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Going Digital for Repentance

Going Digital for Repentance

Robin Chotzinoff reflects in the August/September 2010 issue of Hadassah Magazine about how she observed the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah (the ten days of repentance) last year by answering a series of e-mail questions from 10Q. Ben Greeman, who launched the project in 2008 explains that "we tried to let people tap back into tradition, but without feeling like they have to pass an entrance exam."

The 10Q Web site locks all answers in a virtual vault that reopens three days before the next Rosh Hashanah. That is when participants receive an e-mail containing last year’s written record. Then the ten questions begin arriving again, via email, Facebook or Twitter.

Nicola Berman, a 10Q co-creator said, "It comes from a deeply Jewish place, but it’s an experience anyone can have. I’m proud of the fact that we have Christians in Texas and atheists in Ireland telling us they got so much enjoyment and solace out of this experience."

This year, Reboot picked up the 10Q project and launched it on September 8. Even Harry Potter’s Tom Felton (aka Draco Malfoy) and Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) of "Glee" participated in the 10Q project this year.

For ten days (from September 8-18), a series of ten questions will be projected each day on the PRNewswire Jumbo-tron in Times Square in New York City, on PRNewswire’s screens on the Las Vegas Strip across from the Wynn and the Palazzo hotels, and on a roving billboard from San Francisco to Silicon Valley and Sonoma. The questions, about life, goals, the future, relationships, your place in the world and more, are designed to stop people in their tracks, and direct them to the website,, where the questions are hosted.

“For thousands of years, the Jewish High Holy Days, the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, have been a time of introspection and reflection,” says Greenman. “But it has a broad appeal because everyone needs time to pause and think. We want people, all people, to reflect on the present because that will help to bring the future, everyone’s future, into focus.”

10Q is an ambitious online effort to reverse the trend of living only for the moment that has crowded out that ancient ritual. It is an experiment to see what happens when these questions of reflection are brought to the frenetic life in places like New York, Las Vegas and San Francisco.

10Q, is a partnership between Nicola Behrman, an LA-based screenwriter, Greenman, a New Yorker editor, and Amelia Klein, program director of Reboot, a Jewish cultural organization that seeks to reinvent and re-imagine Jewish rituals and traditions. The website, launched in 2008 has already become a national sensation. The site garnered more than 30,000 visitors during the ten days in 2009 and drew press coverage from the likes of The New York Times and USA Today.

10Q attracts an ecumenical, multi-generational audience with participants ranging from teenagers to grandparents. Although the project is rooted in the Jewish idea of ethical wills and reflection, teshuvah and occurs during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it has attracted people of all backgrounds and denominations, including Catholics, Episcopalians and Buddhists. One anonymous participant commented: “I’m Jewish, but more culturally than theologically and so I found this resonated perfectly with my trying to draw meaning and significance out of the rituals in ways that apply to my life.”

The 10Q questions are not religious in nature; they are for anyone interested in pondering their world. They are about your place on the planet, and the planet’s place within you.

"Sifting through the public entries from last year, we realized that 10Q is the complete antithesis to Facebook,” Behrman said. “Instead of trying to prove that life is wonderful, that everything is going great, people are incredibly honest in their 10Q entries. Fears about work, sense of self, loneliness all come out through their answers to the 10Q questions and it’s surprisingly uplifting to see. You read them and think "Wow, I’m not the only person in the world who feels nervous when I walk into a room of people or criticizes myself too much." It’s utterly liberating." she commented.

This year’s questions range from the personal to the communal, from family issues to global events.

Last year, New York Gov. David A. Paterson responded to a question about what he would have changed from the previous year, saying: “I would have embarked on a campaign to educate the public about how stimulus money affects the state budget, so that all New Yorkers would understand how we were able to keep state spending flat when it appeared that there was a substantial increase due to the addition of federal stimulus dollars.”

The 10Q project resonates with a wide variety of people and was used by a documentary filmmaker, who asked the 10Q questions as a transformative exercise for death row inmates (and their families) before they were executed, and by a social worker with a mental health group she runs at her clinic. The project can also facilitate intergenerational dialogue with families organizing conference calls to discuss their daily responses.

"Our attentions have been fractured, scattered and divided across so many channels, apps and tweets that it’s virtually impossible to stop and take it all in,” said Lou Cove, Executive Director of Reboot. “The 10Q project is an invitation to slow down and reflect on what really matters to you.”

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