Let the ‘Jewish Wisdom Ball’ be your guide

“I've always been interested in manifesting creativity, whether it's by making a toy, a company or a poem.”

So when former journalist Rami Genauer got the idea for the ” target=”_blank”>FightMetric, at the tender age of 26. As he describes it, his company “looks at sports performance data in emerging sports, like kickboxing, and uses the information to help athletic organizations collect data on sports performance, interpret the data, and integrate the information into storytelling to help viewers of the sports understand who's winning and why.”

Genauer's intense focus on the “hows” and “whys” of data interpretation offer a glimpse into why he was inspired to create the Jewish equivalent of a Magic 8 Ball — the Jewish Wisdom Ball, named with the help of his older brother, Ezra.

“I grew up with Judaism infused in everything I did. I also tended to hang around with a lot of old Jewish men,” Genauer said.

“My grandfather and his twin brother knew everyone and talked to everyone else. These guys and the group of retirees that they spent time with told the best jokes and always had the best stories. So much of the language that floats through my head is grounded in my time spent with this community.”

Since 2006, Genauer had toyed with the idea of a Jewish Magic 8 Ball for doling out advice in that particularly emotive and somewhat judgmental manner of a bubbe or zayde.

He'd ask family and friends if they'd be interested in the product — take the temperature of the response, and then let it settle for a couple years — revisiting it every so often until, this year, he got an overwhelmingly positive response and decided to try to make it a reality.

Between the relatively new popularity of crowd-funding sites, as well as advances in manufacturing that allow smaller quantities of products to be created at low cost, Genauer realized he could test out his product on a much smaller market without risking too much money.

This is a description of the product on the Kickstarter campaign site:

The Jewish Wisdom Ball has 6 positive answers, 6 negative, 6 inconclusive, and 2 that can be read either positively or negatively depending on your mood. In addition, fully 40 percent of the responses are phrased in the form of a question. For example, 'So now you need my help?' ”

Genauer's personal favorite of the twenty possible answers is “Feh.”

“There's just so much packed into those letters. It embodies an attitude and emotion that is Jewish in so many ways, and yet there is no good English translation.”

To publicize his product, Genauer also tapped into the 'gig economy' to create publicity materials for his Kickstarter campaign, a distinctly Millennial choice. He found a woman on Etsy to do a mock-up of the final product, he found a local photographer on Groupon to shoot his publicity photos, and a man Genauer found on Fiverr did the voiceover for his promotional video.

“As a former journalist, marketing, technology and art weren't really in my skill-set. With this new economy, I was able to outsource and leverage other people's creativity.”

One thing that's posed a bit of a problem for Genauer is his lack of social media presence.

“I'm actually a social media luddite. I don't have a Facebook, a Twitter account or a LinkedIn profile. What I'm realizing is that something like this either succeeds or fails based on whether or not you get it in front of people. Without my own social network, I have to beg friends and family to place my Kickstarter campaign on their personal Facebook pages.”

Although Genauer had never before regretted not being engaged in social media, that changed when he realized it would have been easier to instantly have hundreds of eyeballs on his product by posting about it once. Now, he's found himself sending hundreds of individual emails instead, but it hasn't all been bad.

“As you get further down your email list, you find yourself reaching out to people you haven't spoken to in years. It's a tough sell, 'How's everything? Do you want to spend money [$18, naturally] on a Jewish version of a Magic 8 Ball?'”

To Genauer's surprise, most people were happy to hear from him and willing to help out.

Genauer is aware that his product, a tchotchke by his own description, won't change anyone's life.

“I just hope it will make people smile.”

To learn more about the Jewish Wisdom Ball and contribute to Genauer's Kickstarter campaign, visit: 

Hipster care package startup sets Jewish Kickstarter record at over $70K

A hip Jewish care-package project says it has become the most successful Jewish campaign ever on the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform.

After Hello Mazel reached $70,000, it became “the most-funded Jewish campaign in Kickstarter history,” according to the Kickstarter campaign page launched Friday. The project, which said it plans to send out four packages a year with “the best Jewish stuff,” raised nearly $45,000 in less than one day.

The Day 1 goal for the project, whose leaders include Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, was to raise $18,000.

As of Sunday afternoon, more than 700 people had pledged at least $40 to receive a box whose precise contents are unknown. The campaign, which is slated to continue for 21 days, as of Sunday had 707 backers at levels ranging from “$1 or more” to “$1,000 or more” and has raised $69,503. No one had signed up for the “$5,000 or more” level. Backers must give at least $40 to receive a box.

According to Hello Mazel’s Kickstarter description, the idea was born two years ago at The Kitchen, a “start-up” alternative congregation in San Francisco.

“We thought to ourselves, ‘There’s got to be a way to get more Jewish to more people,’” the description says.

“Why do you need this?” it continues. “Because we believe there is a better, more chic, well-designed, super meaningful way into Jew-Land. And, for once, we’ve got directions.”

While the contents of the boxes remain secret (“Oh, but if we told you, that would totally ruin the whole point, wouldn’t it?”), Hello Mazel promises “plenty of delightfully fun, surprising bits of Jewishness” with “a visual and culinary aesthetic from 2016, not 1974.”

“Hints” about the first box, promised to arrive in time for Passover, will include “3 twists on the tastes of Passover; A Haggadah like none you’ve ever used” and “A seder plate that is not a seder plate.”

The Kitchen’s Rabbi Noa Kushner is also involved in the project, as is the former executive director of Reboot, a network of sorts for Jewish innovators.