Why You Need to Embrace Relationship Based Engagement

Guest post from Rabbi Aaron Spiegel. This post is part of a series on networks and network weaving.

Synagogue 3000 just released a report entitled “Reform and Conservative Congregations: Different Strengths, Different Challenges.” The report could just as easily been entitled something like “Synagogues are Fading Into Obscurity,” but that would be a little too provocative. The data is clear; the institution best positioned to provide the full richness of Jewish life is becoming irrelevant for most American Jews. More disturbing is that our research shows some 70% of young Jewish adults, those between the ages of 23 and 39, have no connection to the established Jewish community (synagogues, Federation, JCC’s, etc.). While many in the Jewish world talk about Jewish continuity and protecting the future of American Judaism, most of the proposed solutions have had little effect. The good news is we’ve also learned that this majority of young Jews are very interested in Judaism, just not the way we’re offering it.

While most in the congregational world talk about outreach, Synagogue 3000 learned that this moniker has a negative connotation. Outreach says, albeit subtly, “I’m reaching out to you so you can come to me and have what I want to offer you.” The community, particularly those young, single Jews who are our potential future are saying, “no thanks.” Instead of outreach Synagogue 3000 changed the conversation to engagement. Learning from the church world and community organizing, Synagogue 3000 created Next Dor (dor is Hebrew for generation) – an engagement program. Participating synagogues agree to dedicate a staffer, most often a rabbi, whose primary job is to meet young Jews where they are – physically, spiritually, and emotionally. These engagement workers are charged with finding young Jews, be they in bars, coffee houses, local gyms, etc., and finding ways of engaging them in conversation to create relationships. Relationships create trust, which creates other relationships, which creates opportunity for real engaging conversations about life and what Judaism has to offer. One of the key points is that this engagement and these relationships are l’shma, for their own sake. Synagogue membership is not the goal – connecting Jews to Judaism is.

While the goal is engaging young Jews in Judaism, several of the Next Dor partner synagogues are discovering tangible benefits. Next Dor D.C., a project of Temple Micah was one of the first adopters. Rabbi Danny Zemel, a proponent of this engagement model before Next Dor existed, knew that Temple Micah needed to engage this unaffiliated and disaffected population. As a Next Dor pilot synagogue, Temple Micah hired Rabbi Esther Lederman as their engagement worker. A big part of Esther’s job is having one-on-one meetings with young Jews, usually in coffee shops. Now in its fourth year, Next Dor D.C. has gone from one-on-one meetings to regular Shabbat dinners at Esther’s home to annual free High Holy Day services for young adults, led by Esther and Michelle Citrin. The results – young Jewish adults are joining Temple Micah.

Some have dubbed this approach “relational Judaism” which seems something of an oxymoron. Judaism is at its essence (at least in my opinion) all about relationships. Unfortunately, congregations have focused on other things like supporting infrastructure, b’nai mitzvah training, and programming. More than the first two, the focus on programming is the irrelevance linchpin. Rather than engaging Jews in what’s important in their lives, synagogues program based on anecdotal information. When numbers fall the default synagogue response is to seek better programming rather than forming relationships with members, finding out what’s really important in their lives, and being responsive to their needs. Interestingly enough, while Synagogue 3000 envisioned the relational approach targeting young Jewish adults, the Next Dor communities are discovering it works with everyone.

Is your synagogue willing to form relationships with people who might not become members? Is your rabbi really willing to “be known” by synagogue members? What are your biggest obstacles to moving from a program-based community to relationship-based? Relationships, it’s all about the relationships!

Rabbi Aaron Spiegel is the CEO of Synagogue 3000. The report was the result of Synagogue 3000’s participation in FACT (Faith Communities Today), the largest and most comprehensive surveyor of faith communities in the United States.

 This post is part of a series on networks and network weaving that Darim Online is curating to advance the communal conversation about relationship focused Jewish communities.  Thanks to UJA Federation of New York for supporting our research and this blog series.  Click here to see other related posts in the series.

Being Thankful

Thanksgiving may be over and Chanukah is winding down, but it's ALWAYS a good time to show your organization’s supporters how grateful you are to have them onboard.

Just like receiving a handwritten note is a lot more special than a text message “thx,” getting personal with your supporters, and letting them know how each contribution is having an impact, is a great way to show them you really care.

There are so many creative directions to explore — but here are some fun ideas for going the extra nine yards in saying thanks to your biggest cheerleaders:

Personalized thank you video
Every year, charity: water staffers get in front of the camera to say thank you — dedicating videos to the class of 3rd graders who donate their lunch money and the bloggers who get the word out about their crowdfunding campaigns. It looks like they’re having a blast producing this series — and it’s a great way to retain supporters and keep them engaged.

Connect support to impact
A striking infographic is a great way to illustrate how the money you’ve raised this year is being put to use in the field. Connect the dots between clicking donate in your email inbox and tangible outcomes on the ground — and get ready to brainstorm some evocative analogies for your work.

A personal note
Bring your supporters together with the people who are seeing your impact firsthand. Maybe your organization works with refugees, or vulnerable children, or homeless families — let your constituents and staffers share, in their own words, how much the support of your donors means to them. You can forward their note in an email, or collect short video testimonials to share — like these messages from Nature Conservancy scientists around the world.

Saying thank you isn't just a nice thing to do — many organizations, like the International Rescue Committee, see a real return on investment when they share messages of gratitude with their donors.

We hope this gives you a jumping off point for putting together a heartfelt thank you campaign. And to all of our clients and friends of See3 and Darim Online, thank you, so much, for the work you do to make our world a better place.

What's the best thank-you you ever received from an organization? What made it so special for you?

Monday Web Favorites: #MakeItHappen, Twitter for Nonprofits, and Thanksgivukkah

Monday Web Favorites: #MakeItHappen, Twitter for Nonprofits, and Thanksgivukkah

Happy Monday! We thought we’d take a moment to look back on the week that’s passed and share some of our favorite things that may come in handy for the week ahead. Take a look…

Schusterman #MakeItHappen Campaign:

Got a great idea to make change in your community? The good folks over at the Schusterman Foundation want to help you make it happen! Check out the video below, explore the website, and follow the conversation on Twitter to find out what’s already been submitted and accepted – and to share your idea. The campaign is accepting submissions for all kinds of projects through the end of December.

Twitter for Nonprofits

Twitter, like Facebook, went public last week. Twitter's short messages and frenetic pace can feel overwhelming, but we've found it's a great place for organization to connect with press outlets, develop personal learning networks, and find/curate great content. Have you been struggling with Twitter and not sure where to go from here, or ready to give the 140-character limit a try? Here are some great resources shared this week to help cut through the buzz and tweet like a pro.


Don't pass up reading 24 Best Practices for Nonprofits Using Twitter from the smart crew at SocialBrite. Here are a couple of their suggestions that we really like:

  • Don't overcomplicate Twitter
  • Use calls to action
  • Rephrase it, then go again
  • Be gracious

And finally, read through the Top Ten Twitter Dos for Nonprofits. This is a simple, clear article, with some great examples of nonprofits rocking the Twitterverse. Our favorite nugget from this one? "Use Twitter advanced search." Twitter is a great listening tool – use the advanced search to find your people and hear what they have to say!


By now we all know that many of us are soon to take part in a, quite literally, once-in-a-lifetime event merging Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah: Thanksgivukkah! Much delightful kitsch has been shared in honor of this special occasion…here are a few of our favorites:

JewishBoston.com's impressive collection of 101 Thanksgivukkah-themed pins on this Pinterest board.

The Thanksgivukkah Food Face-off, brought to you by The Jew and the Carrot. Which would YOU rather taste?

And finally, here's a YouTube playlist of some soon-to-be simultaneously classic and defunct Thanksgivukkah tunes, compiled by our friends over at The Jewish Education Project.

AND one bonus favorite thing from the interwebs we couldn’t resist sharing…

This picture and simple story about letting another man sleep on his shoulder on the subway, was dragged from obscurity to virality due, in great part, to the work of Elad Nehorai of PopChassid and Charidy. It’s a beautiful example of kindness, empathy, and the power of the social web.

What have been your favorite things on the Web this week? Share them with Miriam via email or in the comments, and they may be featured next time!


Using social media to enhance student learning

Q: What do you get when you cross a former social media nerd turned marketing guy with a couple of tech-savvy teachers and instructional technology coaches, plus an expert at integrating social media technologies into Jewish education?

A: A toolkit of social media case studies highlighting how teachers can use common social media and Web 2.0 tools and technologies to facilitate student interaction, collaboration and learning.

At Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, a community Jewish day school in the city of Chicago, we came into the school year with a healthy knowledge of what social technology tools were out there and a thought that we'd like to identify a few of those tools for widespread teacher and student use. Thanks to our participation in Darim Online's Social Media Boot Camp for Educators, we're heading out of the school year with some key technologies identified and faculty members who have designed learning experiences around those technologies that are scalable across the organization. In fact, after some in-house professional development, we already have teachers trying new things that have worked in other teachers' classrooms.

Specifically, we've recognized the power of simple platforms including Twitter, Skype and YouTube to both facilitate interaction within our school community (among students and teachers, for example) and to facilitate interaction with students, classrooms and experts in other states and countries.

A handful of case studies highlight how our faculty members have used these technologies to drive cross-cultural communication, collaboration and learning. If you've never heard of or conducted a Twitterview, or an author-Skype session or mystery-Skype session, or if you've never Explained Everything via a Youtube "flipped classroom" video, we can help…

These things don't just sound fun—they are fun, and, per the title of this blog post, they enhance student learning. Once teachers see what these tools can do and hear from colleagues about the excitement created around learning by incorporating these technologies, we're pretty sure they won't hesitate to try their hands with social media. Here at BZAEDS, after hearing from another faculty member at a professional development session about an eighth grade / author Skype session, one of our third-grade teachers set up an author Skype for her students, much to their excitement and enjoyment.

So if you'd like to hear more about our success with a social media toolkit of case studies, or read more about any individual case study and see photos or videos that accompany these, please don't hesitate to reach out to that former social media nerd (if you check my Twitter timeline you'll see how rarely I use it anymore–even Facebook is no longer a regular thing)—he's here to help!

Derek Gale is the Director of Communications at Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School in Chicago.  They 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.




I recently drove my son to his doctor appointment. I hadn’t been to this doctor’s office in nearly a year and didn’t have directions, but I had a pretty good idea of how to get there. As I approached the general vicinity of the doctor’s office I realized I wasn’t as familiar with the area as I thought and the landmarks I was counting on just weren’t showing up!

After navigating a few semi-familiar twists and turns I did manage to get him there – although we were a bit late. Once there, I quietly vowed that I would always get directions before I embarked on another “leap of faith” trip (G-d help me if my wife reads this!)

So, what does my son’s doctor’s appointment have to do with the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy? Well, as I “hoped” my way to the appointment I also realized the quiet anxiety I encountered was the same feeling I had setting up and managing our school’s social media pages. I kind of knew where I was going; I figured I would see familiar places and instinctively know where to turn and when. That is no way to drive to an appointment and definitely no way to oversee a social media campaign.

Through our coaching calls and exercises in between, I’ve learned to map out a specific direction of where we want to go and how we plan to get there. I feel so much better now than I did embarking on this journey. The ambiguity I subtly felt has faded. It has been replaced with clarity and with that – a sense of relief.

Now that I am clear on our direction and how to achieve our set goals, I feel as though I finally have the flashlight I needed to help us find our way through the dark! OK, enough with the metaphors. The bottom line is that I really feel as though a weight that I was barely aware of has been lifted. OK, now enough of the metaphors.

Our social media experiment, along with that of our social media fundraising project, is well underway and our goals are clear. I am able to articulate these goals and the objectives along the way to our Board Members and to our staff. We have seen our membership grow, our “likes” increase substantially and, most importantly, we are effectively fundraising in a new and unique manner that I believe will become more and more familiar and commonplace as time passes.

Looking back over the whole process it reminds me of the simplicity of writing down a “to-do” list and then crossing off each item as I accomplish them. Oops, one last metaphor slipped in.

Harry Katcher is the new Director of Communications and Marketing at San Diego Jewish Academy. He replaces the outgoing Director of Marketing and Communications (note the subtle difference?). Harry has a BA in Journalism, a M.Ed. in Education, and a GPS for directions.


The Jewish Day School Social Media Academy is an intensive program designed to help Jewish Day Schools advance their strategic use of social media in areas such as communication, marketing, community building, alumni relations and development. The 2012-13 nationwide cohort of 20 schools was generously supported by The AVI CHAI Foundation.  Each of the schools will be sharing insights from their experience through blog posts here this spring with the tag #jdsacademy

The 2013-14 cohort is currently in formation. If your school or community is interested in more information, please contact Lisa Colton.



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.

Launching Teacher Blogs at JCDSRI


This year we were lucky enough to be accepted into the Social Media Boot Camp for Jewish Educators. We were provided with a coach to help us achieve our goal of school wide classroom blogs.  We met with our coach, Shira Liebowitz, about the milestones we met, the challenges we faced, and to chunk up our goals for month to month, measurable, small successes. Shira was a great sounding board and provided us with wonderful suggestions to help us reach each objective.  

Through a combination of the Darim Boot Camp and our school's own 21st century learning initiative, we have made great strides in teacher blogging.  We used WordPress to create an overall cohesive structure and designed look where we share classroom news, student work, and ideas with our parents, community, and the greater educational world.   With our blogs, parents, and grandparents, without stepping foot in the classroom, have been able to see what we do and engage with their children in a meaningful way. 

“With Darim's guidance, we were able to bring blogging to a new level,” said Sari Guttin, 2nd grade teacher.  “Not only have our blogs replaced newsletters, but they have become a forum for discussion between parents and students, students and administration, and students and teachers.”

Blogs help to extend the school day by providing discussion topics for families to think about at home.  Because all our blogs are hosted on the same platform, it allows for uniformity and connectedness between individual classrooms and the school.  

jcdsri_blog.png“Starting a classroom blog this year has allowed me to be a reflective practitioner and invite others into the classroom,” said Jessica Perlman, Kindergarten teacher.  “By composing the blog posts and questions for readers, I have been able to truly reflect on the learning and goals of each lesson, as well as the steps taken, allowing the curriculum to become a living document.” 

Initially, our blog postings were weekly summaries. As the year progressed, they emerged into detailed accounts of classroom activity, complete with photographs and direct student quotes.  Additionally, teachers incorporate questions aimed to encourage parents and students to want to engage in further discussions. 

“Our blogs have enabled me, a part-time, specialty teacher, to stay connected with class happenings,” said Karolyn White.  “I can easily check the blogs to learn what’s new. I especially appreciate the depth of the blogs, which frequently include explanations, goals, results and descriptive photos. Our blogs encourage me to reflect on the class updates, collaborate with teachers and modify content or format of my library lessons, making them more informative and pertinent.” 

Our blogs have become valuable resources that promote our students, families, faculty and administration to stay connected.  The mentoring provided by Darim has helped scaffold this process as well as provide a great sense of comfort and support.  As a faculty, we are feeling excited about this "21st Century" way of communication and collaboration and we thank Darim Online and The Covenant Foundation for launching us on our way.

Shari Weinberger is the Curriculum Coordinator at the Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island, and wrote this post with input from team members, Sari Guttin, Grade 2, Jessica Perlman, Kindergarten and Karolyn White, Librarian and Communications Manager.  To view our blogs click on the link http://www.jcdsri.org/podium/default.aspx?t=142596&rc=0

This year JCDSRI 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.





Its not just about the money

As participants in the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy, we have faced many exciting challenges this year.  Getting our social media presence up and running was the first hurdle – daily posts, monitoring the likes, the reach, the insights overall – it has been a whole new world of lingo.

Once we had established some social media “cred”, we then ventured to the next madrega (level) – social media fundraising.  While initially we were most excited about the potential funds raised through the campaign, in hindsight we realize that we gained much more from the experience than the funds.  The obvious benefit was the prospect of raising important funds that could be matched an additional $10,000 from the AVI CHAI Foundation.  The side (and possible more useful?) benefit was watching as our school transformed into a community of PR ambassadors and fundraisers within a matter of hours.

Here’s how we did it:   

  1. Strategically craft a campaign – we spent a considerable amount of time deciding specifically what the campaign would support.  Once decided upon, the next step was to ensure that the administration “bought in” to the idea and would follow through on the expenditure of this money.  We made sure to select programs that would benefit the entire PreK-12 student body and would have broad appeal. Hence, our campaign was dubbed the “Music and Movement Challenge” supporting enhancements to the athletic and music co-curricular programming at RMBA.
  2. Create a fundraising campaign on Crowdrise.com – a social media fundraising website which allows individual campaign champions to set up their own pages and tell their stories to their personal social networks of why our school (and this program in particular) is a worthy cause.
  3. Tell the world – send out messages to the entire school community letting them know about the exciting matching opportunity and seeing who would rise up to be a champion of our campaign.
  4. Train the champions – in a Powerpoint presentation, we told the campaign champs how to create their own personalized crowdrise.com pages.
  5. Incentivize the champions – by announcing amazon.com gift cards to the champions who raised the most money, and who secured the largest number of individual donations, we created a more energized team.
  6. Watch the money roll in – within hours, our champions were talking up the campaign and bringing in gifts.

The rewards:

a.       $15,000 toward the enhancement of our music and athletic program.

b.       A dedicated group of champions who spent their time talking up the school and encouraging others to donate to our cause.

c.       Virality – champions were talking about our school to their cousins, employers, college roommates – anyone who might support them and their school.

We were overwhelmed with the positive response garnered by the campaign.  The utilization of our champion’s personal social networks created a fun, yet competitive, vibe which motivated all to push themselves for success. 

The Jewish Day School Social Media Academy is an intensive program designed to help Jewish Day Schools advance their strategic use of social media in areas such as communication, marketing, community building, alumni relations and development. The 2012-13 nationwide cohort of 20 schools was generously supported by The AVI CHAI Foundation.  Each of the schools will be sharing insights from their experience through blog posts here this spring with the tag #jdsacademy

The 2013-14 cohort is currently in formation. If your school or community is interested in more information, please contact Lisa Colton.


Social Media Brings Alumni into the Conversation at Brandeis Hillel Day School

As a two-campus school serving 600 students and their families in the San Francisco Bay Area, we keep our community engaged and informed through a robust website, two packed weekly e-newsletters, class-specific updates and other publications. Yet, as our 50th anniversary approached last year, we wanted to quickly and effectively invite alumni and alumni families – along with the rest of our community – into the celebration (and conversation).

At the time, our Facebook page was in its infancy, with a few “likes” and content mirroring our website. Our separate alumni Facebook page had waxed and waned – and seemed disconnected from our daily life as an institution. Then came the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy– and everything changed.

Within the first few months, we developed a plan to invite alumni back into our daily conversation – as part of our extended BHDS family. We decided to focus our social media efforts on just one Facebook page, where our entire community could celebrate our 50th anniversary – as well as our daily life. We thought more creatively about making putting the “social” back in our social media by inviting more two-way conversations – and by experimenting with content and types of media. 

Some posts worked well – some did not. We learned as much from our failures as we did from our successes. Most importantly, we “discovered” much of what we knew all along – that our alumni have treasured memories from their years at BHDS, and that they they like photos and video from school days. We also noticed that they like to see news from the present…and that they care about helping the school build its future.

Encouraged by our coach, we decided to take a big chance on online fundraising. Thanks to the generosity of the AVI CHAI Foundation and all our learning through the JDS academy, we designed a fundraising drive to challenge our alumni to a 2:1 match to a donation of $18 or more to the school through Razoo, a social media fundraising site. The results were thrilling. Thanks to the enthusiastic response from our alumni and their families, we raised an unprecedented amount for BHDS in two weeks. More importantly, we brought our alumni and their families into our conversation and celebration in a way we never had before.

We learned a great deal from the chances we took this year – how to set up a social media-based fundraising drive, how to think through posting challenges and how to connect with our alumni in a more authentic way. Most importantly, we ended up with perhaps more even more valuable takeaways from our failures – knowing what doesn’t work is just as important as knowing what does.

Our social media foundation is strong. Our Facebook page has become a critical tool in our daily interaction as a community, more than tripling in users and updated with frequent, fresh posts several times per week. We recently launched our YouTube page, and we’re experimenting with best practices there as well. We’re considering additional social media tools, and look forward to build on the progress we’ve made. Along the way, we plan to take chances, experiment, and continue to learning as we move forward.

Join our conversation! Visit us on Facebook or contact Sonia Daccarett, Director of Communications at Brandeis Hillel Day School at [email protected].

Joan Fishbein Feldman is the Director of Communications of Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore, Maryland. Beth Tfiloh Dahan is the area’s largest coed Jewish day school, with students from PreSchool through Grade 12.

The Jewish Day School Social Media Academy is an intensive program designed to help Jewish Day Schools advance their strategic use of social media in areas such as communication, marketing, community building, alumni relations and development. The 2012-13 nationwide cohort of 20 schools was generously supported by The AVI CHAI Foundation.  Each of the schools will be sharing insights from their experience through blog posts here this spring with the tag #jdsacademy

The 2013-14 cohort is currently in formation. If your school or community is interested in more information, please contact Lisa Colton.


Facebook: A Transformation


Imagine this: a school without a Facebook page! How could this be?

We asked ourselves the same thing, prior to joining the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy. With approximately 400 students ranging from 18 months – 5th grade, Temple Beth Am Day School is a large Reform Jewish Day School that is part of Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest, Florida. While the Temple had an already existing and active Facebook page, the School was overdue in its use of social media. Upon joining the Academy, we realized immediately that it was imperative for the School to have its own page. Upon starting the new page, we had 5 likes, which included two community members, the Temple Communications Director, the Campus webmaster, and me. We knew we had work to do! With the help of our exceptional coach, Jenna Silverman of Big Duck NYC, we merged our various groups, pages, and places to create a clean and efficient Facebook page. Voila! It was time to launch our “Like Campaign”. In just a few months, we acquired 158 “likes”, and counting. Our active page is the place to go for the most up to date photos and information from our school.

The shift was palpable in our administration, as well as our parent body. Parents delighted at the opportunity to share our posts with their friends and family. We delighted at the opportunity to break down the walls of our regular e-mail blasts, and use social media to engage our parents. I (as the Admissions Director) continue to delight in the opportunity to access a whole new group of prospective school families in a way that is sincere and direct!

Our very supportive school administration is constantly informing me of school “moments” or events that should be posted on our page, and linked back to our website. Our Communications Director “shares” relevant posts between the Temple and School pages to make for one consistent social media “thread” from our facility. This has allowed for an opportunity for School families to have knowledge of Temple happenings, and vice versa. We truly take pride in the social media collaboration that has evolved from this experience.

As our School evaluates how we will use technology in a way that is purposeful, meaningful and effective; the leaps that we have made in our use of social media are on target.  We eagerly anticipate the future use of a School blog, Twitter account, and updated website. We also hope to create an alumni page that allows Temple Beth Am Day School alumni to be aware of all that is happening today on this vibrant campus. We have truly evolved in our knowledge and use of social media, and we are grateful for this transformation.

Cari Altman is the Director of Admissions at Temple Beth Am Day School in Pinecrest, Florida. A Pinecrest native, she truly appreciates the importance of the values-based education that comes from a Jewish Day School education.

The Jewish Day School Social Media Academy is an intensive program designed to help Jewish Day Schools advance their strategic use of social media in areas such as communication, marketing, community building, alumni relations and development. The 2012-13 nationwide cohort of 20 schools was generously supported by The AVI CHAI Foundation.  Each of the schools will be sharing insights from their experience through blog posts here this spring with the tag #jdsacademy

The 2013-14 cohort is currently in formation. If your school or community is interested in more information, please contact Lisa Colton.