Let's Turn Jewish Practice Into Something Competitive

Getting Creative To Find Ways Get People Back to Religion

Jew-Man: Would more people practice Judaism if they could play it like a game?
Kurt Hoffman
Jew-Man: Would more people practice Judaism if they could play it like a game?

By Noam Neusner

Published February 20, 2013, issue of February 22, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

People would do things to earn rewards, and then compete with each other. Here’s a simple example: If congregations logged their daily minyan attendance and published the data daily, I imagine minyan attendance would go up nationwide. If Daf Yomi, the act of reading a page of Talmud a day, were to be combined with a daily quiz on content and people could compare their quiz scores with those of their study partners, they’d surely focus more each day.

The scolds out there will say that Judaism doesn’t need to be a game or competition and that it offers its own eternal rewards anyway. That’s true, but that doesn’t mean Judaism couldn’t benefit from some gamesmanship.

We know that games work to change behavior and improve insight. For example, people are more likely to lose weight when they are part of a public weight-loss competition than when they do it on their own. Ordinary amateur athletes log their workouts on a website called Strava. Despite the fact that literally nothing is at stake, these people compete as if something were. Lance Armstrong was kicked off the site after he admitted his doping.

And what about Foursquare? I know a handful of people who attach great significance to being the “mayor” of locations important to them. Regular Facebook users value their friend count. Twitter users measure their re-Tweets and new followers. Does it matter? Sure it does. Because people care about it.

The goal is not so much to win as to measure and improve. People attach value to their Facebook friend count because it’s a proxy for their social standing. They value what they can compare, and they compare what they can measure.

What we need is something like Nike’s FuelBand, which measures steps taken, calories burned and so on, but for the Jewish soul. Let’s call it the JewBelt. It could even look like tefillin.

Maybe the JewBelt could measure how often we devote ourselves to moral thought, text study and proper observance of dietary laws. Logging in the data would reveal a chart of Jewish devotion — trackable, shareable and easily graphable.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.