A few years ago, Matthue Roth and I would look around at the Jewish world, the one we had both entered later in life, and we saw all this glorious potential for spiritual art, for creativity that came from the soul. We saw funky Jews everywhere, but their voices seemed quieter than we expected, and we wanted to find something that would help make it louder.
At the time, we thought it was about art. We thought “creativity” was something we’d make happen only through helping other create beautiful things.
But then we launched this thing called Hevria, this weird site that was first started to help funky, creative, out-of-the-box Jews an outlet for their artsiness… and something happened.
It became clearer and clearer that more powerful than any art, than any one expression, or any video, was the community created around it.
The funky Jews of the world are ironically both the most colorful (at least on the inside), but also the loneliest. There is no Greenwich Village for those who wear kipas, tiechels, or who are simply interested in finding the other funky Jews. Creativity happens in pockets, tiny groups of friends.
And so, with Hevria, Matthue and I realized we could create an internet-driven Greenwich Village of sorts. One that was energized by its creativity and art, but ultimately was about anyone that chose to live and partake in the neighborhood.
Over the past two years, this community has grown, it’s evolved, and it’s become something utterly gorgeous. And the crazy thing is that this is just the beginning. The neighborhood is just being built.
As a testament to this change from being an arts site to a community, this year we’re doing our (annual?) fundraiser as an event instead of through Indiegogo (which we did last year). In case you didn’t hear about it, this Thursday, we’re going to have a “creative farbrengen.” It’s something I’ve quietly doing in my home for a bit, a concept that basically attempts to turn art into a communal and spiritual experience, where the artists sit at the table with the “audience” and where there really isn’t any difference between the two.
It’s open to all of you, to anyone that can make it to Crown Heights, and commits to giving to any amount monthly (the site we use requires $10/month, but if you can’t afford that, please reach out to me).
In the spirit of community and all that comes with it, I’d like to share with you a bit of a “behind the scenes” look at Hevria. How we work, how we make things happen, and why we want you, the readers and community members, to be even more involved.
Below is a list. It’s a list of things you may not know about Hevria. But they are what make Hevria tick, they are the engines that move us. And we want you to know about them.
Welcome, my friends, to a deeper connection with Hevria:
1. All Hevria writers write for free
This surprises a lot of people. But it’s the case. In fact, just about all work done for Hevria is either volunteer or done at cost.
That’s because Hevria is essentially trying to create an entirely new movement, one that is not currently supported by the “establishment.” We are, as the cool kids say, a grassroots movement. One that needs to prove itself over and over again before people take us seriously. It is for this reason that we’ve been able to publish things that wouldn’t be published in other places, that we give voice to people who may not be heard anywhere else, and that our community is different than others.
In other words, the writers have made a choice: they’ve offered to sacrifice pay for now until our movement has succeeded. They are not just writers, they are leaders who believe in the specific vision of Hevria, that of a home to all of us funky people. One that moves beyond a website, beyond just some people chatting online, into Greenwich Village.
It’s because of them, because of their commitment to this vision that any of this has been possible.
And yes, to address your question, Hevria does plan to pay our writers. We are doing everything we can to become sustainable, to become strong enough to get to that point. But we see that pay as being the payoff of having finally made such a difference in the world that people want to pay us, as opposed to vice versa.
2. Hevria isn’t a freaking website
We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: the vision for Hevria is not one that lives on the internet. We are a movement, the goal of which is to spread creativity into the Jewish world and beyond.
The engine for that has been the website, but that’s just because it’s the best way to launch such a movement. But until colorful, funky Jews feel comfortable living out their color in the most colorful way possible, no matter what community they exist in, we have work to do. And that means invading the world. Breaking into it if we have to, with a crowbar and prying open whatever closed doors are holding back that color.
That’s why we’re doing our fundraiser as an event. That’s why we’re going to be announcing another event that same day, that will happen a month later. That’s why we’re doing video, that’s why we have Hevriabook, that’s why I do creative farbrengens at my home, that’s why Matthue is auctioning a story away. Because we’re determined to infect you with freedom of expression, determined to inject you with a burning desire to be constructive in a world of limitation, determined to build up achdus among all Jews, but in a way of whacky color instead of the standards we’re used to.
So, if you care about that vision, if you believe in it, please don’t see us as a website. And join us in our invasion.
3. We need you
The above two things necessitate this: we need your participation, we need your voices, we need you.
What I mean by this isn’t just about donating, but about the overall vision of what we’re accomplishing. Since we are “grassroots” and we’re defined by doing what’s “different,” then everyone who participates is essential to our cause. If you submit a guest post, if you give support to someone on Hevriabook, if you come to events, or you volunteer your time, you have become part of the movement. We are not backed by any federation or rich person or trust fund. We are literally nonexistent without you. And every moment is one we need to build upon, or we immediately slip backwards.
So, please, if you feel a draw to participate, do not hesitate. Reach out. To me, to Matthue, to one of the writers, whatever you want.
And yes, we’d love donations. As a small organization, literally every dollar makes a huge difference. So, please consider giving to us, even if you can’t come to the fundraiser. We’re just became fiscally sponsored by Clal, which makes us essentially a nonprofit, so your donation will be tax-deductible.
And if you made it down this far in the post, I’d like to share one more thing about donating with you: if you commit to giving any amount from $10/month or more, you’ll be able to get into all Hevria events for free. We will look for more things to add to this list, but this is the beginning, hopefully, of turning “donations” really into meaning that you’re simply deeply invested in us, and that you’re part of our work. That’s what we want, that’s the dream, and starting today, we’re officially taking that step.
Thank you so much for reading this, for participating, for caring. Hevria has been my dream project since the day Matthue and I dreamt it up, and has exceeded any dream I had before it was created. This is the most glorious place for me to call home, and I hope some of you feel the same way.
Looking forward to seeing you on Thursday, or online, or in the future, or when Moshiach comes and we’re all dancing in our colorful outfits because the funky Jews will finally have found their voice.