Episode 23: Hello Mazel - Noa Kushner and Yoav Schlesinger

The Kitchen, an emergent Jewish spiritual community in San Francisco, made waves earlier this year when they launched their Hello Mazel initiative -- a "quarterly box of Jewish stuff" sent to people's homes, which quickly became the most-funded Jewish Kickstarter project ever and reached thousands of people across the country. Dan and Lex welcome two of its leaders -- Rabbi Noa Kushner and Yoav Schlesinger -- to explore what The Kitchen is, to understand its goals and methods, and to find out how Hello Mazel came to be.  [1]

Rabbi Noa Kushner and Executive Director Yoav Schlesinger of The Kitchen.

Rabbi Noa Kushner and Executive Director Yoav Schlesinger of The Kitchen.

Image Credit: The Kitchen

Image Credit: The Kitchen

(0:01 - 13:14): Noa Kushner walks us through the origins and evolution of The Kitchen, focusing on San Francisco's low Jewish affiliation rate (even lower than much of the rest of the United States), and she lays out The Kitchen's mission to do everything in its power to reach segments of San Francisco's Jewish population who did not find available options compelling. In doing so, she emphasizes the importance of both communal events and individual experiences, along with describing the Jewish world's general tendency to prioritize the former over the latter.

(13:15 - 26:39): We learn why "The Kitchen" was chosen as the name for the organization. Kushner and Schlesinger explain why they've chosen not to acquire any real estate, along with their process for determining the locations of their various events. We learn about the process The Kitchen went through with IDEO, a design firm, to determine long-term vision and strategy. [2]

(26:40 - 43:45): Schlesinger walks us through the thinking behind Hello Mazel, a national initiative that The Kitchen launched earlier this year with great success. [3] He talks about some of the items included in Hello Mazel's first box, released this past Passover, and Dan and Lex recount how they utilized them at their own seders. We also explore the extent to which Hello Mazel exemplifies a new focus on homes as the loci of Jewish experiences -- potentially displacing Jewish public spaces like synagogues and Jewish community centers. [4]

[1] To learn more about The Kitchen, visit www.thekitchensf.org, and to explore Hello Mazel you can visit www.hellomazel.com.

[2] To learn more about IDEO, the design firm The Kitchen worked with, view an episode of Nightline in which they were featured by clicking the video on the left.. 

[3] Read more about the record-breaking success of Hello Mazel in this JTA article, and watch the video that launched Hello Mazel by clicking the image directly below these notes.

[4] In discussing the shift towards homes as a locus for Jewish life, Kushner mentions the Chavurah movement and the Jewish Catalog that has come to symbolize much of its work. You can learn more about the Chavurah movement here, and purchase the first Jewish Catalog here.

 
 
Image Credit: The Kitchen

Image Credit: The Kitchen