I’ve recently found that Twitter has been enhancing my experiences at conferences and conventions. I joined the social networking site when I was at the URJ Biennial in 2009, as so many people seemed to be tweeting there. As I got ready for the CCAR Convention it wasn’t just about finalizing travel arrangements and packing clothes, it was also about identifying the hashtag (#CCAR12) and downloading the convention app. And in the weeks preceding the convention Rabbis started tweeting about what they were looking forward to, they asked questions about what to bring and they shared travel arrangements. It is therefore hardly surprising that from the very beginning of the convention technology and social media have been playing a central part. A number of people were walking around the convention halls with QR codes stuck to their lapels (this was going to be one of the innovations being pushed at the CCAR). When scanned, these QR codes provided links to webpages, videos and information about the convention. And of course, from the very first session, Rabbis were tweeting about the convention. Services also took full advantage of technology as people were encouraged to lay down the siddur and pick up the iPad. With the CCAR’s iT’filah app, the congregation was divided with people following the prayers on the screen and on the page. And in some services you didn’t need an iPad, you didn’t even need a book, as the prayers were broadcast onto screens at the front of the room for everyone to follow. Visual t’filah meant that hands were free, heads were looking up, and our bodies were opened up to join together in prayer. And again Rabbis were tweeting. And in sessions, they demonstrated good practice; a few copies of Rabbi Arthur Green’s handout were distributed, but on the screens a link was given for people to download the handout, along with a QR code for the handout, and during the session, all Jewish texts were displayed on the two large screens on either side of the podium. And of course, Rabbis were tweeting.
For me it was great to simply meet the people I know from Twitter, live and in person (I just had to learn names in place of handles). Many of these social media Rabbis were also a part of The Tech Bar, where colleagues could come for advice and conversations about how to use the technology. When reflecting on the technology used at the CCAR convention, I am convinced that thousands of trees were saved as a result of this focus. I have several ideas I’ve seen here which I will be taking back with me; for one I’ll be adding QR codes to my business cards (thank you @rabbiadam). And the tweeting added so much to my convention experience. In sessions a conversation could take place in the background, with key quotes shared with colleagues on Twitter. And during the breakout sessions, I followed the session I was in, but I could also get a taste and flavor of the sessions I could not attend. I would love to hear what other people took away from the CCAR convention (whether they were there or following on twitter). But I am left with one final question: what happens to a hashtag (#CCAR12) when the convention is over? Danny Burkeman is a Rabbi at The Community Synagogue (www.commsyn.org) in Port Washington.
He has been playing with computers since he first got an Amstrad 128K (an old English computer). Technology has been an important part of his rabbinate, and today he blogs (www.rabbidanny.com), tweets (@rabbi_danny), is on Facebook (R Danny Burkeman) and is now podcasting on iTunes (Two Minutes of Torah). To learn more about QR codes, you’re welcome to replay Darim’s webinar with guest QR expert, founder of The QR Project, and HUC Rabbinical student David Gerber. Click here to play the webinar.