So there I was, minding my own business at the American Jewish Press Association’s Freelancers and Editors workshop, listening to former Reboot project director and current VP of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Foundation Roger Bennett talk. Bennett’s doing some great stuff (see also Guilt & Pleasure salons and Slingshot), and is constantly cited as a source on Jewish identity projects. I knew, at least according to Rabbi Yonah and CK, that Bennett was “bummed” that he couldn’t make it to Jewlicious @ the Beach 2 last month in Long Beach. But I had no idea how big of an impression Jewlicious had made on him…

Bennett had begun the speech talking about how his family evolved in terms of their identification with Judaism, and, cognizant that he had a captive audience of Jewish journalists, many of them either freelancing for or editing the contents of Jewish newspapers—many of which are financially beholden to Federations or other kinds of community support—progressed to a discussion of how to engage the tech-obsessed, affluent group of Jews ages 18-25, the so-called (not the SoCalled) Generation Y.

“The Jewish community is not on the precipice”, he said, as he predicted a huge reclamation of Jewish identity. “What we have to do is develop some sort of angle which leads to a network [Bennett mentioned blogs as a method for outreach and networking]. He mentioned that once upon a time, the New Republic was very influential, “but today the New Republic is irrelevant because of blogs.” (Weighted words, from someone who had just told us that his friend Frank Foer had just been made editor at the New Republic.)

“Young people do want content that’s intelligent yet accessible,” said Bennett, pointing to the Matisyahu phenomenon as “a fascinating indicator of the mammoth audience, if we can get our product right. It could be Jewlicious or the Boston Advocate.” (My head jerked upwards. That’s odd. Did Roger Bennett just say “Jewlicious” at the AJPA conference? Huh. Must have been hearing things.)

“Not everything new is good,” he continued. “More people have a respect for authentic tradition, but we need to speak in the language of the internet. There’s enough cool stuff in people’s lives today, we don’t have to repackage Judaism as cool—it’s intrinsically cool. They need something steady and accessibly—we don’t have to give Judaism a hair transplant. Kids see right through a combover—they know a bald dude when they see him.” (Fad-hipster Judaism as a bald guy in denial. I LOVE it.)

“The Jewlicious guys amaze me,” Bennett said. “They have an intelligent, accessible product and are as talented a group as I’ve ever met.” (There! There it was! He said it again! Good thing I’d shown my colleagues the Jewlicious site during my session, otherwise, the assembled would have just assumed he was drunk and slurring the word “Jewish” multiple times over the course of the speech…)

“Hey,” someone yelled, pointing at me. “That’s Esther from Jewlicious.” Which was great, because that meant they hadn’t slept through the blogging session I’d just led. Kyle’s Mom was there too, and she interjected: “My son is Jewschool and Orthodox Anarchist!” After an acknowledgment of KM as the mother of Jewschool, Bennett continued…

“At Jewlicious, they love Israel and give great love to Orthodoxy and the opposite of Orthodoxy in equal measure. Jewlicious realizes that they have something bigger than the blog. For young Jews ,Judaism is not a fad. There’s a great difference between relevant (tradition) and cool (a fad, with little responsibility to the past)—authenticity shatters cool.”

“We have the ability to engage the [Gen Y] audience,” Bennett concluded. “We can be intelligent and accessible and be a medium for original change.”

By this point, I was totally kvelling and shepping nachas at the same time while battling my urge not to cry out of happiness, which is all incredibly taxing. I felt incredibly lucky to be part of such an eclectic group that’s doing work that has been independently acknowledged as good, valued and important, in front of my colleagues in the Jewish press.

That said, I’d very much like a raise.

Shabbat shalom from icy New York.

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Esther Kustanowitz

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  • Well all that white hot roger-love should warm your cockles a little this shabbat. I’m still in awe. Esther, we’re doubling your salary, and Roger, thanks pal, your check is in the mail.

  • I did a little math and 2 x $0 = $0.

    Congrats on the raise Esther. Just wait till we have to fork over some money for the additional bandwidth to speed up this slow puppy.

    Seriously, have a lovely shabbat, check your email, kvell in peace, and try to find Michael because we haven’t heard from him in a loooong time.

  • Muffti knows what that means. He’s been doing it for years. At least that’s the rumor.

    Whoo hoo! Twice the salary! And all I had to do was ask…this could lead to some dangerous behavior with some of my actual paying clients:

    “For writing that brochure, I demand…ONE MILLION DOLLARS…” [Dr. Evil laugh]

  • Congrats Esther on the shout out and the coverage, and I hear you did a snazzy job on your presentation too. As far as raises go, ck and laya offered me quite a nice package. I’ll get the usual salary PLUS some highly rated stock options. This was all negotiated while they had been plying me with organic coffee at some revolutionary coffee house in LA. So my advice is to ask ck for the stock options tha I’m getting.

    I would like to register Jewlicious as a church and then we could get a lot of tax-benefits, but that would limit the stocks clout in the long run. Actually I am not sure what benefits there would be. But at least on my tax forms I can list my congregation as “”

  • Jeanette, your advocacy for Mobi both in real and virtual life is causing me to have some second thoughts. Perhaps I should tell my mother I post on Jewlicious?

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