By David Katznelson
Can cultural reinvention galvanize the Jewish world? This year, we will unleash the answer as Reboot rolls out a whole host of new initiatives dedicated to reinvigorating and “rebooting” Jewish life through creative expression.
My entire career has been dedicated to elevating the artistic voice. As a Grammy-nominated producer and former Vice President of A&R at Warner Bros. Records, I had a front row seat watching artists as they wove their ideas into the public consciousness using different platforms and formats. I saw music change our world.
When I encountered Reboot, I saw a model that could be replicated.
Since 2001, Reboot has provided new generations access to unique Jewish moments by investing in successful artists, makers, scholars, and entrepreneurs. These inspiring individuals who comprise our network have prompted the development of many big Jewish ideas and helped usher them into the world. When faced with the challenge of reaching a growing cohort of Jews not actively engaged in Jewish life, we discovered a way to incorporate Jewish traditions and rituals into a familiar language and setting. We created interactive experiences correlating with the digital age.
My unexpected personal journey as a Rebooter – from participant to board member to board president to CEO – continues to energize me. Eighteen years since its founding, the Reboot Network is now over 600 strong. The projects that have come from the network have engaged millions of people, the majority of whom are not the typical Jewish “user.” The individuals we reached have found relevance, reflection, and deep connection through reimagined Jewish rituals, traditions, and culture. You can get on overview of our work and its value through this recently created video.
Several of our defining projects and initiatives continue to have a substantial impact to this day. They include:
- The National Day of Unplugging (NDU): Developed by a group of artists, writers, and filmmakers (originally under a program called The Sabbath Manifesto) the NDU started a movement when it launched 10 years ago. This movement incorporated the weekly celebration of Shabbat as an opportunity to take respite from technology. Since 2009, hundreds of thousands of participants have joined us, including tech elites who are stirring a change in the role of technology in our lives.
- 10Q: Born from a conversation between writer Ben Greenman and wellness guru Nicola Berman, 10Q offers a new High Holiday experience for the increasing thousands who want to draw on the Jewish commitment for reflection, gratitude and personal responsibility while taking themselves out of the pews (note: many in the pews love it as well!).
- Sukkah City: This international architectural design competition and art installation, created by journalist and best-selling author Joshua Foer, launched in the fall of 2010. Sukkah City re-imagined the sukkah in contemporary design. A committee of distinguished art critics and leading architects selected 12 winners from a field of over 600 submissions. The winning entries were displayed in New York’s Union Square Park and drew an audience of over 250,000 attendees.
- Black Sabbath – The Secret Musical History of Black-Jewish Relations: Premiering at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in 2010, the exhibit drew over 200,000 people and shared the Black-Jewish musical encounter from the 1930s to the 1960s. We have plans to refresh this project, with the unique local context of Detroit, in 2021.
In celebration of our Chai year, we have launched a new strategic plan designed to take Reboot into the future. We are grateful for the generous support that the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Righteous Persons Foundation provided for the planning process. We are refining our focus, doubling down on supporting artists who encourage challenging questions, and reimagining Judaism. An executive summary of this new plan is available here.
We will continue to do what we do best: own the Jewish R&D space by using the power of arts and culture to elevate the Jewish conversation and connect with the Jews on the margins. Moving forward. we’ll be putting more energy into engaging and empowering our network. We know the Jewish world is ever changing and Reboot is positioned at the intersection of our community’s diverse history, culture, identity, and creativity.
Our new Mission statement: Reboot reimagines, reinvents and reinforces Jewish culture and traditions for wandering Jews and the world we live in.
- The Reboot Network – We will continue to grow an influential group of individuals steeped in cultural frontiers across the U.S. and around the world.
- The Reboot Ideas Festival – The first public embodiment of Reboot’s audacious, heart-felt and uncensored conversations and experiences. This is a weekend experience in San Francisco (March 27th-28th, 2020) focused on remixing, rethinking, and reimagining Judaism’s past, present, and future. We have invited creators, strategists, writers, thinkers, makers and artists, to propel, amplify, and evolve the Jewish conversation.
- Reboot Studios – The stand-out ideas that emerge from the Ideas Festival and other areas of our network will be developed and implemented through our recently formed studio. This studio will test programs and products to assess their impact and growth.
- My Fiddler Story, a project that explores the current refugee crisis through the prism of the acclaimed musical, Fiddler on the Roof.
- Silver Screen Studios, an intergenerational celebration of mini-documentaries that teaches and exposes young people to the wisdom of the Jewish community’s elders.
- Reboot Fellowships – Reboot will expand thanks to the generosity of the Covenant Foundation by bringing members of our network to Jewish institutions and collections, remixing their holdings for new generations.
We know that the Jewish world is ever changing, and arts and culture drive our changing world. Reboot is at the intersection of Jewish change and arts and culture.
For 18 years, Reboot has curated its growing network of creative and thoughtful leaders to develop and execute impactful projects relevant to today’s ideologies. We have inspired our community members to apply their unique and formidable talents to reimagine and reinvent Judaism. We ask that they share their discoveries with all of us, wandering Jews, and the world. With our new strategic plan, we are streamlining our historic model to ensure optimal success into the next decade and beyond.
More Sukkah Cities. More NDUs and 10Qs. More remixing of rituals, traditions, and new ways of plugging into the source of Jewish ideas by enlisting the greatest artists of our day to create game-changing opportunities. We are excited about where we are headed. WILL WE SEE YOU THERE?
David Katznelson is CEO at Reboot.