The Digital Shtetl
03/30/2014 - 09:10
Gloria Kestenbaum
From “Radzyn.” Courtesy Rocket Chair Media
From “Radzyn.” Courtesy Rocket Chair Media

If the creative team of Rocket Chair Media is any indication, the Millennial Generation's approach to the Shoah will be something quite different from what’s come before. The prologue to their new digital epic fantasy “Radzyn” now begins online, with daily installations this week and monthly thereafter.

In “Radzyn,” Michael Weber (writer) and Joel Golombeck (illustrator) weave together individual folktales about a small Hasidic group in Poland over a period of three generations, tackling notions of Jewish culture, spirituality and holiness along the way.  Equal parts Edwardian serial, graphic novel and “Game of Thrones” meets “Hasidic Tales,” the story focuses on the spiritual resistance of its protagonists. The animated, chiaroscuro illustrations aptly conjure up a lost world while offering a modern interpretation and counterpart.

Michael Weber cites the Neo-Hasidic movement, which embraces exploring the texts and lives of multiple Chasidic masters, as inspiration. He believes that the themes of that movement‒of positivity and spiritual renewal‒are appealing to his generation. “If you look at meditation, yoga and other self-help movements, you’ll find them already rooted in the writings of Reb Nachman of Breslov and in the libraries of Jewish thought. Young people are turning elsewhere to find these thoughts but they’re in our own living room, in our own schools.”

“Radzyn” is Jewish storytelling for this new generation that consumes their content on screens and tablets and has limited resources of attention. In a culture where everyone is connected and personal identity is changing, where reading habits have made the greatest shift since the invention of the printing press, Millenials are seeking a new sort of experience in both their lives and in their Judaism. “Radzyn” is an interesting approach to that tectonic change. 

Paraphrasing Reb Nachman, Weber had this to say: “People think that you tell stories to go to sleep but you really tell stories to wake people up.”

 

Gloria Kestenbaum is a corporate communications consultant and freelance writer.

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