[This is the second in a new series updating the award recipient projects of the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund.]
by Patrick Aleph
On April 20th, 2011, the creative team at PunkTorah sought to answer the question, “what do the Jewish people really believe about God?” After traveling from Portland, Oregon, to New York City, Los Angeles and the mountains of North Carolina, Minneapolis, Boston, Atlanta and more, and developing over 200 YouTube videos on our website, The G-d Project.org, we have gone from wanting one good answer to having a million great answers.
The Jewish people are complicated. In our adventures, we met spiritual agnostics, Hebrew priestesses, humanistic Orthodox rabbis, kabbalist yoga masters, politicians, teachers, actors, musicians, social justice leaders, computer nerds, college students, blue collars workers, young children and the elderly. This diversity of backgrounds, experiences and ideas that shape the human soul radiated through our interviews, making us laugh and sometimes making us cry.
We started with a laptop and a camera. What we built was the first platform dedicated entirely to Jewish spiritual democracy. I believe this is our greatest success: traveling the country to let people know that they matter, that their voices have importance, that whether you are a Ph.D. or a 13 year old, your spirit has an “equal vote” in the Jewish experience. At a time when we often look to great leaders, people we assume will have all the right answers and will solve our problems, The G-d Project learned that the greatest lessons come from those whose voices are most overlooked.
I am proud that we have surpassed our year one goals: more than 200 YouTube videos, invitations to lecture at synagogues and conferences, and a scrap book currently being edited for print in 2013. We have received countless emails from Jewish professional educators asking us, a ragtag group of social media junkies, for answers on how to engage in Jewish spiritual questions. We found ourselves shaking our heads: “How can we be the people that the most educated are looking to for answers?” Perhaps this is because, with the support of the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund, we had the courage not to learn how to talk about God, but instead, learning how best to listen.
The next year looks amazing: videos posting every week through October, our scrapbook going to print, a teacher resource guide, and presentations based on The G-d Project live streaming over our partner website, OneShul.org. We will continue to fly to the ends of the Earth to speak about our experiences, not because we have the answers, but because we deeply value the answers of others. We look forward to sharing that conversation with you. Ken yehi ratzon, may it be God’s will (whatever God may be).
Patrick Aleph is the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of PunkTorah. The G-d Project is produced by PunkTorah, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to independent Jewish spirituality.
The G-D Project is a 2011-2012 recipient of the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund, a pilot collaboration of the Jim Joseph Foundation, Righteous Persons Foundation, and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation that supported projects offering innovative ways of using new media to encourage the next generation of Jews to engage in life and community Jewishly.