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‘Jewish geography’ contest on Zoom draws thousands

By JumpSpark

‘Who Knows One?’ sees its post-pandemic life in fundraising — and maybe matchmaking



The pandemic’s restrictions on social life have inspired new ways of connecting, from virtual birthday parties to Zoom speed-dating to digital simchas. In the Jewish community, they’ve given rise to a gamified version of “Jewish geography,” a favorite pastime of youth group alums, campers and others who have been active in Jewish social circles. Created by Micah Hart, “Who Knows One?” is named for the Passover Seder song of the same name, and was inspired by an ESPN show Hart watched in which the hosts competed to see who could get the most famous person to join a Zoom call. “It just sort of dawned on me. We were all at home, we had nothing else to do,” he told eJewishPhilanthropy.  

A resident of Atlanta, Hart is the son of Macy Hart, a longtime director of the Henry S. Jacobs Camp, a Union for Reform Judaism camp in Utica, Miss., and the founder of the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute for Southern Jewish Life. He had lost his job as head of social media for the restaurant franchise Buffalo Wild Wings early in the pandemic, and as a lifelong fan of Jewish geography, in which at least two people identify who they know in common, he realized that it could be enjoyable as a filmed contest. He also felt he had the skills to try to make it happen due to his professional background as a creator of digital content. Now, “Who Knows One?” is Hart’s full time job.

The show, which runs on Wednesday and Saturday nights on Facebook Live, premiered last April 25; it has taken several forms in 150 showings since then, including a March Madness-type tournament called “Elijah’s Cup” that ran through Passover, but the basic premise remains the same: The hosts announce the name of a Jewish person unknown to the competitors, and the contestants or (or in some cases, teams of contestants) work to locate that person and bring him or her onto the Zoom call by building a chain of connections using only clues from the hosts — no help from the internet allowed. When the game ends quickly, Hart and his co-hosts bring in a second individual. “There’s a lot of improv in the show,” Hart said. “We know where we’re starting and ending but nothing about the middle, and the more off the rails it goes, the more entertaining it is.” Hart can’t estimate the total number of people who have been exposed to the show because audience numbers vary widely, but a regular Wednesday or Saturday night show can attract up to 4,000 viewers, split about equally between those who watch live and those who tune in later.

The regular shows occasionally generate revenue in the form of sponsorships, but the bulk of the business is what Hart calls “community games.”  Those can take the form of  a “fun-raiser,” in which a group pays him to host a show as a fun way for them to spend time together online, or a “fundraiser.” Organizations from the World Union for of Progressive Judaism to a slew of summer camps to the Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning have all raised money on “Who Knows One?” and Hart, for his part, charges a flat fee, although upgrade packages are also available. One Jewish group — JumpSpark, a source of Jewish programming for teens in Atlanta — used the show as both a fundraiser and an educational experience. Four teens competed on a JumpSpark-sponsored show, which raised more than $3,000, said a spokeswoman. The students each chose an individual cause to support, and friends and family contributed to a pool of funds. All four causes — Project Merry Mitzvah, Camp Jenny, the Anti-Defamation League and Repair the World — received donations from that pool, although Repair the World received the most, as its sponsor won the game. “I appreciated the platform it provided me to reconnect with other teens and family friends I hadn’t spoken to in a while,” said Abby Limor of Temple Beth Tikvah, one of the participants. 

As Hart has gained experience in hosting the fundraisers, he’s devised additional ways to raise money; the audience can “buy” extra clues for the contestant they support, for example. He has a brain trust with whom he bounces ideas around, and audience suggestions have also helped shape the show — the name of the show was a viewer’s idea, he said. But he’s also worked for the Atlanta Hawks and the NBA, and his professional background helps, too, as he turns the project into more of a business. “Most of my life was about figuring out how to make money from digital content in a way that’s not intrusive for an audience,” he said.

Hart aims for an unpretentious vibe he calls “soul-nourishing” — the whole enterprise leans heavily into the come-as-you-are aesthetic of pandemic-era Zoom. Recommended attire is loungewear, although some contestants sport “Who Knows One?”-branded swag in the form of red headbands. The show also tries to be inclusive and to avoid assuming that every American Jew is Ashkenazi and fair-skinned, Hart said. He replaced a tie-breaker round that depended on finding someone with a “typically” Jewish name, for example, with one that focuses on occupations and home addresses.

As people get vaccinated and are able to safely gather again in person, demand for “Who Knows One?” could drop, Hart said. In that case, he will consider cutting the Saturday night show. However, he believes that the communal need for connection satisfied by the show predated coronavirus, although the pandemic exacerbated it. “We’re all isolated from each other, and that’s true in the pandemic era, but it already existed,” he said. “We accumulate people throughout our lives that we care about — from camp, school, college, previous jobs — as we get older, the ability to spend time with those people just melts.”

He’s considering several possible mechanisms to grow the show, including more community games. He’s toying with the idea of taking the show live, in the style of NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” and has developed some customers outside the Jewish community, such as the American College of Emergency Physicians. “Desi Chain,” which plays on a Hindi term for people of Indian origin or descent, is a “sister show” to “Who Knows One?” Another possibility: a dating show, which Hart says someone asks him to do at least once a week. “I know the interest is there,” he said. “I have not figured out how to do that. People are still pretty isolated. But I think it’s possible, coming out of the pandemic, that some sparks could potentially fly.”

This article was originally published in eJewishPhilanthropy.

A Little Taste Of Life: How Tradition Kitchens Changed Atlanta For The Better

By JumpSpark

Rachel Binderman and Rebecca Kann, Strong Women Fellows, co-authored this article originally published in VOXATL.



Food brings people together — families, friends, and strangers alike. Food brings together communities from all backgrounds and has the ability to bond people over a home-cooked dish. Some of our fondest memories are around meals, and food engages some of our strongest senses: smell, and taste.

For Rachel, food has always been a huge part of her family and Jewish identity. For as long as she can remember, her family sat around our dinner table every Friday night, sang the prayers, lit the candles, and ate Mom’s delicious challah. As she got older, this tradition became less frequent until COVID hit. If you ask her mom, that was the upside to COVID, having the whole family home every Friday night. Since last March they have had dinner together every Friday night. As teenagers, we often would rather hang out with our friends on Friday nights, but her family’s weekly Friday night dinners allow us to spend one special night together. 

We continued to have these conversations about our family’s traditions when Julia Levy spoke with JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship this spring. By day, Julia Levy leads internal communications at a startup, and pursues her side projects passions at night. She co-founded a podcast with her father called Peach and Prosperity, which discusses stories around economics, and cultural and historical stories about the Atlanta area. Julia recently spoke at TedXEmory about her various projects and how she manages to keep up with her passions, including Tradition Kitchens which she began with her mother, making kitchens into a learning space around Judaism and other cultures.

During the meeting, Julia and her Kitchen Ambassadors — Ruby, Brianna, and Lauren — talked about their experiences with the community that has been built through Tradition Kitchens. Tradition Kitchens’ classes originally took place in people’s homes throughout the Atlanta area. However, due to the pandemic, that all changed. Tradition Kitchens now has online classes you can stream or watch the recordings. They also go farther than just discussing food; they talk about the significance around the food and the history behind it. For example, for Black History month, Karon, a friend of Julia’s, made fried chicken tenders with biscuits while talking about restaurants with stories from the Civil Rights Movement. The best thing about the program is that it is volunteer-based, so anybody is able to partake as either a student ready to learn more about different cuisines or as a teacher sharing your favorite recipes. Food is a way for people to bond and gives people the opportunity to learn more about other cultures. In cities such as Atlanta there is a wide variety of people that eat different foods. There is a great opportunity for learning and laughter at Tradition Kitchens.


Rachel Binderman is an 11th grader at The Weber School, and Rebecca Kann is an 11th grader at Pace Academy. Both are Peer Leaders for JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship.

A Day in the Life of Virtual School in America

By JumpSpark

The 2020-2021 school year has not been the easiest for anyone. Around the world, students have had to adapt to learning virtually. Many students have yet to go back to their school building since March of 2020, including me. 

Every day I wake up at 7:20 am and get myself dressed and my parents drive me to my friend’s house. We go to her basement where we have two tables set up across the room from each other. We each sit at our own table. We log on to class every morning at 8:20 and have four 70 minute classes. We make lunch and eat outside so get some fresh air. 

For lunch we keep kosher and we usually log on to our Jewish Culture Club meetings. At these meetings we have a rabbi teach us about each weeks torah portion. The torah portions bring up many interesting conversations.  We usually have some music playing to make it a little more fun as we sit and listen to our classes. 

Usually during the day I also talk to some of my camp friends. I attend a Jewish summer camp in the mountains of Georgia. Last summer was supposed to be our last summer as campers but Covid cancelled camp. So our unit has stayed connected virtually and are really looking forward to Israel this summer.

Doing school with a friend has caused less anxiety and stress by giving us some social interaction. Virtual school is not easy but I have adapted and made myself successful.

A Typical Day For Me As An Israeli Teen

By JumpSpark

Each day for me starts when I take my dog ​​for a walk. Because of the pandemic I study some days though Zoom and some in school. So, I wake up every morning according to the way I study that day. Today I’ll tell you about my typical Sundays. American teens may not realize it, but Israelis go to school on Sunday! Our weekend is on Friday and Saturday  because Shabbat is part of our culture and Sunday is just a regular day! 

School on Sundays starts at 7:45 a.m. so I wake up at 6:20 and take my dog​​ for a walk. When we get back, I quickly get ready for school, eat something and go out. I usually go to school on foot because it’s close to my house. My first class is English literature. English is a language I really like, so I enjoy studying it. After the English class I have a free period that I usually use to finish homework that I didn’t have time to do, eat or just sit and talk to friends. Next I have a two-hour math class and three hours of physics. I study the Bible in school, but other than that, I am not a very religious person. I enjoy hearing different interpretations of the Bible stories since some of these solutions make more sense. 

I finish school at 2:50 p.m. When I get back home I eat lunch and watch Netflix or read a book until 4-5 p.m., do my homework if I have any, and after that I usually hang out with friends or go back to watch Netflix. Because of the Coronavirus I don’t have a lot of options for activities after school so my week is usually the same. At about 8:00 p.m. I have dinner with my family, then at 11/12 at night I go to bed. Sunday is a relatively free day for me, so in addition on Tuesdays for example I have an entrepreneurship and computer science course, and on Fridays I usually go to the sea to surf.

Judaism As Part Of My Daily Life

By JumpSpark

Judaism is a big part of my daily life, I celebrate Jewish holidays with my family, and keep the Jewish tradition in our family. For example, I want to talk about my Bar Mitzvah experience. When I turned 13 I did an “Aliyah latora” at the west wall in Jerusalem! After that, we went celebrating my Bar Mitzvah at a big restaurant with my whole family. I would never forget that experience, and to this day I wear the golden David star necklace my grandparents gave me.

The feeling of silence on Shabbat or Yom Kippur is really calming and peaceful. Those are the days when people just stop everything in their lives for a few days.

The holidays are very special for me. I meet my family, eat really good food with them, and feel festive.

When traveling with my family around the world (but also in Israel) we go to alot of places that are related to Judaism and Jewish history, and we feel the power of it.

I also feel the Jewish history in my family’s history. My grandfather and all of his family are Holocaust survivors and today, he is proud to be Jewish, and proud to be living in Israel as a Jewish person.

 I am not very religious, but I try my hardest to keep holiday traditions and keep kosher.

Other then being Jewish in Israel, I have many other interests. I like music, hanging out with friends, watching movies and tv shows, and gaming.

AFFIRMATIVE CONSENT — THE WORD ‘YES’ IS KEY

By JumpSpark

Miriam Raggs and Phoebe Kaplan, Strong Women Fellows, co-authored this article originally published in VOXATL.

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The word “yes” is a crucial word that needs to be clearly stated before any sort of sexual act. “Yes” is what ties consent all together, and author Jaclyn Friedman uses her voice to spread awareness about affirmative consent. Consent has to be clear “yes” and no other version. Consent can’t be an “I don’t know” or “maybe.” Both people must be in agreement.

JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship met with Jaclyn Friedman, a writer, speaker, and activist, in January to talk candidly about sexual consent. We’ve always thought that sexual freedom and consent were important, and when Jaclyn talked about affirmative consent, we realized that it is even more important than one might think. It’s much harder to say “no” than it is to say “yes.” If someone is not saying yes, then it’s a no. People need to make sure the other party is saying yes the whole way through.

Sadly, affirmative consent isn’t spoken about enough for it to be practiced. Consent needs to be taught. At the public schools, we attend, we were only taught to practice abstinence, and our sexual health class or sex ed was only for a few days each year. We learned all about the reproductive organs and mostly why not to have sex. Teaching teenagers only about abstinence is a poor choice. This abstinence-only education only makes us more reckless and unaware of sexual assault. 

Jaclyn brought up the fact that schools only ever teach about male sexual pleasure and never about female pleasure. This is because they are so focused on not wanting teens to have sex. Schools should change their focus and teach teens to have safer sex. 

As a closing for our meeting, we used a Padlet that contained reflection questions after Jaclyn finished speaking. One of the questions was “What are your overall thoughts about this topic,” and someone responded saying, “It needs to be normalized at a younger age.” Sex education needs to start younger, be offered every year, and be more extensive. Younger elementary school children should be learning about consent through asking before hugging or touching someone.


The image shows a screenshot of a Padlet board where individuals who participated in the workshop left their thoughts on their reflections of the content that was presented to them. These responses were gathered via a virtual tool and are on a dark pink background.

If affirmative consent was taught in sexual-education classes, sexual assaults could be reduced by a great amount by having both parties of the sexual situation knowing what they truly are doing. Affirmative consent is an extremely important topic that needs to be spoken about more.


Miriam Raggs is a 10th grader at The Weber School, and Phoebe Kaplan is a 10th grader at Riverwood International Charter School. Both are second-year Fellows and Peer Leaders for the JumpSpark Strong Women Fellowship.

HEALTHY BODIES COME IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES

By JumpSpark

 

Jenna Sailor and Peyton Schwartz, Strong Women Fellows, co-authored this article, originally published in VOXATL.

Sara Zoldan, who has taken up the profession of being a health and dating coach, is showing people all over the world how to become more confident in themselves and their bodies, as well as aiding women of all shapes and sizes in finding their perfect partners. You may be thinking, how is she helping people all over the world if she doesn’t travel for work that often? Well, the answer is her Instagram. By using her platform on social media, Sara is able to reach people everywhere with her health and romance advice and knowledge, which allows her compassionate and accommodating aura to be felt by many.  

Sara’s interest in health was first piqued shortly after she moved to California from Toronto at the age of 21. She decided to take on Crossfit in order to achieve a healthier body. She describes her physical struggles during her first session: “I start running around the block and halfway through I’m down to a total crawl. I get back to the gym huffing and puffing, and thank God I had my asthma inhaler with me because I needed it.” However, she said that afterwards Crossfit was all she could talk about. Zoldan became immersed in the Crossfit world, eventually becoming a Crossfit coach herself. Up until  COVID-19, she helped others to reach their health goals, teaching them that they didn’t have to look a certain way to be considered healthy, and Zoldan practiced what she preached. Crossfit played a huge role in Sara’s journey toward becoming her healthiest and happiest self.

This winter, Zoldan talked to JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship, a group of Jewish teens from all over Atlanta, about her experiences in the realm of fitness and body image, both the good and the bad. Sarah has coached many young women in finding love regardless of their size. She educated us: impressionable young women on how to feel good about ourselves with the unreachable beauty standards of today’s world. She helped us identify why we may associate negative things with our bodies, or think badly of them: Getting weighed in PE and at the doctor’s office, being criticized by our parents, and seeing all of the perfect bodies on our Instagram feeds were just a few of the underlying reasons for our perceptions of ourselves. With Zoldan’s guidance, we were able to realize that most of us feel very similarly when it comes to our bodies, and we are influenced by many of the same things. 

One of the most empowering things we did in this session was listening to the song “Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara. As a group, we took a moment to really feel the weight and meanings of the lyrics, such as: “And you don’t have to change a thing the world could change its heart.” 

The activity that stuck with Jenna the most was when we went into breakout rooms and thought of the things on social media that make us happy versus the ones that don’t make us feel as good. Zoldan explained that our confidence is extremely sensitive to social media. For example, seeing countless touched-up images of girls with flawless bodies pushes negative, intrusive thoughts into our minds; whereas, seeing a picture of a funny cat will increase confidence and make us laugh. The overall message of this activity was to demonstrate how destructive self-comparison can be and to shed light on the number one catalyst of it: social media.

Zoldan is changing the way women view themselves and leading by example in how to love oneself in order to project that love to others. She has helped us to recognize the very demanding beauty standards in society, and honor our own individual beauty — even if it does not conform to those standards. Ultimately, our meeting with Sara Zoldan provided us with a lot of insight on how to create and maintain a good relationship with our minds and our bodies.


Peyton Schwartz, 15, is a sophomore at Pope High School in Marietta, GA, who enjoys listening to music and spending time with friends.

Jenna Sailor, 15, is a sophomore at Dunwoody High School in Dunwoody, GA.

 

A Gap Year and Its Impact and Influence

By JumpSpark

As a Jewish educator, I encourage a Gap Year experience to many of the High School teens I work with.  It is an experience that is unparalleled for the growth and development of a young person.  Not only in their Jewish identity, but in all aspects of life.

Your four-year university experience can wait.

Get rid of the attitude that “I want to just get on with my path, so I can finish and move to the next phase.”

Friends, this is part of your path.  It not a GAP in your path.  It is part of your journey.

When we were looking into this opportunity for my first child, the director of Nativ, Yossi Garr, said “It is not a year off.  It is a year on.”  That has stuck with me ever since.

As a parent, I could not be more satisfied and feel truly fortunate that I was able to provide this experience for both of my children, currently aged 26 and 23.

I had mixed feelings of excitement and sadness as we were at the airport as they were embarking upon their year experience in Israel.  I will never forget the shifting around of items in their huge bags to make sure that each weighed 50 lbs. or under!  But that is an article for a different time!

I felt they were safe, secure, and very well taken care of the entire time they were there. We kept in contact with each other with ease.  Back a few decades ago, when I was away in Israel for a year, I clearly remember lining up at the pay phone with a token each week to call my parents!  Thankfully, times are vastly different now, and we can talk to our children in a variety of ways.

 Every time I heard my WhatsApp tone on my phone, I would know it was Natan (or 3 years later, Ilana) sharing news or just saying hi. 

I lived vicariously through their excursions and experiences.  We were fortunate to be able to visit each of our children while they were there, and they proudly and confidently showed us around. It was a joy seeing my children acting as tour guides in Israel.

Confidence and growth.  Those were the most evident outcomes I witnessed in my children.

And they have friends for life.  Shared backgrounds and  a shared immersive experience created bonds that cannot be broken.  I remember my daughter telling me that these people “just get her.  They are like me.” Hearing and seeing them interact with their Nativ friends all these years later is evidence of the value of these relationships.

I will never forget when we were moving my son into his Freshman dorm room at the University of Michigan, he said to us how easy it was.  He said “I have already done this.  I have learned how to live on my own, cooked my own meals, made my way through a new city. I am looking at these other first year students and feel so much older and experienced then they are.”

Both my son and daughter have become impressive leaders in their respective communities.  Of course, there are other things that contribute to these qualities, but the experience they had during their year in Israel between High School and College is a big influence. 

 

Baking Challah for Shabbat

By JumpSpark

I was born in Israel and I live in Israel so naturally I’m Israeli and I’m proud. Living in Israel has its ups and downs but after reading the paper and watching the news about the life of Jews in other countries it seems to me that I live in a wonderful place without antisemitism and prejudice.
In Israel we are all Jews that is what I see at school when I look around me. Of course there are other nationalities and religions in Israel but still Israel is a country for Jews. It is like an oasis in the middle of the desert.


In Israel being a Jew is not unique. My family and I eat kosher food and don’t mix dairy products with meat. We do it even without thinking and without special intention. When we go to the supermarket the meat we buy is kosher and so are the rest of the groceries. On Shabbat my parents don’t work and we don’t have school because Israel is a Jewish country. Sometimes we need to intensify the fact that we are Jewish so we do that with special little rituals like the ritual of the challah baking on Friday morning.

I’m not religious, but on Friday mornings I like to get up early in the morning and bake challah bread with my mother. This is a small but an important ritual that takes place in my house. The challah baking ritual began even before I was born with my sister, Maya.  Now that my sister is in the army, I find myself baking the challah with my mother only almost every Friday. This ritual got me closer to my mother and when we sit together to eat Friday night dinner we look proudly at our challahs, knowing that we did something special for the Shabbat.

business casual breakfast series - jewish atlanta

KEEPING THE FAITH

By JumpSpark

Before this past year, one of my favorite Jewish traditions was going to Synagogue on Saturdays.  I would dress up, grab my beloved Siddur I received from my bar mitzvah, and spend 3-4 hours praying in Hebrew, listening to the Rabbi’s Dvar Torah, and gossiping with fellow members of the congregation, all for the reward of some truly incredible bagels and lox.  However, with the start of this pandemic, this ritual hasn’t really been possible, so I’ve had to find other ways to connect to Judaism.  I go to The Weber Jewish Community High School in Sandy Springs, Georgia.  It’s an egalitarian school, so prayer isn’t mandatory.  I don’t usually go;  they’re very early and as a 17-year old kid, my self-inflicted sleep deprivation makes anything in the early morning pretty difficult. 

I go to classes like Hebrew and Modern Jewish History.  I’m lucky to have those classes and it’s been great to express my Judaism through learning and studying.  I believe connecting with my Jewish community and learning about Judaism are just as important as praying or reading Torah. Since one of those things can’t be traditionally done as I’m stuck at home, I’ve been connecting and studying like never before.  I’m involved in organizations like BBYO and Young Judaea, as well as the AJC and the Jumpspark fellowship program.  These really are the highlights of my week;  They offer a break from the monotony of school, homework, video games, exercise, and sleep. 

One that stands out, however, is the Jumpspark program.  With Jumpspark, I work with Israeli teens just like me to tell our stories of Jewish identity in America and Israel. I’ve learned a lot about Israel from my Israeli friends in Jumpspark or otherwise.  My work in Israel advocacy is one of my most beloved connections to other Jews in Israel, but talking to Israeli friends helps me get new perspectives, and they’re all wonderful, interesting people.  My greatest friends live at home, in the USA.  I connect with other Jews in the US, as many others do, through groups like BBYO.  I’m the Mazkir, AKA communications czar, for my local BBYO chapter.  It’s a good bit of work but incredibly rewarding, when we can all get together in zoom or in an open park and just hang out.  In lieu of in-person religious involvement, I’ve found meaning and depth in just connecting with other Jews.