Lisa Colton Named a Top #JewishInfluencer

jewishinflThe National Jewish Outreach Program tonight announced the recipients of the first “Jewish Treats: Jewish Influencer Awards” during the organization’s 18th annual dinner. I am completely honored to be named among them, and am humbled by the excellent company on the list (more on that below). The announcement was listed as part of Social Media Week (SMW12) which kicked off earlier in the day. Finalists were selected by an expert panel of judges and evaluated based on creative and strategic use of social media to positively impact the Jewish community. “We launched @JewishTweets in March 2008 and from the outset, embraced it for the way it allows us to connect with people everywhere. It has allowed us not only to be heard, but to listen and be inspired by others every day,” said Ephraim Z. Buchwald, founder and director of the National Jewish Outreach Program. “In particular, we wanted to take time to recognize some of those who are leveraging the power of social media to raise Jewish social consciousness and shine a positive light on Jewish life." I appreciate that this list includes so many different types of people — entrepreneurs, community organizers, educators, consultants, institutional folk and very non-institutional folk. Just goes to show you that there’s no right or wrong way to tweet – just be yourself, help others, add value, and have fun. And as Allison Fine says, "social media a contact sport, not a spectator sport." So get in the game. Rabbi Yonah Bookstein @RabbiYonah Rabbi Yonah Bookstein is the executive rabbi for JConnectLA, which hosts events to help young Jews “connect to something bigger”. A popular blogger, Bookstein’s writings regularly appear in The Huffington Post, Jewlicious and LA’s JewishJournal.com. He also maintains the Facebook presence for both JConnectLA and the Jewlicious Festival, a popular youth event. Lisa Colton: @LisaColton and @DarimOnline Lisa Colton is the founder of Darim Online, a nonprofit dedicated to helping Jewish organizations and leaders effectively leverage social media to achieve their goals, including community building, education, communication and fundraising. In the past year, Colton has presented at conferences throughout the United States, and has hosted social media webinars online. William Daroff: @Daroff William Daroff is the vice president for public policy and director of the Washington Office for the Jewish Federations of North America. To the Jewish online community he is @Daroff, a prolific Tweeter who offers great insights into happenings in the American Jewish community. In 2011, Daroff co-chaired the social media committee for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Global Coalition for Israel. Chaviva Galatz: @TheChaviva Galatz is a popular blogger, Tweeter and social media personality. She created and co-chaired the only Jewish-themed panel at the 2011 SxSW Interactive Festival in Austin, TX, entitled Jewish Synergy: Social Media and the New Community. She was named to The New York Jewish Week’s prestigious “36 Under 36” list where she was credited for “Connecting with Jews, one Tweet at a time”. Allison Josephs: @JewInTheCity Josephs is the woman behind “Jew in the City,” a popular website and video blog that helps promote a positive perception of Orthodox Judaism to non-observant Jews and non-Jews alike. In the past year, she has been invited to speak at numerous events and was interviewed by NPR for her work. Esther Kustanowitz: @EstherK Known to the online community as EstherK, Kustanowitz is a respected blogger, Tweeter and nonprofit consultant. Esther has traveled the globe presenting at various conferences on topics like Jewish communal engagement, social media and innovation. She was recently named a "Jewish Engagement Superstar" by Jewcy. The Maccabeats: @Maccabeats The Maccabeats, the male acapella group from Yeshiva University, has captivated American Jews with its hugely viral music videos promoting Jewish holidays. Their video for the song “Candlelight” has more than 7 million views alone. In 2011, the group was invited to perform for President Barack Obama at the official White House Chanukah party. The Maccabeats recently helped raise more than $88,000 for Gift of Life through their Miracle Match campaign. Rabbi Jason Miller: @RabbiJason Miller is a popular blogger on a wide variety of Jewish topics including technology, pop culture, politics and Jewish law. He is published regularly in the New York Jewish Week, The Huffington Post and the Detroit Jewish News. Rabbi Miller’s video response to former presidential candidate Governor Rick Perry’s “Strong” commercial has nearly 220,000 views on YouTube and was written about in dozens of national and international publications. Dave Weinberg: @Weinberg81 A Jewish innovator who uses social media to rally people for causes he supports, Weinberg runs Causil, which offers nonprofit consulting, conferences such as the Future of Jewish Nonprofit Summit, aimed at educating the Jewish community on social media. Dave also was invited to lead the Social Media Boot Camp at the AJOP Convention earlier this year. Rabbi Josh Yuter: @JYuter Rabbi Josh Yuter is not only a pulpit rabbi. He’s a popular blogger, tweeter, and podcaster (his Jewish-themed podcasts were downloaded more than 20,000 times last year.) After he launched an impressive Facebook page and Twitterfeed for his synagogue, he was chosen by the Rabbinical Council of America to teach other rabbis about social media and “Using the Web to Teach Torah” at its 2011 Annual Convention.

Hanukkah Entertainment That Educates?

in collaboration with guest blogger Rick Recht The ultimate form of ‘cool’ in the Jewish world is when your non-Jewish friends also think it, whatever IT is, is cool. Well, cool just happened – twice. [If you’ve seen the videos, feel free to skip below them to the bottom of this post. Unless, of course, you can’t help yourself but watch them again.] On December 4, the CNN.com top headline picture was a snapshot from a viral video by the Maccabeats, male a capella group from Yeshiva University. The video Candlelight, a parody of teen heart-throb, Taio Cruz’s top 10 hit, Dynamite, and Mike Tompkin’s a cappella version of it. The Hanukkah version has racked up more than 2 million views on YouTube, earning the Maccabeats appearances on The Today Show, The Early Show, CNN.com and The Washington Post, among others. Candlelight includes lyrics about the Hanukkah story and traditions such as latkes and dreidel spinning. The video humorously depicts the Maccabeats reenacting aspects of the ancient Hanukkah story in makeshift gladiator costumes occasionally flash-forwarding to present day Yeshiva college buddies flipping latkes, studying Torah, and singing on camera, Brady Bunch-style. Simultaneously, another new Hanukkah video, by reggae rapper, super star, Matisyahu, attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors. Matisyahu’s song, Miracle, is a contemporary interpretation of Hanukkah, where in a dream sequence Matisyahu meets Antiochus, the King of the Greeks, and the father of Judah Maccabee (the hero of the Hanukkah story), also named (get this!) Matisyahu. At Shabbat services last week, I mentioned the viral videos and then many laughed and nodded in recognition of the achievement by OUR Maccabeats and Matisyahu. We’ve got communal pride because this caliber of media rarely emanates from the Jewish world, and when it does, Jews take notice. These videos have the perfect combination of ingredients — including high-quality talent and cinematography, great humor, a clear connection with popular culture, and a powerful story line that is authentic Jewish history. These guys took it to the next level by unashamedly expressing their Jewish pride by using fun costumes, humor, and symbolism to tell the Hanukkah story. We’re not just talking about playing dreidel, we’re talking about the pressure to assimilate, and the temptation of … well, "chocolate stuff". (Don’t know what I mean? Watch "Miracle"!) While they are surely educational, the approach isn’t shoving historical facts down your throat. I asked my 23 year old office manager, Seth, why he thought the videos were cool and he didn’t skip a beat in responding, “First off, they’re hilarious. They are a great example of the talent that comes from our Jewish community. Now that these videos are viral, not only within the Jewish community but everywhere, it gives us pride to be Jewish because Jews AND non-Jews are watching and loving these videos. Hanukkah has lost a lot of its religious meaning and understanding for many of us (young people) and these videos give us a different way to look at the holiday and put a modern spin on it. They highlight the Jewish people and bring attention, in a very good way, to our Jewish community.” For Seth and many other young Jews, these videos exceed their apparent entertainment value and become more meaningful because they have a clear educational purpose. They don’t just hover around the contemporary iconic Hanukkah symbols such as dreidles and Hanukkah menorahs. They tell the REAL historical story of Hanukkah. They serve as relevant and meaningful sources of Jewish education for this holiday that has lost much of its meaning having become a contemporary American Hallmark holiday. They employ the ultimate tools for reaching and impacting young lives – music and video – and then stream the content on YouTube, the most powerful platform for video sharing. It’s also a powerful place for expression, identity building, and discusComment on Maccabeats Videosion. A few comments on the videos are posted here – they are fascinating to browse to gain insight into youthScreen shot 2010-12-06 at 10.55.39 PM (and not-so-youth) culture today of both Jews and non-Jews. Timing is everything, and the chance of being exposed to anything by or about Jews is dramatically increased during the Hanukkah season. It is no coincidence that these 2 videos hit their rocket-like trajectory on the 3rd and 4th days of Hanukkah. Familiarity breeds popularity. In the case of the Maccabeats, their song Candlelight was a parody of one of the most popular songs in the country. Almost every kid in the country had already memorized Dynamite by Taio Cruz and only had to learn the new Hanukkah lyrics in the Maccabeats’ parody. Screen shot 2010-12-06 at 10.58.49 PMScreen shot 2010-12-06 at 10.57.43 PMSo let us rejoice for the blessing of these two incredible viral videos that have infused our Jewish lives with such excitement and pride during this holiday season. And let us contemplate a time when individuals in our Jewish community can achieve national recognition in between holidays, using the power of music, video, and genuine high-quality talent to not only entertain, but educate both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences about our Jewish rituals, values, and history. Rick Recht is the top touring artist in Jewish music, the Executive Director of Jewish Rock Radio, Executive Director of Songleader Boot Camp, and the JNF National Music Spokesman.

Learn Hebrew in the Palm of Your “Yad”

In January, Birthright Israel NEXT launched its first iPhoneapplication, Mila-4-Phone. The application (app), a Hebrew-learning program that uses flashcards and includes audio pronunciation, has been downloaded more than 3,000 times so far.

Such success signals the grand potential for Jewish organizations to use apps to reach their constituents in a new way: right in the palm of their hand.

Graphic from Mila-4-Phone App
Graphic from Mila-4-Phone App

Apps are what websites were to an organization ten years ago, Daniel Brenner, executive director of Birthright Israel NEXT, said. Back then, we used to joke “you are not real until you are virtual.”

Brenner makes a good point. In the web of the 1990s, websites were static and reference-focused. Today, the web is increasingly more fast-paced and social-focused thanks to the ubiquity of user generated content and the rise of social networking sites.

As apps bring the social web to phones and other mobile devices, organizations are pressed to deliver valued-added content that is more than just reference material.

Apps challenge organizations to show how ongoing, updated information from the organization is relevant to users, Brenner said.

For Birthright Israel NEXT, the key to compelling content was listening to its target base, a population that was expressing interest in returning to Israel and learning Hebrew.

We view the iPhone app as having two mission related functions one educational and one community building, Brenner said. One element of our mission is to deepen the connections that young adults have to Israel Hebrew learning certainly does just that.

But the real power of the app is that it is building a community of over three thousand young adults who share an interest in Hebrew language. Since we are involved in promoting ulpanim in ten cities and in holding ‘beit cafe’ events where Americans can meet Israeli peers and work on their Hebrew, the iPhone app serves as a magnet for folks with a shared interest and has encouraged people to meet others who want to learn Hebrew.

While the app may not be for every Birthright Israel alumni, it has attracted a large, focused following with more than 3,000 downloads from 49 countries.

Niche followings are the best type of followings, Brenner said. Knowing that over 3,000 young adults who are for the most part unaffiliated Jews and who did not go to Jewish day school all want to learn Hebrew is a very good thing.

Seeing a Jewish organization invest in a new technology and using it to reach its base in a 21st century model transcending space, time and place is definitely a very good thing.

So good that other Jewish organizations are taking notice. For instance, Mazon has an iPhone app as does the Cleveland Jewish Federation, which launched Jewish Cleveland in March.

Will apps be the new websites of the 2010s?Are you or your Jewish organization thinking about creating an app? Sound off in our comments.

Video of Mila-4-Phone in Action

To learn more about Mila-4-Phone check it out here.If you dont have an iPhone, or iPod touch, you can still join in on the mobile- Hebrew-learning fun with Birthright Israel NEXTs Hebrew Word-A-Day Text Messaging program. Just text Hebrew to 41411 to get started.

No More Scissors and Paste: Bringing the Shabbat Service Online

By Matthew Grossman, BBYOs Executive Director

Last week BBYO announced the launch of what I believe is an exciting, inventive tool available to engage teens in a meaningful Shabbat experience: Build a Prayer. As a free, online tool the site is designed to connect youth with prayer and Shabbat like never before by allowing them to build and customize their own service.

At BBYO, I constantly see teens, advisors and staff members using unique spaces and creativity to offer relevant, powerful Shabbat services, a unique challenge since most teens have only experience services within their synagogue. This challenge is only made more difficult by the fact that most teens arent comfortable in a traditional siddur they dont know where services start and end, what to include, or what is safe to leave out.

To meet that need (and often times to save money), these worship services are typically guided by a teen-designed collection of songs, poetry and prayers that is compiled through an effort of photocopying, cutting and pasting together old song sheets and prayer book passages. As an organization, we saw the need to provide Jewish teens with an accessible place to explore prayer and its meanings doing it online also happens to save some glue.

What makes this site so exciting is that it brings thousands-of-years-old prayers into a modern day realm that teens relate to. It is streamlined and easy to use. In a few clicks of a button, teens have a complete service in front of them in which they feel some much needed connections. While not every teen feels comfortable finding their way in a traditional siddur, Build a Prayer allows teens to put together a basic Shabbat service in a space they can easily navigate.

The site is designed for teens, educators, camp counselors, youth group advisors, JCC professionals, chavurah leaders basically, anyone who is interested in putting together a Shabbat service in a formal or informal setting. The site allows Hebrew, English and/or transliterated text to be compiled with ones own pictures, prayers or poetry toward the creation of a custom Prayer Service which can be printed and used anywhere.

With help from www.myjewishlearning.org and a series of videos, users can learn more about the traditions and tunes behind specific prayers. Additionally, a content library holds creative elements from individual prayer services as they are created. Because this is an online resource, people can collaborate on the development of each service and comment on them once they are placed in the Build a Prayer library.

While recent studies show that participation in traditional religious experiences decline during the teen years, the desire to connect spiritually on ones own terms remains strong. Build a Prayer is another resource we are offering the Jewish community as a way to better connect with Jewish teens. Organizations looking to reach the teen audience should look at this as a tool to literally bring prayer to life.

Matt Grossman is the Executive Director of BBYO. He began his career at Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. Matt is also a member of the Darim Online board of directors. Matt currently lives in Washington, DC where he works at BBYO’s international headquarters.

The Reform Movement Should Make the Most of this Moment

As far as Rabbi Eric Yoffie is concerned, Reform congregations need to get with the program, technologically speaking, and they need to do so now. At the recent URJ Biennial in Toronto, the movements head delivered his annual sermon and used the opportunity to encourage every congregation to think seriously about harnessing the power of the internet to enhance their communities:

[T]he web potentially at least empowers our members and democratizes our synagogues. The synagogue is the grassroots address of the Jewish world, and the web gives us an instrument to involve and include Jews as never before. Are our synagogues doing great things in this area? Absolutely. Are we making the most of this potential? Not even close.

Yoffies challenge to congregations is to be applauded. Too many synagogues and Jewish schools have an attitude towards tech thats generations (a relative term, I know) behind their congregants and students who all have Facebook accounts, use Twitter, and are never more than an arms length from their Blackberries and iPhones. But the movements approach to addressing this issue an organized program to train lay leaders to create and maintain congregational blogs is only a first step. The Reform movement has an incredible opportunity on its hands, a chance to take the next steps and to get a lot more serious about using technology to build and strengthen communities.

Four suggestions for maximizing this moment:

1. Congregations should form committees (or task forces) to develop thoughtful strategies for using technology to increase the efficacy of communication. Rabbi Yoffie is right that blogs are a great way for synagogue members to connect online. But there are lots of other technologies social networking, microblogging, podcasting, mass texting that also might be useful to synagogues. And there are those congregations for whom blogging might not be the best fit. Every synagogue should gather their most technologically savvy members (and some socially savvy connectors, if were going to take Malcolm Gladwells advice) to make these sort of decisions for the community. Should the temple have a Facebook page, and if so what kinds of things should be posted there? If the synagogue has a Twitter account, who should be charged with maintaining it? And how often should they tweet? The URJ could be indispensible in providing consultants and experts to help congregations get on this path.

2. Technology can help Reform congregations do an even better job of running organizations that live up to the highest values of the movement. Imagine if a synagogue lived up to its commitment to environmentalism by going totally paper-free. The synagogue staff uses Google Docs to collaborate on projects. Rabbis project Temple announcements (and other administrivia) up on a screen during services so that programs dont need to be printed every week. Instead of spending lots of paper and money on a newsletter, members receive a monthly email newsletter, as well as frequent updates on Facebook and Twitter. Lots of congregations are using all these technologies, and theyre preventing lots of paper waste in the process. The Union can support congregations new to these technologies by teaching professionals to use these tools, empowering congregants with tech skills to be leaders in their communities, and by pairing temples at the beginning of this journey with those whove already found success.

3. Technology is an important part of the future of Jewish education. Im not talking about educational video games. Im talking about using tools to help learners connect deeply to Jewish text, about helping schools better communicate with parents, about using inexpensive video conferencing to bring diverse teachers to isolated Jewish communities. Education is a central part of a synagogues mission, and we need to be asking new questions about how learning is changing. How can we utilize new technologies like Google Wave, Twitter, and YouTube to allow for collaborative (hevruta for the new generation!) learning? How can the internet help us engage (and empower!) parents and families in new ways? How can we use technology to open up the world of Jewish education to better integrate the arts, science, and communication?

Thirty years ago, innovative Jewish educators were using filmstrips, slideshows, and video to bring Torah to life. Now, equally innovative educators are using Flash animation, social media, and hypertextuality to accomplish those same goals. The URJ should nurture and support these sorts of projects and help to bring those tools to congregations and their learners.

4. Technology is an excellent opportunity for collaboration. In the few days before the URJ Biennial, a group of educators gathered for a pre-conference symposium on Jewish identity. One of the teachers at that gathering was Professor Ari Kelman who shared research that suggests that the current generation of young, involved Jews (many of whom are digital natives, if you dont mind sweeping generalizations) are redefining affiliation by resisting joining a single organization, and rather participating in lots of diverse parts of Jewish life. For these Jews, no single institution is the center of Jewish life.

Institutions that pay attention to thinkers like Kelman realize that successful Jewish organizations of the future will be marked by cooperation and collaboration. They also know that efficient and financially responsible Jewish organizations are the ones that dont insist on re-inventing the wheel but rather seek out partner organizations with different types of expertise. To truly move forward to empower member congregations to embrace a 21st-Century social-media-savvy technologically-engaged existence, the Union should seek out organizations, educators, clergy, innovators, experts, academics and thinkers who can help congregations do their best work.

Perfect example: Darim Online has lots of experience helping Jewish organizations effectively utilize social media technology (including blogs!), and that expertise could really help (and in fact already is helping) Reform congregations look at new ways of communicating. Instead of trying to invent their own wheel, the URJ should seek out partners whove already invented pretty good wheels.

Lets be clear: The Reform movement is taking unprecedented steps forward. Rabbi Yoffies sermon and the related URJ initiatives launched this week mark the first time a major movement is encouraging and supporting member congregations to take this trend seriously. This is an important moment, and it would be a shame to waste it.

Josh Mason-Barkin, director of school services at Torah Aura Productions, is a member of a Reform congregation and a graduate of HUC-JIR. He blogs at tapbb.com. You can find his twitter feed at www.twitter.com/barkinj. He frequently contributes to a conversation about Jewish Education in the 21st century on Twitter under the hashtag #jed21

Renegotiating Boundaries: Technology in the Home in Sh’ma

Peggy Orenstein, in her New York Times Magazine article this past weekend, considers the impact of opening up her family via Skyping with her parents 1500 miles away. She writes:

Now, I like my parents. A lot. I really do. Thats why I make the 1,500-mile trip to visit them three or four times a year. I did not, however, spend the bulk of my adult life perfecting the fine art of establishing boundaries only to have them toppled by the click of a mouse. If I wanted them to have unfettered access to my life, I wouldnt have put the keep out sign on my room at age 10. I would have lived at home through college. I would have bought the house next door to them in Minneapolis and made them an extra set of keys…
To Skype or not to Skype, that is the question. But answering it invokes a larger conundrum: how to perform triage on the communication technologies that seem to multiply like Tribbles instant messaging, texting, cellphones, softphones, iChat, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter; how to distinguish among those that will truly enhance intimacy, those that result in T.M.I. [too much information] and those that, though pitching greater connectedness, in fact further disconnect us from the people we love.

Every new technology, from the telephone decades ago, to streaming video cams these days, and everything in between, beg many questions about how much information we want to share, where we will draw our boundaries, why, and how.

In this month’s Journal S’hma, I offer some thoughts on how these tools can enrich and starve our Jewish homes, and how we can draw on Jewish concepts of community, home, family and values to guide our intentional decision making about how, when and why we will use (or not use) particular technologies. Because ultimately, it’s not about the technology, it’s about relationships.

Read the S’hma article and share your thoughts, experiences and approaches on the new S’hma website, or leave a comment here on JewPoint0.

The Innovation Ecosystem: Emergence of a New Jewish Landscape

In their recently published op-ed in JTA titled “Invest in Innovation”, Felicia Herman and Dana Raucher disagree that at a time of economic downturn we should follow the “calls for greater consolidation and a return to the more centralized infrastructure of yesteryear.” These two brilliant women (Felicia Herman is the executive director of the Natan Fund, and Dana Raucher is the executive director of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation) are not looking backwards for solutions, but looking forward. They write:

We believe that the young, and often small, nonprofits that have emerged in the past decade, and the very de-centralization they reflect, are here to stay. We believe that this interconnected network of smaller, niche-based organizations reflects the organizational transformation now under way in American culture: a revolution in the way that people connect, organize and affiliate, brought about by technological advancements that have dramatically shaped our ways of looking at the world. That revolution already has utterly transformed so much of our lives — the way we shop, network, share information, learn and teach. We dont believe theres any going back.

I completely agree with their observations. In addition to encouraging you to read the new report, The Innovation Ecosystem, that they developed with JumpStart, I want to reinforce their de-centralized vision, and encouage us to questions our assumptions and the status quo of how we go about doing our business. The top down models that have worked in the past are no longer the only solution. Self-motivated, creative and empowered individuals and groups now have the ability to self-organize, creating the programs and organizations that embody the bottom-up culture that is so attractive.

Investments in innovative organizations are important, because we do need to evolve our Jewish community to continue to be relevant to its participants. Furthermore, we need to invest in helping more traditional organizations also make this shift to realign themselves with a rapidly changing paradigm. The “revolution” which Felicia and Dana refer to is in fact a tectonic shift, largely empowered by social media, that we cannot ignore. So where to begin? While the strategic questions may feel overwhelming and insurrmountable, dipping our toes in the water to begin to understand the evolving culture and the potential of the technology tools is a fruitful (and dare I say FUN) place to start.

Often I hear staff say “but where are we going to find the time to do this social media stuff? I don’t have even 10 minutes a day to spare.” While that may be true, we are spending a tremendous amount of time and energy (and dollars) in our “business as usual” routine, the products of which may or may not be the most efficient and effective way to achieve our goals and mission.

Take for example the synagogue newsletter. This 12 or 24 page monthly publication takes thousands of dollars per year in paper, labels and stamps, plus who know how many hours to write, edit, layout, photocopy, stamp and send 500, 1000, or 1500 copies each month. Can you tell me how many people read it cover to cover? What’s the most popular column? How many throw it in the recycling without even a glance? Even those who do read it cover to cover — what’s the impact on their participation, education, engagement, identity or support?

Now, can we borrow just 10 minutes a day from the team of people who put countless hours into that newsletter? I’ll help you measure the return on your 10 minutes. My guess is you’ll find it worthwhile.

There is no looking back. So we might as well start looking forward. How do you spend your 10 minutes of social media per day? What are the outcomes?

IDF Using Social Media for Gaza Public Relations

The New York Times reports that the Israel Defense Forces are using video on their YouTube channel and a Twitter based news conference to bring their message to audiences far and wide. The Times reports:

“Since the definition of war has changed, the definition of public diplomacy has to change as well,” said David Saranga, the head of media relations for the Israeli consulate in New York, which conducted the Twitter news conference on Tuesday… Tuesday’s online dialogue, which was open for questions from anyone with a Twitter account, was “the first governmental press conference ever held on Twitter.” And he made no apologies for using common text-messaging abbreviations 2 for to, 4 for for, and r for are, and other shorthand like civ for civilian in his answers. “I speak to every demographic in a language he understands,” he said. “If someone only speaks Spanish, I speak in Spanish; if someone is using a platform like Twitter, I want to tweet.”

While the 140 characters allowed in a “tweet” (a posting on Twitter – see CommonCraft for a brief explanation of Twitter) may not be able to dive into the nuance and details of the conflict, the Twitter-based PR efforts seem to be more intended to build relationships. Those who participated felt they had a direct ear to someone with authority, and being able to engage in dialog, even 140 characters at a time, is in fact a small step towards greater understanding and use of words (or at least partl 1s) instead of weapons. Experts from the Twitter Q&A follow, as reported by The New York Times. See the full article for more.

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explore4corners: How many attacks have there been against IS in the last 6 months? How many casualties? The MSM doesn’t report that here.

israelconsulate: ovr 500 rockts Hit IL in the 6 mts of CF. per the last 72 hrs mre thn 300 hit IL. kiling 4 ppl & injuring hndrds

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carrotderek: On what conditions would Israel consider a ceasefire?

israelconsulate: CF must ensure no more rockets on IL no arms smuggling. btw crossings for Human Aid r open and trucks are entering

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backlotops: 1 side has to stop. Why continue what hasn’t worked (mass arial/grnd retaliation)? Arab Peace Initiative?

israelconsulate: we R pro nego. crntly tlks r held w the PA tlks on the 2 state soln. we talk only w/ ppl who accept R rt 2 live.

If you’d like a challenge, “translate” the above tweets and post your translations in the comments of this blog post so others who don’t “speak tweet” can understand it!

Baltimore Jewish Leaders Assembly, Powered by Teens

Allison Fine signs copies of her book, Momentum
Allison Fine signs copies of her book, Momentum

Allison Fine, author of Momentum was the keynote speaker at ACHARAI, the Shoshana S. Cardin Leadership Development Institute’s “Technology: Threat or Promise” event on Thursday, November 20. After setting the stage to help participants see the landscape of the field, Allison pointed to the group of teens seated at the back tables. These people are the future employees, and consumers of what our Jewish organizations have to offer. Allison urged us to listen to them, carefully. How are they using these tools, how are they making decisions, what do they want? The bottom line: communities are no longer being built from the top down, they are powered from the bottom up. We must empower and engage these young people to bring them into our community and organizations.

These teens came to the program to both learn and teach. One of the several break out sessions, led by Darim’s Director of the Learning Network, Caren Levine, employed the teens to help participants get hands-on experience with social media tools, such as wikis and blogs. The teens were able to help lower barriers to entry, so participants could experiment with the technology in a safe and supportive place.

Teens debrief at the end of the day
Teens debrief at the end of the day

While the teens were instrumental in assisting the program, I think they walked away with more than they expected. Those who attended my session on social media theory and practice told me they had many “ah-ha moments” — that while they don’t think twice about the technology, they’d never paused to think about how it can be used strategically to help achieve a specific goal, and they were excited to see examples of really fun stuff happening online in the Jewish world.

Hats off to Debs Weinberg and her team for organizing such a thoughtful, educational and inspiring event. In my vision, the next stage of Jewish organizational life will fuse experienced strategic thinkers with younger “we’ve grown up on this stuff” staff to shift organizational practice into relevant 21st century modes. These young people may have walked in thinking they were contributing to the teaching, but they left with much more. Sitting in on the debrief after the conference, I was amazed to hear what they had learned. The skills they developed in this one day will position them to be incredibly valuable in the job market as they graduate in the coming years.

Torah Tidbit

In this week’s Torah portion Mase’ei, the land is finally apportioned to the tribes of Israel. After wandering, debating and negotiations each of the tribes knows where where in the land either east or west of the Jordan they are getting their portion of land. Numbers 34: 13-29 describes the process by which the land was apportioned. Moses instructs that a chieftain from each tribe is designated to receive the land on behalf of their tribe. In turn each of these men will allot the portion to the families of their tribe.

The JPS Torah Commentary points out that with the exception of Caleb and Joshua who are survivors of the generation who left Egypt, the rest of the list are new names. Each of these leaders is taking the helm of the tribe and for the first time serving as a representative. Yet in the context of the larger narrative this apportioning is seamless with the previous sections on land distribution. To emphasize this link the story of Zelophehad’s daughters that appeared two weeks ago in chapter 27 concludes in this portion in chapter 36.

It is this juxtaposition of changing leadership and continuous communal narrative that piqued my interest. How important it is to retain seamless transition despite changes in leadership. While change is good, here seamless transition is important for stability. The narrative of the daughters of Zelophehad reminds us of the passage of time but also the unity of the story. As we think to our modern institutions the lessons of this Torah portion are important. The ideal is for the new guard to take over without taking steps backward. The text assumes that the knowledge of the apportionment has reached these leaders and that everything will continue as planned. Now while we don’t have God and Moses showing us the ropes, we can take a clue from their book and make sure that we transmit not only responsibility but also the information needed to accomplish the task at hand.

Shabbat Shalom!