Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Reboot's 10Q Project for Yom Kippur

Over the past few months, I've been fielding a lot of questions about atonement in the Digital Age. Everyone wants to know if it's kosher to simply post a general apology on Facebook and call it a day. In the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, I talked about whether we can we adequately perform teshuvah (repentance) before Yom Kippur using social networks like Facebook and Twitter? I was quoted in a Jewish News Service (jns.org) article about Yom Kippur atonement in 140 characters or less.

This is nothing new. We've been discussing whether text messages, social media updates and tweets are viable forms of performing repentance during the Jewish High Holidays since they became available forms of communication. These same questions came about after the telephone, fax machine and email were invented. I maintain that for real repentance to be performed we have to seek out individuals. If face-to-face communication isn't a possibility, than using any form of modern communication will suffice, but generic posts on social networks just doesn't cut it.

Yom Kippur - Twitter - Atonement - Rabbi Jason Miller

While technology might not have revolutionized how we Jews perform repentance, there have been some wonderful technology-related contributions to the spiritual experience during these Days of Awe. One of my favorite innovations is Reboot's 10Q project.

Ben Greeman launched 10Q back in 2008 and Reboot picked up the project two years later. The aim of 10Q is to help Jewish people find more meaning in the Yom Kippur atonement experience. "We tried to let people tap back into tradition, but without feeling like they have to pass an entrance exam," Greeman explained.

For the ten days leading up to Yom Kippur, which begins this evening, participants were able to answer a question a day. The Reboot 10Q website explains the process:

10 Days. 10 Questions.
Answer one question per day in your own secret online 10Q space. Make your answers serious. Silly. Salacious. However you like. It's your 10Q. When you're finished, hit the magic button and your answers get sent to the secure online 10Q vault for safekeeping. One year later, the vault will open and your answers will land back in your email inbox for private reflection. Want to keep them secret? Perfect. Want to share them, either anonymously or with attribution, with the wider 10Q community? You can do that too.
Next year the whole process begins again. And the year after that, and the year after that. Do you 10Q? You should.

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."

“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.”

For the past seven years, Reboot's 10Q has been an ambitious online effort to reverse the trend of living only for the moment that has crowded out the ancient Jewish ritual of atonement. 10Q has attracted an ecumenical, multi-generational audience with participants ranging from teenagers to grandparents. Although the project is rooted in the Jewish idea of repentance 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.”

"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.”

Modern technology is a true gift, but some things, like performing repentance before Yom Kippur, is still best done the old fashioned way -- face to face in real life. Reboot's 10Q project, however, is a wonderful example of how we can find other ways to use the Internet to add meaning to the High Holiday experience.

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