Important News from Mechon Hadar and Project Zug

Monday, October 6, 2014

Important News from Hadar and Project Zug

Hadar to House Project Zug,
An Internet Start-up Connecting Jews Around The Globe

New York, NY, September 10, 2014. In a move that will dramatically expand the number of Jews in Israel, the US and around the globe connecting one-to-one online through substantive Jewish content, Project Zug—an online learning start-up—is moving in-house to Hadar, a leading Jewish educational institute.

The initiative will now be called: Project Zug: Connecting through Global Jewish Learning, powered by Hadar.

Founded two years ago by American rabbinical student—Benjamin Ross—and an Israeli educator—Hagit Bartuv, Project Zug has achieved considerable start-up success, pairing more than 200 people of diverse backgrounds for weekly online learning sessions. Hadar offers Project Zug a home in a premier Jewish learning institution, access to visionary leadership, and a base of alumni and organizational partnerships which hold out the promise of increasing Project Zug's reach from hundreds to thousands of participants each year.

"During my time in Israel I was struck by the dearth of relationships Israelis have with Americans and vice versa," said Benjamin Ross. "Now more than ever, our futures are intertwined and our unique cultures have much wisdom to share—best transmitted in conversation. We now have the technology to bridge that relationship gap through online havruta, face-to-face learning."  Benjamin, who studied Talmud at Hadar in 2012, will remain as a consultant to the project and is currently a rabbinical student at HUC-JIR and a Wexner and Tisch Fellow.

"Project Zug presents Hadar with a phenomenal opportunity to increase the number of Jews committed to learning a broad array of topics, but also—and perhaps most importantly—interested in deepening their relationship with other Jews across the world. Already in 2 short years, Project Zug has broken down many barriers through its unique approach to learning online, and we expect hundreds, if not thousands, more to benefit from this model in the coming years," said Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, Executive Director of Hadar.

"We are delighted that Project Zug, a leader in online learning and grantee of our Global Jewish Peoplehood Committee, is formalizing a relationship with Hadar.  We are confident that Hadar's expertise and dedication to Jewish life and renewal will provide the perfect platform for Project Zug to continue creating and strengthening the bonds between Jews around the world," said Daniel Blaser, chair of the Global Jewish Peoplehood Committee at UJA-Federation of New York. UJA-Federation of New York has recently renewed its grant to Project Zug, thus far totaling $170,000 over two years.

Project Zug's online 10-12 week educational course allows a pair of learners—typically one in Israel and one in America—to learn a topic in paired study. Each session lasts roughly 45 minutes, although participants often expand the time, moving beyond the course's guiding questions. Courses range from traditional topics—such as rabbinic literature and philosophy—to more contemporary subjects, such as cinema and Israeli pop music.  Jews of all backgrounds with all levels of learning from all over the globe participate in Project Zug.  To date Jews from more than 10 countries have used Project Zug as a platform to learn and connect with other Jews.

The courses are taught by leading faculty in Israel and America and curated by the leaders at Midreshet, an Israel-based organization that promotes the study of "Jewish wisdom" in contemporary contexts.  "Co-founding Project Zug introduced us to American and global Jewish communities, as we serve as the hub in Israel. As the online home for text study in Israel we are excited to continue our work on Project Zug with Hadar, a natural home," said Hagit Bartuv, Director of Midreshet.

Rabbi Avi Killip—a recent graduate of Hebrew College Rabbinical School, and a former fellow and rabbinic intern at Hadar—has been tapped to direct the project day-to-day. "The combined power of Project Zug and Hadar offers an incredible opportunity to build meaningful relationships between Jewish around the world, and I am excited to move this project forward."

In the next few years, Project Zug aims to grow its course library, as well as invest in technology to synthesize its platform of online learning. Ultimately, with the support of Hadar, Project Zug aims to engage thousands of Jews across the world in learning and one-to-one relationships. "We see the broad potential of this project," said Rabbi Kaunfer. "As the face of global Jewry changes, we hope to be a binding force in partnership with communities and organizations around the world."

To register for classes being offered by Project Zug this Fall, please click here