Mazal Tov to JTA’s director of digital media, Daniel Sieradski, for being picked as one of the Jewish Week’s 36 Jewish innovators under the age of 36. (Who says the competition is always wrong?)
Daniel Sieradski, 29
Founder of Jewschool and Jew It Yourself;
Director of Digital Media for JTA
When Dan Sieradski founded Jewschool.com in 2002, he didn’t quite realize what he was getting himself into.
“We were the accidental roots for progressive Jewish communities,” he says. “We didn’t mean to start a movement. We were creating something that was obviously needed.”
The Web site, a blog with a variety of contributors covering Jewish topics from politics to tradition and culture, had 50,000 monthly readers at its peak and 80 international contributors. As with all variations from the norm, there was opposition, and in the age of the Internet, opposition is ceaseless.
“I’d get phone calls from ardent Zionists at four in the morning,” Sieradski said, recalling those upset by the blog’s critique of Israel policy. He’s had to abandon multiple email addresses due to pointed spam attacks by unappreciative readers. For now, he remains on the board of Jewschool, but has curtailed his blogging.
His new project, Jew It Yourself, an online network providing tools and resources to Jewish individuals and communities to help them engage in Jewish learning on their own, is on hold until it gets a visit from the funding fairy. Among the innovative ideas set for the site is Shul Shopper, a “Zagat meets Wikipedia” for Jews looking for a prayer community to fit their needs. Users would be able to input their criteria and Shul Shopper would match them to a searchable list of possibilities, where they could peruse reviews and ratings as well as a connection to Facebook, which would find other locals with the same preferences. The site would also include an open-source beit midrash, tools for learning how to read Hebrew, and voiceover IP chevruta for the entire spectrum of Jewish communities.
Inspiration: His mom, Jeanette Friedman-Sieradski, a journalist. “Her commitment to pursue justice and fighting for a Judaism that’s inviting, welcoming and authentic has given me a sense of obligation to pursue the same mission.” Strangest job: Working at a golf course as a “garage guy,” loading clubs from car to cart, washing both clubs and cart for the argyle-and-spiked-shoe crowd.
See the full list.