Eileen Levinson, Founder & Creative Director
Wendy Jackler, Program Manager
JDOV invites compelling speakers from all over the world to share their Jewish “dream”, “observation” or “vision” in a 10-12 minute talk in front of a live audience. The talks are professionally filmed and edited, and made available online under a creative commons license, so they can be freely shared and enjoyed by a global audience. JDOV.org now features over 100 thought-provoking talks, offering people a wealth of high-quality Jewish content to learn from and be enriched by. Words bring ideas into being and our ultimate goal is to inspire people to create positive change in the world.
All of the talks have Jewish ideas, texts, values and traditions at their heart. Some speakers explain how Judaism has shaped their own personal story and led them to the work they do in the world; others use biblical and rabbinic sources to express their messages.
For example, Sharon Brous merges the story of the Exodus with her own personal journey into Jewish engagement. She demonstrates how, for thousands of years, the Jewish people have stubbornly held one sacred narrative at its heart – yetziat mitzrayim, the Exodus from Egypt. This story is a redemption story, obsessively told and retold, generation to generation. She argues that, if we take this story - the core operating narrative of our people – seriously, it ought to change us in profound and recognizable ways.
In her talk, Sally Berkovic addresses the taboo subject of Jewish death practices by speaking as the corpse. The talk intersperses reflections on the early deaths of Sally’s parents and her own life as a ‘motherless mother’ with the physical rituals undertaken by the Chevra Kadisha.
In a very different way, the fine artist and Hebrew scribe, Josh Baum, brings to life the ancient traditions of sofrut. Josh unveils for the viewers his ‘Box of Errors’. Full of words and yet not exactly a book, the box was the by-product of writing a Torah scroll – the place he kept his mistakes. The box is symbolic of the magic and pleasure of making Hebrew letters – which Josh demonstrates during the talk using paper-cutting - and the endless possibilities of words.
Ruth Calderon applies a Talmudic passage to Israeli-Arab relations. In a time of religious and cultural tension in the world, Ruth believes returning to the great books might give us the right language to better understand each other and work towards peace. Through a close reading of the story of Rabbi Akiba and the text of the Shema, Ruth’s talk explores the concept of One, Echad, in the Jewish tradition, encountering along the way a remarkable overlap with Islamic thought.
The concept – the Jewish talk of your life – and unique format of JDOV talks, mean that the content is highly crafted and expertly delivered. The messages, which are always drawing from Jewish wisdom in very personal and relevant ways are powerful, succinct and passionately expressed. As a refreshing contrast to the often overwhelming sense of ‘weight’ of Jewish tradition, the short form provides an accessible and enjoyable way for people to absorb the rich diversity of thought that the tradition has to offer.
Several of the talks communicate their messages in creative and innovative ways, using performance, music, film clips and visual art to bring the ideas to life for the audience. People attending a live JDOV event have the opportunity to experience the impact of a handful of diverse voices addressing a wide range of topics in one session, creating often unexpected resonances and connections between speakers and ideas.
Once the talks are available online, people can engage with them in their own way, browsing topics of special interest to them – such as Arts & Culture, Israel & the Middle East, Jewish Tradition, Leadership and Education. Topical playlists are shared via social media for those looking to connect Jewishly at key moments in the communal calendar.
And many talks speak directly to current issues, such as Alma Reisel’s talk, ‘Pride and Privilege,’ which exposes the very real challenges facing LGBT individuals in the Jewish community today. This video quickly spread online once picked up by LGBT groups. Another example would be featuring well-known figures such as Natan Sharansky and connecting them to unexpected audiences. Sharanksy’s talk does not focus on his political views and achievements, rather he speaks about his passion for the game of chess and the extraordinary role it has played in his own life story.
Being an online project means our content can cross geographic borders, denominational and institutional walls and communal politics.
Since the program was launched in 2011, JDOV talks have been watched more than 82,000 times by viewers from 147 different countries across the world. Over the last 5 years, JDOV events have taken place in 4 different countries, reaching a total live audience of over 5,000 people. JDOV sessions have fast become some of the most popular sessions at the largest annual Limmud gathering in the UK. Last year, they were voted amongst the most eagerly anticipated sessions on the Limmud app. JDOV has inspired others to host their own live events, some of these have been collaborations which created content for the JDOV website, others have been grass roots initiatives for individual networks.
Speakers end up with a polished video with high production values to use within their own work. Some educators and academics include them in their curricula, others on personal websites as a succinct illustration of their individual worldview or to highlight the values and goals of the organisations they lead. At each live event, the emcee leaves the audience with the explicit charge to reflect on the question: “What is my Jewish dream, observation, or vision? What idea would I want to offer the world if I had 10-12 minutes to share something that inspires my Jewish identity?”
In the next 12 months, we will be launching a podcast, making the content available in an audio-only format on iTunes, opening up another potential audience. We will also be launching ‘JDOV in a Box’ – a resource pack with the talks at their heart, providing Jewish content in user-friendly packages for educational and social action organisations. We are building on existing media partnerships in order to promote the content to new audiences, with a major event taking place in London in November in collaboration with the Jewish Chronicle.
What we have learned can be summarised under 4 main headings:
We have learned that this format is extremely appealing to our audiences. Being freely shared online under a creative commons license means our material is easily accessible, and 10-12 minutes is the right amount of time to share a single digestible idea. This format can be used widely in a variety of contexts including the classroom, the boardroom, at the dinner table and on personal devices.
Careful preparation and excellent delivery of the talk, combined with high production and post-production values are all very important for attracting the highest number of viewers.
By curating a multiplicity of voices, the meta-message of JDOV is that Jewish wisdom is multi-faceted and diverse.
The sharing of a personal passion and story invites the viewer into a world they might not otherwise be interested in. For example, Jude Williams, a social activist working in international development, gives a talk about how being the child of a Holocaust survivor animates her activism. Viewers are inspired to explore their own applications of Jewish wisdom by watching ‘role models’ who in this way grant ‘permission’ to follow their lead.
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