Slang Haggada, Jewish campus life app. receive award

Jewish New Media Innovation Fund awards 9 projects including "UrbanSefer" Jewish liturgy translator into slang-filled vernacular.

March 15, 2011 02:58
2 minute read.

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NEW YORK – The Jewish New Media Innovation Fund announced over half a million dollars in grants Monday for nine digital media projects intended to engage people between the ages of 18 and 40 with Jewish life.

The fund is a pilot program of the Jim Joseph, Righteous Persons, and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family foundations, and the projects were selected from over 300 applicants in eight countries. The projects include an interactive Haggada creator, a mobile application focused on Jewish campus life, and online cartoon videos teaching Jewish families how to incorporate Jewish rituals into their homes.

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“There is an exciting transformation underway in how people are using digital media to communicate, educate and build community,” Rachel Levin, associate director of the Righteous Persons Foundation, said in a press release. “These projects share an ability to harness new digital media tools and technologies that are a large part of young people’s lives today and use them to enhance efforts to engage young people in Jewish life.”

Each of the nine selected projects will receive one-time funding for a year, as well as offers of mentoring and coaching from the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund.

One of the grantees,, is a Jewish parenting website aimed at people of all Jewish religious stripes, as well as interfaith and less-affiliated families. The site has a Jewish baby name database as well, for soon-to-be parents who would like to give their children Jewish names.

“ is just six months old, a mere babe, so we’re excited to see that other people already share our enthusiasm for the site,” Kveller editor Deborah Kolben told The Jerusalem Post. “We’re doing our best to reel in readers with our Jewish name bank and and then getting them hooked on our blunt conversations about the ups and downs of parenting. Having Mayim Bialik blog for us doesn’t hurt either.”

Another grantee, Morgan Friedman, lives in Buenos Aires but was born and raised in the US. His project, UrbanSefer, plans crowd-source translations of traditional Jewish liturgy into modern, slang-filled but broadly accurate and accessible vernacular. The first project will be the UrbanHaggadah.

“Once translated, the books will be fully designed – in the full style of the Williamsburg hipster mixed with Williamsburg Chassidic – and published to a traditional book form as well as a downloadable eBook,” Friedman’s project description reads.

“For too long, Jews have viewed our liturgy as an ancient ritual that we blindly repeat,” Friedman told the Post. “We forget that these words, in Hebrew and Aramaic, were once in the everyday vernacular. Indeed we even forget that large chunks of the Bible itself are dirty and sexual, even by our contemporary standards! What better way is there for Jews to reconnect with our traditions than to translate our most sacred rituals into the language we think and talk in every day?”

The Jewish New Media Innovation Fund was started by three foundations in an effort to revitalize Jewish institutions through digital media while promoting more vibrant and meaningful Jewish life in the 21st century. The Jim Joseph Foundation makes grants to foster Jewish learning for young American Jews. The Righteous Persons Foundation, established by Steven Spielberg, supports efforts to build an inclusive American Jewish community.

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