By 2022, Back to the Future predicted that drones would walk our dogs, cars would fly and humans would travel through time. Could they have predicted that in the ‘roaring’ 2020s people would be wearing masks in public, paying hundreds of thousands for digital ape avatars and getting married in something called the ‘Metaverse’?
Reality is so much more entertaining than fiction sometimes.
An NFT (non-fungible token) refers to a new type of digital collectible, stored on the blockchain (the system that powers bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies) which can be bought and sold like a trading card. Each token is unique and represents art, music, or even acts as a membership card to a club or experience.
For example, The Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), an NFT project which consists of different variations of bored-looking apes, has established itself as one of the most successful NFT brands, with tokens that have sold for millions to big names including Eminem, Jimmy Fallon and Snoop Dogg.
If images of bored ape’s can create a community, surely there’s room in the metaverse for one of the “strongest, most tight knit communities in the world,” said Rebecca, referring to the Jewish community.
Rebecca, who has chosen to keep her surname anonymous, is the co-founder of The Kiddush Club NFT, the “first Jewish NFT project.”
“There’s a ton of these projects out there, whether it’s digital images of gorillas or horses or penguins,” she explained. “The real important part is building community within the holders of a certain NFT. So we kind of flipped it and said, we already have a built-in community, why don’t we design a NFT for the Jewish community.
“The Kiddush Club” (TKC) is a collection of 3,600 digital art ‘mensches.’ Your mensch NFT doubles as your Kiddush Club membership granting you access to masterclasses, events, and merchandise.
“With the metaverse kind of being the future, we thought it would be really cool to be part of the conversation as Jews, especially moving forward bringing that community into the metaverse and building almost like a digital identity for Jews,” explained Rebecca, who founded TKC with her husband, Oren.
Rebecca, 36, has worked as a creative director for over 10 years and heads the branding, design and art direction of TKC. Meanwhile, Oren, 37, brings the marketing and business strategy elements.
“Back in September, Oren was like ‘It would be really cool if one day we did a Jewish NFT.’ And then, you know, we kind of laughed it off,” Rebecca told me. “And throughout the coming days we were like, wait a second, what would it mean if we actually did this.”
For the last several months, the husband and wife duo have turned an imagined vision into a concrete reality.
“It’s a lot of work and a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of back and forth and truthfully, a lot of mistakes from a design and technical perspective. But it’s been really cool to see it all turn out,” said Rebecca.
Part of their goal is that this will serve as a joyful point of connection for Jews from all walks of life, especially in the face of rising antisemitism.
“Remember back in May, when everyone put up that blue square for a day?” Oren said, referring to an unofficial ‘blueout’ movement that took place on Instagram in a show of solidarity within the Jewish community. “We thought, how cool would it be if we had all of these menches as profile pictures.”
“It doesn’t always just have to be about fighting antisemitism with rhetoric and arguments,” added Rebecca. “We need to be bringing people together more and be proud in a light and positive way.”
All the mensches were created using a process called generative art. Rebecca designed 100 unique images which are currently being coded by TKC’s developer to create 3600 different combinations. Although all the mensches are created using the same framework options, no two are the same.
“We wanted to represent everybody and show that sense of identity and inclusivity within the community,” said Rebecca.
Rebecca and Oren’s son was born with a complex medical condition, which, they told me over Zoom, opened their eyes to the importance of representation in a personal way.
“We designed some more Orthodox ones and less Orthodox ones. We have four different skin colors. We have all these different kinds of traits. Some of them have a wheelchair or hearing aids, ” said Rebecca.
The first 100 mensches in the collection are currently being sold on Open Sea, the largest NFT marketplace, for 0.06 Ethereum (a cryptocurrency, like bitcoin) which equates to around 180$ USD. The most expensive menches in the collection will be the seven considered ‘super rare’ with distinctive colors and traits. These will be posted at 10 per cent of sellout and will cost 1 ETH (around 3000$ USD).
When I ask Rebecca and Oren what the impetus for investing in a mensch would be, they tell me it’s akin to loyalty clubs.
“When we were building this, we were thinking kind of like the JCC but also like Soho House Club,” Rebecca explained. “There is a bit of exclusivity because you have to own an NFT but then the Jewish soul angle you get from the JCC.”
Over the years, they have struggled to fit into conventional “Jewish boxes” when it comes to denomination, synagogue and practice, Oren added.
“We are happy to pray at [many] synagogues. I’m Askenazi, she’s Sephardic, we have friends that are traditional Jews, or that are Jew-ish. So, for us to find a place that everyone feels comfortable almost doesn’t exist. So we want this to be it.”
The current mensches available for pre-sale are all men, but women will be released too, which is particularly important to Rebecca.
“Being a woman in the space, we’re still very much underrepresented. It’s very male dominated,” she noted. “I think there’s a lot of women trying to break that up, and the fact that I designed this project and did the branding and worked on it with Oren, it’s all been really fun.”
“This is really her project,” Oren reinforced. “I’m literally just helping because of how much it consumes, but it’s really all her.”
They hope holders of The Kiddush Club NFT will create a diverse community of Jewish people who can connect in a new way.
“We’re really excited to see where this goes,” Rebecca said. “We’re also really nervous but really excited. Regardless of what happens, it will be a success to us.”
Originally Published Jan 21 2022 08:21AM EST