Conferences & Events

From the website

Client Profile: Comedy for a Change Conference

From the website

From the website

Comedy as social change? Only in Jerusalem. 🙂 December 21-22 saw the arrival of a group of comedy change-makers from around the world for the premiere Comedy for a Change conference. Originally signed up as an attendee, I was honored that they subsequently hired me as social media manager for the conference – I created and managed the @JJJComedy Twitter for the three weeks before the conference, during the event itself, and for several weeks after.

The brainchild of comedy writer and exporter of Israeli TV formats Omri Marcus, the conference brought to Israel people who had never been there before, to experience different styles of comedy, examine how comedy informs the social and political perspectives, and to participate in an international writers room.

As the social media manager for the conference, I watched the tweets fly fast and furious throughout the day, documenting the unique proceedings as they transpired. The mayor of Jerusalem was interviewed by a foul mouthed puppet (think Avenue Q, but ruder). Participants were treated to an inside scoop of from the writers of the German, American, and Israeli versions of the hit show, “The Office.” Two Canadian comedians talked about their Yiddish-language comedy series, YidLife Crisis. The head of television programs for the BBC spoke about his network, Israel in the news, and the changing face of anti-Semitism in Europe. Session panelists talked about pushing the envelope, the process of producing video, and how social change messages can be embedded in comedic contexts.

The United States, of course, was well-represented. Other comedy professionals hailed from countries as far away as Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, South Africa and Canada; there were also two Muslim comics (from Denmark and Brooklyn), who were a vital component to the “Non-Diplomatic Peace Talks” session (covered by CNN), an experience pairing them with two Israeli political comedians and moderated by a German. (If you pause at 2:00 in the clip, you can spy me in the audience, smiling demurely and looking down at my notebook.)

Check out a sampling of the Tweets and photos from the conference, as rendered through Storify:

Pre-conference & Day 1

Day 2 & post-conference

A selection of photos



Presenting at the #NCJHub with @see3 (#instagram @naomirabkin)

Hashtags & Haystacks – Social Media, “Ranch-Style”

Presenting at the #NCJHub with @see3 (#instagram @naomirabkin)

Presenting at the #NCJHub with @see3 (#instagram nrabkin)

What’s “Ranch-Style” Social Media? Good question…well, it has little to do with the creamy dressing that people use to dip hot wings and occasionally vegetables into, and everything to do with the location of my last social media training .

I was honored to have been invited by the folks at See3 Communications to be part of the social media boot camp they were conducting for the Leichtag Foundation, a foundation whose mission it is to honor the legacy of Lee and Toni Leichtag through igniting and inspiring vibrant Jewish life, advancing self-sufficiency and stimulating social entrepreneurship in coastal North San Diego County and Jerusalem. The event was held Monday, September 15, at the Leichtag-run ranch in Encinitas (near San Diego), where a number of social entrepreneurship programs and Jewish organizations also were headquartered under an initiative called the North County Jewish Hub. (You can view tweets, photos & vines from the day at #NCJHub.)

My presentation on Twitter provided some best practices, as well as some examples of what constitutes good engagement (like the @midnight #HashtagWars) and what constitutes a Twitter #fail (for instance, the recent DiGiorno’s #WhyIStayed snafu).

The media session provided lots of hints about how to approach – and most importantly, develop ongoing relationships with – members of the media, to maximize your chances of getting coverage for an event or organization.

Stay tuned for more content in the weeks ahead…
Presenting at "Moving the Needle 2014" - the RAVSAK & PARDES Jewish educators' conference

Kicking off January With “Jewish Geography Goes Digital”


Presenting at "Moving the Needle 2014" - the RAVSAK & PARDES Jewish educators' conference

Mid-January arrived, and with it, the RAVSAK/PARDES Jewish educators’ conference – titled “Moving the Needle,” the content contained inspiring speakers, informative panels, deep dives into practical subject matters and workshops designed to give educators a skills upgrade. I was honored to present “Jewish Geography Goes Digital” to an involved and inquisitive group of Jewish educators from across the country – the interactive skills session featured extensive dialogue with those in the room, facilitated sharing of experience using social media in an educational context, and the introduction of new tools and awareness of social media culture as a way to deepen relationships with constituents.

You can check out my presentation below (and additional presentations are available here). And remember, if you’re interested in a consultation on social media culture or tools, creative content strategy, or communications methods for the digital age, please be in touch and we can discuss the possibilities.

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 1.41.36 PM

Video Workshop: “Leadership in the Digital Age”


In May, I was invited to London to speak as part of the Jewish Leadership Council’s Lead Division’s newest initiative, Leading In which was created in response to the desire and need for more leadership skills training, expressed by alumni of Lead’s programmes as well as employers within the community. The JLC, in a blog post about the program, explained:

We believe that Jewish communal leaders need both a deep understanding and knowledge of the UK Jewish Community as well as a core range of leadership skills. Leading In consists of regular bi-monthly evening sessions, open to all who are in a leadership position in the community, both lay and professional. Each session will include a leadership skills based session (a choice of three with the option to participate in a fundraising series over several sessions), an opportunity to network and a masterclass with an inspirational, visionary leader.

The event, held at the London Jewish Museum, was attended by 60 lay and professional leaders from more than 30 Jewish communal organizations. Debbie Klein, chair of JW3 (the about-to-launch Jewish Community Centre), gave the opening keynote discussing leadership tips, and participants chose from workshops like, “Inside the mind of a leader” with Jeff Wolfin, “Fundraising” with Jeff Shear (the second in the series), and my session, “Leadership in the Digital Age: Conversing, Commenting and Creating Meaningful Relationships” (available in its entirety – 1 hour, 22 minutes – below.

“Leadership in the Digital Age” – Esther Kustanowitz, May 2013


tribefest vegas logo

Speaking at TribeFest (Las Vegas) – March 26


What happens in Vegas…is that I’ve been asked to be part of a session panel at TribeFest, the conference/gathering for young (and youngish) Jews that JFNA is organizing at the end of March:

Pitchfest! Jewish Stories Go Hollywood!

Join G-dcast’s Producer, Screenwriter, and a panel of celebrity judges in an interactive Hollywood style pitchfest. Each team gets a (very) colorful Jewish story that we promise you’ve never heard before and develops its own red carpet, scene-stealing pitch. (We’ll coach you on how the experts do it.) Then send your best rep up on stage to dazzle the executives and convince us why YOUR story should be turned into an animated film. Big sunglasses provided. (Session produced by Sarah Lefton, with supporting cast turns by Sean Mandell, Josh Walters, and Esther Kustanowitz)

Since I’m the “celebrity judge” who lives and works closest to Hollywood (geographically, Beverly Hills ain’t far), bringing the celebrity glamour will be my responsibility. You can check out my new TribeFest speaker’s bio here.


“Nothing Helps (But This Might Help)” Intro (from LimmudLA)


A few weeks ago, I presented at LimmudLA a session titled “Nothing Helps (But This Might Help)” – the subject of the discussion was grief, mourning and coping with loss, and grew from my ongoing experiences in coping with the loss of my mother last May. This session – which I also presented at Limmud in the UK in December – is part of my process in creating a collection of writings about this year of mourning, the Jewish traditions that define it, and my personal reactions to this great loss in my life.

This is the intro for that session – what followed was a round robin of the people in the room, which I’m cutting out to preserve their privacy.

I hope to post more audio clips as I become more familiar with the audio editing software.

Nothing Helps intro

2011 – Quite a Year


2011 was quite a year, for some great reasons and one really sad one.

We’ll start with the sad first in this post, and hopefully build towards joy from there. As the Psalm says, “they who sow in tears harvest with joy.”

In May, my mother, Shulamit E. Kustanowitz, lost her battle with two serious illnesses. Losing her has been the most earth-shattering experience of my life, and I’m dealing with it every day in some way. My writing has changed, both in frequency and in tone, and I haven’t been diligent about updating my blogs and websites, because it just didn’t seem important and because I felt, for a while, as if I’d lost command of the words. So it’s taking me a while to return to posting about my publications and achievements, and to the daily business of musing on things social media- and technology-related.

But there have been moments, even within a year of mourning, which are worth celebrating. I was thrilled to be named to the Big Jewcy , a list of 100 Jews to watch, which this year also featured my brother (we were the first siblings to make the list the same year, and the piece about me was published on my birthday, by coincidence). I presented at the 2011 General Assembly in Denver, JHub (social entrepreneurship hub in London), and the UK’s Limmud Conference, moderated at the Jewish Federation’s Day of Jewish Learning and Culture, and made 2012 plans to present or moderate sessions at LimmudLA (next weekend), Jewlicious (the weekend after), and the ROI Summit in Jerusalem (June). A friend also made me laugh with his Gefilte Fish Invaders game/Rosh Hashanah greeting card, which got me quoted in the Jewish Week’s Jewish Techs blog. So life does go on.

I’m working on getting my writing going again, and some of that is happening in a longer chunk of text that I’m referring to as a “book” and which might just be one some day, tentatively titled “Nothing Helps (But This Might Help): Loss, Grief and Unintentional Comedy in a Year of Mourning.” Some of it is likely to pop up on the web in various places – on my blogs or on websites – and hopefully to be finished before the end of 2012. (At least that’s my current estimate.) But I’m also balancing that with some lighter pieces, some focusing on culture or comedy, or other such smile-provoking subjects, and will likely produce several other pieces about Jewish life and contemporary culture, because – let’s face it – I do what I do.

Like I said, 2011 was quite a year. Here’s to a 2012 of gratitude, productivity, health, healing, laughter and eventually, joy. Thanks for your continued support.

More posts available at

Fall Schedule and New Links


More posts available at

Greetings, readers. Apologies to you all for the delay in posting – my mother fell ill in April, and passed away in May. Since then, I’ve been making my way back, slowly, into a new reality, trying to get back to normal. So here I am, accepting offers for speaking engagements and setting my travel schedule for fall 2011. I’ll be in San Francisco and Berkeley (September); New York City, New Jersey and Oakland, CA (October); Denver, CO (November); and London, UK (December). Contact me for details, or stay tuned to this space or to for updates and details.

Also, I’ve published a number of pieces that might be of interest – most of the posts are from my own blog focus on my processing the loss of my mother, but one continues to explore the Jewish innovation scene.

Innovation at Any Age” (eJewishPhilanthropy)

Eulogy for My Mother” (My Urban Kvetch)

E-Ma’ariv: Contemplating the Evening Prayers” (My Urban Kvetch)

Marzipan and Meaning: Jerusalem Reflections” (My Urban Kvetch)

LimmudLA Sessions


This weekend, I’m presenting at LimmudLA – a number of the panels are through the “Future of Jewish L.A.” track, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, and then there’s the “Improv for Jews” session, which is just for fun. (And education!)

Engaging the Next Generation Meaningfully in a World of Options

When it comes to social and community connections, today’s 20-somethings and 30-somethings are overwhelmed with online and offline options. How can we provide Jewish 20s and 30s with the online resources that they need and with in-person programs that engage them socially, communally and Jewishly? Hear from some of the people who are actively engaging this population in our community.

What’s the Next Big Idea for Jewish Los Angeles?

As we open a new decade, and Federation celebrates its Centennial, what does our community need most? Join Andrew Cushnir, Esther Kustanowitz, and other innovative and creative thinkers with big ideas for the Jewish future for an inside peek at some ideas from the Next Big Jewish Idea search. Then we’ll talk about our communal needs and how we can meet them through innovative community and cultural initiatives.

“Withinnovation”: Making Institutional Room for Partnerships and Innovation

People perceive Jewish innovation and Jewish institutions as two separate entities – but they don’t have to be. In our increasingly interconnected Jewish future, community institutions like synagogues and Federations are “withinnovating” – making room for innovation within their institutions, which can present challenges to innovators and institutions alike. Explore this emerging trend with some of LA’s resident innovation experts.

Improv for Jews

What’s so Jewish about basic improv comedy? This informal, participatory workshop introduces the basics of improv comedy within a Jewish community context – suitable for Jews and Judeophiles of all ages, and no comedy experience required.


2011 Conference Schedule (So Far…)


It’s becoming clear that this is going to be a very “conferencey” year.


Today, it begins with representing the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles at the Jewish Leadership Initiative Conference in Santa Monica, CA. I’ll be tabling at this conference of mostly graduate students, many of whom are looking for jobs – business or law, possibly a few interested in applying their MBAs or legal skills to serving the Jewish community.


February at least eases me into Conferenceness with a series of local conferences – it kicks off with the North American Jewish Day Schools Conference, March 6-8; I’ve been invited because many friends and colleagues from the world of Jewish education will be attending.

On February 16th, I’ve been invited by BBYO to present to their pre-Convention executive meeting for regional presidents and top leaders – they are planning to do a session inspired by this article.

After ending last year with a brief stint at Limmud in the UK (and missing LimmudNY), I’m thrilled to be preparing for LimmudLA – the local version of the international sensation that has never been snowed out takes place February 18-21. I’ll be presenting a number of sessions on things ranging from Jewish communal engagement and innovation to Jewish improv – stay tuned to this space for a full list of my sessions when they go up.

Then, a week later will be the Jewlicious Festival (my 7th), held in Long Beach, CA, and which will again, probably not be snowed out.


March brings two (confirmed) conferences that are pretty different from one another. March 6-8 is Tribefest, a gathering of Jews ages 22-45 in Las Vegas sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America and designed to appeal to young Jews who connect to Jewish life in multiple and diverse ways. I’ll be wearing several hats while I’m there – from my role in NextGen Engagement at Federation to representing ROI Community.

Then, March 17-19 is the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), where I’m hoping to learn lots about how nonprofits inside and outside the Jewish world relate to the world of technology and social media.

There may yet be other additions to the conference schedule, but they’re all leading up to the 6th ROI Community Summit, this year moving back to Jerusalem in June. More information to come!

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