Note: This article is a sidebar to a larger article about Moishe House.
‘It’s so cool you could come for Shabbat,” a young woman with wild hair tells the hipster man at her mezuzah-adorned doorway. “Hope you’re ready for your first battle!”
So begins one of three short animated instructional videos aimed at helping Moishe House residents learn or review Jewish blessings and rituals needed for hosting Shabbat dinner, Havdalah and Sukkot.
Funded by the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund, the videos, called “Moishe House Rocks!” are a joint project of Moishe House — the programming hubs for 20somethings — and G-dcast, a startup known for its “Schoolhouse Rock”-like video interpretations of the Torah portion.
In the Shabbat episode, the animated character accumulates points for correctly reciting the various blessings. While he recites them, the transliterated text appears on the screen so that a viewer can follow and practice along.
“There are a lot of people that live in Moishe Houses, and even more that come to Moishe House events, that didn’t grow up with the knowledge of how to lead Havdalah or build a sukkah,” said David Cygielman, the organization’s co-founder and CEO. “Now, they’re not only asked to participate in these rituals, but they’re also leading them, and we learned we have a real duty to them to share how to do this stuff.”
While residents also receive a certain amount of in-person training, Moishe House staff — who begin their weekly Lunch ‘n Learn Torah study sessions by watching a G-dcast episode together — thought instructional videos would be another useful resource.
The videos, in which actual Moishe House residents provide the music and voice talent, are G-dcast’s first project that focuses on the how-to’s of Jewish ritual, rather than on teaching about texts or holidays. It is also G-dcast’s first official collaboration with another organization.
“The primary goal was to give residents a way to practice on their own and get comfortable with leading the blessings,” said Sarah Lefton, G-dcast’s executive director and producer. “But of course they are public videos, open to anyone.”