Jewish New Media Fund Injects Energy – and Cash

jnmiflogoFor years the Jewish community has lagged behind general society in creative and effective use of technology and new media. This observation (and personal frustration with it) was the genesis of Darim 10 years ago. There are many obstacles – skills, staffing, design, willingness to take risks, or to know where to take risks. And of course, money. In recent years a number of creative, and largely independent, social entrepreneurs in the Jewish community have taken matters into their own hands, building and launching interesting applications on a shoestring, sometimes at night while holding down a full time job to pay the bills. But in general, the organizations, their audiences, the designers and programmers, and the funders haven’t been speaking the same language. Some people are preaching open source and others and pressing CDroms. Where do we go from here? Three of the nation’s largest Jewish foundations – the Righteous Persons Foundation, the Jim Joseph Foundation, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation – have announced the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund to help energize the community to focus on the need for new media innovations, and to help bring them to life. While a pool of $500,000 injects important dollars to jumpstart new and support developing projects, I think this fund — and the role of three prominent foundations — is a critically important statement to the community. This is not optional anymore. This is our present, and our future, and there is no time to waste. I know a lot of people with some very creative ideas, and this is a tremendous opportunity for us to recognize the talents that exist within the Jewish community, and to take advantage. The fund intends to support interactive, digital efforts that are creative and impactful, and which and engage with Jews and Judaism in ways that promote moremeaningful and vibrant Jewish life in the 21st century. The Fund will support individuals, 501c3 non-profit organizations, social enterprises, and for-profit businesses. Collaborative projects are welcomed and encouraged. All the details and the application form are here. Deadline is November 22, 2010. Funding decisions will be made in February, 2011.

Don’t Say Cheese

David Frank

In the old days one hallmark of a professional photographer was that the photog was never without a camera. By that standard, today just about all of us are professionals.

Cell phone cameras are ubiquitous. Now we go through our days visually armed, as it were, often immediately emailing friends the resulting photo reconnaissance of our lives. We post these mega-pixel bits and bytes of our lives in our Facebook albums. We tweet them to whoever will follow. We collect them in vast numbers on our computers. Sometimes they are dark, blurry rectangles that assert simply that we exist. Sometimes they surprise us with unspeakable depth, transforming even a random moment into a powerful enduring memory. Sometimes we make prints of them so they can become our companions, or even turn them into hardcover, realio-trulio coffee-table books all about us.

What does it all mean? Have we all become self-obsessed users of the latest must-have tech-tools for noting, recording and sharing our lives? Or think of this – have we, perhaps, all become historians newly in procession of cutting-edge tools for making meaning. Using these tools is it possible that we can now translate our busy, sometimes chaotic lives into the illustrated narratives that, upon reflection, help us understand who we are, where we fit and what we mean.

Here is a small example of what I am getting at. I have spent about an equal number of years in my life working as a Jewish educator and as a photographer. Recently, I have begun to photograph bar/bat mitzvahs – but with what I believe is an interesting twist that incorporates the sensibilities of both.

It is not just about a party. And it is certainly not about lining up the family and at my prompt encouraging them to, Say cheese. In fact, I do as little directing as possible. Just like you can with your cell cameras at the ready, I am after stories from real life. I begin months before photographing the child studying, working with the rabbi and cantor, documenting the mitzvah project, the party planning, the suit/dress shopping, anything related to any aspect of what is involved in a 21st Century bar/bat mitzvah – taking pictures that ultimatelygive me the raw material to tell a much bigger story. Now a trusted confidant, I interview the child exploring what they make of all the attention being heaped upon them, their Torah reading, their expectations, and their fears. I talk to the parents about their child, their aims for the event, their Jewish identities and what they hope to pass on to their children. Then I weave a narrative words and pictures and I put them in a book a personal history book that can play an important role in helping a family define and express the meaning of the experience.


Bat Mitzvah – Images by David Frank

And, here is something to consider – even the very fact of photographing makes meaning. Remember, Im not talking about a Say cheese grab-shot. But Im also not suggesting anything about the quality of the camera you might use. Im talking about the quality of paying a particular kind of attention that has the capacity to suggest to your young subject that THESE aspects of your process (the study, the talks with the rabbi, the time spent alone drilling words of Torah, etc.) are significant and valuable. And the resulting photographs then can take their rightful place.

And the photographs make the memories. Thats why we take pictures. We grab from the swift flow of undifferentiated life a few split seconds of our lives and say, Stop! Just now I want you to be this age, with these people, in this place forever. Such pictures, especially at peek moments can help to define who we are.

Consider the photo documentation of your own life. How your memories are sparked when you peruse an old album. Look at my big hair! Those are some crazy lapels! Look how beautiful Mom was when she was young. What if the interior monologue could continue Here I am before my Bat Mitzvah. Im so proud that or Wow, this was the first time I touched a Torah. or Here I am in the rabbis study Pie in the sky? Perhaps, but without the photographic jolts to memory over the years the event loses its specificity and its power to shape identity. Identity = authentic experiences, sensitively documented and well remembered. My own, now adult, daughter is still awed by the photos that remind her that all those people had come to see HER.

At a recent Bat Mitzvah the family stood on the bima with the rabbi reciting the Havdalah blessings. They tasted the wine, smelled the spices, illuminated their fingertips but missed, until they saw the photograph, the moment when a daughter, caught up in her thoughts and feelings, rested her head on her mothers shoulder. It lasted for a second. Went unnoticed. But the photograph now has great familial power. The photograph creates the memory. The memory is inexorably tied to this very intimate and Jewish moment.

You have the tools. You have the digital means to enter the rush of ones and zeros and use it to stop time, to write histories, to interpret the present in service of the future, to fill the histories of those around you with the memories of Jewish moments. And these moments make meaning. They illustrate the narratives through which we come to know who we are.

Further resources:

The Meaning of Family Photographs by Charles Williams

http://homepage.mac.com/williamszone/dostal/research/meaning.html

Candid Photography, and the Meaning of “Real-Life” by Len Bernstein

http://www.lenbernstein.com/Pages/candid.html

Reading Photographs to Write With Meaning and Purpose, Grades 412 by Leigh Van Horn

http://www.reading.org/General/Publications/Books/bk612.aspx?mode=redirect

Social Media And The New Meaning of Photographs

http://understandinggraphics.com/brainy/social-media-and-the-new-meaning-of-photographs/

Family Photographs: Content, Meaning and Effect by Julia Hirsch

http://www.amazon.com/Family-Photographs-Content-Meaning-Effect/dp/0195028899/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1265908169&sr=8-6

David Frank was a photojournalist and graphics editor at various newspapers in Michigan before becoming a Jewish educator and the Director of Conferences at CAJE. He is a storyteller, always trying to tell the public story, the back story, the whole story – your story. He makes art out of both the simple and the sublime moments in life. He lives in New Jersey. You can learn more about his photography at http://www.davidfrankphoto.com

The Social Sermon: An Innovative Approach to Community Building, Engagement and Torah Study

Picture 7Social media, like other major communication revolutions before it (think: printing press) have radically changed the way we learn, connect and organize. The impact on culture and behavior is significant – we have new ways to connect with our communities, find meaning, express ourselves and engage. The new ease of organizing is fundamentally changing the role that organizations play for their constituents. This is great news for the Jewish community, if we are able to take advantage of it.

We invite you to try a new approach to Torah study, community building, and perhaps even sermon writing in your congregation, The Social Sermon, an idea comes from acknowledging three things:

1) That many people can’t get to the synagogue for a lunch or evening Torah study class, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested;
2) That people want the social experience of learning, not just passive reading or listening to a lecture, and that connection through learning enriches a local community; and
3) Social technologies can be a wonderful tool to enrich and augment Torah learning in local communities.

Imagine a Saturday morning sermon that’s the work of not only your rabbi, but you as well. Lets take it a step further: what if it weren’t just you and your rabbi, but also your fellow congregants, young and old, those new to the community and the stalwarts of your city? By the time your rabbi delivers his Shabbat remarks, he or she could be drawing inspiration from, or even representing the discussion of, hundreds of his congregants!

What does The Social Sermon look like? At the beginning of the week a Rabbi posts a question on his or her blog, or on Twitter with a particular hashtag (e.g. #CBSSS for Congregation Beth Shalom Social Sermon), or as a Facebook post on the congregation’s Page. The first post would describe a theme of the parasha, or link to some text, and at the end, pose a question.

As comments and responses start to be posted, the Rabbi then facilitates an ongoing conversation through the week — responding regularly with insight, text, links, answers to questions, and more questions to guide the discussion.

By the end of the week, several things will have happened:

  • New people are engaged in Torah study. Likely a portion of the online participants are a demographic that doesn’t often come to mid-day or evenig adult education classes. (On-site classes – adult and youth – can also participate);
  • Participants will have formed new relationships through the online discussion, perhaps following each other on Twitter, friending each other on Facebook, etc. which leads to ambient awareness, thus strengthening your community;
  • The Rabbi will have a better understand of what aspects of the parasha resonate with the community, and be able to design a Shabbat sermon that is the most relevant for the congregation, and will have ideas, quotes, context to make the sermon even more rich; and
  • More people may show up for Shabbat services, feeling more educated, connected and like they have some ownership over the sermon that week.

And for those that missed the service, they could read it the next day when the rabbi posts the sermon back on the blog or web site, with a link on Twitter and/or Facebook.

Interested? Use the SocialSermon tag on this blog to find posts about the Social Sermon, and for case studies and guest posts from Rabbis and educators who are doing it. Follow #socialsermon on Twitter for updates, links to these blog posts, and to connect with others who are doing it. Join us on Facebook to be connected others who are doing Social Sermons and get important news.

Feel free to adapt the concept — a confirmation class could do this throughout the week between class meetings, a youth group could do it with their adviser or a parent facilitator. Please report back and let us know how it’s going, and what you’re doing. Please let us know if we can help you at any stage – leave a comment here, or any other space mentioned above.

Want more “hand holding”? Darim offers hourly consulting, and we are working with interested Social Sermoners to find funding from a donor or Federation small grants program to work with a group of Rabbis in your local community. Holler if you’d like more information.

Ready, Set…. Social Sermon!

Long Island Social Media Boot Camp Kicks Off

Social Tagging Introductions
Social Tagging Introductions

And… they’re off! Over 60 representatives from 19 congregations joined the kickoff of our first Social Media Boot Camp, for congregations on Long Island. Gathered in the UJA Federation of NY offices in Syosset, we introduced ourselves via a Jeff Pulver-style social tagging activity, and then learned about the themes and concepts of social media tools and culture.

While a focus of the program will be to help the participating congregations design and implement social media projects in their communities, the not-so-subtext of the program is about a major strategic shift from top-down service provision to bottom-up community building and education. Some congregations are already headed this way, and others are struggling to even wrap their heads around the ideas.

Because the underlying shift is about much more than starting a Facebook page or a blog, it’s critical that both staff and lay leadership participate in the process, to engage the whole organization in this learning and reflection. Teams worked on the P and O steps of a POST analysis to begin planning their projects. People – Objectives – Strategy – Technology. You can learn more about the POST process from Groundswell.

Working on project planning in teams
Working on project planning in teams

Their first assignment? LISTENING. Some resources on listening if you’d like to play along at home:
Beth Kanter’s Blog (great nonprofit social media blog)
NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network) We Are Media project, Module 1: Listening
Another Beth Kanter special – second half has a useful checklist
These include many examples and links to further resources.

And thanks once again to UJA Federation of NY for supporting this program!

Darim Online Receives Berrie Innovation Grant

Darim is thrilled and honored to announce that we’ve been selected to receive a Berrie Innovation Grant to conduct a Social Media Boot Camp in northern New Jersey in the coming year. The program will introduce participants to social media tools and their implications, examining organizational goals, processes and staffing needs, and larger shifts in culture, communications and business models given the paradigm shift taking place.

The program represents a new area of focus for Darim, taking the lessons learned from The Darim Online Learning Network, and applying it to a longer term and deeper experience for organizations ready to think deeply and take action. Darim is now accepting inquiries from Jewish organizations in northern New Jersey, and shortly will be announcing guidelines, details and posting an online application. Participating organizations will take part in live events, attend skill building webinars, and receive private coaching and consulting as they develop and implement projects throughout the year.

The Berrie Innovation Grants, which were announced in the New Jersey Jewish Standard this past week, were awarded to organizations which are creating innovative programs that help transform the Jewish community. Last fall, the Russell Berrie Foundation entrusted the group of 43 members of the Berrie Fellows Network (the Fellows Network, part of the Berrie Fellows Leadership Program coordinated by UJA Federation of New Jersey, is an intensive education and leadership program, funded by the Russell Berrie Foundation that combines leadership and Jewish learning). With $100,000 for the purpose of supporting innovation in northern New Jerseys Jewish community. The guidelines the Fellows came up with were straightforward — recipients had to demonstrate out of the box thinking for programs that would be both innovative and transformative; and they needed to have a positive impact on the Jewish community. After a 6 month process reviewing over 100 applications, the Network has chosen four organizations to receive the grants: Darim Online, The Curriculum Initiative, Mechon Hadar, and The Jewish Outreach Institute.

Angelica Berrie, President of the Russell Berrie Foundation, commented that, The Russell Berrie Fellows were selected as leaders with the potential to meet the needs of our community in the 21st Century. We wanted to spur the Fellows to re-imagine what our community can be, and gave them the financial resources to make change happen. With the BIG process the Fellows have shown a commitment to innovation and to inclusiveness, we are eager to see their continuing involvement as champions of the programs they have selected.

According to Laura Freeman, BIG Project co-chair with David Rosenblatt, each organization represents innovative programming in a different area of Jewish life in northern New Jersey. Added Rosenblatt, Each met our criteria and most importantly was reviewed for their ability to execute and build sustainable programs.

Darim is excited to launch our Social Media Boot Camp pilots in northern New Jersey, funded by this “BIG” grant, and on Long Island, funded by UJA Federation of New York, and look forward to expanding the program into other communities in the near future. If you have questions about bringing a Boot Camp to your community, please contact us. Do you represent a Jewish organization in northern New Jersey? Learn more about our “BIG” Boot Camp here.

Jewish Media/Communications Jobs

It’s amazing that in this economy, and in a time when we here are Darim are continually advocating for increasing staffing and capacity around media use, that these openings pop up! What luck! Might they interest you, or someone you know?

BIRTHRIGHT ISRAEL NEXT: DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS

(excerpts from a post on ejewishphilanthropy.com)

With an emphasis on community organizing and grassroots mobilization, Birthright Israel NEXT empowers all Taglit-Birthright Israel trip participants and Jews between the ages of 22-30 to be more connected to Jewish community, ritual, culture, and social action. The organizations goal is to provide the resources and motivation for Jews to discover and develop their own relationship with Judaism, communicate and meet other Jews in the community, and provide an inclusive means for people of all religions to understand and experience Jewish culture.

Creating an inspired, interactive, and compelling online presence is essential to increasing awareness of and participation in our programs, adding to our growing community and encouraging involvement in our events. Therefore, we are seeking a Director of Communications to develop and implement traditional PR and online strategies to provide young people with a rich, interactive experience with our brand. This is an exciting opportunity for a creative and tech-savvy communications specialist with a passion for our mission and a desire to mobilize.

The Director of Communications is charged with crafting a communications strategy for Birthright Israel NEXT and overseeing the full range of internal and external communications, including media outreach, social media marketing, advertising, fundraising, and board communication. The ideal candidate has demonstrated success in leading integrated traditional and digital public relations/marketing campaigns for a cause-related organization with proven results, has outstanding brand-building experience, and superior communications skills.

More info here.

COMBINED JEWISH PHILANTHROPIES – BOSTON FEDERATION – VP of MARKETING

The Vice President of Marketing manages all marketing, branding, communications, public relations, direct marketing, and event management for Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP).

We are looking for a creative and seasoned professional to deepen the CJP brand, grow awareness of CJP’s philanthropic and programming offerings, expand the use of new media and increase the role of online strategies in our marketing mix.

More info on the CJP web site.

THE DAVID PROJECT — WEB DESIGNER/DEVELOPER (Boston)

The David Project Center for Jewish leadership is an international non-profit organization dedicated to educating and inspiring strong voices for Israel through dynamic and comprehensive educational seminars, workshops, and curricula. Our groundbreaking Israel education curricula are currently taught in over 100 Jewish high schools and middle schools, reaching thousands of students around the country. Each year we educate and train hundreds of college students to assume pro-Israel leadership roles on campuses across America and Canada.

This position will involve the updating and improvement of our current website on a regular basis. The individual will be responsible for implementing changes and improvements to our website consistent with the mission of our organization. In addition, the individual will be responsible for working with other staff members to keep the information on our website current.

More info here.

Additional jobs at UJC in New York and other Federations nationwide.

Got a job to post? Add it to the comments with a link to more info!

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.

What We Can Learn From How Google Is Introducing Chrome

Google Chrome Comic

Google is introducing a new web browser, Chrome.

Knowing that people seek, access and absorb information in many different ways, they have offered many different points of entry for learning about the browser. The most important part of their campaign is how they are inviting us inside to understand the process, not just selling their product.

Through cartoons, video, and text (blogging), they are telling the story of why and how they developed a revolutionary new offering. And it’s powerful. As a user/reader/watcher you are invited inside the process and the story — and invited to become part of the story by actually using Chrome.

In addition to these storytelling offerings, Google also has produced videos to introduce you to the features of the browser – a “how to” guide.

So… What can we learn from this?

First, “how to” may be necessary but it is not sufficient. Logistics are only part of the story, and the personal connection (even to a developer in another state from another generation who is using words that sound Greek to you) is critically important to feeling engaged. American Jewish World Service has done a great job of this with their videos developed with See3 to show the real experience of real people who are involved with AJWS. Donors, volunteers, staff all have powerful and important stories to tell.

Megillat Esther, by JT Waldman
Megillat Esther, by JT Waldman

Second, visuals, and especially video, offers more momentum than plain text. While I would be hard pressed to READ the whole story, I’m delighted to watch a few minutes of video. JT Waldman transformed Megillat Esther into a comic book (it’s kosher!) which has engaged young (and old) in a text that they otherwise might not have ever studied. (BTW, he’s now working on the Tagged Tanakh project — way cool.)

There are many circumstances when we have a hard time capturing the attention of our audiences for important things. The congregational meeting, for example. Introducing a new staff person or board chair. Showing the added value of the new classrooms that are under construction to fuel the final stages of a capital campaign. Sharing the impact of participating in a mitzvah day. Orienting new families to the traditions and customs of your congregation.

What do you learn from these various approaches? How do you see it applying to you work? Got something to share? Tell us!

See below to hear the Chrome Story for yourself: