A few years ago, JOI developed a program for the holiday Shavuot called “Up All Night.” Using the Shavuot tradition of staying up all night to study Torah, the program would take place in a large bookstore with a coffee shop, where you can host book readings or an accessible presentation on Jewish topics while offering free coffee/refreshments throughout. The idea was to create a low barrier event in a public space in order to attract unaffiliated and unengaged members of the community.
According to a recent article in the Washington Jewish Week, numerous synagogues in the D.C. area used Shavuot this year as a gateway to low-barrier Jewish engagement. At the synagogue Sixth & I, for example, attendees were given the opportunity to make a “lox and cream cheese pizza” since it’s traditional to eat dairy foods, or partake in a “10-pose group yoga session” that recognized the 10 Commandments. The point was to offer activities that would resonate with the younger generation. Said Jen Keys, a Schusterman Insight Fellow working with Sixth & I:
I think we’re appealing to a crowd that is really looking to grasp onto something, get some relation to the holiday, but are not sure how or in what context. We provide the right environment to pick and choose and really personalize it.
Shavuot, which fell on Thursday evening through Saturday of last week, was chosen because it’s an important – yet often overlooked – holiday on the Jewish calendar. By bringing it to the forefront like this, Jewish communal professionals have a better chance of reaching a population that is looking for something different, an alternative Jewish experience that will help lead to deeper engagement.
Still, we believe the unique aspect of our “Up All Night” Program – holding the event in secular venues – is an aspect more organizations should emulate if they truly want to share their Shavuot programming with a less affiliated audience.
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