Online Clips Archive

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My Jewish Journal Life…


Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 11.02.17 AMSince February 2015, in addition to my various other consulting work, I’ve been a contributing writer at the Jewish Journal here in Los Angeles, and have had the opportunity to tell some amazing stories – some about myself, and some about other people.

You can read all of my past stories – including a few “classics” from years before I even moved to Los Angeles! – at my author page on the Jewish Journal website. And here is a curated list of some of my 2016 favorites so far.

Jew-by-choice Mandie Davis also chooses homeless children: Southern Baptist-raised, and now Jewish, Mandie found love on Skid Row, and co-founded an amazing organization with her husband that brings joy to homeless children for their birthdays. (June 2016)

Today’s Jewish TV characters come into their own: An exploration of how Jewish identity is totally a thing on television these days, as characters own their cultural identity, traditions and even Hebrew in an unprecedented manner. (April 2016)

Finding meaning in Passover prep pain: A personal piece recalling how much pain my late mother endured in creating Passover in our home, and how I created Passover in my home this year. (April 2016)

Reconsidering Kaddish: Profiling four new approaches to the mourner’s prayer, which expand access to Kaddish as a ritual and imbue it with new meaning. (February 2016)

More available at my author page, and in the future, as I cover additional topics…

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What’s New? Star Wars & Grief; Bar/Bat Mitzvahs; Calling Out the Patriarchy, and more!

Art print by at

Art print by at

I’ve been writing a lot, mostly for the Jewish Journal, where I’m now a Contributing Writer. But I’m not exclusive to them, so I’ve been a writer who’s still playing the field a little – this gives me the chance to explore lots of different topics, for instance:

There are currently six episodes of the Star Wars saga. Which order do you watch them in? And what did considering Episode Order or Release Order teach me about coping with loss? Read about all that stuff, including some super nerdy mentions of Mos Eisley spaceport and the Kessel Run, in “Star Wars: Episode Infinity: The Force of Grief,” this new piece at ModernLoss, just in time for the second Star Wars Day (May 25, the date that was declared “Los Angeles Star Wars Day” back in 2007 – and which has marked several noteworthy Star Wars connections…).

“Think back to the last panel or conference you attended, Jewish or otherwise. Do you remember any of the speakers? Were they men or women? If you don’t remember a lot of women speaking at your last conference or panel experience, there’s probably a reason: They may not have been there.” In “Calling out the Jewish Patriarchy, One Blog at a Time” (Ha’aretz), I did a rundown of the blogs that are calling out the patriarchy – inside and outside of the Jewish world – for all-male panels and boards.

I lost my phone on Mother’s Day. Then an app and the internet and a local friend and a stranger helped me find it. And then I wrote about it all at my blog, in “iLost & iFound.” (Also at my blog, a rundown of a local event featuring Gideon Raff, the creator of Hatufim, Homeland, Tyrant and Dig.)

Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are known as a time when Jewish boys and girls come to adulthood – but they have also become an excuse for excess, for elaborate celebrations that barely connect to Jewish practice and responsibility. In “Thou Shalt Party,” this tongue-in-cheek piece for the Jewish Journal, I took ten Torah portions and identified ways in which they could be tied to contemporary events, pop culture and wacky celebrations.

Read, enjoy, and if you’d like, feel free to pass these stories along to someone who’d enjoy them…

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God, Prayer & No Traffic from San Diego to Los Angeles


Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 2.05.48 AMI’d love for this to be an instructional story about how to effectively request and obtain Divine intervention that yields a traffic-free journey between cities in Southern California. It’s not. But the trip between San Diego and Los Angeles did provide me with a fascinating experience of gratitude that wasn’t quite prayer, and yet, wasn’t NOT prayer. As it happened, I knew I had to write about it.

Luckily, one of my clients, ELI Talks (who is hosting FREE live, TED-style talks in NYC next week – see this link for all details and registration info), provided the inspiration with an online conversation on God that had me asking some questions about prayers and where they go, once uttered.

The result of that process of questioning is this piece, “Got God? Thoughts on God from a Sometimes-Theist,” which appeared in eJewishPhilanthropy this past Tuesday.

An excerpt:

Driving back from a social media training in San Diego to Los Angeles before the High Holidays, I felt something move through me. I turned down the radio and began to speak words aloud. “I am grateful,” I began, adding simple phrases until they became sentences of gratitude. Spontaneous, uncomplicated gratitude, so large that I had to speak it aloud even with no audience to listen and applaud, hadn’t happened to me a lot in my life. It sounded like prayer, albeit (my inner writer scolded) a not-so liturgically or poetically-compelling one.



But who was I talking to? God? My ancestors? A muse? Or, as many say in California, “the energy of the universe”? It felt like I had written an important letter, but had failed to address the envelope, or was sending to an email address that had been discontinued. Who would even hear this expression of thanks, this gratitude for things ranging from family to the completely appreciated lightness of traffic, from the laughter I received during my presentation to feeling the sunshine on my arm as I drove? Where was God? And did it matter? Or was it important to express the gratitude regardless of whether or not it was directed at anyone (or Anyone)?

Read the entire piece at And as always, please feel free to share any feedback…


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…
Excerpt from the NY Times article, March 23, 2014

March Madness: Recent Clips


Excerpt from the NY Times article, March 23, 2014

This week was simply mad – a personal essay in the JTA (commonly known as the AP of the Jewish world) about loss, focusing on a ring that was my mother’s; I attended my lovely and moving good-bye party at work; a new part-time job came together which enables me to shift into new styles of writing (more to come on that later); and over this weekend, was mentioned in an article in the New York Times about the Modern Loss site, to which I had contributed a piece titled “Deleting My Mother.” (As an extra bonus moment of glee, the Times referred to me as “founder of the blog My Urban Kvetch,” a mention I never would have imagined when I founded it ten years ago.)

Earlier in March, I read a piece about improv inspiring creativity at Jewish nonprofits, and decided to take it one step further with this piece, “Yes-And’ing Our Way to Organizational Progress.”

This past weekend was also the Jewish holiday of Purim, which is typically marked by celebration and comedic performances, including something called a “Purim shpiel” – generally this highlights the story of Purim in some way, but the spiritual community known as IKAR treats the “shpiel” time as an opportunity to lampoon the community itself. This is my second year on the writing team for the Shpiel, and one of my two contributions was a parody of pharmaceutical commercials, but treating IKAR itself as the drug. (The other one, a Yiddish-inflected parody of “Roar,” by Katy Perry, isn’t posted yet.) There’s a lot of inside comedy, but I think it still plays to others. Check it out!

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Cupid’s Clips: This Week’s Articles


While Valentine’s Day week isn’t always a week of romance and celebration for everyone, this year, Cupid brought me two new clips to share.

Last weekend in the print edition and Tuesday online, the Forward published my piece “The Jewish Lonely Hearts Who Meet Online” – about online dating sites, the blame game that singles play with each other, and how we all could take a higher road when it comes to interacting online.

Then on Facebook, we launched some midweek discussions about JDate’s advertising, when that niche dating service launched its new ad campaigns, making some laugh and others cringe. With slogans taking a pot shot at (“6000 years of persecution and now you’re joining”) and appealing to those who are waiting to “find someone who shares your love of gefilte fish,” the slogans run from the stereotypical to the unoriginal, playing to the broadest strokes of public awareness of what defines a Jew, and what those Jews are looking for when they’re looking for love online. (You can read the NYTimes article about this new campaign here.)

In a sad note this week, but relevant to Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to share things we love with people we love, the world lost famous comedian Sid Caesar. The Jewish Journal asked me to write something – since I love writing about entertainment, TV and comedy, and did feel a bit personally connected to Caesar (even though we had never met), I wrote this piece – “My Friend’s Seder With Sid: Remembering Sid Caesar,” now featured in the Jewish Journal’s Religion section – about how virtual connections can become real, with people acting as emissaries and interceding to create real-life connections. The story contains some of my friend’s personal reflections of her time with Sid over the last year, and reminds us of how much laughter he gave the world. May his memory and his work continue to be an inspiration to those of us who dabble in or appreciate comedy. 🙂

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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


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)

Recent Publications: Opinionated Jewish Women, Innovation and more…


“ROI Lights”: Introducing a series of Hanukkah posts about innovation and creativity (ROI Community)

“Where Are All the Opinionated Jewish Women?”: An op-ed submissions imbalance at the Forward leads to a larger discussion about Jewish women and our opinions  (MyUrbanKvetch, reprinted in eJewishPhilanthropy)

“Young Professionals/Singles/Young Leaders” – What’s in a Name? (MyUrbanKvetch)

“The Future of Jewish Journalism, Or Anything Else” (MyUrbanKvetch, reprinted in eJewishPhilanthropy)


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.

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