Dr. Kerry M. Olitzky, Executive Director
Lee Livingston, President
Jim Stein, Vice President
Eva Stern, Senior Director of Training
Torah Topics for Today
If we believe that Jewish ideas have an innate value, why not share it widely? The program, a series of shareable emails containing a modern interpretation of weekly Torah portions and holidays, is aimed at providing accessible Jewish content to a wide audience. Illustrated with humorous animated GIF images in the vein of Buzzfeed, each weekly email suggests a practical way to immediately apply Jewish values and wisdom to the betterment of one’s life (known as a “life hack”).
The Torah: Take parashat tazria-metzora, for example. Using entertaining snippets and animated images from such familiar movies as "Mean Girls" and "The Hunger Games," that week’s email took on the issue of gossip (referring to the Torah story about Miriam speaking ill of her brother Moses).
Referring to the example above, It then suggested a readily applicable thought exercise that can help subscribers reduce gossip in their lives.
When you learn something new about another person, it is tempting to spread it right away. Before you repeat gossip, ask yourself three things:
1. Is the information I’m spreading substantiated?
2. Will this information hurt the other person?
3. Why am I sharing this information?
In this way, subscribers not only learn something new about the relevance of the Torah to modern life, they also are left with something they can put to practice right away.
Such a program should be deemed successful if it meets two conditions: a) it succeeds in reaching a wide audience, and b) it impacts consumers in a significant way. Our evaluation study of LifeHacks From My Grandparents (which we completed early in the project) proves that this program indeed meets both conditions. By our most conservative estimate, early on in the project the LifeHacks emails had already reached an audience of at least 5,000 (primarily through sharing on social media) and we expect it to grow considerably. While most subscribers (57%) are 50 years old or older (the marterial is primarily targeted at grandparents who will share the emails with their grandchildren), more than one in three subscribers (37%) are in their twenties and thirties. And every other LifeHacks subscriber (46%) has told us that they have shared the emails with at least one other person.
Many subscribers find the LifeHacks messages relevant and applicable. About eight in ten say that the emails have made them realize the relevance of Jewish wisdom to modern life’s challenges (83%) and to their own lives in particular (80%); almost two-thirds have tried to apply at least one of the lessons suggested by the LifeHacks emails (63%), and have come think of their life challenges in a new way (59%); about half (48%) say the service made them want to learn more about Jewish wisdom, and almost a third (30%) have already take active steps to seek out more information about the topics raised by LifeHacks From My Grandparents.
LifeHacks From My Grandparents is only one example of the way that Judaism can purposefully compete in the marketplace of ideas. My hope is that our experiment with LifeHacks can spur more creative thinking around the Jewish community about ways to take the best we have to offer and serve it fresh in ways and media that are accessible to all.
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