As I mentioned earlier today, this week I’m reporting from South by Southwest (SXSW), a conference that overtakes Austin, Texas, each spring, bringing technology, film, music, and chaos together. I’ll be focusing primarily on South by Southwest Interactive, the tech portion of the goings on, which has grown in recent years to become the biggest part of the conference.
The conference itself kicked off on Friday afternoon and two events immediately piqued my interest. The first was an event called #openShabbat, which was put on for the third consecutive year by Mordechai and Chana Lightstone, a Brooklyn-based duo who are members of Chabad. (More on the Lightstones later today.) The first #openShabbat was planned on a lark, word sent out on Twitter and drawing in about 20 participants. This year, over 100 participants showed, including some non-Jewish members of the SXSW community, who were simply curious about the event.
“A friend sent me the info from Twitter and I didn’t know what to expect.” said Sasha Davis, a student of the University of Texas. “It was good to unplug for a few hours and, you know, who’s gonna turn down dinner?”
There was chicken and He’Brew beer for the weary. More impressively, there was also a respite: The use of technology was prohibited for three hours during the event, creating some confusion for journalists who sought to cover the event or the tech-crazed attendees, who were implored to commit the sacrilegious act of putting down their devices.
All told, the reviews were positive. Some even waited until after Shabbat ended to share their love on Twitter.