If you’re seeking a way to connect—or reconnect—to Judaism, Arq just might be what you’re looking for.
Over the past eight months, Brooklyn-based entrepreneur Danya Shults created and launched the Jewish lifestyle brand and internet platform that organizes retreats, singles meet-ups, workshops (like menorah painting), shabbat gatherings, and more, and publishes inspirational interviews, field guides about global cuisine and gift-giving, and behind-the-scenes looks at personal Judaica collections. It’s a one-stop shop for bringing Judaism to people on more experimental and approachable terms.
Shults, who has a background in marketing and public relations, as evidenced in her new endeavor’s naming process, was inspired to create Arq following the success of two of her own entrepreneurial endeavors focused on Jewish life: Pop-Up Shabbat, gatherings at New York locales ranging from a warehouse in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood to a Southern-themed meal at a friend’s brownstone; and the Ish, a newsletter roundup of Jewish-related things to do, eat, read, and purchase in the city and around the world.
Her focus on inclusivity also relates to her own life narrative. Shults’s husband, Andrew, is not Jewish, and Pop-Up Shabbat, which the couple initiated along with their friend Melissa, offered a way for them to engage with and participate in Jewish traditions together. It’s also a matter of convenience. “Part of what I’m creating is an organization and a set of products and services that come to me and match up with my life,” said Shults, 31, who grew up Conservative in New Haven. “I never go to the Upper West Side, I never go to the Upper East Side. That would be changing my life to go be Jewish. You don’t necessarily choose where you live or what job you have or what restaurants you go to based on traditional Jewish observances or rules or expectations. That’s why we did Pop-Up Shabbat at a warehouse in Red Hook, ’cause that was near to where I live [in Vinegar Hill].”
The overarching philosophy behind Arq mirrors that of Lab/Shul, another “wall-less,” egalitarian New York-based Jewish organization of which Shults is a fan. With Arq, Shults’s intention is to cultivate a fresh aesthetic that appeals to the Brooklynite millennial crowd and beyond, following in the footsteps of lifestyle brands (like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop and Food52) that combine content, e-commerce, and community. Shults will be hosting a women’s lunar retreat in Brooklyn on March 26. Also coming up: a summer camp-inspired retreat in June.
Shults said her experience in the non-profit and start-up sectors taught her how to be a self-starter. (In 2007, at her first job out of college in Teach for America’s recruitment department, she was, in her words, the “do-anything girl.” She was also the second person hired by the online learning platform Skillshare.) Shults, ever the brand ambassador, embodies the same qualities that make Arq accessible in style and bearing. On the day of our interview, which coincided with International Women’s Day, she wore a pullover that said, “The Future is Female” with an oxford collar popped over the neck, giving off a decidedly stylish vibe. In conversation, she’s casual yet upbeat.
Arq’s website too is sleek and minimalistic—from the brand logo (it’s rendered in a bold, space-agey font) to the large, image-focused layout—with subtle vibrant touches. One of the site’s main sections is dedicated to interviews that highlight Shults’s shortlist of Jewish and non-Jewish role models. “I honestly just started by interviewing people that I admired and knew had some connection, either deep or tenuous, to Judaism,” she said, as [the conversations] underscore the latent diversity of the Jewish community. This includes people like Eliza Blank, CEO and founder of The Sill, a plant shop in the Lower East Side, who is Jewish and half-Asian and grew up in a predominantly white, Christian town.
“[Arq] is not just for Jewish people,” said Shults, recounting a poignant email from a Muslim man in London who wrote about his appreciation for her content. “There’s so much wisdom and value in Jewish tradition and wisdom and culture. This is for Jewish people, but it’s something that anyone can enjoy and learn from.”