Big Ideas

“Globalizing the Shtetl” Presentation Now on SlideShare


I gave this presentation, “Globalizing the Shtetl,” at the 2010 Jewish Communal Professionals of Southern California Conference, held October 28, 2010 in Malibu, CA.

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New Jewish Year, New Work Opportunities


113 degrees Monday in Los Angeles. I tell you, I’ve had it with this heat. Today, I’m working from an air conditioned office building where I’ll likely have to wear a sweater.

So I’m heading to that office building on Wilshire Boulevard.  And I’ll be there four days a week.

I’ve been a freelancer for eight years, enjoying a flexible schedule and not-always enjoying the instability of the work structure (or lack of health benefits). Being a freelancer has enabled me to become and stay involved in multiple initiatives and innovative projects run by some of the most creative people I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. I’ve been a writer, an editor, a communicator, a relationship-builder, a collaborative spirit, a networker, a consultant, an advisor, and an instructor. I’ve worked with established Jewish organizations, media outlets and startups. And today, I’m taking that experience with me to the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Effective today, I will be taking on the position of Program Coordinator for the Federation’s NextGen Engagement Initiative. This initiative, supported by a Cutting Edge Grant from the Jewish Community Foundation, aims to strengthen, maintain and invigorate LA’s network of NextGen service providers, provide consultation and training to leaders of NextGen organizations, and improve communication about NextGen Jewish life in Los Angeles to that demographic, as well. And as 2011 marks the hundredth birthday of the Federation, I’ll also be providing input into the Federation’s Centennial Initiatives – a tremendous opportunity for me to make a creative impact on my (not-so-) new community of Los Angeles.

Both of these projects fall under Partnerships and Innovation, so I’m looking forward to working with the department team, and mobilizing my networks and experience to highlight Los Angeles-based creative and innovative programming for the benefit of all who consider themselves “NextGen” – in body, mind, heart and spirit.

In addition to my time with the Federation,  I will be spending a good portion of my “off-time” (nights and the remaining 2 non-Shabbat days per week) continuing my work on behalf of the ROI Community (I’m off to Tulsa next week to meet with my ROI team) and finishing up some separate-but-related outstanding projects (including work on a fun event at the JFNA GA in New Orleans in November – details to come).

This is my first close-to-full-time job in a while, but one that values my experience and honors the opportunities (like presenting at this December’s Limmud in the UK, or returning to Israel this summer for ROI’s 6th Global Summit of Young Jewish Innovators) that come my way. The first few months will be an adjustment as I try to do it all, but I’m looking forward to what promises to be a period full of creativity, innovation and growth.

So I’m going into a new office, with new co-workers, and hoping to make a palpable impact. So point me toward the coffee machine and the water cooler, and let’s get to work.

(Said work may also include making more films that look like this one, a result of an NEI iMovie workshop several months ago).

"Writing My Novel" - photo by

“Write It Down”


"Writing My Novel" - photo by

This Sunday, I had two separate, long conversations with friends who I don’t often have long conversations with. Each of them was processing something major – one of them a business betrayal and a major life transition, and the other a longtime breakup and a loss of faith in community. While mourning the changes (mostly by not thinking about them or diverting into other pursuits – I mean, these are men we’re talking about), they both seemed a bit stuck as to how to move on. “Write it down,” I said, to each of them, separately and with the suggestion of a different context.

I have no idea whether they’ll actually take my advice, but I really believe in the power of written (or typed) articulation of feelings, analysis of desire to move forward, steps for progress, and getting through something emotional by naming it – and owning it – verbally. It’s kind of like a contract for change:  you write this down, making it real and tangible where it was previously amorphous, and create the legal structure for your own progress.

For the one who experienced a business betrayal and disappointment, i suggested what is referred to as a “post-mortem” – an after-the-fact analysis of what you’d intended or expected to achieve, what actually happened, how, and what lessons you learned for next time. And for the one who was experiencing some discontent with the community and a breakup, I suggested he write down some thoughts, maybe as an op-ed piece for the local Jewish paper, or perhaps just for himself – to outline what his thoughts about his situation really were, what kind of challenges he was experiencing and how they could be fixed or improved by community engagement.

Writing it down almost always helps me process. What about you? What are your tricks for processing life’s disappointments?


Casting Call – The Rite of Tashlich (Jewish Journal)


Casting Call: A Tashlich Meditation
(The Jewish Journal, September 8, 2010)

My shoes slip off, my feet sink into soft sand and then approach the sea, where they submerge and are washed. But even freshly emerged from water, they remind me that just because you’ve washed something doesn’t mean it’s truly clean.

Rosh Hashanah marks the world’s birth — a new year, a new circle of Jewish holidays about to begin. The 10 days of repentance, which create the structure for apologies to self, neighbor and to God. Tashlich, the ritual in which bread is cast as sin and then cast out of us and into the water, is part of the preparation for Yom Kippur. It is Tashlich, this opportunity to make physical the act of rejecting iniquity, that draws me to the edge of the Pacific Ocean, steps away from the frivolity and fun of the Santa Monica Pier.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

Wishing all my friends and readers a wonderful new Jewish year.

“Disconnect to Connect” – Unplugging for the Sabbath


The Jewish Standard recently asked for my comments about whether people are too technology-reliant these days, and how it can impact Jewish connections and community.

People first used e-mail, for example, to keep in touch with others they wouldn’t otherwise reach, Kustanowitz said.

“It was a way to mass-produce these kinds of communications that were still about continuing a relationship and adding value to a relationship,” she said.

Such developments have led to what Kustanowitz called an over-reliance on technology, without a sense of deliberation or thought. Just as Jews are supposed to have a certain amount of kavanah, intent, when they pray, she said, so, too, should people have a sense of kavanah when sending out e-mail and posting to social networking Websites.

To read the entire article, visit the Jewish Standard online.

“Social Media Basics” Now Online!


In April, I did the first of a three-part social media webinar series for the Jewish Communal Professionals of Southern California. Our focus in this session was an overview of social media and to begin the discussion of how social media can help Jewish non-profits strengthen their public profiles, promote their projects, and enhance their relationships with their clients/consumers/communities. I’m uploading finished presentations to Slideshare – feel free to check them out.

Does Your Organization Have an Anti-Innovation Checklist?


Is your organization or boss afraid of change? Turned off by technology? Terrified by the prospect of innovation? Then he (or she, or they) might already have an ‘anti-innovation checklist” – a group of core principles and phrases that they trot out in order to discredit new ideas and creativity in favor of the status quo.

The list below comes from a Harvard Business Review post by Youngme Moon, the Donald K. David Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. What other excuses have you heard from individuals who or organizations which resist change? (My favorite is “if it ain’t broke, and even if it is, don’t fix it.”)

My Anti-Creativity Checklist from Youngme Moon on Vimeo.

Are Facebook and Twitter a Fad?


At a recent event about social media and Jewish community, I spoke on a panel with Leah Jones where we addressed what the future of these social media tools might be. More videos from this event are available on my YouTube channel.

Social Media Manifesto Takes Off on Twitter


At this point, social media isn’t new. Some people have asked why I would even write something like this, which is so intuitive to people who live their lives in the www’s of the internet. And that itself is the answer: although the use of social media tools is growing in the world at large, not everyone lives their lives via Facebook, blogs or Twitter. And it’s not that everyone should always be on social media. But I do believe that social media can help, especially at traditionally underfunded Jewish organizations – a few hours of training, and the social media can be managed in house, for free.

Jewish nonprofits are beginning to acknowledge the need, but still seem skittish. And that’s why I took to my keyboard – as someone with extensive experience in the Jewish non-profit world, I take pride in and give honor to the fact that I wouldn’t be where I am today without social media.

Manifesto: Social Media and Jewish Organizations” has been retweeted several times by Jewish organizations and educators, shared with fellowship members and technology staffs. I’ve got meetings set up in New York to talk with potential clients about social media outreach. And I’ve been asked to lead a few groups at the upcoming Darim Online Northern New Jersey Social Media Boot Camp. Plus, the post is beginning to be cross-linked in other locations and cited as inspiration for kicking social media conversation into high gear (see the Boulder Jewish News).

It’s really gratifying to see a conversation accelerate, perhaps because it’s about time, and perhaps because of something you wrote. Thanks to all who shared it, retweeted it, emailed it, circulated it, or otherwise supported its sentiments. Go Team Social Media!

March: LAist, Facebook, Twitter, Celebrities, and more!


March has been a bit more eclectic, thanks to my first-ever piece on LAist — I guess this makes me an official Angeleno now:

Oh Crap. My Parents Joined Facebook – Meet the Local Ladies Behind the Hilarious Website” (

In addition, we’ve got a bunch of pieces in some of the usual places.

On Beliefnet’s Idol Chatter, I reported on Heroes’ actor Greg Grunberg’s use of Twitter; Harry Potter’s suspected position as a “tool of the Ziono-Hollywoodists“‘; big trouble for “Big Love“; Paul Rudd on what must have been the best seder ever; Alice Walker going to Gaza; the Spinal Tap tour; what Jewish Scots wear to shul; and, of course, Homer Simpson attempting to make peace in the Middle East.

Blog highlights include:
* What happens if Crocs go out of business
My experience at Social Media Jungle NYC
* Jewish continuity vs. environmental activism

Check them out, leave your comments, or inquire about hiring me for writing, editing or consulting purposes…

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