Holy Outreach, Batman!

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By Brenda Goldstein

Emek Hebrew Academy has started an innovative campaign through online Jewish fundraising platform Jewcer: Support Emek Kosher Comics for Kids by Kids.

Amazon, the world’s largest bookseller, has little in the way of Jewish comics in its vast library. The Kosher Comics project hopes to change that. “Our idea,” explains the Jewcer campaign “is to put children in Jewish schools all over the world in charge of creating comic books that reflect their own Torah values and unique cultural experiences that will generate a large library of Jewish comics for children on Amazon.”

The Kosher Comics would serve as an innovative outreach tool, as well as provide residual income for participating schools. Rae Shagalov, director of Emek’s Finder Family Library and founder of the school’s new Talent Center model of education, helped to get this exciting project off the ground. “There’s this whole, wonderful new world of apps,” she enthused. “So, we’ve trained and we’re training Emek students to use ComicLife.com and Keto comic creator, and we have a wonderful app called ToonCamera: The camera turns the whole world into a cartoon.”

Shagalov, author of Amazon #1 Bestseller, The Secret Art of Talking to G-d, also directs the gifted program at Emek. Her Talent Center model of education is designed to transform Jewish education through project-based learning, such as with Kosher Comics. She explained that “Another important part of this project is that we’re reaching out to 100 other Jewish schools around the world.”

As a recipient of the Jewish Spark matching grant, the Kosher Comics campaign will receive an additional $1,800 once it raises at least $1,800 from 50 people in 30 days. Jewcer.com, a crowd-funding website has put its support behind the Kosher Comics campaign. Jewcer.com recognizes the value in crowd-funding financing, as witnessed by the public’s participation in platforms like Twitter and American Idol that shows when and where people truly want to support a given initiative.

Jewcer co-founder Amir Give’an explained that adult Jews, not all of whom affiliate with synagogues, have a different connection to Judaism than in olden times. “Our crowd funding says to Jews, ‘We’re not going to create this unless you take part in the process’”. Give’an co-founded Jewcer.com in 2012, with Naomi Leight, in an effort to better connect young Jewish adults to Jewish ideas and causes. Their online fundraising platform works with initiatives from beginning to end, with a more hands-on, mentoring approach than other such platforms. This ensures the best campaign strategy for each project.

The Emek students are being encouraged to integrate their own perceptions of Judaism into the comics they are designing, thereby sharing both their passions and knowledge with other Jewish children. “A person can learn about Shabbat from reading my comic book,” commented a 5th grade student. “Imagine the smiles on the faces of our children when they become Amazon best-selling authors,” reads the Jewcer campaign.

Shagalov summarized her dream, “We anticipate success with colorful, quick, and appealing story lines. Our comics will harness the personal excitement of our forward thinking Jewish Kids and this will create a new interest, curiosity, and connection to Torah, mitzvahs, and Jewish identity for both the creators and receivers.” Shagalov and the Emek students hope to impact approximately 2,500 children and their families in the first year of the Kosher Comics program. They encourage other Jewish educators to contact them, in order to find out how they and their students can participate.

The money donated to the campaign will also help the Emek library purchase three-to-five new Ipads for the students to use as they create more comics, and it will allow them to donate comics to unaffiliated friends and family in public school. It will also enable Emek to produce training videos for other Jewish schools, so that they can join in creating a library of Kosher Comics. “It’s really awesome that we can do such a big thing,” said a 4th grade Emek student.

To donate to and/or participate in this exciting project, please go to: http://jewcer.com/project/support-emek-kosher-comics-for-kids-by-kids.