Judaism isn’t a game, but a new Internet game called “MostJewish” is helping to begin a vibrant conversation about what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century. It’s part of a new digital initiative launched by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RCC), which has long been dedicated to reaching people where they are. And where people are these days is online.
Players go to mostjewish.com on their computer or hand-held device and see four words or phrases. They click on the one that feels most Jewish to them and learn the percentage of players who chose the same term. They are invited to explain the reason for their choices; they also can discuss the game on Facebook and follow it on Twitter. And the site offers a constantly updated “Top Ten list” of choices and allows players to see all comments on the choices.
In the weeks leading up to Passover, the site will feature a “holiday special” version – challenging players to choose their favorite moments from the seder experience. Do we think most fondly of chocolate-covered matzah, the third cup of wine, counting pages till the meal, or falling asleep at the table? During the Passover season players can see a Top Ten list of what rings most true for people about the holiday and share stories from Pesakhs past.
MostJewish also regularly features a blog written primarily by Rabbi Deborah Glanzberg-Krainin, assistant vice president for community and rabbinic engagement at RRC and director of the project. The blog continues the discussion in more depth, posing provocative questions such as, “How do Jewish stereotypes impact us?” and “How does commenting on a Web site echo the ancient Jewish tradition of commentary?”
Glanzberg-Krainin explains, “It’s the conversation that takes place online and well after the game that makes this so vital. We’re simply using the game as a welcome mat.”
Over time, the game will be tailored to suit audience interests and will offer players tools to explore their connection to Judaism on deeper levels. Small groups may ultimately connect over books, social justice projects, eating meals together or in-depth conversations. The possible experiences are as wide-ranging and unpredictable as the Internet itself.
Because the game asks people to make intuitive, spontaneous choices about Jewishness, players will be able to form organic connections to others on the site – and, in some cases, offline.
An online initiative might seem like an odd project for a rabbinical school, but RRC already has pioneered Ritualwell.org, a Website for contemporary Jewish ceremonies and rituals.
“Part of RRC’s mission is to develop new and exciting resources for contemporary Jewish life,” says Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz. Ehrenkrantz, president of the College. “We’ve always encouraged our rabbinical students to reach out in innovative ways. This initiative will allow RRC to reach new audiences directly and to better serve traditional audiences.”
RRC is also discussing partnerships for MostJewish with leading, likeminded Jewish organizations that address environmental concerns, social justice and urban Jewish life.
Starting an Internet conversation about 21st century American Judaism is in keeping with Reconstructionist process, which encourages exploration and open-ended conversations. So what’s most Jewish? Is it “poetry magnets,” because moving the words around feels like writing Midrash? Or “Jeopardy,” because the TV game requires contestants to answer in the form of a question, and questioning is at the heart of Jewish tradition? Or chopped liver because, well, “What am I?” These user responses to the game illustrate its potential to present new and surprising ways to think about Judaism.