Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Surprising Importance of Hackathonukah...To Me, at Least

A hackathon is almost the last place I would expect to be today. I'm not a programmer or coder or anything else technical. But I'm a lawyer for new businesses, and that means I work with programmers and coders. So I figured I should know something about what they do and how they create the products I help them sell. So...enter the idea to learn about hackathons. I even learned that I could participate in one because I can do design and planning. Unfortunately, I'm shomer Shabbos, and that stopped my dream before it began. 

And that struck a nerve that continues to hurt, long after I've converted. I don't mind the restrictions of Shabbat. I don't mind the kashrut restrictions (most of the time). But what still hurts is feeling cut off from so many great opportunities because they only happen on Shabbat. Athletic events, alumni events, concerts, parades, sales, Masonry (yes, I'm female, and I was a Freemason for a year), even my high school reunion. All non-starters. 

I get very frustrated being forced to give up parts of my life for orthodoxy that I don't "have" to give up. I could do these things (or at least most of them), if it weren't for scheduling issues. Such a stupid, simple problem to fix, but I can't because that's how American society functions and the assumptions it makes about audiences.

This is the only major thing I miss from my pre-Jewish life. I'm not sure whether it's better or worse now that I live in NYC, which has exponentially more events I can't attend, but does occasionally have Shabbat-friendly events. So much knowledge and experience is at my fingertips, but remains just out of reach. So frustrating. 

But because of Hackathonukah, I feel kinda normal (even though I only took a class and will view the demos, not participating on a team - hacking hardware was a harder fit for my mad skillz). I've learned so much about my clients and about our ever-changing technology from the class I took and from watching the hackers work. I'm getting to participate in an opportunity I wouldn't otherwise be able to, thanks to two brothers who were also frustrated by the lack of Shabbat-friendly hackathons. More importantly, the people who are actually hackers have the opportunity for a fun, immersive professional development experience. And we get the opportunity to benefit from the creative work of Shabbat-observant Jews that might not otherwise exist. Win-win-win, right?

Kol hakavod to Donny and Oren Kanner for unleashing a pool of underutilized potential. Light is increasing all the time, thank Gd.

The best thing about this has been learning that I used to be a coder back in middle school (who knew Geocities was so useful??), and I've seen that programming isn't the terrifying foreign language I thought it was. It's within reach, and now I'm motivated to learn more so I can actually hack at Hackathonukah 2015!

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