by Hindy Poupko

The New York Jewish community is the largest and most diverse Jewish community in America, boasting an array of programming and events catering to every possible niche in our community. Whether you’re interested in a Jewish comic book night in Brooklyn or joining hundreds of thousands of Jewish to support Israel at the annual Celebrate Israel Parade, we’ve got it. The sheer number and diversity of New York’s Jewish engagement opportunities is, at once, inspiring and overwhelming.

So often I meet people who express strong interest in Jewish life, community and issues, but simply do not have the mechanism to easily tap into the flourishing world of Jewish New York.

Much of this stems from our outdated notions of both community and communication. We send too many emails while our “open rates” decline and wonder why we’re not reaching more people. Most organizations are still employing a “one size fits all” approach to engagement, sending the same weekly newsletter to all their members, when many companies today – from Amazon to Target – have figured out a way to personalize the consumer experience.

Additionally, we continue to think in terms of numbers; of how many physical bodies can be captured. Today, people, gatherings and communities work in a qualitatively different manner.

In the age of digital media and, in many respects, digital communities, Jewish organizations must find the mechanism by which to respond to the current dynamic notions of membership; not simply dues and attendance, but digital presence.

These new conceptions of community and communication are reflected in the newly launched GrapeVine mobile app which was created by The Council of Young Jewish Presidents (CYJP), in cooperation with The GrapeVine Group
and with support from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation in partnership with the ROI community, The Natan Fund and UJA-Federation of New York.

 

This app creates a digital community catering specifically to the needs of the user. Applying predictive analytics similar to that of Netflix and Pandora, the app allows users to create a profile catering to particular interests and communal associations. Based on this profile, the app not only introduces the user to over 140 Jewish organizations, but recommends events and, with more use, creates an “Events Listing” catered specifically for this user; addressing the user’s niche needs and interests. With a single intuitive and user friendly interface, the user is capable of exploring events of many Jewish groups, sharing the information with friends, and choosing to explore or attend an event.

Living with endless streams of information, Facebook updates, tweets and emails from countless list serves, one of the greatest services an organization can provide, particularly in the form of an app, is the service of parsing and delineating which information is the most relevant to the individual. No longer will organizations need to send out scattershot emails or notices, wasting precious time and money on an unfocused non-targeted campaign. With GrapeVine, organizations will be privy to a targeted audience and database, with recipients receiving considerably less junk mail and advertisements. Moreover, this app will provide the opportunity for a more intimate experience; with institutions reaching out with a far more informed posture, enabling them to understand those to whom they seek to cater and appeal, and with users in a better position to understand these entities – beyond their acronyms. This app will allow for a more integrated and focused approach to Jewish life and community, one that sees a community not only as mass of people, but a group of unique individuals.

As users grow, GrapeVine, currently only in its first model (already downloaded over 2000 times) will grow to greater and greater capabilities. While the Jewish community has really only begun its journey in effectively utilizing the opportunities of digital media, this app signifies important progress.

Of course, as with most major communal endeavors, collaboration and participation is needed. Only with the integrated, cooperative efforts of Jewish communal bodies, will we be collectively successful in creating a broad lively and meaningful Jewish digital life; only when we successfully transcend archaic bureaucratic borders, will we be poised to take a leap into the 21st century.

Hindy Poupko is Executive Director of Council of Young Jewish Presidents.

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