisdom to an everyday experience, idea or product to expand our audience’s thinking about how Judaism applies to them.

4) Making it appealing, relevant, accessible, helpful, fun and delightful:

A. Our visual design and editorial content are oriented toward a consumer brand. Here’s a good example of how we talk about the very important things we’re sending: "The Haggadah is the primary framework for this whole shabang. It’s meant to set the stage for the stor-telling enterprise. But, whether you’re a seder pro or a seder newbie, we figured it was time for the seder to get a reboot. So we went ahead and created the first and only Playable Haggadah. Meaning you get to play your way through the seder. Open it up and check it out. Then either use it at your own seder or bring it along to one you might be attending. Not having a seder? No problem! The conversation cards make for outstanding dinner table / cocktail party talk."

We “speak” in a vernacular, familiar and accessible - never assuming knowledge and removing barriers to action and understanding wherever possible.

What impact has your program had on your participants?

Hello Mazel is helping people across the country to do Jewish. The following are a few comments we have received from customers:

“As a military member, I don't always have the ability to have good Jewish food everywhere I go. Hello Mazel brings me that taste of home no matter where I'm stationed.”

“I'm a congregational rabbi. What a wonderful low entry, high equality Jewish experience. I would recommend for parents to send adult children who are disconnected from organized Jewish life. But you can also appreciate as someone who is already committed and tapped into Jewish life. Yasher koach!”

“I thought my first Hello Mazel box was inventive, sophisticated and fun! I shared the box with friends for a non-Seder, Passover dinner. Keep up the good work!”

“We had a BLAST playing the card game at our all adult seder. We used it the second night, having done a more traditional/formal first night seder. What we loved most about playing the game -- was that it was less focused on the ritual and allowed us to focus more on the -- who was at the table, why we were there, and engage with one another on a different level. There were three non-Jews at our table and all three were able to dig right in and feel a little more comfortable -- WIN! It was a lot of fun.”

“Love the concept. The first box was smart and fun. And yummy! There is so much ugliness out there facing the Jewish world, it is wonderful to see something that highlights the beauty and richness of Jewish culture and identity. Thank you!”

I love the concept! A fun way to connect with our Jewish culture and heritage. Beautifully branded, appealing to me as a Jew who is not terribly observant/religious.”

We are reaching an incredibly broad and diverse audience, too:

Our Passover box was shipped to 1,555 addresses in 44 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and the United Kingdom.
66% of our customers identify as female, 26% as male.
24% are between the ages of 25-34, 29% between 35-44, 20% between 45-54, 11% are 55-64, and 6% are 65+.
85% identify as Jewish, 7% do not.
55% of our customers are affiliated with a synagogue while 33% do not.
38% do not affiliate with a Jewish institution other than a synagogue.

Needless to say, our impact is wide-reaching and deeply felt.

What have you learned about applied Jewish wisdom that contributes to your success?

Doing Jewish in the modern world is a choice. So to make that choice more appealing, Jewish wisdom needs to be wrapped in an appealing, relevant and modern package so that people opt-in who might not otherwise. People are hungry for just this type of offering. Putting it out into the world has proven correct the hypothesis that if we package Jewish wisdom in an aesthetically and gustatorially pleasing way, people will bring it into their lives.