So the final tally is in. Ariel Beery won the “Batalla de los innovadores” by one statistically insignificant vote. “This is Stupido” came in at 178 votes and “Equally Jewliciouso” garnered 125 votes. 744 votes were tallied and the log file shows no evidence of significant shenanigans. Voters came from a number of interesting places: Universities like NYU, Columbia, Harvard, USC, University of Chicago, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Oberlin, Yeshivah University etc. We had voters whose IP addresses originated in both the Canadian Parliament and the US House of Representatives. A number of voters worked at the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, the Schusterman Foundation, the Steinhardt Foundation and, interestingly enough, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Voters voted primarily from the US and Israel, but votes also came in from Hungary, Canada, the UK, Thailand, France and Japan. A number of Synagogue and Federation staff voted too – Hello Bnei Jeshurun! Hello Bnai Israel! Hello New York, Florida, San Francisco and Los Angeles!
What was most interesting for me were the comments I received both on the site and in private. It’s not a secret that Dan and Ariel have issues between them. People felt that this survey was thus mean-spirited. However, Sieradski is now at the helm of the JTA Web site – that’s like the online equivalent of the Soviet era Pravda except instead of the Communist Party running things, you have the Federations. He also addressed the Plenary session of the latest GA in Nashville. Beery for his part has been building on the success of PresenTense Magazine and the PresenTense Institute for Contemporary Zionism to such an extent that when he and his partner Aharon Horwitz authored an article in Ha’artez calling for the promotion of Jewish organizational innovation, it was forwarded to me no less than 26 times! Of course one ought also not forget that Beery was chosen as one of the 10 to Watch in 2008 by the World Jewish Digest.
Any way you look at it, these are two very different people. Sieradski first made a name for himself running the Jewschool blog where he was known as somewhat of a firebrand, criticizing the State of Israel and the Organized Jewish Community. There he smashed a lot of sacred idols, much to the disdain of many. He was involved in a number of projects, most notably ShulShopper and Jew it Yourself and when funding for those projects petered out, he took a job as the Web Master of the JTA – a move that surprised many given his rebellious nature: The self-styled Orthodox Anarchist had now “Sold Out to the Man.” However in doing so he has been given access to a potentially large and/or influential audience.
Beery for his part has always been a bit of a rebel as well. He helped produce the controversial film “Columbia Unbecoming” and built his PresenTense Empire with the help of volunteers and little community backing, though that is likely to change soon. Beery is seen as an intelligent, articulate individual with a proven track record. He has never used the term apartheid in reference to Israel, has good educational credentials, and is undeniably passionate about rejigging the way things get done in the world of Jewish activism.
What’s curious is that at this juncture, both Beery and Sieradski are saying very similar things. Both are children of the Internet and make reference to the dot com incubator model and technological solutions to the problems that ail the Jewish community. Both are out there actively trying to secure precious communal resources with which they can actualize their respective visions. Both are calling for greater accountability in the way communal funds are utilized and both are great boosters of indie projects.
So yes, while I know that given their history together (let alone my history with Sieradski) this survey/poll/popularity contest can be seen as having been provocative, well… frankly, I don’t give a shit. Their respective views have received a lot of attention lately and despite the bullshit, I have tried to foster constructive dialog. I’m kind of tired of pussyfooting around important issues in order to molly coddle unreasonable egos and sensibilities and given the overwhelming participation in this exercise, I’m not going to stop now. None of the information I presented was remotely controversial or mean spirited and most of the discussions I’ve had on the issue were enlightening and productive.
So there. Stay tuned for more although I gotta warn you – the next Â¿Quien es mÃ¡s Jewliciouso? is going to be not nearly as controversial. If anyone has some recommendations, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!