Here’s a riddle: What should you do when your boss of nine years retires and you are left jobless? The answer: open an escape room!
That, in a nutshell, is what Jerry Glazer, an Oleh from Passaic, NJ, has done. On July 6th, Glazer opened the doors to Jerusalem Puzzle Quest – Israel’s newest escape room.
For the uninitiated, an escape room is an interactive puzzle that a group of people solve together. The team is given a series of clues that enable them to find hidden objects and escape from a locked room. It requires logic, communication, teamwork, and creative thinking. The scripts for most games involve intrigue, espionage, and high-profile heists and over the past four years, escape rooms have been popping up everywhere, numbering around 1800 worldwide. In Israel alone, escape rooms have opened up all over the country, from Eilat to Zichron Yaakov. Tel Aviv itself boasts at least eight locations.
Jerusalem Puzzle Quest, however, is unique. In addition to being the first and only Shomer Shabbat escape room, Glazer’s puzzle includes an actor that interacts with the participants. Riffing off the spiritual vibes of Jerusalem, Glazer wrote a script called “Escape the Nazir.” The nazir—a person who takes an oath to refrain from imbibing wine or cutting his hair in order to achieve a higher level of spirituality—is placed in the room with the players, and his purpose is to prevent the participants from finding wine bottles that contain codes essential to solving the puzzle. So in addition to the puzzle itself, the players must avoid the nazir.
The idea to create Jerusalem Puzzle Quest came to Glazer when he and his youngest son visited an escape room on a trip to Dallas, Texas. After completing the puzzle, and seeing how thoroughly both he and his son enjoyed the experience, it occurred to him that an escape room would be a novel experience to bring to Israel.
To bring his ideas to fruition, Glazer’s first step was to speak with the creators of the escape room in Dallas who were, at first, eager to help him build his own puzzle. Unfortunately, they quickly had a change of heart and ended their correspondence with Glazer. Luckily, Glazer had a whole slew of people right here at home, who played key roles in making his dream a reality.
He ran his ideas by a Nefesh B’Nefesh Post-Aliyah advisor, who provided him with support and suggestions. Misrad Haklita provided him with a business adviser, who helped him navigate the technicalities of starting a new business, provided contact suggestions, and assisted with his negotiations. They also provided a low-interest business loan to cover the startup costs. Glazer then worked with an interior designer to design the space and create the puzzle itself.
The aspect that Glazer finds most appealing of his new venture is its potential to create bonds and relationships. One does not need to speak a particular language, or possess any specific body of knowledge to participate – the clues are universal, and can be solved using logic and collaboration alone. “This sort of game can to bring people together,” Glazer notes, “Jews, Muslims, Christians, secular Jews, Orthodox Jews, anyone really. The whole point is for people to communicate and work together.”
Yonatan Caras, who made Aliyah in 2005 and has personally visited four different escape rooms himself, agrees with Glazer’s assessment. “This kind of game is perfect for getting to know someone. You’re on a level playing field, both of you have the exact same information, and you get to really see the other person in a novel way—how they approach a problem, how they think, what they notice in the room that you missed, how they apply the clues to solve the puzzle.” Being an experienced escape room artist, Caras offers this advice to first-time players: Be extremely curious, touch everything, and don’t try to use the same clue twice.
Much like the Puzzle Quest itself, Jerry Glazer’s resourcefulness in creating his own business illustrates the creativity which Olim are applying to building their career in Israel.