by Sean Thibault
Jews young and old are searching for innovative and contemporary ways to explore their heritage. Reform congregations have been experimenting with different liturgical melodies for years, and urban minyanim experiences like the Riverway Project in Boston are fostering new and dynamic worship and learning experiences.
WAREHOUSE ATX, March 15th at the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in Austin, TX, is an alternative Shabbat experience using music and new media produced by ROI Community member Josh Nelson in partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism. The Warehouse seeks to reengage young Jews by hosting Shabbat events in unconventional spaces.
WAREHOUSE ATX marks the latest in a concerted effort to expand our reach to those Jews with whom traditional community experiences do not resonate, but to whom the values of Reform Judaism – diversity, equality and modernity – are a strong contemporary spiritual framework.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, has been responding to these trends with visionary initiatives, such as the Movement-wide B’nai Mitzvah Revolution (an effort aimed at reimagining the rite of passage for 21st century Jewish engagement) and “communities of practice,” congregational networking groups devoted to experimenting with new models for synagogue financing, early childhood engagement and more.
Building Jewish community at events such as SXSW—a “unique convergence of original music, independent films, and emerging technologies,” according to its website, that draws tens of thousands of attendees—is a natural fit for a partnership between the ROI Community and the Reform Movement. As an international network of more than 800 activists and change makers in 50 countries who are redefining Jewish engagement, ROI Community is helping to build Jewish identity and community. Likewise, the Reform Movement provides a living Jewish experience for a diverse and vibrant community. Together, this confluence sparks opportunities for Jewish peoplehood for the future, and builds bridges to Jews at SXSW who might not otherwise have had a taste of modern Reform Judaism.
Remixing traditional community experiences at SXSW among creative professionals is the ideal incubator for innovation in Jewish life. Indeed, where better to experiment with new ideas and forge new connections than at a cutting-edge arts festival, chock full of young, modern Jews devoted to personal and professional creativity? If you’re at SXSW – be sure to drop by WAREHOUSE ATX.
Sean Thibault is the Communications Director at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.