I have found out recently that one of the wonderful things about working for JOI is that you never know what kind of skill set you may be called upon to apply. About a week ago, I had the pleasure of helping out at one of our Public Space JudaismSM programs, which took place here in New York City. These programs usually take place just before major Jewish holidays and are all about bringing Jewish content to where people are (rather than waiting for them to come to the JCC or the synagogue). This particular program was called Hands-On Hanukkah, and the name says it all. At the back of the Barnes and Noble store in Union Square, a crowd of parents and caretakers with young children began to gather, attracted by colorful flyers and a real-life dreidel who happily agreed to have her picture taken with the little ones. There was also a puppet show put on by Yellow Sneaker, coloring of JOI’s Sesame Street-themed Color-Me CalendarSM (thanks to our collaboration with Shalom Sesame), lots of dreidels to spin, and my personal favorite – dreidel origami (you can find several versions online but this is the one we used). I remember loving origami as a kid, and this certainly brought back memories. At any rate, the kids loved them and kept asking for more.
Over the years, Public Space Judaism has a proven record of success. From our research we know that these events have the potential to draw hundreds of participants, most of which “stumble upon” the event as they go about their day, not having planned to participate but drawn to the activities and displays. We know that out of this crowd, dozens (about 25% to be exact) are members of Jewish households (including family members of other religious or cultural backgrounds) who would otherwise have little or no engagement with the Jewish community. The success of these programs highlights the desire of this demographic to participate in the Jewish community; they just need to be given the (low-barrier) opportunity to do so.
Who knew that folding origami dreidels would come in handy in expanding an inclusive Jewish community?!