How I created Jewish conversation game, 'Mitzvah or Shandah' in less than 2 months with community
Updated: Jun 2
In July, I had the idea to create a Jewish game. I ended up creating a product by September — a deck of cards called "Mitzvah or Shandah" that inspires hilarious conversation and has a friendly competitive element.
I'm really proud of it, not only because I created it in less than two months, but because it's unique, it accomplishes what I wanted, and I built it with the community. And — some people doubted I could get it done in time for Rosh Hashana, but I did.
This is the story of how it happened and hopefully inspires you to create, and instead of doing privately, like I usually do, do it in the open. It's has been so rewarding!
A brainstorm leads to a game idea
After I received the "36 to Watch" award from New York Jewish Week over the summer, I thought, "I need to create something for the High Holidays now that people are watching!" My dad and my intern were in my living room before the awards cocktail reception, and I forced us into a brainstorm.
In that living room brainstorming session ... or all of us (that's brainstorming!) said I should make a game for the High Holidays. If you've been following along, you know I only create products that I personally want and that I can do well. Yes, I draw, but I'm a storyteller and comedian at heart who loves Jewish community and culture.
The game was inspired by the High Holidays, a period of days when you spend a lot of time with family and think about your sins. I remember going to temple then having downtime in my living room with my family, not really sure what to do with myself.
Tell me what the game should be
Next step: I gathered my peers for a Shabbat "game night" in my living room and asked everyone to write down a sin on an index card. I asked everyone for game ideas. We weren't really getting anywhere. It was hard to translate to the guests what it is that I do and my vision — especially because I wasn't sure.
Then, a couple of guests started debating situations like, do you tell someone they have something in their teeth or if their fly is down? Is it ok to switch the hosts' toilet paper roll to your preferred direction? And I realized: that was my game.
The next day, I sat at my desk and wrote down funny Jewish situations you could debate. I went to Soho to get out of the apartment and gain inspiration. I wrote on the subway and in the park. I then had a prototype of the game on over 100 index cards.
Building and testing Mitzvah or Shandah
It was time to test the game. Does it work? Are the situations as funny as I think they are? Do people like it?
So, I took the index cards on tour. I played with my dad at a diner, I hosted a happy hour in midtown, I tried it on Zoom, and I brought them to a family wedding and a family barbecue. All of this helped me figure out what worked and how to write the rules.
Bringing the game to life
Once I knew I had the game, I struggled with the name. I liked Mitzvah Judge, but it had a negative connotation. I loved Mitzvah or Shandah, but it's long and some people didn't know the word Shandah. After so much brainstorming with friends and family and even writer Arielle Kaplan (thank you all!), I realized the name I loved was it.
I also spent hours researching vendors to print the game (this was one of the hardest parts), getting quotes, thinking through packaging, designing, writing rules, building a web page, etc. I hired comedian FreddyG to come up with more situations. I sent everything to a copy editor. I designed.
Finally, I ordered the decks. They didn't fit in the vinyl bags I bought as packaging, so last minute I got white boxes from Amazon and printed stickers to put on them. Then how do I ship it? It's all a work in progress!
But I had the game Thursday before Rosh Hashanah. So I got to try it at a Shabbat with friends, sell it at a market, deliver it to friends before they went home, and play it at Jewish Community Project's young professional's dinner and my own Shabbat.
So far, people are loving it. The conversations are fun, funny, and unexpected. My heart feels full. All my hard work feels worth it.