Greeting cards are passé: Rosh Hashanah goes digital
As with all traditions, there are still some village elders who hold onto the old ways, but the Jewish New Year has gone digital, big-time.
Remember the way people used to deliver New Year’s wishes on Rosh Hashanah? I’ll explain the ancient rituals for those under the age of 30. You see used to have these items called “cards” - they were made out of paper, signed with a pen, inserted in envelopes with a real stamp on them. Alternatively, there was something called a telephone call, where you would pick up a phone that was attached to the wall with a cord (crazy, I know!) and deliver a cheery verbal ‘Shana Tovah’ phone call to friends and family using an actual human voice.
As with all traditions, there are still some village elders who hold onto the old ways. But make no mistake, they are rapidly disappearing and eventually will probably be relegated to museums of Jewish history.
Rosh Hashanah has gone digital, big-time. Here in Israel, there is a clear hierarchy to New Year’s greetings. The method of delivering the message depends on two factors: how close you feel to the person on whom you are bestowing wishes for the New Year and, probably more importantly, your degree of laziness.
At the top of the technological food chain are e-cards, electronic versions of the old-fashioned kind, individually sent by Email, or Email greetings, with an actual personal greeting addressed specifically to the person to whom it is being sent. These are also getting rarer, though. One is far more likely to receive an Email greeting that has been sent out en masse, with or without a cute cartoon or photo, and even more likely to merely read a long series of posted Facebook or Twitter greetings to all friends and ‘tweeps’ (that’s Twitter-ese for ‘people’)
For the slightly less technologically inclined - or who might know people who aren’t online all day long (are there any left?) mass text messaging is extremely popular: so popular, in fact, that the day before Rosh Hashanah falls, the cellular phone systems are utterly overloaded.
Last year, when Rosh Hashanah came after a summer of social protests against corporate greed, there was a call to boycott Rosh Hashanah texting because such activities enriched the fat cat cellular companies.
What a difference a year makes. Now, with fierce competition among the cellular companies due to regulation changes and cheap unlimited plans everywhere, such a boycott is meaningless in the new cell phone landscape.
But what if you want to make an effort? What if you want to use all this fancy technology, not to make Rosh Hashanah greetings easier, but to send an ultra-cool and memorable message that will buff up your organization’s image?
The answer: a viral video with a catchy-pop anthem greeting the New Year starring happy, shiny Glee-worthy young people. Last Rosh Hashanah’s smash hit, arguably the video that really got the trend going, is Dip Your Apple, the Shakira-inspired performance by The Fountainheads of the Ein Prat Academy, a g. A year after the hype, the video spawned million views on Youtube and a U.S. tour for the group to show off what my Ha’aretz colleague Danna Harman called their “cheerful, cheesy, and yet infuriatingly catchy songs about the Jewish holidays.” Coming right up behind them last year were the Aish Ha Torah rapping and break-dancing yeshiva boys and the preachier offering from the Maccabeats of Yeshiva University the ‘Book of Good Life.’
Interesting, after their Rosh Hashanah splash, and popular Hannukah follow-ups, neither the Maccabeats nor the Fountainheads seem to have released a New Year video this year.
But fear not - others have stepped into the void. After last year, the new offerings are slightly disappointing - there is no “Dip Your Apple” in the bunch. The current Aish video is the treacly adaption of a boy-band tune What Makes Rosh Hashanah Beautiful, featuring a skinny young lead singer who sounds like his voice is going to change any moment.
The song nobody can get away from this year - Carlie Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” was the inspiration for more than one Rosh Hashanah message. There’s the version in French put out by the Jewish Agency’s office in Paris, and the perky rendition by members of a Reform synagogue in Los Angeles, who had some fun transforming the song’s chorus into “It’s Rosh Hashanah! So Call Your Zeyde!”
After you get your fill of mangled cutesy pop tunes, check out my nomination for the coolest yet geekiest Rosh Hashanah video of the year from the Haifa Technion - the Rosh Hashanah Robot New Year Hip Hop Dance Party. Who can you compete with a video in which Nobel laureate Professor Dan Schechtman gets his groove on?
No one knows whether these videos will endure, whether they are a Rosh Hashanah tradition that is here to stay, or in a few years, like all of the holiday traditions, will change with the times.
After all, nothing is immune from reinterpretation by new technology these days. Not even dipping Apples in honey.