Rumor Mongering

[eJP note: This is in response to a previous article by David Abitbol, which can be found here.]

by Aaron Bisman

While we appreciate David’s curiosity about our comings and goings, and his interest in 3rd party metrics and 990s, this article is factually unsubstantiated and incorrect on many fronts. It should be noted that, as was the case for Jacob Ner David’s “Case Study,” David made no effort to contact anyone at JDub or Jewcy before publishing accounts of what we are or are not doing. Had he, of course, he would have had no story left, because what he published is simply not true.

We appreciate the great deal of attention and scrutiny being paid to our unfortunate circumstances, which to be clear, is a failure of adaptations to a decade-old business model, not a failure of impact. Some may try to draw conclusions between mission impact and individual donations, but assuming such a simplistic causality doesn’t reflect philanthropic realities, particularly not when dealing with participants who often lack the means to fully support the content and programming with which they engage.

As we stated in our letters to supporters and participants, we will be sharing more about the need to wind down and how we got here, as well as historical documents. We will do this so that other entrepreneurs and organizational leaders may learn from our successes, challenges, and the necessary risk involved in creating, building, and sustaining an independent Jewish non-profit. When, how, and what we share is currently being determined with our board, as we continue to work through the painful steps involved in layoffs, stakeholder communication, and legal dissolution.

This leads us back to David’s article. JDub is currently discussing Jewcy’s future with a number of organizations and individuals. Its next home has not yet been determined and will most definitely not be announced by an interested third party. We look forward to sharing the news of Jewcy’s future soon.

Aaron Bisman is co-founder and CEO of JDub, a non-profit that forges vibrant connections to Judaism through music, media, and events, which recently announced it was winding down after 9 years in operation. He is also co-founder of the Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists and Altshul, an egalitarian community in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

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  1. says

    As I wrote to Aaron privately, my use of the term “case study” was in the context of a blog post, not a serious use of the term, and certainly did not intend to portray the quick reaction as a proper case study (which should be done). I do feel that he and the rest of JDUb management (including board members) should tell us more…

    Jacob Ner-David

  2. Kettle says

    Correct me if I am mistaken but didn’t JDub/Jewcy rely on third party metrics when they claimed that they had more traffic than Heeb and Jewlicious combined? I can understand Aaron being upset at the premature release of information but in fairness to David and Jewlicious, their job is to report what they know. I for one don’t see any sort of malevolent intent and all the details reported by Jewlicious appear accurate. The Jewlicious post also contains a disclaimer at the bottom repeating all that was substantially written in this article and so one has to wonder why this statement was made at all.

  3. Yoni says

    While I can understand that Aaron resents speculation over future endeavors, one of the main concerns raised was that JDub was servicing highly affiliated Jews such as former Jewish Day School and Jewish summer camp kids while pretending to focus on the unaffiliated. While Jewcy’s shift in content revealed that more overtly, it is increasingly felt that this was the case in terms of who represented the loyalists of JDub in most aspects of programming.

    If so, while JDub was not the only one to play that game, they certainly played it harder than even most Jewish organizations who might dishonestly put “unaffiliated” in their business plan but at least don’t pretend that’s primarily who is being served.

  4. Josh B. says

    Yoni – how do you know who they served? How many events have you been to? I’ve been to a bunch, and I can tell you that me and my non-Jewish girlfriend felt like it was a real community, which is not what I experienced working in the Jewish philanthropic world. If you don’t get the impact, I feel sorry for you.

  5. Shira_L says

    Josh B,

    That’s great that you felt better at a JDub event than you did elsewhere in the Jewish philanthropic world you experienced, but doesn’t that prove Yoni’s point?

    JDub wasn’t supported to be a community for a very specific type of professional Jew. But it kinda was, wasn’t it?

  6. says

    I did indeed publish Aaron’s statement that no deal had been finalized as soon as I received that information. It’s on EJewishPhilanthropy and it’s on Jewlicious. Is Jewlicious an interested 3rd party? No more than all the numerous other parties who have weighed in on the issue. The gist of this article was based on information provided by a well-placed anonymous source and I welcome any indication that it is substantially incorrect. I understand the problematic nature of anonymous sources after all – that’s why I noted that the information was unofficial. What’s more bothersome is the perception that this is some kind of attack against JDub and Jewcy by myself and/or Jewlicious. Nothing can be further from the truth.

    Allow me to note that we have headlined JDub artists at Jewlicious Festivals – Golem, Soulico, SoCalled and Matisyahu. Our collaborations with JDub have always been stellar and very successful. JDub’s closing represents a loss to the organized Jewish community and a loss to Jewlicious. Our blog has also been supportive of JDub as well as Jewcy and I myself have made a modest donation to the “I am Jewcy” campaign while also urging our readers to do the same.

    I have the deepest respect and admiration for everything JDub has accomplished and I wish Aaron and his staff great success in all their future endeavors. As for Jewcy, my hopes lie with a robust and reinvigorated enterprise under whoever the new management will be. Such is in the best interests of the Jewish blogosphere and such is in the best interest on Jewlicious. Just so we’re clear 😉

  7. Let's see says

    Let’s see if Aaron learns anything from all of this besides “The record industry changed.”

    Want to take responsibility there, bucko?

  8. max says

    I’m curious to learn where so many of EJP’s commenters pull JDub’s participant demographic data from. Many of you seem adamant that they served a certain population and lied about serving another but how exactly would you know?

    Yoni, JDub’s reach was quite wide, if not deep. where would you even get data on who attended events, bought their CDs or read Jewcy? even one anecdotal experience does not make for scientific conclusions about everyone in their participant group.

  9. JDub Ubber Alles says

    That was a classy response “ck” aka David Abitbol of Jewlicious. Aaron Bisman’s post used the loaded term “Rumor Mongering.” In a Jewish context it implies Lashon Harah, which refers to spreading gossip that is true. False rumors are handled under the concept of motsi shem rah. What Mr. Bisman may have inadvertently implied is that said rumors are in fact substantially true. JDub has been talking to the following:

    1) The JTA – they already host a number of branded blogs on their site and have the expertise to run Jewcy. What they don’t have is the money. Over the last couple of years the JTA has been kept alive as a result of emergency cash infusions. Adding Jewcy to their mix will only add to their financial exposure because Jewcy is a money losing venture.

    2) The Forward – They already blog content that appeals to younger audiences. They are more financially sound than the JTA but there is no obvious benefit to the organization to take over Jewcy and hire their staff.

    3) Which brings us back to MyJewishLearning. They are generously funded. If they managed to get funding for, a niche Jewish parenting site that gets about 25,000 visitors a month then they will also be able to sell Jewcy to their funders. They are the party most likely to take over Jewcy.

    Max asked “I’m curious to learn where so many of EJP’s commenters pull JDub’s participant demographic data from.” I can’t speak for any of the other commenters but I was following Jewcy’s stats when they were being directly measured by Quantcast. As previously noted, JDub & Jewcy had no difficulty using what Mr. Bisman derisively called “3rd party metrics” in their 2010 grant application to the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, their applications to the Houston and Portland Federation (who approved grants) and other applications that weren’t approved. In those applications they stated that Jewcy had more traffic than both Heeb and Jewlicious combined. As far as I know, no one at either Heeb or Jewlicious was contacted by JDub or Jewcy to confirm those figures. They relied on third party metrics as well. Mr. Bisman’s protestations thus fall on deaf ears as far as I’m concerned.

    Max, those directly measured metrics represented the most accurate demographic breakdown of Jewcy’s readership available. They demonstrated that Jewcy’s largest audience share came from people aged 45 and over. It doesn’t mean that anyone lied, just that they weren’t so free and easy with the facts. Those of us who are a little more Internet savvy know where to get publicly available information. This post by Mr. Bisman doesn’t even come close to addressing many of the issues brought up by his critics.

    This isn’t even about JDub. It’s about Jewish Federations and Foundations so taken by buzzwords like “innovation” and the promise of forging vibrant Jewish connections amongst unaffiliated young Jews that they dropped the ball. Big time. And JDub is but one example. Stay tuned for more!