Last night marked the 3rd week of the University of Jewish Learning – our new Monday night program. It’s been really wonderful so far – new faces, a room full of people participating in One-on-One learning, people shmoozing and eating delicious food, really great classes and workshops which have been getting such great responses. Between the two class slots, we had a real treat – live jazz, and it added such a lovely dimension to the evening. This particular slot is one of the funnest parts of UJL, please each week, it’s totally different. This coming week, we’ve invited Elad Nehorai – the writer behind Pop Chassid, to come and speak. I caught up with Elad to find out a bit more about him, his excellent blog and his plans for the future.
Hi Elad! How are you?
Thank G-d, I’m good!
You’re the dude behind Pop Chassid, a pretty compelling blog. How did the blog come about?
Funny you should ask. The idea actually started when my wife and I were on a layover on a flight from Israel and we watched Mary Poppins. I spent the whole time talking about all these Jewish ideas the movie reminded me about, and all of a sudden I had this idea to do a blog analyzing movies from a Jewish perspective. Funny thing was that the more I wrote the blog, the more I eventually veered away from writing about movies. I guess it was worth it to get the ball rolling on my writing in the public sphere.
The title of the blog is pretty catchy, and does seem pretty self-explanatory. Is Pop Chassid also a persona of yours? Does it express an idea about a way of living or being?
You know, it’s funny. Again, it started off as just a way to describe my idea of combining movies and Judaism. But interestingly, as the blog evolved, it did kind of take on its own meaning. I suppose now it means something like… I try to be a chassid but I also relate to the mainstream. I dunno. I guess the truth is that I let my readers make those decisions.
Your style of writing stands out in the sea of Jewish bloggers. Is this something you’re very mindful of?
You know, I don’t really set out to be different. My goal is to be honest, and if that makes my writing stand out, great.
Pop Chassid also has a Facebook group, and your posts generate a lot of dialogue. Do you feel a Pop Chassid community emerging? If so, is it one that could translate to real life community?
There are already communities that reflect that sort of thing. Because of all the baal teshuvas (those who’ve embraced Jewish observance in their adult years) making their way into the religious community, and the religious community becoming increasingly open to a creative culture in their ranks, I’ve seen more and more official (and not so official) “Pop Chassid”-type communities popping up.
And what are your thoughts about creating change within Jewish communities via blogging/social media platforms?
I talk about change a lot on my blog. I think change is a tricky thing. Lots of bloggers, writers, artists, whatever, like to think that they can create change just by having a big audience. I don’t think that’s how it works. I think real change happens by changing people from the inside. Turning their guts inside out and making them look at the world from a different angle. And that happens slowly, like the drop of water Rabbi Akiva saw transform a rock. That’s the only way change really happens. I’d like to create change. I’d like to transform the way people look at things… but I’m not interested in a revolution or in changing the outside world. I want to change people.
How does your readership affect how you write and what you write about?
You know, when I first started writing for places like Chabad.org, and even when Pop Chassid originally started, I tried to keep the audience out of my mind. I thought that it would affect my integrity or something. But I think the real reason Pop Chassid started to succeed was because I realize that a blog, at the end of the day, is a community. It’s not a magazine or a diary or anything else. It’s a place where the community is just as much a part of the blog as the writer. Maybe even more so.
Are you working on anything exciting at the moment? We’d love to hear about some of your plans for the future!
Hmm. Lots of things, actually! I’m working on a memoir that’s taking me way too long to finish. I’m writing a book proposal for another idea I have. I’m also working full time at a start-up whose goal will be to help charities reach their fundraising goals. Lots of fun things happening, thank G-d.
Any thoughts about blogging and commerce? Can you make a living from blogging, and if so, can you retain your own voice while employing advertising?
Oy. Honestly, I am the worst with money. I just wish I could write and write and money would flow into my pocket, but I guess it doesn’t work that way. I just put ads up on my site for the first time a few weeks ago, but besides that I have no idea how to make money from blogging. Maybe I’ll know one day.
My advice to people looking to make money from blogging: do it because you love it, not because of money. There are a lot smarter ways to make money than by writing or blogging. If it makes you money somehow, awesome.
What can we look forward to hearing you speak about when you come to UJL?
I’m gonna try to give over my idea of living a life with a mission. I want to shake people up and get them thinking about why exactly they were put on this earth. I hope it helps!
Come here Elad speak at UJL on Monday May 20 at 7.45 – 8.15pm. The University of Jewish Learning is a weekly project of the Aish Center, featuring food, entertainment, and a whole range of learning opportunities, including One-on-One mentoring and learning, for a suggested donation of $10. Read more about the UJL schedule here and if you’ve got any questions or suggestions, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.