G-dcast.com Animated Torah Lessons

Date: August, 2007. Place: Atlanta. “The Conversation“, an amazing gathering of professional and lay Jews.

My Ah-Ha Moment: Sarah Lefton showing a small crowd a new project she’s been working on: G-dcast. A short animated online video that captures the story, the lessons and the larger questions of the Torah portion. Wow. Fun, entertaining, insightful, thought provoking. Accessible. Really accessible. I was impressed.

Fast forward approximately one year. Sarah’s attracted funding, support and a lot of energy as she’s produced a series of G-dcast.com films, which launch today. The narrators include Lawrence Kushner, Esther Kustanowitz and many other hip, household names. Some episodes are straightforward storytelling, while other parshiot are told as country songs, hip-hop tracks or mystical discourses on the nature of the universe.

G-dcasts goal is to raise basic Jewish literacy among youth and young adults in an accessible and fun way. In order to affect as wide an audience as possible, G-dcast is delivered online for free, and they offer a downloadable curriculum guide for each episode (great for teachers as well as parents). The series will also be available as a video podcast, so the cartoons can be watched and collected on ipods and mobile phones. Each episode offers embed code so you can easily add it to your web site or blog (see below). While Lefton and her colleagues imagine the animations targeted to a relatively youthful audience, I happen to think the wit, insightful nature and creative style will appeal to a very wide audience, both online and in a live gathering, such as a classroom. What do you think?

Check it out: G-dcast.com.

copyright 2008, g-dcast llc

Update: The New York Times raves about G-dcast.com!

IT Staffing — How Do You Measure Up?

NTEN (The Nonprofit Technology Network) is an incredible organization that brings together staff of nonprofit organizations to use technology better. They offer a conference (this year, April 26-28, 2009 in San Francisco — come join us!), webinars, knowledge sharing, affinity groups, online discussions, discounts on software, and much more.

One of the most valuable services they provide is data of how organizations across the nonprofit sector are using technology. They conduct regular surveys and research, and publish regular reports which are available for free download on their web site. Samples of reports available include:

At Darim, we find that the Jewish community, in general, lags behind both similar for profit and non profit organizations in their use of Internet technologies, social media strategies and data management. There are wonderful notable exceptions, but Darim’s work focuses largely on helping Jewish orgs get a leg up on how they use these powerful tools.

While we often compare our work to other similar organizations in our community, it is important to step outside the Jewish community from time to time to see how our work and investments compare with other nonprofit organizations. Salaries and education of IT staff, how centralized or distributed the tasks are among staff, what ongoing training or professional development is offered, etc. The NTEN reports offer a window into the broader nonprofit community, showing the trends of both small and large organizations.

A new report on IT staffing is due in January and you’ll find a link to it here on JewPoint0!

Check out some other interesting articles and resources on IT staffing:

First House of Worship to Receive Platinum LEED Certification

Mazel tov to the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, Illinois, which recently became the first house of worship to receive the highest level of LEED certification for their new “green” building. JRC recently launched their new web site with Darim, and has dedicated a whole category of the site to their “green synagogue”, including information about Jewish values, the building, decision making, and other useful environmentally responsible resources and products.

During the project Rabbi Brant Rosen’s Blog frequently included posts about the project. In one, he discusses talking to Hebrew school kids about the “pillars” of the community, as the construction crew was preparing to construct 18 concrete pillars for the foundation of the building, reaching 55 feet into the ground.

I took Alans idea [of 18 symbolic pillars of the congregation] to our 4th and 7th grade religious school students. I did my best to explain the concept of caissons [concrete pillars] to them, then we read a classic Jewish text from Pirke Avot (The Chapters of the Fathers): Rabbi Shimon the Righteous said, the world stands on three things: study, worship and acts of lovingkindness. What, I asked our students, would you consider to be the eighteen pillars upon which our congregational community stands?

Then together we brainstormed eighteen spiritual values of our JRC community: God, Judaism, Joy, Prayer, Hope, Respect, Partnership, Song, Tikkun Olam, Community, Study, Freedom, Friendship, Spirit, Learning, Peace, Growth, and Love.

Afterwards, I wrote out the values on a separate pieces of paper and each one was placed by the construction crew into a separate caisson shaft to be mixed together with the concrete, becoming a permanent part of JRCs support structure.

What an amazing lesson. Mazel tov and kol hakavod to the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation.

Learn more about their green building here!

More Jewish/Environmental resources:

Canfei Nesharim http://canfeinesharim.org/

The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life http://www.coejl.org

Hazon http://www.hazon.org/ (and their excellent blog, The Jew and the Carrot)

Teva Learning Center for Jewish environmental education http://www.tevacenter.org/

Modeling the “Whole Internet” Strategy

RedWriteWeb, one of the most popular blogs on web technology news, is running a series of posts this week on how religious organizations are using technology. Today they focused on the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, pluralistic research and training institute that trains and ordains rabbis as well as runs high schools in Jerusalem, among other things.

As their work attracts and serves a very diverse (and worldwide) audience, so too must their online strategy. Beyond information about the organization and programs via their web site, the Institute incorporates extensive video and slide sharing throughout the site to share their value and make their work (and their extraordinary teachers) come alive. Further, they are developing a Facebook strategy, working their Wikipedia entries, venturing into podcasting, blogging, using video-based distance learning, and experimenting with Twitter.

Alan Abbey, the organization’s web site manager, is turning theory into practice, experimenting, and measuring his success. More than dabbling in this and that, he is creating an internet strategy for his organization, and is implementing the multiple facets of that strategy. Alan knows that the age of focusing only on your web site ended in 2007, and he’s integrating multiple tools and approaches. He understands it may take time for each venture to get rooted and attract and audience. And for his audience to mature and start to use these tools as well. And perhaps, in the coming year or two, he’ll weed his garden and pursue a smaller number of approaches that have the greatest returns for his mission. Or maybe he’ll find great success in all of his approaches. Learn about his work at ReadWriteWeb. And check out the other religion postings this week too.

Further reading:

  • Andrea Useem writes about religious life and web 2.0 on the Religion Writer blog.
  • See3.net offers wisdom on using online video for non profit causes on their blog, See What’s Out There.
  • Short video tutorials on a number of social media tools, such as social bookmarking, Twitter and others from Common Craft.

Web 2.0 Strategy in Jerusalem: Tachlis 2 Point Oh!

Jewlicious, PresenTense and others are putting on a valuable conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday, September 17, 2008 called Tachlis 2 Point Oh! to demonstrate how to get the most out of Web 2.0 tools. Panelists are the who’s who of Jewish 2.0, including Ricky Ben-David, Aharon Horwitz of PresenTense, Ahuvah Berger on social networking, and David Abitbol from Jewlicious on blogging.

Get all the details here.

In Jerusalem next week? Don’t miss it! Did you go? We’d love to hear what you learned.