Making Jewish Learning Globally Accessible During a Pandemic and Beyond
WGF/DS Alum Dr. Sharon Weiss-Greenberg (Class 20)
There are times when you have the luxury of planning. You have time to methodically process, strategize, set goals with reasonable expectations, outcomes and metrics. Most Jewish professionals have been trained and have aimed to follow best practices accordingly. All of that changed in 2020. We all entered a world of unknowns, uncertainties and certainly a severe gap in the ability to predict or plan.
We are all familiar with the cliche regarding making lemonade out of lemons and we all may recall certain moments or situations where we did just that, but COVID-19 had a ripple effect on every aspect of our lives. It impacted our schools, workplaces, homes, communities and families and pushed us all to the limits in so many ways.
I was lucky enough to be brought into My Jewish Learning at the beginning of COVID-19. While many Jewish professionals question: “Why did we ever think that it was a good idea to go into this career field?” The pandemic was a time when everyone who was able to work in any career was deeply appreciative. Dare I say that those in this field discovered a newfound appreciation for choosing to work as Jewish professionals, because we got to be knee-deep in meaningful work and community when it was so desperately needed. We had the kavod, the honor and the opportunity, to serve in this fulfilling capacity.
I was brought on to a hard-working and extremely supportive team where the culture is one of experimentation: we try new things and while we do our best to ensure success, ultimately, the most important thing is to keep thinking, growing and moving forward. We launched a pilot version of a new platform at the beginning of COVID-19. The platform was meant to serve as a place for all those at home looking for Jewish content, community and culture to have one place to explore offerings and easily access information for registration. For three months we scoured the internet, our connections and our resources to make available the best of adult Jewish educational content. We knew that My Jewish Learning was a hub for a spectrum of users, spanning from those googling about Judaism for the first time to seasoned Jewish professionals. No matter how involved and engaged our constituents, we found that everyone was looking for something to do. They were looking for ways to grow and to develop meaningful connections.
In the pilot phase of what is now known as The Hub, half of the content was our own My Jewish Learning content and that of our other brands including JTA, Kveller, Hey Alma and The Nosher. When we decided to launch a 2.0 version, we transitioned from pandemic mode to focusing on the future.
The Hub is now My Jewish Learning’s central place for finding live online events and learning opportunities to suit your Jewish interests and needs. Partnering with more than 150 Jewish organizations, My Jewish Learning brings you one comprehensive, easy-to-use place to browse events, search for classes on specific topics, and keep yourself busy, entertained, and connected during the pandemic and beyond.
My Jewish Learning had always been an incredible resource for written content, but now it also creates live content that is later available on demand. We felt a camaraderie during the pilot stage and, even in the midst of the pandemic marathon, we took time to pause, reflect and evaluate. In doing so it became clear that we were well positioned to lift up so many other Jewish communities, organizations, content, teachers and people. We could create a space where people could learn, connect and grow.
In my role as director of our partnerships, I have been grateful to be inspired and motivated not only by the My Jewish Learning team, and not only by our audience and constituents, but also by my colleagues from over 150 organizations. I have learned about them as people, professionals, their communities, their struggles and their successes. What is beautiful about this project is that there is no catch. We are all coming out ahead.
2020 allowed us all to be vulnerable together. It allowed us to experiment and take some risks. Most importantly however, it brought us together. While I am confident as I tell potential new partners, “Our hope is that the pandemic ends tomorrow and The Hub is here for many years to come,” I am also hopeful and semi-confident that this experience will bond us all and that the support and collaboration that has emerged also continues for years to come.