Using Social Media to Strengthen Culture of Welcome

Temple Torah’s executive staff utilized Darim’s Social Media Boot Camp to strengthen the culture of welcome at our synagogue. Over 25 years, Temple Torah evolved from a seniors-only congregation to a full-service, multi-generational congregation. We now operate a pre-school and two after-school supplemental religious programs.

Our challenge is that there is a sense of bifurcation in the congregation and a lack of a  holistic sense of community. People in different segments of the congregation often express a “fee-for-service” mentality. Furthermore, many feel that the expenditure of financial and human resources on one segment of the community means that other segments will not get served. Older people often complain that “all this money is spent on young families who never come to synagogue.” Younger families complain that they don’t feel welcome in other segments of the congregation and that programs and services offered outside of the school wing are not relevant to their lives.  Our staff team sought to use social media as one tool to break down barriers and spark conversations online and offline that would increase the sense of community.

Initially, we sought to embark on this endeavor through short YouTube videos. We succeeded in making one video that re-oriented people to the main synagogue entrance in a post-Newtown, CT, concern for security.  We were unable to sustain the energy, creativity and commitment to produce more videos, so we switched gears to focusing on Temple Torah’s Facebook page. The page had been under-utilized and was overshadowed by Facebook groups run by various arms of the synagogue.

It took some time for us to find a groove where people would like and comment on the page. Pictures of events that were posted received positive attention, but event announcements might as well have been invisible. In March, we fine-tuned our efforts to revamp our Facebook page with a contest asking people to share the manner in which people are welcomed at their seder. Whoever received the most likes would receive a prize. It seemed like a good question that people could relate to, yet we received only minimal response.

A couple weeks later for Yom Haatzmaut, we discovered a secret sauce: Constant Contact. We were able to drive much more traffic to the Facebook page by sending a Constant Contact email to the congregation, posing a question and directing them to the page. We received more lively online dialogue on why people love Israel.
 
boyton-beach.jpgHaving discovered Constant Contact as an effective means to drive traffic to the page, we then went right to the issue of creating a culture of welcome at the synagogue. People were asked to complete the sentence: “My first time being welcomed to Temple Torah was…,” and there was great response. One older congregant was bold enough to post that she didn’t feel so welcome, but I utilized this opportunity to reach out to her publicly and privately, and she appreciated that.  That same week, I gleaned from the discussion to deliver a “social sermon” on Shabbat, one in which congregants take part in the writing through their online comments before Shabbat. The sermon was then posted after Shabbat to allow the posting to continue.

For the rest of this spring, each member of our staff took a turn posting a question for discussion that was rooted in his or her area of expertise. The result is more traffic on our Facebook page and more interaction among different segments of our population. We hope to continue creative ways to drive traffic to the page, spark conversations and build real live relationships among our congregants.

Rabbi Ed Bernstein is the rabbi of Temple Torah in Boyton Beach, Florida.  He also blogs on The Huffington Post.  This year Temple Torah 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.

Becoming the Leader of a Networked Nonprofit: The Jewish Enrichment Center

Right before Thanksgiving, Caren Levine (Darim’s Learning Network lady extraordinaire) suggested that I write a blog post about how we think about out work at the Jewish Enrichment Center as a networked nonprofit. We are not a networked nonprofit, I thought. At least not yet. But now, months later, I can see that we’ve come a long way.

Early in our planning, a few of us read The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change, by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine. I was inspired by the book’s vision of a nonprofit that’s connected with its volunteers, transparent in its business, and nimble – able to shift internally, quickly, to meet emerging needs. “Do what you do best, and network the rest,” Kanter and Fine told me. As a startup with limited resources, it sounded heavenly to have a community of volunteers sharing the workload. I was hooked.

But I'm not naturally a network person. I'm the kind of person who reclassifies emails as unread, pretending I’ll answer them someday. At the time I read the book, I had never written a blog post, was never chosen by my family to take pictures (who wants a blurry, back-lit photo?), and couldn’t imagine why facebook was a good use of my time.

But Kanter and Fine had held out this tantalizing vision of what the Jewish Enrichment Center could be, and I was certain we COULD realize it in our community, if only I’d learn some new skills – online and off. So I applied for help through Darim’s Boot Camp. How would my much younger sister-in-law put it? Oh, yeah. Best. Decision. Ever.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far about being a networked nonprofit:

  • Listen. The most important thing I can do is go out and listen, online and on the ground. I’ll find out what people in my community care about. I’ll discover where parents are already online talking with each other, and I can join in the conversation.
  • Permanent beta. It’s a gigantic (and rewarding!) task to create an innovative new model of Jewish enrichment. Our mindset has to be permanent beta: what matters is that we stay true to our vision of partnering with children in Jewish exploration. The logistics of it all – they’re fluid. So we experiment, trying new ways to partner and new online tools to build relationships around Jewish engagement. We embed regular reflection into all aspects of our work. And when something doesn’t work, well, it’s frustrating, but also okay, because we knew from the start that not everything would sparkle. We move forward.
  • Be transparent. Speak authentically. As nervous as I was about opening up our work to the public, creating a blog that details our day-to-day partnership with children may have been the single most important step we took in connecting with our community. Those pictures of children really DO tell a thousand words. Parents, grandparents, folks local and national – all can get a true taste of what it’s like to be part of the Jewish Enrichment Center.
  • Listen harder. Because our deepest human desire is to be seen, to be known for who we are. I want every child, every parent, every person who interacts with the Jewish Enrichment Center to know that their contribution matters.

The response has been extraordinary. It seems that the more we share and the harder we listen, online and in person, the closer people grow to the Jewish Enrichment Center and to each other. When I share our needs or struggles (now THAT took some getting used to), people offer their help. Or at least their empathy, which I appreciate, too. We seem to be developing a communal sense that we’re all in this together. Our success is shared success.

We still have a long way to go. I want to do a better job facilitating relationships around Jewish engagement, and I don’t yet understand how to use our Facebook page and tweets to keep in-person conversations going. I also want us to be braver, making even more parts of our organization transparent. For example, I love this dashboard at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and wonder how we might make our own finances and stats more transparent (and generate a little more financial love in the process).

What have you learned on the path to becoming a networked nonprofit?

Rabbi Rebecca Milder is the Director of The Jewish Enrichment Center, and was a participant in the Social Media Boot Camp for Educators, which is generously funded by The Covenant Foundation.  She tweets at @remilder

Drum Roll Please*… Announcing Our New Cohort of Educators

Darim Online is thrilled to announce our 2012-2013 cohort for our Social Media Boot Camp for Educators. The Social Media Boot Camp for Educators is a year long experience for Jewish educators and Jewish educational organizations to help them advance their use of social media for marketing, communications, family engagement and curricular uses.  The program has been generously funded by the Covenant Foundation since 2008.

This cycle Darim received dozens of compelling applications from a wide range of organizations.  The cohort was selected based on organizational readiness, innovation in organizational structure and/or program, risk taking, and team formation, among other attributes.  Those chosen represent a diverse group of established and start up organizations seeking to mature their operations, advance their curriculum, and take important risks to move themselves and their communities forward.  Of note this year, the number of Jewish Day Schools applying for the program swelled significantly.

And now, please welcome the members of our 2012-13 Social Media Boot Camp for Jewish Educators:

Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, Chicago, IL
www.bzaeds.org
Integrate social media learning platforms for student, educator, parent collaboration and engagement, with accompanying professional development.
Team Leader: Derek Gale, Director of Communications

Congregation Shearith Israel, Dallas, TX
www.shearith.org
Convey Jewish education and positive identity through the model of the Mishkan by shifting the current learning model from grade based classroom to  learning centers, family education opportunities, celebration of Jewish holidays, retreats, religious services, trips, and more.
Team Leader: Dina Eliezer, School Director

Edah: Center for Jewish Living and Learning/Jewish Community Federation, Oakland, CA
www.edahcommunity.org
Outreach to unaffiliated or unusually affiliated Jews to engage them in Edah programming as well as in Jewish life more generally; and, tap the potential of online, at-home family learning opportunities.
Team Leader: Ariela Ronay-Jinich, Education Director

Graduate Center for Education, American Jewish University, Los Angeles, CA
http://maed.ajula.edu
Expand the Center’s reach as a convener of conversations and disseminator of ideas for educators and parents/lay community; incubate new learning models that effectively wed learning objectives with social media; and, recruit talent into the field of Jewish education.
Team Leader: Miriam Heller Stern, Ph.D., Dean, Graduate Center for Education

Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island, Providence, RI
www.jcdsri.org
Integrate 21st Century skills into teaching across the curriculum, into marketing and outreach, internal marketing, and into ways the school collaborates internally and externally not only with the greater Jewish community and agencies, but with the larger Providence civic community as well.
Team Leader: Shari Weinberger, Curriculum Coordinator

LanderGrinspoon Academy, The Solomon Schechter School of the Pioneer Valley, Northampton, MA
www.lgaschechter.org
Create a portal through which parents experience Jewish education that will result in increased parent engagement and enthusiasm with Judaism at home and in their own lives, that will in turn, support student learning and enthusiasm in classrooms; and, help parents feel more confident in their own Jewishness and inspire their participation with wider Jewish community organizations and activities.
Team Leader: Marla Shelasky, Director of Admissions & Marketing

Mensch Modules: Jewish Virtues for Living, A Collaborative Effort of The Women’s Jewish Learning Center and The Learning Shuk, Scottsdale, AZ
http://womenlearning.org
http://www.thelearningshuk.com
Create Do-It-Yourself educational modules for parents on character development in children. Drawing on texts from the Mussar tradition, these modules will offer digitally friendly but intellectually compelling content that will allow parents to consider topics of great importance to family life and child-rearing.
Team Leader: Rabbi Elana Kanter, Director of The Women’s Jewish Learning Center/Content Creator for Mensch Modules

Portland Jewish Academy, Portland, OR
www.portlandjewishacademy.org
Leverage social media to enhance student learning and engagement across the curriculum, and to embed digital citizenship and media literacy skills as a natural part of the instructional experience.
Team Leader: Sarah Blattner, Technology Integration Specialist

RAVSAK: Community Day School Network, New York, NY
www.ravsak.org
Further develop their work as a networked organization to better connect school leaders and enhance their abilities to learn together and from one another through peer-mentoring, website resources, online forums and face to face gatherings.
Team Leader: Idana Goldberg, Associate Executive Director

Temple Sinai, Denver, CO
http://sinaidenver.org
Create authentic connections with families and develop user-friendly ways to provide them with materials to supplement in-school experiences with parallel “home shul” experiences, both academically and socially.
Team Leader: Elyse Adlen, Preschool Director

In addition to the coaching and consulting offered to each of the chosen team, Darim will be presenting a series of webinars over the coming year with a focus on innovation and social media in Jewish education. These webinars are open to the entire field at no cost.  To be notified of the schedule as the series is confirmed, please register to join the Darim Online Learning Network at http://www.darimonline.org/register

*We promised you a drum roll… click away for your choice of audio accompaniment!

And the Recipients Are… Announcing Our New Cohort of Educators!

We are thrilled to announce our first cohort for the Darim Social Media Boot Camp for Educators, chosen from among over 50 applicants. Included among them are national educational organizations, congregations, and a day school. We were excited to receive over 50 applications for this cohort, and it was very difficult to make these decisions! We weighed organizational readiness, innovation in institutional design and/or project design, team formation and creativity in thinking and culture, among other attributes. We appreciate all of the work put into the process, and we look forward to continuing conversations with all applicants in one way or another. And now, announcing the 2011-12 cohort! Drumroll please… Centropa Support the work of Centropa’s United States education department and its educators through the use of social media, including curricular resources and professional development. Team Leader: Lauren Granite, US Education Director Congregation B’nai Amoona, St. Louis Create a mission driven vision that takes advantage of social media and other 21st century technology tools to create strong and meaningful connections with a focus on integrating family education, adult education, and experiential education. Team Leader: Jennifer Newfeld, Director of Congregational Learning IKAR, Los Angeles Create family-based learning activities and interacting with Jewish ideas and values through home-based Judaism that complements students’ face to face learning. Team Leader: Rabbi Rebecca Rosenthal, Director of Education Jewish Enrichment Center, Chicago Develop a strategic “networked nonprofit” model of leadership that includes school professionals, parents, and volunteers. Team Leader: Rebecca Milder, Director Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, Evanston Investigate new meanings of community and develop a Shabbat chavurah to support reconnection of the family and expand the ways members connect and communicate Shabbat experiences. Team Leader: Terri Ginsberg Bernsohn, Religious School Director Matan Develop online professional development events for Matan’s Jewish education institutes and support associated communities of learning for leaders and future leaders in Jewish special needs inclusion. Team Leader: Meredith Polsky, Special Education Coordinator Temple Beth Abraham, Tarrytown, NY Create multiple points of community building and engagement for current and potential congregational members with support from social media and personal learning networks. Team Leader: Pamela Barkley, Director of Education Temple Judea, Coral Gables, FL Strengthen communication and engagement with parents and families in a strategic way to build and augment the synagogue’s educational community. Team Leader: Beth Young, Director of Education The Weber School, Atlanta Use social media to provide students with opportunities to develop social and academic relationships with Israeli teenagers with whom they will be visiting during a 5 week Israel component in the middle of the school year. Team Leader: Rachel Schwartz, Teacher, History and Judaics Departments University of Washington, Stroum Jewish Studies Program, Seattle Develop a localized, interactive, and immersive digital ecosystem for Jewish studies students, beginning at the University of Washington and eventually expanding to other universities. Team Leader: Professor Noam Pianko These teams exhibited exceptional enthusiasm, readiness, and vision and we look forward to working with them this year! We’re thankful to the Covenant Foundation for supporting our work with this cohort. In addition, as part of this funding, Darim will be presenting a series of webinars over the coming year with a focus on innovation and social media in Jewish education, including guest experts such as David Bryfman. All Darim Online members are welcome to join these webinars. Not a member yet? Sign up here. Finally, Darim is running a six part webinar series for congregational educators this summer, starting July 5, in conjunction with NATE and JEA. Learn more and sign up here: NATE members click here and JEA members click here

Last Call For Applications: Darim’s Boot Camp for Educators

Last call for applications – the deadline for the new Darim Online Social Media Boot Camp for Educators is Monday, May 2, 11:59pm: Learn more… and apply – now!! The short of it: The program will support innovative Jewish educators in using social media effectively in their work, and assist their organizations in evolving models for success in the digital age. A Little More About the Program Darim is seeking to mentor up to 10 Jewish educational organizations, represented by 3-5 person teams, that are engaged in innovation and risk taking and which serve North American Jews. These teams will participate in a year long professional development and coaching experience to advance their work. The program includes:

  • Participation in Darim’s series of monthly skill-building webinars which includes Darim’s overall Learning Network for Educators (teachers, directors of education, rabbis, lay leaders, and others interested in Jewish education);
  • Private coaching and consulting with Darim consultants to address strategic and tactical goals, and to help design, implement, and refine a technology-supported project. Teams from each organization will meet with a coach approximately twice a month over the academic year, with additional communications as needed;
  • Connection with other members of the Social Media Boot Camp, to learn from each others’ experience and projects through an online community and webinar-based sharing;
  • Membership to Darim Online and access to its other Learning Network events and resources.

The long of it, including eligibility, program structure, and a link to the application form, can be found here. The deadline for applications is Monday, May 2, 2011, 11:59pm. Got a great, innovative, social media-y Jewish education idea? What are you waiting for? The Social Media Boot Camp for Educators program is made possible through a generous grant by The Covenant Foundation.

Dream with Darim: Darim Educator Fellows Winter/Spring Cohort Applications Open

Got a Big Idea for Jewish learning and new media? Are you an educator in a North American congregational / complementary Jewish setting? What are you waiting for? Apply now to the Darim Educator Fellows program!

Darim will work with up to 3 individuals through coaching and mentoring over a five month Fellowship. Check out details and the link to the application form here: http://bit.ly/defspring.

Meet our current Fellows:

  • Joshua Altman, Temple Sholom, Greenwich, CT Josh is creating an online collaborative newspaper / blog with his religious school students.
  • Lynne Lieberman, Friedman Commission for Jewish Education, West Palm Beach, FL Lynne is developing an online professional development course on differentiated learning for synagogue educators.
  • Rachel Sesser, Temple Sholom of West Essex, Cedar Grove, NJ Rachel is creating an online community resource for students and their families to engage in classroom and extracurricular activities.
  • Viki Shayna, Temple Beth Emeth, Ann Arbor, MI Viki is developing an extension of a community collaborative project that will bring together American and Israeli families online.

Get your creative juices flowing this holiday weekend! Applications are due Friday, December 4, 2009. Questions? Give us a shout at [email protected].

Helpful hint: we posted a preview of the application on the Fellows information page so you can prepare your longer responses in advance and cut and paste them into the online application form.

The Darim Educator Fellows program is made possible by a generous grant from the Covenant Foundation.

Announcing: The New Darim Educator Fellows Program!

Attention North American educators in congregational / complementary Jewish settings! Ever wish you had the opportunity to spend some focused and supported time on developing and implementing your Big Idea for Jewish learning and new media? Looking for a community of like-minded educators?

Well, guess what?!

Darim Online is pleased to announce the Darim Educator Fellows program, an intensive semester of hands-on professional learning.

The program is designed for educators in Jewish congregational / complementary learning settings who are already using new media in their work and who would like to take their practice to the next level.

Darim will mentor up to 3 educators who are willing to devote at least 2-4 hours a month to professional learning over a 5 month semester. The Fellows program includes one-on-one coaching, exposure to successful models in Jewish and non-Jewish educational settings, and more. Darim Educator Fellows also participate in the broader Darim Online Learning Network for Educators.

Interested?

Details and applications for the Fall semester are available here. Applications must be received by Friday, August 14, 2009, 6:00pm Eastern.

We offer additional learning opportunities to Jewish educators through membership in the Darim Online Learning Network for Educators. Learn more on Darim’s website.

The Darim Educator Fellows and the Darim Online Learning Network for Educators is made possible by a generous grant from the Covenant Foundation.