About Rabbi Owen Gottlieb

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See www.owengottlieb.org for more

Rabbi Owen Gottlieb, Ph.D. is the Founder and Director of ConverJent which nurtures, develops, and spreads Jewish Games for Learning. Founded in 2010, ConverJent is a resident organization at Clal in Manhattan and has been awarded a PresenTense NYC Fellowship.

Gottlieb is Assistant Professor of Interactive Games and Media at the Rochester Institute of Technology and Founder and Lead Researcher at the Initiative in Religion, Culture, and Policy at the RIT MAGIC Center, a research laboratory paired with a game publishing studio.

In 2012, ConverJent received a Signature Grant from the Covenant Foundation to fund the design and development of a digital mobile game/simulation for teaching Jewish history. That project, Jewish Time Jump:  New York has been nominated for “Most Innovative” game of  2013 by the Games for Change Festival.  In 2014, ConverJent received another Signature Grant for teacher training and curriculum development and has partnered with Jewish Women’s Archive on the design of curriculum for Jewish Time Jump:  New York.

Rabbi Gottlieb received his Ph.D. from NYU in Education and Jewish Studies specializing in Digital Medial and Games for Learning.  He was a Jim Joseph Fellow at NYU and is a HASTAC Scholar.  His dissertation research is in GPS mobile gaming for cultural transmission, civic and democratic education, and subject matter interest (specifically, in modern Jewish history). Gottlieb received the NRJE emerging scholar award in 2013.

The latest game for Gottlieb’s team is Lost & Found, a table-top to mobile strategy card game which teaches medieval religious legal systems.  The digital prototype is being funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the prototype will be featured at the 50th Anniversary celebration of the NEH in late 2016.  The game is set in North Africa in the 12th century and players take the role of villagers who must balance the needs of their family with the needs of the community, all while navigating the law.  The game highlights the pro-social aspects of religion – collaboration and cooperation, even when resources are scarce.  The initial module of the game teaches Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah.  A later planned module brings Muslim law into focus, as Maimonides and the Muslim scholars learned from one another.

Gottlieb has presented at conferences and seminars including Games + Learning +Society, The American Academy of Religion, Religion in the Digital Age, Challenge the Past/Diversify the Future (Gothenburg, Sweden), NYU’s Center for Religion and Media, the Network for Research in Jewish Education, American Educational Research Association, Judaism 2030, and Rabbis Without Borders.  He has taught workshops and classes in game design for Jewish learning at venues including Hebrew Union College (NY, LA, and online), URJ Kutz Camp, and the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland, East End Temple, and Temple Israel of the City of New York.

With an eclectic background prior to the rabbinate, Rabbi Gottlieb has worked in project management of Internet software for companies including Disney and screen and teleplay writing for Paramount and Universal. He has taught dance in Israel, and served for many years as a liaison for film directors at the Telluride Film Festival.

Rabbi Gottlieb has served as a student rabbi at Temple Beth Am, in Monessen PA, Temple Shaaray Tefila in Manhattan, and a rabbinic resident at the URJ Press. While studying to become a rabbi, he taught religious school for four years at Central Synagogue in Manhattan, where he piloted the teaching of modern Hebrew to seventh graders using Israeli teen-television.

Rabbi Gottlieb holds a Ph.D. from NYU,  an MA from USC Cinema-Television, and an A.B. from Dartmouth College. He received an MAHL and rabbinical ordination from HUC-JIR, New York. He is a member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Writers Guild of America, West, and the International Game Developers Association. He blogs at www.mysticalcreative.com.

Rabbi Owen Gottlieb is a visionary Jewish educator, bringing cutting edge
 technologies to bear on classrooms, camps, retreats and teachers’ workshops.
 There is no one I know who is more attuned to the educational potential of
 new media and their applicability to the teaching of deep Jewish content in 
ways that are both substantive and engaging. Unlike many others, Owen
 doesn’t promote technology for its own sake, but because it can create 
connections and community, and convey powerful ideas in an accessible way.
 Never condescending, Owen comes across, even through video-conference, as 
both passionate about his work and responsive to the students.

– Isa Aron, PhD. Professor of Jewish Education, Hebrew Union College – Los Angeles

Selected publications and press (see ConverJent’s newsfeed for the latest):

The Atlantic
The Village Voice
WNYC Radio
Kill Screen on Jewish Identity in Video Games
Kill Screen Favorites Jewish Time Jump
The Jewish Week Cover Story:  Touch-Screen Time Travel In The Park:  Groundbreaking mobile GPS game brings New York Jewish history to the iPad generation
Huffington Post Article and Video: “Torah Games? Bringing Torah to Life Through Game Design” by Joshua Stanton
Covenant Foundation Signature Grant Award Announcement for ConverJent


Sh’ma Article: “Video Games, Game Design, and 21st-Century Jewish Education

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“Moving Beyond the Limited Reach of Current ‘Social Media’ Approaches: Why Jewish Digital Communities Require Rich and Remixable Narrative Content”