Although we've had our fair share of online-only events, JamJews got its start with in-person events creating Jewish community at small festivals. We started in 2019 with the first ever Shabbat Sha-Dome, a pigeons themed Shabbat service attended by 20 people. By the end of the summer, we were adding music and special guests, and had 40 people in attendance.
When the festivals and shows stopped, we didn't. We kept building our community, and provided a crucial outlet for music when gigs were practically non-existent. There were technological struggles that we overcame, and crucial support that came in the form of a launch grant from the Auerbach Foundation and Reconstructing Judaism to help us scale our operation.
And while we intend to continue catering to our online audience, this past weekend confirmed for us that the small festivals are still the home of the JamJews community.
Stone Jack Ball, a 100-person invite-only festival is the best kept secret in the music industry. Located in Lebanon, Maine, the 2nd year jam festival was chock full of Grateful Dead and friendly faces. Throughout the weekend, I connected with people the way you only can face to face - besides dancing hard, everyone felt like one big family and were deeply engaging. There was loads of spiritual energy - from the artists, including a band named Arukah, Hebrew for return to wholeness, and from attendees, where the topics ranged from radical amazement to inclusivity in Jewish communities. I won at Jewish geography, and several times at that.
I met people who had left the Jewish community behind a long time ago, or who were bracing themselves to leave because they felt, for one reason or another, that the Jewish community wouldn't let them be who they truly are.
I made space for that feeling, because I've felt it too. Institutional Judaism, across the movements, needs to do better at making people feel welcome in every aspect of Jewish community.
Thank you to all of you who have donated to enter our art raffle so far - without fundraising, we would not be able to provide the experiences that we do to our community.
If you want great Jewish music by great Jewish artists to be made in a place that focuses on bringing us all together, please put your money where your love is, join your friends and neighbors, and donate to help us hit our goal!
Because the music never stopped, and we don't intend to let it!