Feel awkward about your lack of Jewish knowledge? Wanna learn the basics?
G-dcast has you covered.
Founder and Director Sarah Lefton and her team have brilliantly created meaningful Jewish screen time for both children and adults.
Launched in 2008 with animated stories of the Torah told in 55 four-minute episodes, G-dcast has quickly become the online resource for Jewish literacy. To date, they’ve made 165 YouTube videos (with nearly 2 million views) and 13 apps. G-cast is seen and used around the globe!
Sarah and I met for coffee recently and chatted about all things G-dcast.
I’d love to hear how G-dcast was born? What inspired you?
I grew up in a very small Jewish community in South Carolina, and we were very involved as a family in everything the synagogue had to offer. My dad was president of the congregation, I went to religious school for ten years, I had a Bat Mitzvah, Confirmation, I went to Jewish summer camp, I was on the SEFTY board, I went to Israel…you know, everything! But it wasn’t until I was 22 and invited to a Shabbat dinner on the Upper West side of Manhattan with a group of people who had grown up very differently than I had (at day schools in big cities) that I found myself feeling Jewishly illiterate.
As a very well-educated and culturally literate person in general, I found this really embarrassing, not being able to say anything about the Torah portion of the week—and or even who the major characters in the stories were.
I was a new media producer at a New York ad agency. It was perplexing to me that there were no resources online for someone like me who wanted to reconnect with her Jewish roots. I had the know-how to create online resources, and the fervent belief that the Jewish world needed a Schoolhouse Rock-type resource!
Eventually, I met a great pair of collaborators—a creative yeshiva bachur and an animator, and together we dreamt up this crazy project and started animating the Torah portion in real time, week by week, back in 2008. It was an absolutely insane idea that we did on a shoestring, and it’s crazy to me that 2 million people have watched these videos today!
When you first began, did you imagine it would take off as much as it has? Why do you think G-dcast has resonated with so many?
NO WAY!! We were doing this project for twentysomethings like ourselves who wanted to learn about their roots. We were totally stunned when religious school teachers started emailing us and saying, THIS IS SO GREAT! But can you tone down the language, so I can show my six-year-olds? What a surprise that was.
I think that G-dcast’s secret sauce is its relaxed style—in the audio and in the visuals. We’re light and funny and accessible. We’re not everything to everyone. We aren’t going to teach you high-level text analysis. We’re not going to be the Khan Academy. We’re not going to teach you Hebrew. But we are a comprehensive multimedia introduction to Judaism that’s very engaging and bite-sized…just the right amount for a quick bite here and there.
What new projects are you working on? What are your goals for G-dcast in the future?
We are hard at work right now on an exciting new website for preschoolers and their parents. Think of it as G-dcast Jr. We’re working on a new name as well! The site will be anchored by a new animated series, think Peppa Pig meets Peg + Cat meets Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. We’ll also have short videos designed for adults that share practical ways Jewish ideas can make parenting choices more meaningful.
On the just-for-adults side of things, we’re developing lots more content for our Lifecycles series. We just launched twenty-one videos about birth, marriage and shiva rituals, and we look forward to rounding out that library with more content about conversion, adoption, surrogacy, divorce and mourning in the Jewish tradition. The big picture is that we’re aiming to become a comprehensive multimedia introduction to Judaism—your go-to place for the basics. I’m so excited we are now the website that didn’t exist 7 years ago!
Tell me about what you’ve created for Chanukah?
I encourage everyone to take a peek at our episode about the basics of the holiday. It’s a holiday that on a very very basic level is about standing up for what’s unique and different about ourselves. The video talks about what Chanukah actually commemorates, why we light candles and why it matters today. Plus there’s a free mp3 download of an incredibly catchy song that’s a great holiday message for kids!
Chag orim sameach! (Happy festival of lights!)
For more information visit the G-dcast website.