“We are creating one portal that includes short and long-form Jewish entertainment, ‘edutainment’ and more substantive quality learning opportunities for any Jew interested in accessing their heritage. All under one umbrella. Think Jewish Netflix-meets-Masterclass-meets-Khan Academy.”
By ELIANA RUDEE
(December 29, 2020 / ) Kosher Network International CEO and founder Jamie Geller was named as Aish HaTorah’s new Chief Media and Marketing Officer over Hanukkah during a live candle lighting announcement viewed by over 100,000 people. She explained that she is now spearheading their new “Global Jewish Media Group” initiative, a large part of Aish’s new stated plan to engage 3 million Jews over the next 10 years—roughly 20 percent of the world Jewish population today, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.
Geller made aliyah with her husband and children in 2012, bringing with her the media empire she founded around kosher food. She views her new position at Aish as the next big step on the same path. She will now work to connect global Jewry, connecting people worldwide with their Jewish heritage and identity through a broad range of content across digital media platforms that will be produced, curated and distributed through one comprehensive network.
In the context of this opportunity to “reach almost every single Jew,” doing so in an increasingly crowded space, the strategy must be to aggregate hyper-targeted verticals around topics such as dating, parenting, food, music, humor and hot-topic issues to reach a wider audience, she maintained.
The initiative will span many platforms, meeting people where they are. One example is the creation of “micro” content—about 30 seconds long—on various platforms so that the content is digestible, educational and inspiring. What is different about this model is that it will be part of a consumer journey that can take a person who is inspired and curious to where they can easily access deeper learning.
“We have taken time during this tough year to reflect, plan, strategize,” said Aish Global CEO Rabbi Steven Burg. “Changes in digital media consumption before the coronavirus pandemic accelerated over 2020, and have created an opportunity, one we see as perfectly aligning with our new strategic vision. New audiences are more accessible and more likely to choose an “easy, non-judgmental and noncommittal way to connect with their Judaism.”
“We are creating one portal that includes short and long-form Jewish entertainment, ‘edutainment’ and more substantive quality learning opportunities for any Jew interested in accessing their Jewish heritage and timeless Jewish wisdom. All under one umbrella,” explained Geller. “Entertainment, Edutainment and Education. Think Jewish Netflix-meets-Masterclass-meets-Khan Academy. All streaming on one multi-tiered platform. It’s an incredibly powerful and holistic 360-degree offering.”
“The first step is getting people to understand that Jewish wisdom can speak to them—to rebrand Torah and Jewish wisdom so people see it as being relevant,” stated Burg. “The next steps are taking classes online and then, connecting the audience to local in-person opportunities, such as local synagogues. If we do our job right, everyone will benefit. It’s not about us; it’s about the entire Jewish people.”
“People are searching for answers to pain points, and that search has been exacerbated during corona,” said Geller. The answers can be found in Jewish learning, she said, emphasizing that “we are People of the Book—seeking out Jewish wisdom for answers is part of our DNA and our soul.”
However, she noted, this is not about encouraging Jews to become religious. “We are connecting people to Jewish wisdom and learning, period,” said Geller.
‘Raise the bar in terms of the caliber of Jewish content’
Part of the goal for the Global Jewish Media Group is to facilitate and empower the content-creating initiatives of others as well. While building a budget and framework to create sufficient content for such a large-scale project, Aish is also looking at collaborations and acquisitions of other, smaller media companies or platforms.
“We are looking to work with and empower the best and brightest stars in the entire Jewish world, amplifying the best of what’s out there, while working with those who have brilliant ideas but need help making them happen,” said Burg.
“We know that others in the Jewish world have started producing some fantastic, creative, out-of-the-box content,” added Geller. “We want to mobilize the entire Jewish world to work together to raise the bar in terms of the caliber of Jewish content produced and disseminated across digital media. We will be seeking pitches, green-lighting innovative concepts and formats, assisting with third-party productions, sharing our platforms and finding as many opportunities for collaboration as possible. Everyone wins if we can help the common goal succeed.”
Following the loss of Aish HaTorah founder Rav Noach Weinberg, z”l, and after 45 years of Jewish outreach and breeding countless initiatives, Aish underwent a multi-year reassessment by Burg with Aish’s new rosh yeshivah, Rav Yitzchak Berkovits.
Geller, whose No. 1 global Jewish food media company has 5 million followers and a billion video views, will oversee the growth of Aish’s existing platforms and programs, the implementation of the new 10-year strategic plan and a commensurate rebranding of Aish and its many initiatives and divisions around the world.
She is working with the rest of the organization to build upon Aish.com’s innovation and success. Launched in 2000, the site quickly became one of the first all-encompassing Jewish websites in the world. With a current average of more than 1 million monthly users and more than half a million email subscribers, it will be the foundation from which the rest of the verticals will grow. At the same time, Geller maintains that the multi-tiered platform is comprehensive and integrated so differently that it will be an industry disrupter.
“With her knowledge and expertise in broadcast and social media, content creation and the ability to reach a mass audience, Jamie Geller is singularly qualified to execute this ambitious initiative,” said Burg. “She is passionate about Aish’s mission and has a proven track record of creating an online community of Jews from all backgrounds, with smart delivery of quality content that is compelling and entertaining.”
“We have never had a woman at this leadership level,” he added, “and hers is a welcome and much-needed perspective.”