Jodi Kaufman Sermon – 2nd Day Rosh Hashanah 5776

2nd Day Rosh Hashanah 5776
Jodi Kaufman


It all started with a message on Facebook.

Do you want to go to VidCon?

What is VidCon? I replied.

It’s a convention for You Tubers. Wanna go with me?

Now let’s get one thing straight. At that moment, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t name a single YouTube star. Sure I’ve watched YouTube videos, but they were typically Rosh Hashanah songs, other holiday parodies, videos friends shared on my Facebook feed and the like.

But I never watched a Vlog or subscribed to a channel.

So naturally I replied, Ok, sure I’ll go.

Cantor Reinwald and I registered for VidCon and began months of research. If we were going to go, we had to be prepared. We created our own YouTube playlist and shared videos. We watched endless hours of YouTube and we read about these YouTube “sensations”. We signed up for a lottery for a chance to meet these stars, get autographs and take pictures with them. People like Miranda Sings, GloZell, Tyler Oakley, Louis Cole, Hannah Hart, and Davey Wavey. I consulted my 12 year old son and got his input on who I should try to meet and who I should begin watching. By the way, he was really jealous that I was going to VidCon while he was going to be at sleep away and I figured out quickly that we had very little in common when it came to YouTube personalities. Although I have to admit to liking Dude Perfect. I even recognized Brody Smith and stopped him to have our picture taken together.

Now just because we read about these people and watched their videos, did not mean that we were totally prepared for what we were about to experience. First of all, any one of these YouTube personalities could have walked right passed us and we would not have known. There are so many of them! Secondly, I’m not so certain we were totally prepared for a convention center filled with screaming teenagers.

It was amazing! It happened in waves. It was like a roller coaster ride. You know how it is quiet until that big drop and them bam, the screaming begins. For 4 days this went on. Mobs of teenagers running at people who we didn’t know, but felt like we should. Selfie sticks, kids walking around talking to themselves while videotaping, known in the YouTube world as Vlogging. The buzz in the air was palpable.   Several times we asked ourselves what are we doing here. Surely we stick out, but no one noticed us or seemed to care.

We went to the opening panel with VidCon founders Hank and John Green and YouTube superstar Tyler Oakley. We read through the program guide. I recognized names but nothing stood out, until I saw this session- Making YouTube Smarter. Did you know that educational content is one of the fastest growing and most popular genres in online video? I thought, THIS I can relate to. THIS is exciting. I never thought that I would learn something at VidCon. But learn I did. And not just about educational videos. But about our youth.

There are amazing young people out there and they are learning so much about the world around them while they are staring at their smartphones or iPads or computers. In the world of YouTube our kids are learning how to be global citizens and how to be truly accepting of everyone around us. Just when we adults think, “Oh, they are on their phones again.” Think again. They might be traveling the globe with Louis Cole who vlogs his worldly travels. They might be learning the elements of the periodic table on ASAP Science or watching Crash Course and learning about World History, Psychology, or Economics. They might be making a difference in the world using social media to raise awareness of the water crisis in the world. The world of YouTube is endless.

There were several messages that were loud and clear to me at Vidcon, Global Citizenship- go visit the Thirst Project booth and donate to dunk a YouTube star; acceptance of all- so many rainbow tie dyed shirts with the words love wins donned by so many teens, and the DFTBA acronym made popular by brothers Hank and John Green founders of Vidcon and many other companies and non-profit organizations.

DFTBA- Don’t forget to be awesome- to me that seemed to be the overall message at Vidcon. Isn’t that what we all want our children to hear? Don’t Forget to Be Awesome! A simple message. A powerful message. Don’t forget to be awesome! In the language of our people- Be a mensch!

Don’t Forget to Be Awesome. Be a Global Citizen- A global citizen understands that their actions have an impact here and around the world. Active global citizenship means taking action to build a more just and sustainable world. So how does watching YouTube videos encourage our youth to be global citizens, you may ask. Many YouTube personalities support charities and share their involvement with their viewers in their videos. One such YouTube personality is Connor Franta.

Franta celebrated his 22nd birthday by launching a fundraising campaign for The Thirst Project to build wells for people in Swaziland. He set a goal of raising of $120,000 within a month by offering fans incentives such as T-shirts, posters, an acknowledgement in one of his videos and a Skype call with him. Within 48 hours, fans raised over $75,000 and met the original $120,000 goal in 10 days. By the end the month, the campaign raised over $230,000.

The Thirst Project is the world’s largest YOUTH water activism organization. The Thirst Project has activated more than 300,000 students from 320 schools nationwide. They are a movement of high school and college students who build freshwater wells in developing nations and impoverished communities to provide people with safe, clean water. Founded in 2008, The Thirst Project has raised over $7 million dollars to fund water projects. The organization uses 100% of all public donations to fund these projects. The administrative costs are covered by donations from their board of directors. These are OUR teens and OUR college kids. This is OUR future.

The generation that is promoting global citizenship, acceptance and self-confidence is OUR future. We call this generation of young people, Generation Y. But they are better known as Millennials. And who are these Millennials?

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, Millennials are defined as those ages 18-34 in 2015. The “Millennial” generation is projected to surpass the Baby Boom generation as the nation’s largest living generation, according to the population projections released by the U.S. Census Bureau in December of 2014.

In a paper published in 2010 by the Pew Research Center titled, “Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next it says, “Generations, like people, have personalities, and Millennials – the American teens and twenty-somethings who are making the passage into adulthood at the start of a new millennium – have begun to forge theirs: confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change. They are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults. They’re less religious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in American history.”

Among Millennials who see their generation as unique, technology use is the single most popular response. Roughly a quarter of those under age 30 (24%) say technology is what sets their generation apart. They are history’s first “always connected” generation. Steeped in digital technology and social media, they treat their multi-tasking hand-held gadgets almost like a body part – for better and worse. More than eight-in-ten say they sleep with a cell phone glowing by the bed, poised to disgorge texts, phone calls, emails, songs, news, videos, games and wake-up jingles.

Three-in-ten Millennials say having a successful marriage is one of their most important life goals. Beyond marriage and family, 21% of Millennials say that helping people who are in need is one of the most important things in their life. Be a global citizen.

Gay marriage has been a heated political and civil rights issue for the better part of a decade, and Millennials have a distinctive set of views on the matter. Fully half either strongly favor (21%) or favor (29%) legalization of gay marriage, while just 36% oppose, making Millennials the only living generation that tilts positive on this question. One of the many panels at VidCon was Sexual Orientation on YouTube. The description read- Join some of YouTube’s most popular creators as they discuss how online video has made life easier for LGBTQ people everywhere and how to deal with unique struggles that may arise. Cantor Reinwald and I were blown away by the number of gay YouTube personalities. They seemed to be everywhere.

Tyler Oakley, age 25, one of the most popular YouTube personalities, raises awareness and funds for The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.

Hundreds of thousands of young people in crisis have reached out to The Trevor Project’s multiple in-person and online life-saving, life-affirming resources–Trevor Lifeline, TrevorChat, TrevorSpace, Ask Trevor and Trevor Education Workshops.

Tyler Oakley first got involved with The Trevor Project as an intern back in 2010. He helped redesign the website, launched a blogger outreach system, and drafted press releases and fundraising newsletters.

Since then, he has been able to use his YouTube platform to help shine light on the cause, by raising money every year for his birthday with his viewers, as well as hosting the red carpet live-stream for their annual fundraising gala, Trevor Live. Tyler has raised over $500,000 each of the last two years. That is over $1 million dollars raised by teens and 20 somethings! Be accepting of others.

Alfie Deyes age 21 is part of a boy band that raised money for Comic Relief. Joe Sugg age 23 is part of Band Aid 30 and they raised money for the Ebola Outbreak. PewDiePie, age 25, has the most subscribed to channel on YouTube. He has raised over $400,000 for a Water Campaign and over $600,000 for a Save the Children Campaign. That’s another million dollars raised by the Millennials! Hannah Hart age 28 has meet ups around the world called Have a Heart Day where people gather to do charitable work. Don’t Forget to Be Awesome!

These Millennials are confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change. They are global citizens, accepting of all and awesome! We have a lot to learn from them. Don’t be so quick to judge when you see them on their phones watching videos. If you can’t beat them, join them. Check out the world of YouTube to learn something new. Ask your children or grandchildren for a lesson if you need to learn how. Turn to social media to connect with others. Engage these millennials to help us learn about global issues, raise money and make a difference in our own community. And don’t forget to be awesome!

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