“When was the last time you got a care package from your bubbe?”
That’s the question (referring to a grandmother) asked by the team behind Hello Mazel, a new subscription service that promises to deliver “Jewish awesomeness” to customers — Jewish or not — in the United States and Canada four times a year. The first boxes, which cost $45, will arrive just in time for Passover in April.
But don’t expect a boring delivery filled with the basic matzoh flatbread you’d find at any supermarket. Hello Mazel promises a surprising grab bag of food, holiday items and other “delightful surprises” hand-selected by Jewish tastemakers like Randi Zuckerberg, former head of market development at Facebook, and Alison Pincus, the co-founder of home decor site One Kings Lane. The boxes will also include instructions on how to use the items, along with history and insight about Jewish customs.
The service is the brainchild of the team at the Kitchen, a nondenominational, nonprofit Jewish collective in San Francisco whose aim is to engage members in developing a Jewish identity.
“I have been working in and around the Jewish community for more than 15 years and have felt increasingly dissatisfied with the visual design and aesthetic of modern Jewish life. It’s been stuck in the 1970s,” said Yoav Schlesinger, executive director at the Kitchen and co-founder of Hello Mazel. “We wanted to combine modern design with the opportunity to power people's Jewish lives.”
Both the Kitchen and Hello Mazel are nonprofit endeavors. In order to get Hello Mazel off the ground, Schlesinger and his team launched a Kickstarter campaign in February, initially hoping to raise $18,000. They far exceeded their goal, pulling in more than $146,000 — becoming the most funded Jewish project in Kickstarter history. The campaign ends on Friday, and anyone who contributes will receive the first set of Passover boxes that ship in April.
“Hello Mazel seemed like the ideal pairing of the modern zeitgeist of people receiving curated content via a subscription model along with a framework for ‘doing Jewish,’” said Schlesinger. “We’re including food, ritual items, and one-of-a-kind items that we’re having artists design for us. We’re trying to give traditional foods and items a modern twist.”
One box, for example, could commemorate Havdalah, the ceremony that marks the end of the Sabbath each Saturday night. The ritual includes lighting a special braided candle and blessing a cup of wine, so the box might include the items needed for the ceremony, along with instructions on what to do and which blessings to recite.
But Hello Mazel would take it one step further, said Schlesinger, by offering guidelines on how to “make it relevant and meaningful to you in a modern context. We might have instructions on how to throw a Havdalah cocktail party, for example.”
Does the Hello Mazel team expect a backlash from Jews who are already observing customs in traditional ways?
“We recognize that Hello Mazel is not going to be for everyone,” said Schlesinger. “Our intention is to help people ‘do Jewish’ who might not be doing it already. People who are already opting into a Jewish life — they might still like it, but they’re not our primary market.”