By Karen Schwartz
Edelsburg, 29, knew he’d have a good time at Tuesday night’s Tech Tribe Chanukah celebration. It’s a group of people he can relate to, he says, with similar interests, where he can find friendship, mentorship and business connections.
Edelsburg was one of 30 people gathered in Midtown Manhattan to light the world’s first GIF menorah at The Yard, a co-working space overlooking Herald Square. The event was hosted by Tech Tribe, an organization dedicated to “curating events and experiences for Jews in technology and digital media.”
The GIF menorah – custom-designed by Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone, social media director at Chabad.org who co-directs Tech Tribe with his wife, Chana – uses a technique known as “digital mapping” to project short looping videos onto the face of the menorah.
“There’s a unique power in GIFs,” explains Lightstone. “By nature, they’re short and sparse on detail, yet they’re used on the web to convey a full range of thoughts, feelings and experience.”
He sees the constant movement of the GIFs as a fitting metaphor for Chanukah’s lesson of constant personal movement and growth, adding in light and good deeds.
Tech Tribe is best known for #openShabbat, a series of unplugged networking events and Shabbat meals. The next #openShabbat dinner in New York is slated for early February, says Chana Lightstone, followed by their flagship meal at the annual SXSW interactive media, film and music festival in Austin in March. Last year’s meal at the hyper-connected tech festival attracted more than 300 people.
Meanwhile, Chanukah is about spreading light and celebrating Judaism, she says. As for their group’s role in this, “we see it as a way to bring an otherwise virtual community together in real life to network and celebrate. This is a community based on common involvement and common interests in technology and digital platforms.”
Keeping Up With the Times
Tara Leavitt, 28, first connected with Tech Tribe when she attended SXSW in 2014. She has attended several of the group’s Shabbat dinners in New York, and met people in her industry and related kinds of work that she otherwise would not have known.
Leavitt, who also runs marketing for The Yard, provided the space for the evening’s festivities. “It’s nice to play host in this sort of situation,” she says. “It makes it more personal to me.”
Jamie Fleishman, 27, works in The Yard’s offices for a company that mentors Chinese high school students through the college-application process. He saw an email about the Chanukah event and was working late on Tuesday night, making attending an even more obvious choice, he says.
Fleishman adds that he was impressed by the GIF menorah and glad to see a cohesive community in the tech space. “It’s perfect for our times. That’s what Judaism should be doing to keep up with the times,” he says. “I think it’s great.”