Hot-Desk Judaism has arrived. | Sally Berkovic | The Blogs – The Times of Israel

Posted By on December 7, 2020

Hot-Desk Jews are the future. Flexible, cost-efficient, non-hierarchical and collaborative, the hot-desk work space offers opportunities for varied experiences, cultural exchange and heightened personal autonomy. So too, what Ive termed Hot-Desk Judaism. As elements of Jewish life start to be envisioned post-Corona, this model is going to seep even deeper into our Jewish lives, and its proponents, who defy traditional age-categorization, are Hot-Desk Jews who appreciate these six advantages.

While elements of Hot-Desk Judaism have been operating for years, including independent minyanim and emerging alternative rituals for life-cycle events, these isolated activities need the larger structures of communal life to exist. This of course is the conundrum: Hot-Desk Judaism flourishes in opposition to staid, unresponsive communal structures that refuse to acknowledge the need to change. Hot-Desk Judaism is nurtured by entrepreneurial individuals with the nous and networks to initiate grassroots activities.

This goes to the core of defining Jewish communal life and how it will be sustained. Its clearer in religious circles, where certain institutions are needed to make halachic life happen such as the mikvah, the school and the synagogue, together with the relevant personnel. Charitable giving is generous and a slew of organizations caring for vulnerable people are all part of this communal infrastructure. But even in the Orthodox community where its assumed that the lines of authority are clear, its much more subtle. For example, the response to Corona has increased tensions in an already fracturing Orthodox community. With marked exceptions, those in the ultra-Orthodox community have defied government guidelines regarding masks and social distance, while those in the Modern Orthodox community have abided by the rules. Rabbis responded to Corona challenges through the prism of Jewish law, and whatever changes emerge post-Corona, the Shulchan Aruch, the set table, or Code of Jewish Law, will primarily continue to guide behavior in the Orthodox world.

However, what is needed now is a complementary codification for Hot-Desk Judaism a Shulchan Cham [hot table] if you will. Perhaps a contradiction in terms, as the very nature of Hot-Desk Judaism is its flexibility, however if it is not rooted in the Jewish canon and Jewish traditions, it is doomed. Hot-Desk Judaism offers multiple paths to Jewish engagement, and my goodness, we really need them, but without a code of behavior, I fear that Hot-Desk Judaism will ultimately fail.

We need it to flourish.

Sally Berkovic is the author of Under My Hat, now available on and A mix of memoir, sociology, history, and acute observations focusing on Orthodoxy and feminism, this 2019 edition includes a new, 75-page introductory essay reviewing the extraordinary changes in Orthodox womens lives since the book was first published in 1997. Her writings are on her site

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Hot-Desk Judaism has arrived. | Sally Berkovic | The Blogs - The Times of Israel

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