Monday, January 14, 2008

Bronfman Big Idea Series

Shai, whose comments I've enjoyed on several blogs that I read, has notified me that he submitted a proposal to the Charles Bronfman Brandeis Contest for the next big idea in Jewish communal innovation. Check it out!


Blogger -suitepotato- said...

My eyes are all googly and my mind is severely pained by reading this through... "Maggid Performance Troupe"? My head nearly exploded at that. The insincere and facetious modern art crowd and Jewish preachers... BAD BAD BAD idea. Also, the word troupe for me is linked to acrobats, so I had the really uncomfortable image of a group of Shlomo Carlebach lookalikes in leotards and blousy shirts doing cartwheels. OW, my brain.

The OS/PC thing was surreal and read like the Happy Fun Ball disclaimer on SNL.

Altogether a tour de farce of mixed reactions and (probably) unintentional giggles. Excellent try though.

The upside down pyramid though... pure modern art and given the engineering requirements coming with a cost that would make Solomon think twice.

January 14, 2008 11:45 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...


what I like about Shai is that he is a positive guy and he actually makes an effort to put his words into actions. I am not sure how I feel about his proposal...

I, by nature, am more of a critic and a destroyer and sometimes I wish I had more of those qualities in me.

January 14, 2008 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Maya Norton said...

Dear E-Kvetcher,

Thanks for linking to Shai's proposal on my blog, The New Jew: Blogging Jewish Philanthropy.

There 7 proposals in all that have been posted. Would love to hear your thought and ideas. Here's the link:

Shai is one of the most thoughtful people that I have ever met, so Suitepotato, if you had some practical critiques that you wanted to share, I'd be interested in learning from them.

Best wishes,

Maya Norton

The New Jew: Blogging Jewish Philanthropy

January 14, 2008 1:35 PM  
Anonymous Shai said...

Words have connotations that mean different things for different people. It never occurred to me that anybody would think of the word "troupe" as you do. In fact, the Maggid troupe was one of the ideas that was best received by people I've spoken to. It's an attempt to draw people into thinking about their values by using skits - then asking them to finish the story using their own minds and thoughts, which will by then have had the chance to be exposed to how the problems were solved in the past within Jewish thought. There certainly isn't anything of the sort you described that so pained your brain.

The "OS/PC" thing was an attempt to take the broad concept and put it into a format that helps people understand that I'm looking to promote an approach to Judaism that is "application based". Too many people focus on the form/ritual as the alpha and omega of what Judaism is, ritual often causes a too high of a threshhold for some Jews to get involved, and thus I was trying to show using this example that the thrust of the idea is to draw people into the idea of a life lived thoughtfully, with inspiration, could not only lead to good deeds but it can be a basis for us to build communities.

The upside down pyramid is not supported on the exterior skin but on a central column with tetrahydrons along the edge supporting the glass. It's not as difficult as you imagine. Anyway, I couldn't get into the matter of the architectural concepts in my submission to Bronfman as the submission length was limited, but in my market analysis I reviewed several architectural concepts that could be used. What you see is just the first of them, and the ikkar of the shape is that it contains 5 historical tiers that telescope into each other, showing how our lives as Jews build upon the lives of past generations.

January 14, 2008 7:05 PM  
Blogger -suitepotato- said...

Understand I don't mean to tear down, but rather critique on the basis of uninitiated reader versus someone who sees things coming from experience within that area. My father being a former RISD student, part-time architect, and full time drafter and machinist gage-maker I've been around this sort of design work. Anyhow, I try to ignore all that and react as if I never had that exposure.

So if I seem jaundiced it's because I do things that way. It's a good idea overall really to have some sort of push to embrace, teach, and extol the qualities and unique offerings of Jewish cultural heritage.

The most important criticism actually would not be the delivery of this presentation, as I think it a given that common off the street people will miss a lot, but more a serious concern how the Orthodox world will react.

Though I personally am a hellraiser to some degree and you know what? The community could use this burr under their saddle as there's not a lot of forward progress with this sort of intent coming about most anywhere else. There's plenty of rightful criticisms of Aish and Chabad for instance, but those don't negate that they have way better polish and genuine passion shown than we get otherwise. So an incubator and educational center would be a very good thing in my book.

As a final aside, it's the university arts and humanities crowd that will see almost nothing amiss with the presentation, but their criticism will be that it puts Judaism in a positive light which tells you where their heads are at.

January 15, 2008 3:00 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

One thing that struck me as weird is the term "fifth tier", just because it reminds me of "fifth column" which of course has a lot of anti-semitic connotations...

January 15, 2008 6:34 PM  
Anonymous Shai said...

The "Fifth Tier" is conceptually the final stage of 5 periods - the last 10 years of Jewish History. The previous 4 from recent to less are: 4) Emancipation to last 10 years, 3) 2nd Temple to Emancipation, 2) 1st Temple to 2nd Temple and 1) Biblical Israel. The Fifth stresses actual works by average people, being done today, to help inspire us to invent / select personal missions for ourselves.

Again,the idea is that the ideas build upon the past, or at least in some ways derive from them. Depending on the architectural concept, which depends on the site (there is no site yet), it could be that they are all on a single level, unfolding like a series of boxes horizontally and not vertically as tiers.

Suitepotato, yes - the orthodox could choose to have a problem with it. But it would be a choice - content wise, there is nothing opposed to orthodoxy per se. The way I see it the facility supplements but does not supplant the orthodox hashkafa, but it allows people who choose not to be orthodox a way to insert Jewish content in their lives without being ritually observant. The question you ask is Rambam's, too. Can a person have been zocheh the zchut of a mitzvah if they don't believe in G-d? Rambam says he can't. But obviously this is not an issue to a lot of Jews. The way the orthodox should see it, I believe, is that when Jews put Jewish content in their lives, and maintain their identity, they feel part of the Jewish People and risk being lost to us without it. I'm not willing to write my fellow Jews off just because they aren't observant - each of them is from my perspective to be treasured and respected for who they are, from whence they stand. I am not proposing this facility as a substitute for ritual streams - those who choose to benefit from one of those streams may do so still and this facility can only help that choice along - but it is not a religious institution in any normal sense of that meaning.

I think a lot of people "off the street" miss a lot anyway. That's obvious when you look at the assimilation rates. If what we as Jewish culture have so much to sell, why are so many people buying elsewhere? We're going to put our best foot forward with this facility - and really show why Jewish people can be proud of their heritage, and how they can incorporate its specific content in their lives even when they are not ritually observant. If there is not such a facility, for sure the message will be lost.

There is a lot to say, and I had only 5 pages to say it, and I am not an expert at all in how people learn, only in how I learn. I know a lot about how communities are built, too - the idea is to make this an "Institution" in the classic sense of the word, to allow the "message" of Jewish values and the gaining of a specific Jewish moral intelligence to be absorbed through exposure to Jewish communal life. I don't think the message will be easily lost if we can succeed in this.

Professor Menachem Kellner had a footnote in his book "Must a Jew Believe Anything", which turned the Emancipationist assertion that we should be a "man on the street and a Jew at home" on its head. He said, "be a Jew on the street, and if you must, an epikores at home". HIs point is clear to me - we should be focusing on how to stand together as Jews, irrespective of our views toward religion per se, and recognize the good in what we've received from the past - and be motivated to create more good to pass to our future. This project is my attempt to do so.

Thanks for your comments, everybody.


January 15, 2008 7:19 PM  

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