Eileen Levinson, Founder & Creative Director
Wendy Jackler, Program Manager
The issue issue Hevria aims to address is quite simply this: we see a terrible lack in creative, dynamic thinking within the Jewish community. This has affected the Jewish world in a number of ways, including a lack of diversity within various communities, a stagnancy in education, a loss of interest in spirituality, and much more. Our goal, then, has been to infuse creative thinking within the Jewish world by creating an organic, bottom-up organization that gives voice to people who often go unnoticed or who are not empowered by the powers-that-be.
70 Faces of Torah: One of our founding principles is the idea that there are multiple truths within reality, even if they seemingly conflict. The result: our writers and our audience are diverse and from all over the spectrum or religiosity. We have Jews from all sects: Hasidic, Secular, Modern Orthodox, Reform, and just about everything in between. The goal here is honest, open, respectful conversation. In a world where media and community are more and more insulated, when the technology exists to do the opposite, we've opened a unique Jewish venue where not only are all Jews are respected, but all perspectives are respected.
The ultimate example of our success in this realm has been our events: they are quite literally never defined by any one group of Jews. Whether they are in New York, Los Angeles, or Israel, our events are always some of the most diverse Jewish events in the world.
Ahavas Yisrael: The principle invoked here is about doing just about everything we can to give the Jewish people a voice, especially those who are unheard. This is why we are known for publishing articles that wouldn't be published in any other publications. Especially of note are the articles by abuse victims (including 2 by victims of Marc Gafni that helped get the word out about his horrific effect on the Jewish world), which have been some of our most viewed and shared.
Our program has a unique approach: bottom-up, instead of top-down. In other words, we aren't interested in forcing creativity, the 70 Faces of Torah, or Ahavas Yisrael on anyone. What we instead do is give voice to those who project these principles.
Thus, we recruit writers, artists, musicians, speakers, and more that live our principles. By using this approach, we bring people into this way of life as opposed to trying to sell them on it. The "selling" is done in a way where our principles are part of our experience.
These principles also govern every aspect of our work. For example, we look for ways to deepen the level of engagement among different groups of Jews. We did this by creating our online forum, Hevriabook, which turned our media audience into a vibrant community.
Included in this application are the full results of our latest online survey of our audience. We wanted to show you an unfiltered view on the impact we've had, without any commentary. But we'd like to highlight some things from there, as well as some other results that may help make the case for our organization's impact.
The relevant question we always try and answer isn't just about numbers: we don't just want broad reach, we want deep reach. We want to know that we've deeply impacted those who've been touched by us. And the deeper their engagement, the more we want to impact them. It's become clear to us that we've succeeded in this.
For example, here are just a few of the responses to the question "How has Hevria affected you?":
"Hevria showed up in my life at a really difficult time in my life, it was this light in the dark... Thank god it existed about two years ago and I'm so happy that its going strong and flourishing into an amazing community..."
"We are not alone!"
"I'm not alone"
"Just prior to finding Hevria (or it finding me)...a little spark appeared in my heart...Hevria has fanned it into a flame...truly."
"Makes me remember that I'm not alone in my struggles."
"Given me my voice back."
"It has liberated me and made me feel like I can be my own kind of Jew and define for myself exactly what that means."
"Idk. How has air affected me?"
"As someone actively seeking conversion, it's been amazing. I don't have any Jewish friends. So it's like my little spiritual internet family."
Some samples of emails we've received:
"I am a HUGE fan and supporter of hevria.
after reading (albeit, stalking) everything written on here a friend of mine and I challenged ourselves to write and email each other one "hevria style"essay a month. Weve been doing it for about a year now, on and off. The posts on hevria have challenged me to think more deeply and write more honestly (and often!)
Hevria has awakened a need to genuinely express myself, when in my past that has felt stifled. I am so grateful youve opened me up to a world of jewish artists and creatives, and i hope to consider myself a part of them one day.
I really enjoy everything you guys post."
"Happy to know about your endeavors and want to give you a bracha for the sustainability of your work... May you grow in ways that are public and also pluralistic and helpful for the overall group of "Israel" to really perceive Justice and reforms that can happen if the world is alerted to the beauty and potential of human kind as well as the darkness and "other-side" of human nature that seeks to destroy. My bracha is for you to be more courageous and seek out the directions that your soul work will take from a higher and holier source than your own designs and thoughts. Wellness is taking into account the darkness as being there to highlight the goodness and there is so much to say here but hope you will stay real and grow in blessings and fullness in your creative works and also perspectives that go beyond the humble beginnings of focusing on just the Jewish community and religious or community issues. Best always!! Sooss much potential here to reach the world and make more movies about world issues and benefit all of humanity. Best!!"
"I'm an impulsive Hevria checker. Every time I go on line I'm typing in HEV and getting the suggestion (HE gets me hebrewbooks.com).
All I'm saying is, I get these emails like five hours after finishing all the articles"
"EACH ONE is such great read. Thank you for voicing what I have stuck in my throat but no way to get out."
1. Elad Nehorai winning 2016's the Jewish Week's "36 Under 36" for his work in Hevria.
2. Average attendance of events: 120 (80% of events sold out)
3. Featured in the Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, the Jewish Week, and Arutz Sheva.
1. In 2015, we had 850,515 pageviews (70,000/month).
In 2016, in less than 7 1/2 months, we've received 1,003,332 pageviews (133/month)
2. Events in 2015: 2
Events in 2016: 12
There have been a number of lessons that have stuck with me to this day.
1. Everything can be elevated: As someone who became orthodox later in his life, this lesson of the Rebbe had a huge effect on me. I learned almost from the beginning of my engagement with Judaism that my writing, the work I did, and the people I was around would not have to be sacrificed. Instead, the focus was on bringing up the world around me. I have attempted to do this with all my work, but especially Hevria, where we have a very wide breadth of programs and voices. This has allowed us to venture into realms ignored by just about every other Jewish organization, and in ways that no one has tried. Our one guiding principle, based on this principle: be fearless in your Judaism. And in life.
2. Creativity's Power - Calling creativity "applied Jewish wisdom" is unfortunately not something most people would think makes sense. This is, most likely, because of our limited view of creativity. Creativity is a mindset, not just a tool for making art. It is what allows one to decipher the Talmud, accept the paradoxes that exist in Chassidus and Kabbalah, and express complex ideas in ways only you can. Judaism is about always balancing our different mindsets and strengths. Thus, losing the power of creativity isn't just something that hurts artists: it affects the entire Jewish community.
This realization has been the guiding principle in my work with the Jewish world, and in my own personal growth as a Torah Jew. It is what allows Hevria to not just be a typical arts organization. It is what makes Hevria stand out in a world of staid, old-style media and Jewish events. It is what makes Hevria affect people's SOULS, and not just their minds.
©2016–2018 Lippman Kanfer Foundation For Living Torah — All Rights Reserved.