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Next for Project Zug: “significant investments” in technology, according to Ross. “Right now, we do most of the matching of students ourselves after people fill out forms. That’s not sustainable.” With regard to the project’s broader aims, Ross said, “We want to connect institutions as well as people. We’re aiming to help institutions find sister organizations as another component where people can engage.”
And while it is technology that is driving the project’s success, it’s also the project’s “biggest growth barrier,” Ross said. “We want to have a library with hundreds of courses — not just text, but movies, music, the whole spectrum. Everything will have a Jewish lens or component. It doesn’t have to be Torah or Talmud. We just need the right platform.”
In the meantime, it’s the age-old elements of the program that offer the biggest draw.
“It’s our tradition to sit face to face, across a table, and study text together,” said Ross, now in his third year of studies at HUC. “There’s no replacement for looking into someone’s eyes. They say 90% of communication is facial expression, and Jews are highly expressive. Being able to capture that is such a gift.”
Michael Kaminer is a frequent contributor to the Forward.