What is Sugia
Sugia – A new media platform on contemporary issues, using active discourse, harnessing the collective wisdom of Jews and non-Jews around the world.
Sugia fosters vibrant dialogue about the burning ethical and existential issues of our time. It is a new media platform for Jews worldwide to meet and think together.
Ancient texts come to life through their interaction with modern film, art and literature, in an interactive, user-generated experience.
Sugia involves Jews of all walks of life—from the unaffiliated to the religious—inviting them be part of a dynamic conversation facilitated by prominent, thinkers, community leaders, and artists, of our time.
Our project is inspired by the Talmudic tradition of mahloket, a unique invention of our ancestors, who created a mode of constructive debate which bridges rather than builds walls between us.
Our work and Vision
Sugia is a global Jewish organization based in Jerusalem, meets the challenges of the Internet Generation by creating an online forum for a Jewish response to contemporary issues. Using Jewish and non-Jewish texts, new-media and pop culture, these issues are debated within Batei Midrash (learning and discussion groups).
While the Sugia’s infrastructure is inspired by the unique methodology of Talmudic reasoning, our target audience does not have to be familiar with the Talmud. On the contrary, they might have never even heard of it! The platform and content of Sugia is designed to be inviting and accessible to a wide spectrum of users.
Our ambitious goal is to create a “network of networks” of Jewish communities who will connect and discuss with one another, bridging gaps of geography and ideology and eventually creating a Wiki-like version of the collective wisdom of contemporary Judaism.
Sugia will create a dynamic global Jewish discourse that gives rise to a Wiki-like response to the great questions of our time.
The essence of Sugia is its scalability as a “network of networks”. The user-friendly, accessible platform will ultimately serve hundreds of BMs in a multitude of different settings and thousands of participants around the world, creating a curriculum bank for educators and communal leaders.
Each BM will operate autonomously, taping into the wisdom created by the larger community of BMs . Like the Wiki model, Sugia staff will, be sparse and economically efficient . Its task would be a resource training and support center upgrading and maintaining the platform.
Another task of Sugia will be dissemination of its content. For example, in Israel commercial broadcasters have already agreed to devote slots to the exploration of a monthly sugia. Similarly, we will collaborate with content sites as well as other networks such as JCCs, Hillels, summer camps, and Birthright.
we are engaging prominent sages who will not only brand Sugia but will participate in central BM that will distill the best sugyot developed around the network creating a wiki-like “contemporary Talmud”. We believe that this will serve not only Jews in search of meaningful identity, but can become a gift that Judaism offers to the whole world.
Sugia’s innovations are threefold:
1. New Media “Prosumers”
Many Jewish Internet sites use the web as a platform for posting unidirectional material. Although there are some discussion-oriented forums, Sugia realizes the full interactive, user-generated potential of new media, integrating and editing active discussion with written, image, audio, and video material. Sugia empowers participants to choose issues relevant to their lives and to actively create their own sugiot. They become engaged “prosumers”: consumers and producers of content. Here Sugia can complement Keva by extending an online platform to their face to face groups enriching their cultural and issues-based learning.
2. A fusion of resources
Sugia elicits a wide variety of “texts” – including films, art with classical and
contemporary texts – and brings them into dialogue with one another. It enables free movement from Jewish sources to Seinfeld and Shakespeare, and the ability to create an interaction between them.
This fusion of texts sets Sugia apart from other resources. For example, we have agreed with Sefaria to tap their database of classical Jewish texts as one of our resources for our multimedia sugyot.
3. A pluralistic meeting point
A major element Sugia taken from Talmudic reasoning is the dispute (machloket). It does not shy away from conflict. On the contrary, the multiplicity of voices at the heart of Sugia, transforms rigid positions into respectful productive and reflective dialogue.
What did we do already?
Established in 2013, Sugia has raised more than $200,000 in Israel (!) for the Israeli pilots. We have developed and launched an online Hebrew platform, inspired by Talmudic methodology of debate to create a Web Beit Midrash experience where “old media” consumers become “new media” “prosumers” (producers and consumers). Rather than being passive learners, participants become engaged in active learning and spirited discussions on issues such as social justice, bioethics, and modern-day personal and family dilemmas.
To date, Sugia’s main achievements have been:
1) Launching the Hebrew Alpha platform. Following initial pilots, we upgraded the Hebrew software based on lessons learned.
2) Launching seven pilot BMs (Virtual Batey Midrash) in Israel: These pilots have taken place in diverse settings including: schools and adult education (secular and religious), social workers of the Ministry of Social Affairs, and a constitutional rights group.
3) Participants: We engaged 94 participants in ongoing groups and 400 in one-time conferences.
4) “Sages”: We recruited more than 120 experts who have pledged to contribute state-of-the-art resources and opinions to the debated issues. These include Nobel Prize winner Israel Auman, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, Alan Dershowitz, Novelist AB Yehoshua, R. Yitz Greenberg, MK Ruth Calderon, Nathan Englander, singer-songwriter Ehud Banai, and eight Israel Prize winners.
5) Sugiot: We launched 23 Hebrew Sugiot (debate- topics) – including “white lies”, sexual harassment, illegal immigration, and the modern family crisis.
6) Global development: We formed an American advisory board and reached agreements to pilot programs with the Boston Hebrew College and the NYC YCT, institutions which represent the denominational spectrum, and have alumni networks across the US and in a variety of communal leadership roles (educators, rabbis, etc.). We are now making our first steps in Europe: in Britain, Greece and France.