San Francisco, CA — In 2013, G-dcast, a San Francisco-based new media studio, launched the eScapegoat app, encouraging users to engage in deeper Jewish learning and to prepare for Yom Kippur by offloading their sins to a virtual goat, in an echo of an ancient repentance ritual. Now, the app is back, and has spawned Mini Goats — local mini-apps that let smaller communities re-enact this ritual virtually for a new, high-tech learning and community connection.
“Despite high synagogue attendance on Yom Kippur, literacy of the scapegoat story in Leviticus is very low,” said G-dcast founder and executive director Sarah Lefton. “This program is an easily accessible, fun way to engage people in thinking through the importance of personal and communal atonement rituals.”
Last year, the quirky, educational app was a hit in the press, with major coverage by The Wall Street Journal, NPR, CNN, and Jewish newspapers from coast to coast and internationally. In two months, the app had 50,000 users who learned the fascinating, rarely discussed story of the scapegoat, submitted anonymous sins, and then read the sins of others in an interactive interface that integrates social media and real-world discussion. (To use the eScapegoat app, visit http://www.escgoat.com. To read some of the sins already shared through eScapegoat, visit: twitter.com/sinfulgoat.)
This year’s eScapegoat is a 2.0 version: brighter, sleeker, bouncier, and teaches even more about those storied scapegoats. And with the launch of customized “Mini Goats” — custom websites for individual communities to share sins, stories and behavioral goals – G-dcast is enabling smaller spaces, like synagogues, schools and youth groups — to focus their reflection and deepen community connections.
“All our work makes Jewish learning easy and effortless for people from all backgrounds,” Lefton explained. “Clearly it resonates with the digital natives of the millennial generation as a natural tie-in to the high holiday season and a starting point to explore their tradition. But, most importantly, eScapegoat is fun and lets you connect with others around your regrets, no matter how tame or edgy they are.”
The idea of Mini Goats was born last year, as G-dcast received reports of rabbis using eScapegoat-confessed sins in their synagogue programming in advance of the High Holidays. At Temple Sinai in Oakland, the rabbi even read some of the submissions from the pulpit on Yom Kippur. “We realized that private, ’walled-off‘ Mini Goats could be a powerful tool for communities because the interface really encourages sharing and that gets more interesting within a smaller community” Lefton said. “It lets people see what’s bubbling in their own backyards — all the regrets are so much more powerful when you know they belong to your neighbors and friends. It also creates a safe and private place for younger users in school settings.”
Mini Goat Details
Communities can purchase the Mini Goat package for $99, which includes:
A custom, private goat website that shuls and orgs can moderate with a login
A virtual goat with the community logo
Space on the mini-site to include community event info (promote classes, Yom Kippur service times, etc.)
Inventive curricular support materials including activities for different age groups — children, teens and adults
To aid communities in marketing their Mini Goat, G-dcast also offers the “Goat-in-a-Box “optional add-on for $49, which includes an assortment of marketing materials such as eScapegoat posters, tote bags, stickers, and temporary tattoos.
As of August 1, more than 30 schools, synagogues, and other organizations across the US from San Francisco to Miami have signed up for their own Mini Goats, which will launch as a group — or, perhaps, a herd — on August 26, on the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul, the month before the High Holidays.
To learn more about the Mini Goats, visit: www.g-dcast.com/minigoat