That I spend a lot of time thinking about community should hardly come as a surprise, since being a congregational rabbi is all about fostering a sense of community. I want the members of my congregation to feel that their synagogue is a second home for them. And, of course, the synagogue itself needs to relate to the larger community as a whole.
When all is said and done, this is my work– my professional responsibility. Yes, of course I teach, and preach, officiate at weddings and funerals, and do all the other things that pulpit rabbis do. That, too, is my work. But it all flows from a larger sense of “belonging” that hopefully is what binds my members to our particular synagogue setting.
In the aftermath of Ryan Braun’s suspension from Major League Baseball for the use of performance-enhancing drugs, social media networks have witnessed an outpouring of impassioned commentary, including many anti-Semitic remarks made against Braun — nicknamed “The Hebrew Hammer” for his Jewish heritage.
Spending a week in Israel earlier this month I kept my eyes open to the way Israelis use technology. Even on my first visit over 18 years ago I noticed that Israelis thirsted for the latest tech gadgets. Being a country that struggled with telecommunications early on in its existence made Israel primed for a telecom revolution. In the first decades of statehood, stories permeated about families who waited years just to get a telephone in their home. So when mobile communications took off in the middle of the 1990s, Israelis were eager to adopt the new technology.
Social media changes the zeitgeist in ways we couldn't have imagined. As we saw with the recent presidential election, opinions and attacks now travel at the speed of light. And so it should be no surprise that the ongoing Middle East conflict in Gaza between the Palestinians and Israelis has escalated into a Cyber war.
Hurricane Sandy was the first major U.S. storm of the Twitter era. Like so many others, I was following the storm using social media, including Facebook and Twitter updates. Worried about friends in the East Coast, I tried to gauge just how devastating this act of nature was going to be.
One thing I noticed was that synagogues and temples along the Eastern corridor were using new media communication efforts to keep their membership informed about the storm, the cancellation of schools and programs, and to offer help to those in need (both during and after the storm).
It is a sunny Shabbat afternoon in early August at Camp Ramah in California. The oldest Machon campers have finished lunch, enjoyed some free time, and have reconvened on the hill under a large tree for their Shabbat afternoon learning session. I am honored to be this week’s guest teacher, and I take the opportunity to talk to 75 fifteen-year-olds about an incident that put Ramah in the national news over the last two weeks.
Making a substantial donation to your favorite nonprofit organization is great, but not everyone is in a position to write a big check to the local food pantry, JCC, synagogue or homeless shelter. There are other ways to support the important mission of these organizations. In the 21st century, individuals who use social media to help promote the services provided by nonprofits are helping these institutions in big ways. When a layperson shares the good works of local nonprofits, it is as if that individual works for the nonprofit.
United States Representative Dave Camp is a proud Roman Catholic. The Republican congressman represents Michigan's 4th District in Congress which includes places in Michigan's "Up North" region that Jews only visit for a few days each year. Aside from the handful of families who live in Traverse City year round, Dave Camp likely doesn't give much thought to Jewish people.
As a rabbi who is a social mediaologist, I find myself consulting a lot of synagogues and Jewish nonprofits on their social media strategy. The leaders of these institutions all recognize that they require a social media strategy, but the plan for how it will be implemented varies greatly.