Dan Hack has been a proud Young Judean since 2007 when he was an Ofie at Camp Sprout Lake. During his progression through the Young Judaea (YJ) journey, he was a camper at Sprout and TY, attended Alternative Winter Breaks throughout his high school years, and was eventually the Merekez of Bogrim at Sprout. From YJ, Dan has been able to learn about the impact that an individual can have, and how much this impact grows when working as a group, or a קבוצה. This past semester, Dan served as the Development Intern for the Center for a New American Security, where he helped raise money for research attempting to solve America’s most complicated national security threats. Dan would not have been able to get this job if it weren’t for a Young Judean that works there and advised that he should apply.
In his Hadracha year at TY, Dan was in the anti-Semitism Tikun group and his one regret was that his group ceased communication after the summer ended. He continued to have conversations with YJers and others about anti-Semitism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict on social media sites, however the conversations were often quite destructive with no real progress being made. The emphasis that Young Judaea places on pluralism helped Dan come to the conclusion that we need a better method of discourse between individuals of varying backgrounds and beliefs. During his freshman year at Carnegie Mellon, he founded a company called Convertsation that has the goal of converting how conversations are held online, and teaching and harboring positive and constructive conversations between students from all over the world. Over the last year and a half the Convertsation team has expanded to ten members who are very motivated to spread this great product throughout the country, and abroad as well. Convertsation is a digital platform for educators to structure multi-party, online conversations for their students.
Through a plethora of features, students have been able to hold inspiring Convertsations where they truly listen to one another and find common ground on subjects they previously completely disagreed on. In a world where political and ideological polarization is rampant as individuals are blocking or fighting any person or news source that disagrees with them, Convertsation is attempting to fix this problem and they know that if students are learning healthy conversation practices from a young age, they will be able to hold more productive conversations as they grow.
Convertsations are anywhere from 20-60 minutes and contain 3-5 students from within a class, or between classes anywhere in the world. At the Convertsation table, there is a resource board to fact check users, a character count to ensure that there is equal participation amongst the members, and open-minded sentence structures for students to fill in and best hear one another. Once the time allotted has ended and the students have discussed all of the questions that the teacher has posed, the teacher will get a robust report consisting of important metrics for growth using artificial intelligence. The report states what students participated the most and least, how many new ideas they each brought, how many resources they used, and much more.
While the problems of polarization, close mindedness, and destructive conversations online are not disappearing anytime soon, Dan believes that the more students that connect and learn through Convertsation, the more likely the next generation will be able to speak to another, and more importantly, listen. If it weren’t for his time in Young Judaea, and the emphasis that the organization places on bringing people together, Dan never would’ve hatched the idea for Convertsation, a project that has turned into his greatest passion.