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    1. What is the goal of YouthCon?
    The goal of YouthCon is to get everyone in the same room to continue a conversation about informal Jewish education. No matter what organization, school, shul or youth group you belong to, there will be something for you to learn and gain at YouthCon. 



2. Has YouthCon changed since last year? 

Based on the feedback we received last year, we changed the format. We understood that people gained the most from networking so we’ve made the schedule far more fluid. We have 15-minute multi-media sessions so people have the opportunity to hear more speakers and meet with their fellow educators. This year we’ll also have a Service Center where one-on-one mentoring will be available. The Service Center will also be offering practical tips on how to maximize your website and improve your presence on social media networks. 
Personally, I’m really excited about Sparks, which is our version of TED Talks. Speakers will have six-minutes to give over the newest and most innovative ideas in Jewish education. 


3. What at you most looking forward to at YouthCon? 
I’m most looking forward to the the energy in the room. The excitement of walking in and finding 500-like-minded people in the same room that are going to have meaningful and thought-provoking conversations. 
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Rina Emerson is the director of YouthCon and the Assistant Director of Institutional Advancement for the Orthodox Union.  For any questions about YouthCon contact Rina at emersonr@ou.org

 
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1. How did you get involved in Jewish education? 
I grew up a very assimilated Jew in Toronto, and worked in advertising, but in 1985 came to Israel on the Jerusalem Fellowships, a 6-week study and tour program founded by Aish HaTorah.  I stayed for a year.  In the second year I met my husband who is an Aish HaTorah rabbi and we moved to be part of Aish in Toronto.  There I became a Jewish educator, and together we founded The Village Shul, a vibrant outreach community in Toronto's Forest Hill. Then I began to write books, and over the years became an international speaker.  I always say that I am still in advertising, I just have a better product.
 

2. What was your most memorable moment as an educator?
Although I have spoken all over the world in front of many audiences and dignitaries, this past May I spoke at the Aish World Center in Jerusalem for the cast of the television show, "House".  That was cool.


3. What are you most looking forward to at YouthCon?

I am excited to be part of an event that will inspire those who are inspiring the next generation of Jewish leaders (and I also love to eat food that I didn't make). 
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Lori Palatnik is an author, media personality and Jewish educator. She is a much sought after speaker, having lectured in The U.S., Canada, Mexico, U.K., Central America, South America, South Africa and Israel, including featured talks at Yale, Brown and Penn. She is the Founding Director of The Jewish Women's Renaissance Project, bringing 1,000 women to Israel each year on a "Birthright"-like trip for women. Her weekly video blog, "Lori Almost Live" is a popular feature on aish.com, viewed by over 50,000 people each month.

Learn more about Lori's programs at http://www.jwrp.org

 
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1. How has your organization, G-dcast, capitalized on social media?
We have always posted our videos to Youtube and Facebook for free use and comments, plus we tweet about the parsha a few times a week. It's really paid off, as many, many people embed the videos on their own Facebook pages or Twitter streams and we see a very significant piece of our traffic coming in through those channels. People hear about G-dcast through their friends, which is a great cost-effective way for us to get the word out. We also love the way that people discuss the parsha in these comment threads and on each others' Facebook pages.


2. How did you conceive of the idea to start G-dcast?
Basically, I heard a wild story one evening about a man who buried his own leg. It was a diabetes-related amputation, and as it turned out, he was following a very Jewish burial custom about preserving all the parts of the body in one place that is discussed at length in Talmud and other places.

To me, at the time, this was entirely new. I thought, “What? That’s Jewish? Who knew?!” and embarked on a two week research project that took me to a rabbi, a funeral director and a pile of Jewish texts. It was the most Jewish learning I’d done in a decade. And I realized, as a media producer, that this story was a powerful opportunity. Presented as an animation (a medium it seemed custom-made for) it might trigger less engaged viewers to try out some Jewish learning as well.

I partnered with a writer and animator to explore the idea of teaching Jewish ideas through funny little films. We decided to start with the Bible. G-dcast secured pilot funding two years later and launched in 2008 with 55 short films and Teachers’ Guides. We are making "the leg film" this winter!
 

3. What are you most looking forward to at YouthCon?
I am so excited to spend time in person with the actual people out there working with youth. We make films for kids and teens but we spend so much time in the studio sitting at our computers and at mixing boards, etc, that we rarely get to hang out with the people who are actually using these programs to make an impact on young people! Working with educators and kids energizes me so much - I learn so much everytime and always return to my creative process with dozens of new ideas. I remember everyone's faces when I go back to work, and  make newer, better stuff thanks to the opportunity to connect.
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Sarah Lefton is the Founding Director of G-dcast, a fusion of a publishing career (The New York Times, etc), and a passion for Jewish community building (Camp Tawonga, JCCSF, Mission Minyan.) Her last startup was JewishFashionConspiracy, home of the YO SEMITE and JEWS FOR JETER tee shirts.

Sarah was named one of the Forward 50 most influential Jews of 2009, and is a recipient of the Joshua Venture Group fellowship for Jewish social entrepreneurs. She was a guest of the Obamas at the White House Jewish Heritage Month reception.


See her videos at www.g-dcast.com