Your Daily Phil: Virtual Seders with Yahad + OneTable examines the solitary Shabbat experience

Good Thursday morning!

Before the coronavirus pandemic, an average of 10 people attended the Shabbat dinners held under the auspices of OneTable, an organization that helps young Jews host the ritual meal by offering entertaining tips and an online platform that matches hosts and guests.

Yet more than 1,700 people had solitary OneTable Shabbat dinners between March and December, according to new research discussed last night on “Alone, Less Lonely,” a virtual roundtable held by the organization to discuss its findings. That was about 11% of the total number of 15,000 dinners held using OneTable’s platform during that period; the rest were held inside with roommates, outdoors or virtually.

“Being alone is an increasingly valid and important way to be a part of our global Jewish community,” said Kari Alterman, program director for Jewish life at the William Davidson Foundation, a supporter of OneTable, on the call. Young Jews’ continued embrace of Shabbat dinner, even when they couldn’t enjoy its social aspect, spurred OneTable to offer a solo dinner option on its platform, in addition to events for people who live together; outdoor, socially distanced dinners and via Instagram or Zoom.

OneTable issued a survey and conducted two focus groups to better understand the solitary Shabbat experience. They learned that Shabbat had become an important self-care strategy, and a way to demarcate time. Some said they won’t continue the practice when they can easily rejoin their friends, but most said they will retain it, at least some of the time. OneTable plans to continue supporting solo meals even when gatherings become safer and more common.


The startup Seder is on Zoom

Last year, Pavel Kats, the CEO of Jewish Heritage Network (JHN), an international collection of portals to Jewish cultural institutions, created a Seder-sharing platform, called Yahad, on which families could use the same Haggadah. On the eve of Passover this year, he and his colleague, Alexander Raginsky, have made Yahad, which means “together” in Hebrew, easier to find and use by putting it on Zoom’s marketplace. Its split-screen function enables users both to look at the text and interact with other participants. “Zoom has become our way of life,” Kats told eJewishPhilanthropy. “It was important to get on this platform, to use something that people know and like, so we could grow.”

Bigger platform: Kats and Raginsky are Israelis who started their careers in the tech sector there. They both moved to Amsterdam, where they  met. Kats had been interested in the intersection of culture and technology, and together they created JHN and incorporated it in Amsterdam as a charity in 2017. Yahad on Zoom offers the option of assigning a Seder leader and the ability by individuals to move forward and backward in any given Haggadah and also between a menu of almost 50 of them in various languages, including English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, Spanish and French.

Read the full story here.

Creating experiences

How to be a designer of experiences


“Every meeting, every training session, every webinar, every workshop I facilitate, whether it is in person or virtual, I look at as an experience with a particular purpose, and with a beginning, a middle, and an end, all of which need to be intentionally designed from the time a participant accepts the invitation to participate, through the pre-work, the experience itself, and the follow up,” writes Aimee Close in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

Intentionality: “Depending on the time I have available to prepare, some experiences I create are more carefully designed than others, but my intention is always the same. It’s why I spend so much time preparing my sessions and tweaking my slides. It’s never just about the content. I want to provide an experience that changes people in some way, that opens their minds to a new idea or helps them think of something from a new perspective, or allows them to make a new connection.”

Success: “If you think about the experiences that you remember most fondly, chances are what you remember is not so much what happened, as how the experience made you feel. If we consciously design experiences for emotional impact, people will remember them with a smile, and will want to come back for more.”

Read the full piece here.

Cultural touchpoints

We survived!


“On March 3, 2020—just over a year ago—I wrote a piece for this very publication entitled Is American Jewish History Worth Telling?,” writes Misha Galperin in an opinion piece for eJewishPhilanthropy.

A year ago:The National Museum of American Jewish History had just filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection. The goal was to reduce the unsustainable burden of debt the institution had been carrying since the 2010 opening of its magnificent new building on Independence Mall in Philadelphia overlooking Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The board’s tough decision to take this step was carefully evaluated. The decision was motivated by the trustees’ and professional leadership’s resolute commitment to continue and renew the Museum’s mission.”

Today: “We engaged in scenario planning, working on a variety of plans for a number of “possible futures” for after we emerge from bankruptcy and the pandemic. And we are coming up with a set of plans for renewal of the museum and ways to capitalize on our newly found digital expertise. We have developed relationships and joint ideas with a number of national institutions – Jewish, secular, and of other faiths.”

Read the full piece here.

Worthy Reads

Lean In: Andy Brommel reflects in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on the ambivalence of some philanthropists and non-profit professionals toward fundraising despite their embrace of the work. This discomfort manifests itself in board members who don’t want to ask friends for donations, and the fact that fundraising is often called “development” or another euphemism. After this year, especially, nonprofits should feel confident about the value they offer. We need organizational cultures that embrace fundraising as essential to our missions,” he urges. [ChroniclePhilanthropy]

Ongoing Conversation: The communications platform Slack, used heavily by professionals to chat with colleagues even before the pandemic, is introducing a new feature that will let anyone send direct messages into a company’s Slack network from outside it, reports Lauren Goode in Wired. Called Slack Connect, the new feature could be counter-productive for most Slack users, who are already inundated by communication. “Companies need to establish guardrails, to protect workers from an onslaught of messages and cognitive clutter, and tech companies need to carefully consider (or reconsider) new communication tools,” she argues. [Wired]

Ideal Role: Michael Kavate notes in InsidePhilanthropy that big corporations are making big carbon-reduction pledges, and asks how philanthropy can best help heal and preserve the environment. While many corporations are focusing their environmental efforts on the development of carbon removal technology, he notes, philanthropy could helpfully track and analyze the pledges, fund groups that push companies to move faster on carbon and also support other new technologies, such as meat alternatives. “While there is a real danger of carbon removal receiving disproportionate attention, it also feels like a space where philanthropy can play its classic role as convener and catalyst,” Kavate says. [InsidePhilanthropy]

Broad Agreement: Almost three-quarters of American adults are concerned about the impact of the pandemic on K-12 students’ academic progress, which could have an impact on public policy, write Morgan Polikoff, Amie Rapaport, Anna Saavedra and Dan Silver in a post for the Brookings Institute’s Brown Center Chalkboard blog. They were able to reach this conclusion by surveying a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults through the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research. “Very few economic, political, or social concerns share this level of agreement in the population, implying policies and programs designed to address the negative impacts of the pandemic on schools could have broad support,” they concluded. [Brookings]

Community Comms

Apply! The Jewish Council of the Emirates Community Centre seeks a Dubai-based Executive Director

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Word on the Street

Gideon Taylor has been named executive vice president and chief executive officer of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York… K., a European-focused journalistic and reflective medium, has launched… The national Latino Jewish Leadership Council, convened by the American Jewish Committee, met to discuss policy priorities… A new program, established by the Claims Conference and funded by the German government, will ensure Holocaust survivors have the means to get to COVID-19 vaccine sites… The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s global Passover offerings are reaching a broader audience…

Pic of the Day

 Samuel Suantak, courtesy of Shavei Israel.

Bnei Menashe baking matzah Monday at Shavei Israel Hebrew Center in Churachandpur, India.


Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

Nationally recognized as a leader and a spokeswoman for the feminist movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Gloria Steinem

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