Posts Tagged ‘Jewish High Holidays’

Casting Our Sins In To The e-Wilderness

August 29, 2013

This article was first published in Haaretz.


SAN FRANCISCO – If you keep an eye out, you’ll notice a goat wandering around the Internet.

This being the Jewish season of repentance, it isn’t just any goat. It’s an electronic scapegoat onto which computer and smart phone users are unloading their sins in a virtual reenactment of the ancient Yom Kippur ritual described in Chapter 16 of Leviticus.

“I’m too often grateful to get to work and away from my spouse and kid,” confesses one person. “I sexted my ex,” admits someone else. Another individual divulges that they “once ate bacon before the rabbi came over.” One parent apparently only “go[es] cycling with my kids just to get a tan.”

While we may be reluctant to own up to our misdoings, it seems that eScapegoat, a new web app from G-dcast, a fast-growing San Francisco-based Jewish educational media production company, is helping some of us overcome our sheepishness. G-dcast makes self-reflection easy. If you can tweet, then you can atone.

All you need to do is go to and read short texts on the biblical scapegoat story and how it relates to today’s observance of Yom Kippur. Then you enter your maximum 120 character-long confession and post it anonymously. You just type and click your way through the initial stage of atonement. “It’s just like the bible, only nerdier,” the on-screen text tells us.

There is, however, one major difference between then and now. In biblical times, the sins cast onto the scapegoat only went as far as the animal made it in the desert before dying. With this cyberspace-dwelling cartoon goat, our sins could live on forever, having been broadcast out to the world through eScapegoat’s (lightly moderated)@SinfulGoat Twitter feed.

Click here to read more.

@ 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.



September 19, 2010

Grace Coddington on the cover of British Vogue in 1962

For a little diversion seemingly unrelated to the Jewish holidays that dominate the current month, I thought I would treat myself to a viewing of The September Issue. I actually came up with the idea of watching the film as I stood in shul for the yizkor service, thinking about my late Grandma Frances who loved to read Vogue. In fact, I can’t remember a single visit to her home when I did not find the latest issue of the magazine lying around. My Grandma did not really know her way around a machzor, but she sure as heck was familiar with the fashion bible.

As someone always on the lookout for hidden meanings or unusual coincidences, I took special note of the importance that the word “Snowdon” played in both my Grandma’s life of fashion, and that of one of the main figures in the documentary, Grace Coddington, Creative Director of American Vogue. Coddington began her career as a model, first photographed by Lord Snowdon in 1959. My Grandma made regular pilgrimages from her home in the Hampstead neighborhood of Montreal to Queen Mary Road in nearby Snowdon to visit the dress shops.

I’m not sure what my Grandma would have made of the behind-the-scenes high drama depicted in the film. She was from an era that read a pre-Anna Wintour Vogue, the magazine as it was before its editor-in-chief became the arbiter of style, and celebrity and fashion became inextricably intertwined. In other words, my Grandma never heard of the devil wearing Prada.

I have to say, it was kind of fun transitioning so quickly from the serious intensity of Yom Kippur atoning to the dare-I-say frivolous (here, I imagine both Anna Wintour and Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly giving me the evil eye) intensity of fashion make-believe in an office building high above Times Square. Coming off aseret y’mei teshuvah, the Ten Days of Repentance, it’s reassuring to be told decisively by Wintour that,  “[It’s] not about looking back, it’s about looking forward.” She was talking, of course, about fashion, but the same holds for life.

And to those of you who still don’t quite follow the connection I have made in my mind between Yom Kippur and The September Issue, just bear in mind that both involve a big book being written and sealed by someone really powerful.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

High Holiday Primers

August 31, 2010

Believe it or not, it’s already time to prepare for the High Holidays, and there is no dearth of oh-so-clever videos out there to help us.

Click here to see the Rosh Hashanah Rap from Stephen and Joel Levinson, the guys at God & Co. And here is an another example, this one from the crew over at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY:

The real question is whether this is how we are supposed to be getting ready for the Yamim Hanora’im. There’s a lot of stuff out there – like these two examples – that is a mile wide and an inch deep. I’d love to hear your opinions, and your recommendations for similar – or different – videos you have seen along these lines.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.