Edah: Bringing our Community Together with Online Communications

edah_with_megillah.jpgEdah’s Jewish learning programs for K-5 students were already ahead of the curve when it came to understanding how to engage students, families and communities. Edah’s experiential and project based learning infused with rich Hebrew and Judaic content has been reaching children who participate in its programs since 2010. Parents directly benefit from Edah too. The regular updates on educational units, family programming, and retreats provide family learning opportunities connected to the Jewish calendar. Even our organization’s name “Edah” meaning “community” speaks to the intergenerational and social nature of our educational philosophy and approach. Until recent months, Edah’s communications existed in a very basic set of website, email, and facebook group channels.

Participation in Darim’s Social Media Boot Camp for Educators was an indication of Edah’s intention to strengthen our community’s online networks by increasing our web presence and utilizing digital communications tools. One message that came across in all sessions of the Boot Camp was that a functioning, enhanced online network could strengthen Edah’s community. By community, they meant not only our community of participants, but also our larger community of stakeholders and funders that have supported our emergence and growth. Joshua Venture Group’s May 29, 2013 report Change the Conversation, Change the World echoes the need to remain visible to funders and align with funding priorities – two aspects of organizational sustainability and growth that can be achieved in large part through the online communications world.

edahs_basic_social_system.jpgIn spring 2013, Edah built a Facebook page, connected it with our Twitter account, launched a new colorful website and set up a blog. While Edah has been building an extensive library of multi-media documentation of our innovative “complimentary” Jewish educational program, we now have tapped into the critical digital systems that will more efficiently present our work to families, stakeholders, and colleagues alike. The private Edah Facebook group that was set up when we began in 2010 continues to serve its purpose well, as a hub where parents, staff, lay leaders, and our wider network members share information about Edah and community interests.

For our afterschool and out-of-school programs, the outstanding Edah educators put in tremendous effort to provide our students with integrative learning stations, and to equip our youth with authentic and engaging ways to absorb Hebrew and Judaism and deepen their personal Jewish identity. For our camp and special day programs, educational leaders have the freedom to develop adventurous participatory storytelling, creative and artistic multi-sensory exploration, and project-based studies. Bright excerpts of Edah life can now be viewed, understood, shared, and enjoyed through our new social channels.

The biggest internal change that was required by our renewed focus on social media is that Edah is building communications into our business infrastructure. It takes time to grow comfortable in all the online platforms in order to manipulate each to serve its purpose effectively for the organization, so it helps that our staff person responsible for the communications system has experience utilizing the online tools. Now that our basic system is almost in place, our next step is to establish a regular communications calendar routine that involves educators, administrators, and leadership to capture and share the exciting Edah curriculum and media out into virtual realms.

In Edah’s environment of thriving Jewish learning, leaders and educators do not struggle with concepts like emotional intelligence, empathy and middot, digital learning, inclusivity or design thinking. Our savvy leadership has its finger on the pulse of research regarding learning, in general, and Jewish learning, in specific, and helps apply that to our own program as well as through Nitzan – a network of innovative Jewish afterschool programs throughout North America that Edah leaders catalyzed and facilitate. We look forward to applying our social media strategies and new online systems to upgrade our broader professional collaborations through Nitzan’s website and other upcoming web-based venues.

Wendy Kenin is the Coordinator for Edah.  This year Edah participated in the Social Media Boot Camp for Educators, a year long program generously funded by The Covenant Foundation.  This series of blog posts this spring chart the learnings of the 10 teams in this year's cohort.

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