Using new technologies, creative 21st-century educational tools can impart Jewish values, make our historic traditions accessible to learners, and ensure relevancy for the future. In building such infrastructure, innovators are bridging the gaps between past and present, Israel and the Diaspora.
Aharon Varady, New York, 34
The Open Siddur Project is a database-based web application that will preserve nusachim (regional traditions), encourage creativity and sharing in communal and personal prayer, and give those who pray or study prayer a siddur to call their own.
Who he relates to in Jewish history: Bilam’s donkey. He can see an angel, but his driver, the person telling him how to live and what path to move on, is clueless. The donkey deals with it by receiving prophecy, which allows him to communicate and inform Bilam of the right way. The intervention today is technology, which gives us the ability to communicate.
Where project will be in one year: We should have an encoding standard for Jewish liturgy available— not just for this project— and tons of nusachim available in our online repository. We will have a mature web application for people to mash, remix, contribute, and share new siddur content with anyone they wish.
Elad Kimelman, Jerusalem, 29
CreaTV is an online platform connecting ideas for televised Jewish educational content with the skilled professionals that can bring them to life.
Inspiration to innovate: As an Israel-born Jew, I grew up with very little connection to Diaspora Jewry. Last summer I traveled to the U.S. and was exposed to Jewish life there, and I realized how backwards we Israelis are in our relationship to worldwide Jewry.
Changes he hopes to see/affect in the next 10 years: I hope an accessible curriculum will be created that will integrate Jewish kids in Israel with their counterparts in the Diaspora and thus provide a basis for the strengthening of the common language between the two.
Charlie Schwartz, New York, 27, and Russel Neiss, New York, 26
Media Midrash is an online library of videos with compelling curricular content, providing Jewish educators the platform to bring artists, animators, filmmakers, and musicians directly into their classrooms, harnessing 21st-century technologies to enrich our historic traditions.
Most valuable thing learned at PTI (Russel): The importance of identifying partners and stakeholders and creating a tool/project that’s specifically geared towards the community’s needs rather than my own sense of what’s important.
Inspiration to innovate (Charlie): My experience in the Jewish world is that the tools for education don’t match the levels of technology being developed and used. I want to enhance education with these tools.
Big question he is struggling with right now (Charlie): How to insure the productive use of technology doesn’t overshadow content.
Changes he hopes to see/ help achieve in the next 10 years (Russel): I want to see more collaboration between educators and Jewish content creators, artists, students, and fellow educators. You can’t have a community of learners unless everyone is learning from one another.