Social Media: The Illuminated Megillah

There’s a lot of buzz about the increasingly image-driven nature of social media. At the forefront of this discussion is the latest hot social network, Pinterest. But it’s not only this virtual pinboard. Everywhere you look, memes are being generated to better marry words and pictures, kinetic typography videos are turning letters into animations, and infographics illuminate otherwise meaningless statistics. Pictures are the most highly engaged content on Facebook. Where is all this coming from? pinterest boards Image Credit: Thomas Hawk I’ve recently been reading a book by Dan Roam called “Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don’t Work.” It’s a fun and thoughtful read, definitely recommended. At the heart of Roam’s argument is essentially this: our brain works in details (words) and big ideas (pictures). We’re enamored with words, and we’re very good at them, but we’ve lost some connection with the picture part of our brain. Pictures are primal; they represent the earliest form of visual communication (think cave drawings). Pictures are evocative, emotional. They really are, as the saying goes, worth a thousand words. The image trend in social media is helping us reconnect with this essential part of ourselves. cavepainting Image Credit: williamcromar Just as importantly, pictures help us tell stories. I love graphic novels for just this reason. There’s a big difference between describing a frightening moment, or a sensual smile, or tears of joy, and literally drawing that out. While words help us understand and frame thoughts, pictures bring those thoughts to life in powerful ways. And we need them both – words and pictures work together to give us a fuller picture of the world around us. This is a huge opportunity for Jewish organizations. Words, pictures, and stories – this is what social media is all about…and we’ve got plenty of all three elements to share. Perhaps even more importantly, though, is the opportunity social media offers us to listen to others’ stories; their words and pictures strung together, the way they’ve framed their ideas and the things they care about. Social media gives us the structure to open up in new and meaningful ways, and there’s a wealth of things to learn. So in the spirit of Purim, I challenge every one of us to think deeply about the pictures we use, the words we choose, and the stories we tell. Social media spaces can help us craft our own illuminated Megillah, telling and celebrating the narratives of our people. It can also help us hear others’ stories, if we only listen. megillah1 Image Credit: victor408

The Medium and the Message, Pt. 1

Any Sex and the City fans out there? Me – guilty as charged. Skip down to the paragraph that begins with in talking to if youd prefer to avoid the fabulousness thats about to ensue…

The following clip does an especially great job of illustrating a point Ive been thinking about a lot lately. (Be forewarned there is some naughty language sprinkled here and there.)

Carrie, the shows witty protagonist, has just been broken up with by a depressingly lovable fellow writer, Berger. But shes not so much upset about the break-up as she is bewildered at the medium through which the break-up message was conveyed: that most ubiquitous of office supplies, the Post-It. Its clear to the stylish gaggle of ladies who lunch that the message and its delivery do not line up.

In talking to both individuals and groups about social media, many colleagues and I tend to stress that its just a tool. At the same time, we all know full well that social media is much more than that.

Heres an analogy; lets talk about food. Here in the U.S., eating is primarily done with forks and knives. Those are our tools and we dont think too much about it. But what happens when those tools are traded out for a row of six different forks, or a pair of chopsticks, or a communal piece of flat bread? The cultural implications of the tools with which we eat are suddenly brought to the forefront.

place setting
Image credit: Paul Goyette

Change the tool, and (to some extent) you change the culture. Or, similarly, to quote Marshall McLuhan, the medium is the message.

To touch briefly back on the aforementioned saga, Carrie later goes on a rant about how a break-up should ideally be handled. She stresses that the message of ending a relationship should be delivered in a way that honors what the two people had together. Essentially, the message and the medium should match.

Im confident everyone reading this post has had moments like this – moments in which weve questioned what is appropriate to share (or find out) via Facebook, or over email, or in a text. The screenshot below illustrates a very mild example.

reallyfb2

And its not only due to issues of public vs. private in these spaces, but something deeper. Theres something about posting certain messages on Twitter, for instance, that feels like the digital equivalent of breaking up on a Post-It. But these media are all developing so quickly, becoming so deeply ingrained into our lives and even onto our physical selves, thats its often unclear how to draw these boundaries. Or whether it is a fools errand to try to do so.*

How can an organization keep up and be successful in this environment? Ill give you my thoughts on this in a follow-up post. But now, Id love to hear yours. Have you ever had a Post-It moment? What are your impressions of the relationship between the medium and the message? What are the implications for Jewish organizations in the connected age?

*To further complicate the matter, social media is not some monolithic beast. The term refers to a field, a loose configuration of platforms and spaces that allow for certain kinds of interaction. Each space has developed a culture of its own. There are behavioral and conversational norms that are perfectly acceptable in one space that would seem quite odd in another. For instance, sharing pictures of your breakfast has become fairly acceptable on Facebook; doing so in LinkedIn may not go over so well. (But now Ive gone off about food again…)

QR Codes 101

what_are_qr_codesJewish tradition has always supported technological innovation. In fact, with apologies to Apple or Android, it was Moses who introduced the world to the first tablets. Kidding aside, the events at Mt. Sinai as described in the Book of Exodus do provide us with a clear understanding of the role of technology in Judaism. As leaders in our respective Jewish communities, we take upon ourselves the responsibility of presenting the values, tenets, and traditions of our religion in the most understandable and accessible medium possible. With this in mind, I have created The QR Project. QR codes are two-dimensional barcodes readable by smartphones. In the past two years, QR codes have become a popular tool for advertisers and marketers. The QR Project, however, is demonstrating that QR codes can revolutionize the way we approach outreach, education, and conservation.

 

The most comprehensive example of the impact of QR codes can be found at Congregation Shaare Emeth in St. Louis, MO. Over this past summer, I worked with Shaare Emeth to insert QR codes into their Religious School curriculum. We put codes on any pages that require the students to practice out loud. When they scan the code, their smartphone pulls up an audio recording of their cantor chanting the prayer.

The QR Tent of Learning Graphic We have taken these prayer QR codes and created a bookmark to accompany their siddur. Adult learners and b’nai mitzvah students can scan the bookmark to learn the blessings. Additionally, the recorded prayers are now housed on the Shaare Emeth website along with links to further learning opportunities.

 

The results speak for themselves. The QR codes in their curriculum have been scanned more than 200 times since their debut in mid-September. The online site that hosts the prayers has attracted over 3000 hits in that same time span, with over half of them coming from outside the state of Missouri. And finally, the existence of the QR codes means the cantor no longer has to create a CD for each student, saving over 100 CDs per year and hundreds of hours copying.

Curious to know more about integrating QR codes? On Wednesday November 30th, Darim Online and I will be hosting a webinar to talk about the potential for QR code integration. You will have the opportunity to learn the basics of how QR codes work and how to make them, as well as how to use them effectively in your community. By utilizing mobile technology, you will put your organization at the forefront of technological innovation, position yourself to engage those critical, often young members of your community, and meet your constituents in the place that is becoming the most familiar—their smartphone.

CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE ARCHIVE OF THE QR CODE WEBINAR.

Is your organization or congregation using QR codes? If so, how? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments!

What Have We Learned This Week? This Year?

Guest post by Rabbi Arnie Samlan

When I joined Facebook, the first updates I began to post daily balanced my work and my play. They bounced between humorous (most often) and serious. Some reflected my rabbinic side; some addressed my musical (and scratch DJ) side; many dealt with pop music or pop culture. After a few months, I figured out that social media is not about listening to myself, it’s about bringing people together to share.

As I began to wind down my work week in preparation for Shabbat, my social media Friday began, a few months back, to take on a different form. I needed a wrap up of the social media week, just as Shabbat is the wrap up of my work week. Inspired by a radio “shock jock” who used to end each morning with a call-in segment called “What have we learned today?”, I decided to try asking this question on my Friday Facebook status. And so, every Friday morning, my status reads “It’s Friday! What have we learned this week?”

Several months in, our (no longer my) What Have We Learned This Week? community is thriving. Each week literally dozens of friends from around the world share their reflections. The recognition of learning that has taken place ranges from the odd (“I learned about the reproductive system of a hen”) to the seriously reflective (“we can spend time weighing our day, debating its worth, or we can recognize all of the good in our day and count it as worthy!”), to the personal (“To have a little more faith in myself than I might otherwise deem I deserve.”) to the proudly parental (“That my son is receiving a wonderful public school education from wonderfully committed teachers.”)

Beyond their individual reflections, the participants in this weekly ritual have begun to talk to each other, supporting (or challenging, such as the discussion on the difference between “fact” and “truth”) friends and sometimes strangers as we close our week together. My Friday Facebook wall has become a safe place for introspection, joking, kvetching, and praying. We judge our own learnings from social media and from the rest of our life and, without judging one another we get the opportunity to learn from each other’s weekly journeys. And in the end, it’s the sharing of one another’s journeys that is what life, as well as social media, is about.

Judaism has a practice in which a person conducts a cheshbon ha-nefesh, a self-audit of one’s soul. Some people engage in this practice daily, others less often. During the Rosh Hashana season, it’s particularly apropos, as we look back on the year past and at the year ahead. We assess ourselves honestly, and we set our course for the future. Why not invite my Facebook friends to share their own cheshbon hanefesh on my Facebook wall?

May we all continue to learn and share, and may be all be blessed wish a shana tova u’metukah, a happy and sweet New Year.

So… What you have you learned this year? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Arnie Samlan is a rabbi, Jewish educator, consultant, Jewish life coach, and aspiring DJ. Follow him on Twitter (@JewishConnectiv) and his blog The Notorious R.A.V.  Arnie is part of the professional team of the New Center for Collaboration and Leadership of The Jewish Education Project.

Linkedin for Nonprofits

Guest post by Debra Askanase, Community Organizer 2.0

Linkedin-logo-candies1

I had the privilege of presenting a webinar to the Darim Online community June 1, 2011 about how to use Linkedin for nonprofits. When I was preparing for the webinar, two things struck me: why cause-focused groups may not work well on Linked (more on that below), and how much Linkedin offers. The presentation focuses on five ways to best utilize Linkedin professionally: be goal-oriented, optimize both your personal and company profiles, utilize groups, and use Linkedin Answers.

If I had to offer three tips about using Linkedin effectively, they would be:

  • Think about why you and your company want to be one Linkedin, and how you use it will follow
  • Identify a combination of 10 keywords and keyword phrases that best describe you, and 10 others that best describe the organization. Integrate these keywords and keyword phrases into your personal and company profiles
  • Complete all employee personal Linkedin profiles to 100%, as well as the organizational profile

Start with your Goals

The key to using any social media platform effectively is to use it to meet your goals. Decide first why you (or your organization) would want to use Linkedin (such as finding collaborators, funders, or colleagues). Once you know why you want to use Linkedin, how you will use Linkedin follows. For example, if you want to use Linkedin to connect with foundations then you might:

  • search for people who work at those foundations
  • join groups that they have joined and participate
  • ask for introductions through mutual Linkedin connections
  • use Linkedin Answers to ask a question about contacting foundations

Identifying your goals will dictate your Linkedin strategy.

Optimize your personal profile

One aspect of optimizing your profile is completing it fully. Be sure to include your photo, a summary of who you are, keywords and interests, and a summary of what youve accomplished in every position. Its also important to have at least five recommendations, since you can search Linkedin by number of recommendations.

Use the advanced search option to understand how you can be found, and include those in your profile. Some of the search parameters are by industry, geographic location, number of recommendations, and position titles.

Optimizing your profile also means placing important phrases and keywords within your profile. Think about 10 to 15 keywords and keyword phrases that describe you professionally. Specifically, place keyword-rich content within the summary, specialties, and interests sections.

Optimize the company profile

If your organization doesnt have a company profile, create one on Linkedin. Identify the 10-15 keywords that best describe your organization, and integrate them into the company profile for the profile to be search-ready. If your organization has a blog or Twitter presence, be sure to add those to the company profile to personalize the company. Also, if you want to highlight specific products or services, do so through the new products and services feature.

Utilize the power of groups

Real connecting happens within groups. Search for groups related to your profession and industry. I also recommend joining groups your professional colleagues belong to as well. If a group is inactive or not valuable, leave. If it is, spend time within the group answering questions and offering help. When you find yourself in an interesting discussion, invite your colleagues to connect with you personally on Linkedin after the discussion has concluded. I tend to see the same group of people commenting on group discussions, which helps me to know them through our participation.

When groups are managed by nonprofits, and the discussion is about the nonprofit or a specific cause, they tend to be inactive. I looked at many public nonprofit-administered groups while researching this presentation, and most were very inactive or not lively. (I cannot comment on private groups, though.) I suspect that cause-specific or nonprofit-specific groups arent very active because Linkedin users want to discuss professional issues, not organizational mission. I also think that mission-based discussion has limited appeal while industry-based discussion has much broader appeal and basis for discussion. Additionally, Linkedin is not best used as a platform for recruiting people to become direct stakeholders; there are other platforms much better suited to cause-focused discussions.

There appears to be two exceptions to the inactive nonprofit-administered groups rule: One is Autism Speaks, which has a very lively Linkedin group, though Im not able to comment on why this is the case. The other exception seems to be professional associations. For example, the alumni group of the Princes Scottish Youth Business Trust (a youth business mentoring program) is a very active group for business class alums to connect with others and possibly do business together.

Linkedin Answers

Linkedin Answers is both a wonderful research tool and means to find new connections. By subscribing the the RSS feed of a certain category of questions (such as Social Entrepreneurship) you can stay up to date on the latest industry discussions, and also answer questions yourself. If your answer is selected as the best answer, you win the best answer designation, which enhances your professional credibility. Also, questions reach the entire Linkedin community, not just your personal connections.

Other Linkedin goodies

I love looking at whats going on in the Linkedin labs. Most recently, Ive enjoyed Linkedin Maps (visualize your own network) and Signal (trending news stories shared by your connections) from the labs. Check back each month for new labs products.

Resources

Joanne Fritz of nonprofit.about.com published a great article with many tips for nonprofit professionals using Linkedin. Fast Company also published an article with five Linkedin tips you didnt know. Read the excellent Net2 Think Tank discussion about using Linkedin for change. Allison Fine interviews Amy Sample Ward and Estrella Rosenberg on how nonprofits can use Linkedin on the December Social Good podcast. Drop in on the informative weekly Linkedin Twitter chat at 8pm every Tuesday, hosted by @LinkedinExpert and @MartineHunter.

If youd like to watch the recorded webinar that I presented with Darim Online, you may view it here.

What is your Linkedin tip? What is the most useful thing about using Linkedin that youve found?

#11NTCJEWS – The Jewish Community at the Nonprofit Technology Network Conference

Thanks to the 70 people who came out this morning to learn, share, problem solve and mature the Jewish community’s use of technology, new models of leadership and creative thinking. Due to the overloaded wifi network (a problem when you bring 2000 techo-philes into one hotel network), the live evaluation and feedbacks were slow to post today. Thus, I’ve embedded them here, both for the participants and others who may be interested. We used Poll Everywhere to enable everyone to text in their questions and see what others were thinking. You can also find the slides and other related links below.

And slides from today:

#11NTCJews – JNMIF & 10 New Rules of the Game

Darim’s Networked Nonprofit Book Club on Facebook: http://on.fb.me/netnonbookclub
Recommended book:
The Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine
Empowered by Josh Bernoff
Open Leadership by Charlene Li
Thanks to everyone for coming, sharing and leading. We invite additional comments, reflections, ideas and requests in the comments here. We’ll also be following up with the resources discussed in Rachel’s problem solving session, and emailing updated info, links, roster, etc. to all.

Jewish New Media Innovation Fund Winners Go Beyond Those Awarded Funds

Today the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund announced the winners of the exciting process that help catalyze our community to focus on new media, our missions, and our strategy for the digital age. It was a fascinating experience to read the applications of the final 30, think deeply about the criteria of the fund, collaborate with an extraordinary team of advisors, and work with three visionary foundations. I am honored to have been part of this pilot year, and I hope that this initiative, and others like it, will continue.

While I’m quite excited about the projects that have been awarded funding, I’m even more excited about the broader impact that this fund has had on established organizations, entrepreneurs, and funders alike. Having worked to advance the Jewish community’s use of digital media for over 10 years now (wow, that went fast), I can see that even the announcement of the Fund changed the conversations among staff and lay leaders throughout the Jewish community. While a social media and mobile strategy might have been pushed to the bottom of the agenda over and over again, the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund forced them to put it at the top of the agenda, and to think about it strategically, not just tactically. Regardless of whether or not these ideas were funded today, providing an incentive, structure and time line I’m sure has deepened and advanced the work of many applicants.

It’s also important to note that the criteria used to evaluate the proposals has an impact beyond the short term decision making about fund allocation. For example, one requirement was that the projects would be able to launch or achieve results within 12 months. While in some cases this felt like a really compressed time line, the reality is that we are all in a permanent beta mode — we have to throw ideas against the wall, assess their effectiveness, and continue to refine over time. If you’re spending more than a year putting it together, either the idea wasn’t sufficiently thought out to begin with, or you’re not prepared to develop in an agile and iterative process.

The fund also set a priority on innovation – though the term was fairly broadly defined. In many cases, I think the made applicants really think beyond the obvious. I was impressed by how many applications viewed their mission through a new lens as they developed their applications. While the technology employed may not have been so “innovative” and new, the ways that they were thinking about their work clearly were. Kol hakavod to those that busted through the walls of their buildings, put the freedom of exploration in the hands of their users, and researched technologies, platforms and models outside of their immediate sphere of influence, or even their comfort zones.

There are many more lessons to be learned from the applicant pool, process, and over time, the outcomes of the projects funded. Regardless of who receives a check, this Fund was a tremendous gift to our community. I hope that those who used the opportunity to think in new and deeper and riskier ways will still find inspiration and value from the process, and will resolve to continue to take action on these ideas by incorporating these costs into their operating budget where appropriate, writing other grants, and seeking the support of other funders – foundations and individuals – who also recognize that these tools, ideas and approaches are critical to our communal future.

Are you an applicant to the #JNMIF who didn’t get your project funded this round? How are you going to proceed with this work? What non-financial assistance do you need? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards

Video has increasingly become the most powerful medium for communicating your mission and programs, and engaging supporters in sharing your content through their social media channels like Facebook. Nonprofits are learning to take advantage of this medium in creative and powerful ways, with creative approaches, great storytelling, and fun graphics. Each year, See3 Communications, in partnership with YouTube, hosts the DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards. This year, winners will again have the chance to win one of four $2500 grants generously provided by the Case Foundation, awesome video cameras from Flip Video, a free registration to next year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference provided by NTEN and more. New this year: for small nonprofits that have small funds in the video department, there is a new category for the best “thrifty” videos produced for under $500. On top of all this, the winning videos will be featured on YouTube’s HOME PAGE in March. Talk about a boost to traffic. Submissions for Best Small, Medium, and Large nonprofit organization videos must be a video that was made in 2010. Entries for the Best Thrifty Video category can be for videos made any time before the end of the submission period. Each nonprofit can submit as many videos as they would like, but, we encourage only the best work from each organization.

  • Entries cannot exceed 10 minutes in length and are limited to nonprofits from the US, the UK, and Australia. See contest rules here.
  • All nonprofits are welcome to enter their video. There are no specific categories or missions we are looking for.
  • You can submit your videos from February 4, 2011 until March 2, 2011. Tell your friends to submit as well!
  • Starting March 7th, voting is open to the public, so be sure to share the word (Email, Facebook, Twitter, carrier pigeon).
  • Your organization MUST be a member of the YouTube Nonprofit Program. If you’re not, make sure that’s the next thing you do after you read this post. If you’re picked as a semifinalist, we’ll make sure you’re a member by the time voting begins.

And of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a video. See, this is why it’s so powerful – I can embed this video in a blog in 10 seconds, and it just brings the text to life, don’t you think?

For more info on the context, visit http://www.youtube.com/nonprofitvideoawards You might also want to check out our previous posts on online video. Let’s see some entries from the Jewish community! Got a video to brag about? Post a link in the comments!

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.

Shalom, Sez Me… Grover’s Big Adventures

[cross-posted on jlearn2.0] Shalom Sesame: NextGen. The good people at Shalom Sesame are rolling out the release of the first two of twelve dvds in their new series. It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since the first edition on video; I am pleased to report that Moshe Oofnik has not aged – nor mellowed – a bit.

The first two dvds, featuring the ever inquisitive Grover, include Welcome to Israel and Chanukah: The Missing Menorah. In true Shalom Sesame fashion, each episode contains groovy animations, Muppets and humans hanging together, joyous singing, and fun snippets of learning around Jewish values, Hebrew language, and Israeli life.

At a recent screening at Sesame Workshop, Shari Rosenfeld and Stephanie Wilchfort, the project leaders, described resources that will be of special interest to parents and educators. The accompanying Shalom Sesame website will feature over 100 free clips from the dvds and supporting materials for home and classroom use including games, interactive storybooks, art projects, Hebrew language reinforcement, and holiday e-cards. One of their goals is to make the material as flexible as possible and to provide multiple entry points into learning about Jewish culture. In the meantime, they are releasing clips on their Facebook page to whet your appetite and put a smile on your face (oh, kids will like it too – the little ones at the premiere were bopping along to the songs).

In celebration of Chanukah, many JCCS and synagogues will be sponsoring the debut of Shalom Sesame’s holiday episode, Chanukah: The Missing Menorah on Sunday, December 5th. Check with your local JCC / synagogue for details. Some local PBS stations will also be airing the Chanukah episode.

The videos are available online and in stores and can be ordered directly from the Sesame Street Store. Interested in learning more? Darim Online is hosting the creative team behind Shalom Sesame on a webinar to discuss the new series and how schools and parents can use it with their children. Register here – it’s free – and it’s fun!

Here’s a taste of Shalom Sesame – I love learning Hebrew with Grover! I know just how he feels: Grover Learns Hebrew: Boker Tov!