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  • Writer's pictureBradley Cook

What Is Digital Empathy and How Can it Increase Jewish Engagement?

Updated: Jul 7, 2022

By Bradley Caro Cook, Ed.D. from

A continuation of a series on Growth Hacking for Jewish Engagement

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is a Jewish value verbally received by Moses on Mt. Sinai (Pirke Avot 1:1, 6:6) and is critical for fostering human connections. Empathy is also credited as a factor in both improved relationships and even better product development (Harvard Business Review, 2017).

Jewish Wisdom

Empathetic archetypes and stories are core in the Torah. Recently, I crowdsourced Jewish educators from Jedlab on this topic.

True Empathy Brings Great Reward

Greg Marcus, a mussar author, referenced the story of an imprisoned Joseph:

Scenario: Joseph saw the cupbearer and baker were depressed. He asked them “why are you sad today?” (Genesis 40:7, as cited in Jedlab). This lead to a series of events which resulted in a great reward. Result: Joseph became the trusted chief dream interpreter and then became viceroy of Egypt (Genesis, 40:1-45).

Gitta Neufeld, director of education for the Allegra Frankel School for Professional Leadership pointed to Aaron’s internal reaction to his younger brother Moses.

Scenario: Moses was elevated to lead the Jewish people. Rather than being a jealous older brother, Aaron’s heart rejoiced. Result: For this, Aaron was privileged to wear the ornamental breastplate over his heart (Exodus, 4:14, 28:29; Shabbat 139a; Exodus Rabbah 3:17 as cited in Jedlab).

We see from these two examples that empathy is rewarded and yields positive results.

Digital Empathy Question How can we craft digital empathy that is rewarded and yields positive results?

Growth Hacking Question How can we digitally engage tens, hundreds, or even thousands of individuals simultaneously, or in a short period of time, to yield desired, and long-lasting engagement?

This article will guide you through digital empathy by

1. sharing a manifesto for digital empathy, and

2. providing a:

· method for identifying pain points and remedies, · strategy for eliciting reciprocal empathy, and · technique to empathetically growth hack.

The Empathy Manifesto

The growth marketing firm, Creative Breed, developed a digital Empathy Manifesto consisting of three core principles.

1. Make it Human: People are moved by people with whom they can identify.

2. Show Struggle: People root for people who have goals and encounter obstacles. The more you can share your struggle, the more your audience will root for you.

3. Inspire with Uplift: Wrap up communications with an opportunity to take action and make a difference.

What Does Digital Empathy Require?

Digital empathy requires both sharing one’s own struggles and understanding one’s constituents struggles. In this article we use the terms constituent and customer interchangeably.

Identifying A Customer’s Pain Point: Wearing Their Shoes

Rabbi Hillel says, do not judge until you’ve stood in your fellow’s shoes (Avot 2:4). To do this, we must understand the struggles and pain points of our customer.

STEP 1: Empathy Mapping

A simple way to identify a customer’s pain point is through empathy mapping (Osterwalder and Grey, 2017). Here’s a link and step by step instructions to create an empathy map.

STEP 2: Customer Interviews

Interview at least three of your “customers” in each customer segment. Limit your interview to 4 questions. Three that relate to their struggle or pain point and one that relates to why they got involved or what they hope to gain from being involved with your organization.

Case Example: Career Up Now: Two Customer Segments: 4 Questions

Segment 1: Emerging Professionals

We asked the following questions:

What are you struggling with in your career path?

What are you struggling with personally and/or spiritually?

What do you need to be successful in your personal, professional, and spiritual/Jewish life?What were you looking for when you got involved with Career Up Now, and what are you hoping we can do for you?

Segment 2: Industry Leaders Who are Donors

Why did you get involved with Career Up Now?What are the primary struggles you see in young people, both career wise and Jewishly, that you believe need to be solved?What value do you believe Career Up Now fulfills in the lives of young people?What do you hope to gain by being part of the Career Up Now community?

While interviewing customers we took notes and recorded the sessions. We then sent those recordings off to the Israeli company Fiverr. Fast forward $35 and 36 hours later, we had the transcript in hand. We then used that transcripts to identify the key words and themes.

Resource to Identify Key Words and Themes

After conducting your interviews, enter your notes into, a free tool that will indicate the most frequently used words and phrases. This will enable you to identify the keywords should be used in your communication to show an understanding of your customer’s pain points. These will enable you to craft digitally empathetic communications.

For example, from our interviews common themes emerged.

Emerging professionals want to connect with industry leadersIndustry leaders want to make a difference in the next generationBoth industry leaders and emerging professionals are searching for meaning in lifeBoth are looking for more human connection and interactionsBoth have limited time, and the time they do spend they want it have maximum impact and return on investment

These themes enable us to craft our digital communications to show that we hear and understand their struggles.

A Strategy for Reciprocal Empathy

Digital reciprocal empathy is about sharing your struggle and lofty goals while addressing and relating to the needs of your customer base.

Thus, I’ve developed the following formula for digital empathy in the form of an email communication:

Digital Empathy Formula (Cook, 2018)

Empathetic Intro + Share a struggle or goal + Share a Success + Address a customer pain point + have a call to action that relates to a gain they seek = Empathic Digital Communication (in 125 words or less) .

A recent example for Career Up Now sent to Industry Leaders who are Donors

Dear ______,

I know you’re swamped, so I’ll be brief. We’ve grown to 2,000 community members over the past 2.5 years with only one full-time staff. We’ve set a goal of growing our Career Up Now community to 10,000 over the next three years. We want to remain lean as we scale and keep our commitment to you of being low-time commitment/high impact. To do this, we’ve created a short form to indicate which ways you’d like to make a difference in the lives of the next generation of Jewish leaders.

Please take a minute to fill out the following form.

With appreciation, Bradley

This type of correspondence yielded a 35% response rate of industry leaders. If you’d like to see the form please email me.

Growth Hacking Your Email List

One way to growth hack your engagement is through your email list. Try engaging using a similar format described above with an action item at the end. Or if you’d like some guidance, please reach out to me.


By crafting digitally empathetic communications you can both let your audience know that you understand them. Whether 1:1 or large scale, through digital empathy you will reap rewards and the engagement results that you are seeking.

Happy Hacking!

Bradley Caro Cook, Ed.D., is the co-founder of Career Up Now and believes the power of the Jewish people is our people and our unique value proposition is Jewish wisdom. He is a Birthright Israel Fellow, UpStart alumnus, Eli Talk Fellow, and a member of the Schusterman ROI Community. Bradley is always open to helping nonprofits exceed their goals. He can be reached via email:

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