JEWISH VIRTUAL REALITY
The human world is extending. Not yet into space or onto far away moons like science fiction stories predict, though that may come. Instead—through 1s and 0s—computer developers are building a parallel dimension that we can access through the screens we carry around every day: the metaverse. And this isn’t just some fringe reality for computer geeks. In fact, Facebook just rebranded it’s near $1 trillion company as Meta; Justin Bieber’s virtual avatar recently performed for thousands of fans in a metaverse concert; and powerhouse investors are spending millions to buy up real estate in a virtual realm called Decentraland. The metaverse is real, it’s here to stay, and it’s coming at you fast.
Decentraland is one of the more elaborate and unique locations in the metaverse. It is a world with finite geographical space, like a real city that butts up against an ocean or mountains. Each “parcel” of land has an owner who paid real money (in cryptocurrency) to take ownership and develop the land. Log into Decentraland from your computer and your avatar can explore museums, meet new people, buy digital art, play games, see concerts, and attend virtual events.
What does the metaverse mean for Judaism?
It’s estimated that, by the 2030s, virtual reality will be fully immersive and humans will spend the majority of time in virtual environments. We will be virtual humans. Old timers will judge the metaverse as “less than” the physical world. But what about children in impoverished or war-torn communities who will now be able to attend a top-notch school in the metaverse and befriend international peers? What about those with physical handicaps who can now “dance” at virtual concerts? How about Jews who—for a million reasons including a global pandemic—cannot or prefer not to attend Jewish events in-person but who can now build real friendships, learn, study, and grow in a virtual Jewish community?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that G-d revealed new technologies to humanity (radio, satellite, etc.) as opportunities to expand spirituality, to reach and teach more people, and to connect Jews around the world. In these footsteps, three friends are bringing Judaism into the metaverse.
Rabbi Shmuli Nachlas of Toronto, Rabbi Yisroel Wilhelm of Boulder, Colorado, and technology-enthusiast Alex Gelbert have ventured into the metaverse to launch the first VR Jewish Center: the MANA Jewish Center in Decentraland.
“The rationale is very simple”, says Rabbi Nachlas, “Where there are people, there is Chabad. And wherever events are happening, we find the opportunity to jump in and engage people on their turf.”
“We always knew that if you can live on the moon, Chabad will be there to greet you,” says Rabbi Wilhelm. “We’re not on the moon yet, but now you can reside in the metaverse and Chabad will be there to welcome you!”
Alex, a technology and crypto enthusiast who owns the digital advertising agency Let There Be, is fascinated with the metaverse. He says, “Jewish culture, history, art, learning, and community now have another home. If you build a physical Jewish Center in Denver, you may reach people within 20 miles. Instead, we’re building in cyberspace and anyone with an internet connection can participate. The work is just beginning, and we have a long way to go. The technology is new and—in some ways, primitive—but we intend to be there as it develops.”
“Decentraland advertises Lose yourself in an amazing, evolving world,” says Rabbi Nachlas. “We believe that the metaverse—like a physical synagogue, a school, a city—is a place in which you can find yourself. You are your soul, and the Torah will guide you to find the real you even as you float along as an avatar in the metaverse. We are happy to have launched the very first Jewish Center in the metaverse and look forward to welcoming all bold and pioneering Jewish organizations to join us as we develop Jewish experiences in virtual reality.”
Like in the physical world, the metaverse has an economy and everything costs money. Consider contributing to the growth of Judaism in the metaverse. MANA Jewish Center is a non-profit and provides tax-deductible receipts for donations made in cryptocurrencies or old fashion earth dollars.
For a list of early dedication opportunities or to learn more about this amazing project please contact us: