Rituals play very important functions in human societies. Marking a life transition or a holiday, through a ceremony, can create a space to acknowledge feelings, values and relationships. Jewish culture, an ancient culture, is rich in tested wisdom. In recent centuries, many Jewish communities have created a reality of widespread perceptions regarding what constitutes an authentic ritual and what is a true and valid observance according to Jewish law and religious authority. Many times, the concern for the 'correct' way to perform a Jewish ceremony detracts from the potential of a personal connection, social gathering and overall value that the ritual is meant to instill.
Jewish UX is a framework that applies 21st century user experience theories and practices to Jewish rituals; it allows people to creatively develop their own meaningful way of celebrating Jewish rituals while still honoring traditional practices. This new paradigm attempts to create a user-center mindset when approaching Jewish life cycle ceremonies, holiday rituals and experiences.
The Jewish UX framework invites Jewish practitioners and non-professional individuals to consider four organizing categories when designing a Jewish experience:
1. Usefulness: The ritual needs to be useful for the user by meeting their emotional/spiritual needs and/or by creating relevant meaning and purpose.
2. Accessibility: The creation process of the ritual and the ritual itself must be easy to find, easy to implement and feasible in terms of finances and time commitment.
3. Intuitiveness: The creative process should invite the creator to lead the experience design in a way that feels authentic with a strong internal engine supported by external tools. The ceremony itself should feel natural, intuitive and ideally minimize the need for explanation and instruction.
4. Aesthetics: The ritual should take in account the sensory part of the experience: Visual matters, sound matters, smell matters, ritual structure and flow matters. All performative elements must be intentional. They all serve the purpose of the ritual and the needs of the user.
We are excited to invite you to join a journey of research, experimentation and prototyping! As a group we will explore ancient Jewish rituals, their historical, sociological and Halachic (Jewish law) roots, conduct experiments using the new UX approach and celebrate our exciting new creations as a group!
The sessions take place bi-weekly on Wednesday evenings from 7:30–9:00 pm. You're welcome to sign up for the full course, one unit or individual sessions!
Unit 1: Introduction + Hanukkah
1. October 11, 2023 | Introduction to the Jewish UX framework
2. October 25, 2023 | Hanukkah: Which story are you choosing?
3. November 8, 2023 | Hanukkah: What if the ritual focuses on ME?
4. November 29, 2023 | Hands-on Hanukkah laboratory
5. December 13, 2023 | Hanukkah UX Celebration
Unit 2: Shabbat
6. January 10, 2024 | Introducing the Shabbating concept
7. January 24, 2024 | Remember? Keep? How about Embrace or Immerse?
8. February 7, 2024 | Shabbat: What if the ritual focuses on ME?
9. February 21, 2024 | Hands-on Shabbat laboratory
Unit 3: Passover and UX for Cultural Jews
10. March 6, 2024 | The Passover story as never before told
11. March 20, 2024 | Passover Seder: What if the ritual focuses on ME?
12. April 3, 2024 | Hands-on Passover Seder laboratory
13. April 17, 2024 | Passover UX Celebration
14. May 8, 2024 | Jewish UX for Cultural Jews: What have we discovered through our journey?
The program is developed and facilitated by Tova Birnbaum.
Tova Birnbaum is the Director of Jewish Content at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, California, and a Senior Jewish Education Specialist at the JCC Association. She is also a faculty member in the Mandel Educational Leadership Program at the Mandel Institute for Nonprofit Leadership. Tova was born in B'nai B'rak, Israel, in an Ultra-Orthodox home, and was one of the founders of the BINA Secular Yeshiva in Tel Aviv, where she was a faculty member for many years. She also served as the Central Shlicha (emissary), Director of the North America Region of the World Zionist Organization.
Tova is a Judaic studies teacher, theater midrash workshop facilitator and a secular Jewish life cycle ceremonies officiant. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School in Palo Alto. Tova holds a bachelor's degree in psychology and Jewish philosophy from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a master's degree in theater from Tel Aviv University. Tova and her husband, Yishay, live in Palo Alto and are the proud parents of their two daughters, Arya and Talya.
Wednesdays, October 11, 25; November 8, 29; December 13, 2023; January 10, 24; February 7, 21; March 6, 20; April 3, 17; May 8, 2024
Golda Meir Meeting Room (Bldg G) G100
Full series (14 sessions): $130 | Unit (4 or 5 sessions): $45 | Individual session: $12
Contact: Tova Birnbaum | [email protected]