I am… how do they say it? Shepping SUCH naches right now. Hopefully I didn’t mangle the Yiddish phrase that is an expression of my joy at what is going on in Montreal right now at a gathering called the NU Media Innovation Initiative. NU is a partnership between the ROI Community and its ROI Connection Points Project (a series of mini ROI Summits united by a single theme… more or less) and Federation CJA – the main community fund raising body of the Jewish community of Montreal. NU unites 31 participants, 20 of whom are from Montreal who are tasked with acting on NU’s mission statement – “NU strives to be the creative catalyst that works with Millennials to make global Jewish life more relevant to them in our times.”

This is quite a task – Millennials have some interesting values and prospects. For instance research has shown that the proportion of students who said being wealthy was very important to them increased from 45% for Baby Boomers (surveyed between 1966 and 1982) to 70% for Gen X and 75% for Millennials. The percentage who said it was important to keep up to date with political affairs fell, from 50% for Boomers to 39% for Gen X and 35% for Millennials… “Developing a meaningful philosophy of life” decreased the most, across generations, from 73% for Boomers to 45% for Millennials. “Becoming involved in programs to clean up the environment” dropped from 33% for Boomers to 21% for Millennials. In the United States, Generation Y has led a trend towards irreligion that has been growing since the 1990s. 32 percent of Americans born between 1983 and 1994 are irreligious, as opposed to 21 percent born between 1963 and 1982, 15 percent born between 1948 and 1962 and only 7 percent born before 1948. And, despite their love of wealth they are the generation least likely to meet their own economic expectations given shattering recessions. Grim indeed! How do you inject a little bit of Jewish identity and peoplehood into this group?

How indeed. According to EJewishPhilanthropy it’ll go down as follows:

NU participants will lead workshops in their areas of expertise, share cutting-edge techniques employed by the most innovative brands, and challenge participants to design dynamic engagement opportunities for Jews of the Millennial generation. This young, educated, technologically savvy and empowered generation is wielding great influence in the commercial and cultural zeitgeist. The conference aims to re-work “Jewish” programming in a way that speaks to and reaches this technologically oriented generation, leveraging great Jewish minds to re-think and re-invigorate the Jewish world and Jewish engagement… Participants will be given the opportunity to pitch the ideas that emerge from this conference to an audience and panel of media and Jewish community leaders, who together will decide the winning projects and help them become a reality with funding…

The funding in question will be a part of the program called “The Pitch

…where 9 teams of new media developers pitch their ideas for their chance to receive up to a $10,000 Development Investment Award…. A studio audience will vote on the winning team along with a panel of discerning judges, featuring Claudine Blondin Bronfman, Philanthropist , Amy Friedman, Senior Advisor of MTV Scratch, Meaghan Rath, one of the stars of Being Human, Na’eem Adam, founder of Poutine Week MTL and Dean Mendel, Co-Chair of Gen J promise grants.

Fun right? And that’s not all! “Organizers of NU intend to publish a document in the days following the gathering highlighting new engagement principles and some blueprints for creating relevant entry points into Jewish life for young adults in the age of perpetual connectivity.” That’s something that anyone who is into engaging Jewish students and young adults will find of interest. I for one am definitely looking forward to what this by-invitation-only brain trust is going to come up with!

And who is this brain trust made up of? There are people who I know and who I have met and who have impressed me with their skills and passion. NU is being helmed in part by Mike Savatovsky, an ROI alum, and one of the dudes behind Montreal’s Le Mood – a one day Limmud style “Festival of unexpected Jewish learning, arts and culture.” There’s also Jacob Shwirtz, another ROI alum, who has done innovative work with MTV Networks in New York, as well as Birthright Israel and Definitely Something in Israel. There’s also Naomi Less, Naomi Kincler and Eileen Levinson rounding out the bill, all also ROIers and also awesome. Of the Montreal participants, I’ve met Tamara Kramer, yet another ROI alum, who is the creator of the truly wonderful Shtetl Magazine – which if you haven’t already, you should go visit, like, right now.

I really looking forward to what this gang is going to come up with. I am doubly excited because this whole project is going down in Montreal. I grew up in Montreal, love the city and am a big fan of its special and unique creative energy. Also, Jewlicious was birthed in Montreal – true story! As a Jewish activist in Montreal, I found that the Federation and the organized Jewish community was not very encouraging of grass roots activism by young Jews. At best they would ignore us and at worst they would actively try to derail or sabotage our work. It’s cool, I hold no grudges – energetic youth can be quite scary! I am super happy though to see Federation CJA embrace this and other projects, led by jacked in young Jews – finally realizing the world class potential in their midst.

If I can sound just one teeny sour note, as much as I love this entire initiative, I wish it was just a bit more representative of the ethnic and linguistic diversity of the Montreal Jewish community. In 2001, Sephardic Jews, most of whom are bilingual native French speakers, represented almost a quarter of the city’s Jewish population. I don’t have current statistics, but based on anecdotal evidence, that number has only grown since then. It’s a little bit odd that NU Montreal couldn’t find a single visibly Sephardic Jew to participate in the program – I mean I know they exist. I trust this is an innocent oversite that will be addressed next time around.

But yes, still a project with super interesting potential. Totally looking forward to further developments!

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About the author


Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.