South by Southwest, an annual music and film festival in Austin, Texas, has been around since 1987 yet has managed to maintain its geeky hipster street cred, attracting more than 2,000 artists and 30,000 of the young folk who love them, at its run last week.
The festival in turn, of course, draws those who love the hipsters, like Samsung, which wants to sell them electronics, and tech entrepreneurs who want to network and the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ), which knows it must reach beyond the synagogue walls to reach young people seeking spirituality.
Hence “WAREHOUSE ATX,” the URJ’s first sponsored event at SXSW. Billed as an “alternative Kabbalat Shabbat experience using music and new media,” WAREHOUSE ATX was co-sponsored by the URJ and ROI Community, a network of more than 800 activists trying to redefine Jewish engagement. The musical force behind the event is Josh Nelson, above, a recording artist and performer whose band plays Jewish youth movement conventions, Limmud conferences, Maccabi Games and Jewish community centers across the country. In his latest venture, THE WAREHOUSE, he uses his music to offer a different kind of Shabbat to unaffiliated young Jews in big cities. The SXSW event drew 100 attendees, enough to make the movement consider coming back next year.