This fall, Jews for Judaism’s SMARTalks initiative was launched on the USC campus. The pilot event was a tremendous success, drawing more than 100 students and community leaders.
Four renowned experts — publisher and columnist David Suissa, community activist Julie Bram, screenwriter David N. Weiss, and marketing and branding guru Sasha Strauss — gave concise presentations that tied-in their life experience with the importance of critical thinking.
USC Hillel director Bailey London closed the event with a passionate argument that SMARTalks is unique because it advocates for critical thinking skills within a Jewish framework, thereby demonstrating how our tradition is relevant to today’s internet savvy generation.
Broad community sponsorship was received from the Jewish Community Foundation, USC Hillel and Chabad, and the USC Casden Institute, in partnership with 10 other organizations. The feedback we received from the participants was invaluable; we now understand the specific needs of Millennials and that they desire to have conversations within a cohesive community.
#SMARTalks has evolved into a conversational space for Millennials to overcome life’s challenges. Relevant discussions will be hosted on the most prevalent social media platforms, and will be supplemented with live events. Through this approach, we will create a cohesive community which will sponsor and champion purposeful conversations to strengthen Jewish confidence, develop young leaders, and ultimately, engage the unengaged.
#SMARTalks will effectively address Millennials’ most critical questions and assist in finding the answers that they seek, as seen through a Jewish lens. In this context, Judaism can become an established part of their lives.
To drive and shape the program as it evolves, and ensure the program’s success, Millennials will work with us and become an integral part of #SMARTalks. It is our aspiration to transform what began as a series of thought-provoking events into a passionate Jewish movement.