Big Ideas


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…

Idea Revisited: JSinglesSpace and the Continuity Cafe


The piece below originally appeared as part of the Jewish Week’s “Big Ideas” Issue in December of 2006 and decried a lack of research on Jewish singles and suggested a center for research of single life which could double as a young community center and living space for single Jews.

Very recently, researcher Steven M Cohen produced “Uncoupled: How Our Singles are Reshaping Jewish Engagement,” a study about unmarried 20-somethings and 30-somethings and their habits regarding connection to Jewish life. (He’s speaking at the PresenTense Institute this Thursday at 1pm, and I’ve been invited to comment in response. See here for directions.)

But the more I think about it and write about it (on JDatersAnonymous and in the creation of a book proposal on the subject of Jewish singles), and the more I see of the communal approach of the PresenTense Institute, the more relevant I think a proposal like this is–people have their own projects and interests, but the spirit of the collective inspires individuals and their creativity. While this piece was written for the Jewish Week and therefore centered on New York City, the truth is that such an institute could exist in another major city somewhere–Chicago, LA, San Francisco or Jerusalem–and would yield interesting research as well as perhaps some interesting friendships and relationships.

So here’s the piece again for your re-consideration. Looking forward to the discussion. (And yes, the piece is available for reprints–reasonable rates, just ask.)

JSinglesSpace and the Continuity Cafe
by Esther D. Kustanowitz

Each year, a new crop of idealistic Jewish twentysomethings moves to New York City in an attempt to forge romantic futures and financial fortunes in the city that never sleeps. The number of people crammed into Upper West Side two-bedroom apartments that were converted to three to accommodate each year’s immigrant singles thematically recalls Lower East Side tenement days. 10024 has so many single Jewish women that they may not even all show up in a JDate zip code search (a true story from JDate customer service). And many of those twentysomethings stay uncoupled until they’re thirtysomething or fortysomething, clustering in tribes of the seemingly-eternally single. But despite all of these fascinating trends, academic studies have yet to focus on Jewish singles anywhere, let alone within the borders of New York City.

Go to Top