Though Eli Horowitz has only been on the jam band and festival scene for a couple of years now, she has taken a participatory role in the community. An attendee of rabbinical school, she is passionate about the Jewish faith and bringing other Jewish music fans together in unique ways. Even though she planned on having JamJews get-togethers and events this now-cancelled 2020 festival season, Eli was quick to adapt and continued to engage the community with Jewish “Artists of the Month” playing live stream sets on the Facebook page. JamJews has recently been awarded a grant to aid in their efforts of uplifting the Jewish community in the jam scene and plans on 6 special live stream events coming up in the near future.

Times have certainly changed since we last talked about JamJews!  I know that you planned on bringing Jamjews to more festivals this Summer, but with the pandemic we have all had to adjust. What have you been doing instead to keep the JamJews community alive?

Things certainly haven’t gone the way that we planned. Like everyone in the jam music community, and in the Jewish community, we’d rather be doing our events in person, in the places that we love with the people that we love.

Since that isn’t possible, we have tried to not only squeak by, but instead expand and improve our offerings to make JamJews more relevant to our community than ever before. We recently spent several months doing some deep learning about the needs of our community and how we could meet them in an innovative way with our new circumstances.

After this visioning process, we applied for and won a substantial grant, which will provide us up to $20,000 to help JamJews professionalize our programming.

How do you choose the JamJews Artists of the Month?

JamJews Artist of the Month is the first online feature that we chose to air – it is the most free form of the offerings we will be developing, and the point is just to highlight the amazing lesser known Jewish artists we find all the time, and get them out to a larger audience.

We have an application for any artist that wants to get involved in our Artist of the Month residency or any other aspect of our programming – we welcome everyone to apply, and would especially love to expand our offerings and feature artists who are women, people of color, LGBTQIA+, or from other marginalized communities! If you’re interested, please fill out this form!

Tell us about the grant that you received for JamJews, who is it from and how did you get selected?

We have been so honored to receive a Launch Grant from the Auerbach Foundation, a project of Reconstructing Judaism, one of the major movements in the Jewish world today. You can learn more about the Auerbach Foundation grant, and the othrecipients right here! It was open to rabbinical school students from across the country, and focused on the most innovative programs to adapt and thrive during a prolonged public health crisis. We heard about the grant while participating in a class focused on Spiritual Entrepreneurship, which helped us analyze what the essential elements of JamJews were, and how we could formalize its structure to better serve our community.

What are the stipulations of the grant?  You mentioned that they would match a certain dollar amount that you were able to raise? Will you be running a kickstarter or gofundme?

We received a total of $20,000, but conditioned on us being able to raise an additional $10,000. If we only raise $5,000, we only get $10,000 from the grant. So it is super important that we get community participation to help us reach the full potential of this opportunity. We will be setting up an indiegogo campaign, with opportunities to buy merch including JamJews pins, prints, and other art, all with a Jewish spin. We will be getting some of the art signed by some prominent Jewish Jam musicians as well! There will be an option to just donate as well, if you just want to support the making of great art!

What do you plan on using the grant money for?

There are a lot of exciting opportunities that have opened up to us because of this grant. We will be using some of the money to upgrade our audio/visual equipment, as well as the software we need to properly mix and livestream performances. We will also be hiring a booking agent and a digital content producer to make sure we get great performances that we are able to capture and show the world in real time.

We will be developing some asynchronous learning courses (recorded lessons) for learning instruments, designed by experiential learning experts from the Jewish world, and recorded by famous jam musicians! These lessons will be reasonably priced, and will be designed so that anyone who wants to participate musically in their community can learn how on their own schedule, using Jewish music as the course material for that learning!

Our staff will also be starting a project primarily focused on helping traditional Jewish communities deliver their own content to their constituents and the wider Jewish world. This digital event production consulting service will be called JudaismLive, and aims to increase the production value of events across the Jewish world.

Still, the bulk of the money will be used to pay artists for creating live music music! Art is essential, and at a time where so many musicians are out of work, we think it is extra important to help support these artists so that they can keep making the music that we all love.

Are there other ways that people can donate or get involved with JamJews?

We are currently looking for more visual artists to create art for the fundraiser, but aside from that, we will be starting a street team to help promote our streams far and wide! We will have lots of events besides our artist of the month stream as well, including Masterclasses, Shabbat-related streams, and more!

You have some livestream events coming up, can you please tell me about these?  What will be taking place during the livestreams?

The livestream schedule is probably the most ambitious and exciting part of the upcoming year for JamJews! Taking place around significant Jewish holidays (but timed so as not to interfere with holiday restrictions on use of technology), these streams will feature innovative collaborations between secular Jewish artists and religious Jewish artists. The goal is create music that inspires, and to help people across our community feel that they can actively participate, learn, and grow from the experience.

Each livestream will have a theme related to the holiday it is associated with, to help guide the artists in creating relevant content.

Our first major stream is coming up during Sukkot, our harvest holiday, on October 6th-7th! Hope to see you there!

In these new and uncertain times how do you stay motivated and keep your faith alive?

The difference between faith and belief, is that faith is rooted in uncertainty. There is so much about the world that we do not know, and can never know. Learning how to operate during disaster, tragedy, and upheaval is part and parcel of what it has meant to be a diasporic people who consistently have found home and shelter in communities of people rather than in a place to find home.

There isn’t an answer for a right way to do Judaism, or for how to adapt to the pandemic and other challenges we currently face. But that is why Judaism is an excellent way to adapt to changes like we have today. No two Jewish identities, or Jewish communities, are exactly alike. We are a people of common questions, not common answers. So we always live pretty comfortably in uncertainty.

What do you hope JamJews can do for the musical community?

We have had people tell us that they have been searching for the kind of connections we offer for a long time. Many people in the jam music community are far flung from any kind of community they can find meaning in. It is why so many travel huge distances to attend even a single show. For many Jews in the jam community, finding a personal and communal practice that is deeply rooted in their own background has been a challenge, for which we hope to be the answer.

We also hope to bring new faces into the jam world from across the country – we are actively working to expand our presence in traditional Jewish communities to help improve their musical offerings and experiences, and show them why the jam music world is not so different from synagogue. Hopefully, this translates into more traditional Jewish communities having members attend festivals, shows, and other events in the jam world.