The 10 Days of Awe: Reflection in a Digital Age
In a world where instant reflection in the form of a tweet, Facebook or Pinterest post is the norm, the thought of carving out time to think about your life and plan for the future is not top of mind for most people. People no longer take pause even during the lead up to the High Holidays where the month of Elul and the Asheret Yemei Teshuvah are traditional markers for contemplation and reflection.
In response, eight years ago Reboot, a national nonprofit that affirms the values of Jewish tradition and creates ways for people to make them their own, launched 10Q an annual digital reflection project. 10Q creates a platform for people to reflect on life’s core questions during the Ten Days of Awe by sending participants one question a day for the 10 days. The questions land in your inbox and you can complete them at your pace. The first five questions focus on the year that has past and the next five on the year to come. At the end of the 10-day period, the answers are sent to a secure vault until the following year when they are sent back and the whole process begins again. In fusing modern technologies with ancient customs, 10Q creates a safe, compelling digital space for individuals as well as communities to participate in introspection.
The idea for this project emerged during a Reboot gathering when Rebooter Nicola Behrman convened an open space session called “Susan: Dentist.” She shared the story about finding an old diary in her grandmother’s house after she died, opening it to a random page and seeing a note scrawled into one of the calendar notes – “Susan: Dentist.” This experience caused her to reflect on the notion of personal and collective memory and family legacy. The session was attended by editor and writer Ben Greenman who brought up the idea of annual reflection that takes place during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. People in the session commented that they were unlikely to attend a synagogue service or Selichot services but they were interested in alternative ways to celebrate this period of time in the Jewish calendar. The conversation then morphed into thinking about times of reflection and the importance of taking stock of our lives on an annual basis. And the idea for 10Q was born. Fast forward and today there are more than 30,000 individuals signed up to participate annually. Community partners from synagogues to Hillel campuses and USY campers to JCCs continue to use 10Q as a way to engage their constituents during the high-holiday period.
Eight years into the project, we have been reflecting on lessons and insights we can draw from participation and engagement. In October 2014, at the end of the 10Q period, an online survey was sent out to all participants. 983 (3% of all) participants completed the online survey. The data collected showed that 10Q is a powerful, poignant and resonant experience for participants, reaching a multi-generational audience from a variety of backgrounds. 92.6% were satisfied or very satisfied with their 10Q experience.
As one participant said:
“It made me think of that time of the High Holidays in a more concrete sense. In addition to being a spiritual time it is also a time to look back on all that happened in the year past – for some reason I never thought of that before doing this. I think doing 10Q has deepened my awareness and practice of the high holidays.”
The survey responses also showed that the 10Q experience is changing people’s knowledge, attitude and behavior to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and their understanding of the significance of this time period in Jewish life.
Participant comments included:
“My idea of reflecting on the High Holidays was limited to thinking about if I’ve wronged anyone, and then apologizing to that person and to anyone else whom I may have hurt without realizing it, and thinking about how I will avoid wronging others in the future. Now, my idea of reflecting on the High Holidays has expanded to include thinking about significant events or ways I have grown in the past year, and making goals for the coming year.”
“I have always disliked going to High Holiday services – I feel prayed at instead of getting to pray with, its not the normal community I know, and different tunes make it hard for me to feel comfortable. I spend most of my holidays focusing on how the prayer service isn’t for me. This project allows me to reclaim the High Holidays and have a chance to make it my own and personal.”
41.4% indicated that 10Q changed their knowledge about the High Holiday period and annual reflection.
“10Q encouraged me to take more personal ownership of my Jewish journey during this time during the year and it gave me a way to connect with other friends and colleagues who were looking to connect.” 55.6% felt that engaging in 10Q changed their attitude towards the High Holidays and the idea of annual reflection.
“I’m not a very religious person, so in the past I generally treated this like any other time of the year (except for the apples & honey, yum!) 10Q gave me the opportunity to reflect in a way that I never really had before. Having the prompts was very helpful. I felt I learned a lot about myself in the process, and I’ve been thinking about my answers ever since. It was nice to take the time to reflect, and doing it during the High Holidays made me feel more connected to my sense of being a Jew.”
The project helped others in interfaith marriages:
“By participating in the project, I felt more connected to the High Holidays. I felt as though I had something to do to be part of the High Holiday mindset. I’m not Jewish and I’m married to a Jew. I’ve celebrated the High Holidays with my in-laws for almost 20 years, so they are a part of me. 10Q made the High Holidays personal to me and reflective of my journey, in a way that is was separate from the family. 10Q gave me, an outsider, a way to feel responsible during this time, too.”
And for those engaged in Jewish life, 10Q also provides a helpful platform:
“I am very engaged in Jewish life. The period before Rosh Hashanah until the end of Yom Kippur is too easily hijacked by practical concerns about hosting meals at home, menus, food shopping and so on. It is a challenge to stay focused on the truly important matter of reflection. 10Q provides a structure and discipline to make the time to stop and take stock, for thinking about the year past and hopes for the year ahead.”
98.1% of respondents stated that would participate in 10Q again next year.
By creating a space for individuals to reflect in their own time, at their own pace, 10Q opens the door for deep, personal questioning and reflecting, a process that can often be overlooked given the fast paced culture of posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The project shows that digital reflection is possible!
To sign up, go to DoYou10Q.com. 10Q begins September 13.
Amelia Klein is associate director of Reboot.