Tag: Blogging

Al Tifrosh Min Hatzibur – What Does Separating/Connecting to the Community Mean in a CyberWorld?

http://www.valerieherskowitz.com/images/photo-online_community.jpgOur world is changing… will our synagogues keep up? 

My kids’ world is different than mine.  They email, text, ichat (though my son told me this morning that skype has better video), facebook, watch tv, play video games and still seem to get their homework done. My wife tells me that they cannot focus as well or break off easily from the multisensory always wired world in which they exist.  Yes, this concerns me.  Yet I keep wondering if our concerns, while rightly focused on what will become of their lives as they develop these multitasking meta-personalities,  are just further evidence the fact that we just might not “get it.”  (Are we the parents of the 1960’s, decrying long hair and rock and roll music, things once described as the downfall of civilization as we know it?  Or are we pre-Maccabees seeing the downfall of Jewish values?)

My rabbinic colleagues sometimes argue about what online social networking really means.  They differentiate between “real community” and “virtual world,” claiming that the former creates actual connections while the latter is, well, unreal. I keep wondering if differentiations they make are meaningless, because people increasingly live lives online, so that if we fail to embrace this new reality, we – synagogues, rabbis, non-networking communities – will soon become “virtual/unreal” ourselves. 

Now comes Brad Stone, whose New York Times’ article The Children of Cyberspace: Old Fogies by their 20’s, suggests that the newest generation thinks and experiences the world differently from previous generations.  He holds up his Kindle experience to illustrate beautifully his point: 

My 2-year-old daughter surprised me recently with two words: “Daddy’s book.” She was holding my Kindle electronic reader.  Here is a child only beginning to talk, revealing that the seeds of the next generation gap have already been planted. She has identified the Kindle as a substitute for words printed on physical pages. I own the device and am still not completely sold on the idea. My daughter’s worldview and life will be shaped in very deliberate ways by technologies like the Kindle and the new magical high-tech gadgets coming out this year — Google’s Nexus One phone and Apple’s impending tablet among them. She’ll know nothing other than a world with digital books, Skype video chats with faraway relatives, and toddler-friendly video games on the iPhone. She’ll see the world a lot differently from her parents.

Then he talks about what’s real and what’s not:

And after my 4-year-old niece received the very hot Zhou-Zhou pet hamster for Christmas, I pointed out that the toy was essentially a robot, with some basic obstacle avoidance skills. She replied matter-of-factly: “It’s not a robot. It’s a pet.”

What does this mean to our communities?  Listen to Mizuko Ito, a cultural anthropologist and associate researcher at the University of California Humanities Research Institute, who said

that children who play these games would see less of a distinction between their online friends and real friends; virtually socializing might be just as fulfilling as a Friday night party. And they would be more likely to participate actively in their own entertainment, clicking at the keyboard instead of leaning back on the couch.

We synagogues, and religious communities, will want to open ourselves to how the cyberworld reframes the rabbinic dictim al tifrosh min hatzibur – do not separate yourself from the community.  If I am not within the synagogue, or even a member of a synagogue, but I read Jewish books, participate in online study sessions, watch/pray with streaming video services, socially-network with other like-minded Jews, email prayers about people who are sick and email prayer to be put in the Jerusalem’s Kotel (Western Wall) … am I one who is tifrosh – separated from the community – or not?  Because my kids, and increasingly more of my congregants, and clearly so many of our 15, 20, and 30 year olds, feel so connected.

Jews and Blogs: Its a Big Blogging World Out There

There is a wide world of Jewish blogging out there. Jewish bloggers are commenting on everything from spirituality and ritual, to Israel and the Middle East, to politics and prayer. They are often the first ones with up to the minute commentary on Jewish issues of the day; clearly the best source for what is happening in Israel during a conflict.

A weekly summary of the Jewish blogsphere is published weekly as Haveil Havalim, a Carnival of Bloggers. Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Jack. The term ‘Haveil Havalim,’ which means “Vanity of Vanities,” is from Qoheleth, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other ‘excesses’ and realized that it was nothing but ‘hevel,’ or in English, ‘vanity.’

This week’s Heveil Havalim Carnival is up at Ima on (and off) the Bima.

Other favorite bloggers include:
Divrei Derech by Rabbi Rick Winer
Rabbi Eric M. Berk: Blog
RJ.org, the Reform Movement’s Blog

Expanding the Use of Social Media: URJ's Eric Yoffie Sermonizes on Technology (and food)

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, gave his Shabbat morning sermon at the URJ’s 70th Biennial Convention in Toronto. Read the full text.  Just after he delivered it in Toronto, I read the text of his sermon in West Hills, CA (isn’t technology wonderful?).  Thoughtful, eloquent as always, Rabbi Yoffie launched two Biennial initiatives:

  •  Just Table, Green Table: Rabbi Yoffie calls for a commitment to ethical eating, asking synagogue leaders to “carefully, thoughtfully, Jewishly” formulate new eating guidelines for their communities.
  • Embracing Technology: Reform Judaism’s opportunity to engage with communities and help congregations relate to members in the online space has reached a tipping point. At the Biennial in Toronto, Rabbi Yoffie urged the Reform Movement to create congregational blogs and experiment with a range of creative technological approaches to strengthen community ties and help build community.

Each of these initiatives offer food for thought (pun intended). I am particularly taken with his interest in expanding the use of technology within the synagogue world. We are finding, at Congregation Or Ami, that – through eNewsletters, this blog, our Facebook page, Twitter (newly using it), photo page and videos – we are reaching more people than would ever walk through the doors (except, perhaps, on the High Holy Days).

Recently a social media sub-committee met to prioritize our use of social media. We set out these goals:

  • To build community and deepen connections among Or Ami members and “friends”
  • To further the Or Ami’s Vision and Values, especially regarding: Henaynu, Life-long Learning, Accessibility of Clergy, Social Justice and Openness
  • To shine the light of Or Ami into the surrounding community, including publicizing our events
  • To create a conversation about the joys of being Jewish

Further, we decided to focus in these areas:

  • Deepen the use of our Facebook page to meet our goals
  • Expand the use of E-vites to publicize programs
  • Develop more online videos and to collect them in one place
  • Enhance the synergy between our blog, Facebook, and website

My colleagues often ask me how I have time to do all of this social media and technology. I answer, simply, that our congregants are communicating this way, so shouldn’t we be utilizing their modes of communication to spread Torah, communal caring and deep Jewish spirituality? That’s what motivates me. How about you?

New Media: Taking our Temple to the Next Level

If Or Ami is so involved in blogging, eNewsletters, twitter, and Facebook, why am I sitting with our president Susan Gould and Board Member Kim Gubner (and 75 other rabbis and Jewish community leaders) in a Board of Rabbis and STAR sponsored seminar on Communicating and building relationships in an age of New Media?

We are here to hear and learn and figure out how to deepen the conversation within our community.
It is fascinating how many synagogues are experimenting with various social media and new media. I am fascinated by how so many are struggling to figure out how to get it started.
Workshops on working with the Main Stream Media mix with presentations on Social Media (facebook, del.i.cious, LinkedIn, Twitter). Conversations on how one-sided presentations (main stream media) is taking the back seat to the back-and-forth sharing and engaging of social media. A debate broke out as to whether what online communities are “real” communities or “virtual” communities.
I tend to believe that these communities are real. I do as much (more?) counseling that happens by email and facebook, as I do face to face. More people connect with our messages shared by eNewsletter, blog, facebook, than through a Shabbat evening sermon (and I would argue, a higher percentage of listeners/readers than most rabbis – even those in the bigger synagogues – do on a typical Shabbat eve/day at services). People connect, share, build relationships, inspire, motivate… and we synagogues do too.
I am proud that our Congregation Or Ami vigorously uses multiple types of social media and new media to create conversations between rabbi and congregants, and more importantly, between congregants themselves. I am excited to figure out how to deepen the connections…
The seminar is energizing for some of us; overwhelming for others. Some are frightened by the options for connecting, and the fear of the amount of work to do to make it work. Others, myself included, are energized by the new opportunities to bring people into the conversation… about Judaism, Torah, spirituality, God…
Enough. I’m multitasking during this fabulous presentation. I must get back to the seminar (and to multitask on another task as well).

Haveil Havalim #212: How Many Days til We Can Eat Bread?

There’s a whole community of Jewish bloggers out there, who regularly comment on… well,… everything.

Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Jack. The term ‘Haveil Havalim,’ which means “Vanity of Vanities,” is from Kohelet, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other ‘excesses’ and realized that it was nothing but ‘hevel,’ or in English, ‘vanity.’

So check out this week’s Haveil Havalim over at Shtetl Fabulous, and find out what’s new in the Jewish blogsphere.

Traffic to the blog has been way up this week, due mostly to the plethora of Passover resources up on the blog. I would be interested in hearing from readers about which Passover posts were most interesting and which, if any, of the resources you used (or plan to use) in your seder. Toss me a comment.

For visual learners, the picture on the left is a visual of the Haggadah text, courtesy of Tamar Fox, by way of Ima on (and off) the Bima

Diary of a Rabbi Blogger

Blogging has become somewhat of a lifestyle for me. Part hobby, part holiness, part habit. Readership is going up, as is the level of recognition from the blogging community.

The Union for Reform Judaism’s Reform Judaism magazine recently included Or Am I?, this blog, in its “Best of the Blogs“, listing 3 top Jewish blogs. And Google’s A Jewish Blog Sampler included Or Am I? in its sampling of blogs.

This month, The Jewish Family Magazine printed my Diary of a Rabbi Blogger (since its not online, I reprint it below):

Diary of a Rabbi Blogger
by Rabbi Paul Kipnes

November 2006: The Birth of Rabbi Blogging
Rabbi blogging began as we prepared to leave on Or Ami’s first Family Trip to Israel. Struggling to bridge the divide between California Jews and our Jewish state, I decided to try out a new technology, the “blog” (a contraction of the term “Web log”). I figured it would allow stateside friends and congregants to track our Israel experiences. Little did I realize just how small this vast world would become. Armed only with the knowledge my 20-something intern passed on in an hour, I played with the medium, reflecting upon current events and the weekly parasha. The experiment soon morphed into Or Am I?, a blog exploring the intersection of the soul, Jewish spirituality and daily living.

December 2006: Holy Blogging!
Blogging our Israel trip provided daily opportunities to find universal meaning in being a Jew in the Holy Land. I spent downtime on the bus reflecting upon each day. Sometimes I would pass the computer to invite participants to jot down their impressions. I would post these impressions and pictures each evening, and each morning I was astounded by how many friends and congregants virtually traveled alongside us. The power of blogs to connect people to experiences and ideas a world away was energizing.

January-June 2007: Sharing Simchas Electronically
I began posting stories and Torah teaching on the blog. I had a modest readership. Then when Brandon Kaplan, a young man who could not read, write or speak became a bar mitzvah, the celebration had to be shared. His masterful signing of Torah, his machine’s vocalization of his d’var Torah speech, and his joyous hugging of Torah bespoke his deep love of Judaism. Guest bloggers gave voice to the nachas (joy) we all schepped (shared). Blogging provided an outlet to publicize our communal simcha and its meta-message: this special-needs child was just like every other kid. People who could not attend the service shared in the celebration. I learned that cross-posting articles in both our eNewsletter and the blog could further expand the circle of celebration.

January 2007: Blogs as eSermons
Although I spent the early part of the year kicking my BlackBerry addiction, I soon found blogging to be addictively spiritual. Whether teaching Torah, kvelling about community news or connecting Jewish values and current events, blogging provided an electronic bimah (stage) for reflection and inspiration. I realized that blogs were sermons for Internet surfers, offering a wider congregation for Torah teaching. When our Reform movement started its own blog (RJ.org) I linked up to a whole community of rabbi bloggers.

July 2007: The Original GodBlog
While I was blogging our experience on faculty at the Reform Movement’s Jewish Summer Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, someone joked that although The Ten Commandments arrived on two tablets of stone, previously our sacred teachings were transmitted wirelessly. They said that originally God spoke, and anyone with rudimentary Wi-Fi adapters (called “ears”) could hear God’s message. If Torah encompassed our mytho-history, stories, values, laws and teachings, perhaps Torah then was God’s original blog, the Holy One’s reflections on birthing and raising the children of Israel.

Chanukah 2008: 8 Blogs for 8 Nights
I got this silly idea to blog each night of the Festival of Lights. We explored Chanukah’s historical basis, social justice imperative, spirituality through mystical contemplation, its lessons about religious freedom, and its modern engaging music. A “you comment and I’ll give tzedakah” contest raised $152 for tzedakah and engaged many people in rudimentary blog conversation. A blog tracking program showed that more than 50 percent of my congregation read the blog and eNewsletter posts. But the pressure of finding something significant to share each night took its toll as blogging took over my vacation. On New Years I resolved to pre-blog next Chanukah, writing some posts ahead of time to relieve the pressure.

January 2009: A Community of Bloggers
As Israel and Hamas moved closer to direction confrontation, I discovered a whole community of bloggers dedicated to exploring Israel, Torah and Judaism online. CNN’s 24/7 news failed to rise to the plethora of perspectives from all across the political and religious spectrum. Whereas Israeli newspapers offered a certain amount of news, the blogsphere exploded with perspectives from soldier’s mothers, on the ground reports every five minutes, Twitter press conferences and perspectives from all across the political spectrum. I soon found myself reading the blogs before the papers, and then creating links on my blogs to informative posts from my new blogfriends.

February 2009: Blog On!
Although we laugh at Al Gore’s “invention of the Internet,” we Jews joke that we were responsible.

One apocryphal story suggests that after digging down 1,000 meters, French scientists found traces of copper and concluded that centuries ago their ancestors had developed a telephone network. Not to be outdone, English scientists dug 2,000 meters down, found thin shards of glass and proclaimed, “The English had advanced high-tech fiber optic digital communications a thousand years earlier than the French.” One week later, Israeli newspapers reported: “After digging as deep as 4,000 meters in a Jerusalem marketplace, archeologists found absolutely nothing. They conclude therefore that 4,000 years ago Jews were already using wireless technology.”

More seriously, Jews have been using the latest technology for generations to transmit our sacred Torah teachings from one generation to another. Some created Jewish newspapers and eZines. Others, like Debbie Friedman and Doug Cotler, used modern music — tapes, CDs and iTunes downloads — to rejuvenate our prayers. Now we have electronic synagogue bulletins, DVDs, Web sites, podcasts, synagogue Facebook pages and rabbi blogs.

What does it all mean? Old wine in new bottles. Community brought closer. Blogging is just Moses on a virtual mountaintop, offering a newer version of Torah’s storytelling and value teaching.

Did You Love Leah? Haveil Havalim #203

Haveil Havalim #203: Did You Love Leah?

haveil havalim

Welcome to the Loving (or Not Loving) Leah Edition of Haveil Havalim….

What’s going on here today? Pop over to Ima on (and off) the Bima for the original post. (I’m copying the first paragraphs here for those of you who are still new to reading blogs.) But then jump over to Ima on (and off) the Bima to read what else is being written about in the blogsphere.

Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Jack. The term ‘Haveil Havalim,’ which means “Vanity of Vanities,” is from Qoheleth, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other ‘excesses’ and realized that it was nothing but ‘hevel,’ or in English, ‘vanity.’

What was really important in the J-blogosphere this week?
Loving…or not Loving….Leah, of course!

Yes, Sunday night’s Hallmark movie was definitely a topic in the Jewish blogosphere this week.
Some of the posts I found:
Midianite Manna’s Take
Frum Satire’s Thoughts
Idol Chatter
#lovingleah on Twitter
Boston.com “Loving Leah is hard to do”
JewWishes has this to say
MyJewishLearning’s blog thoughts
DovBear weighs in
BangItOut’s thoughts
Mottel is Loving Lubavitchers in Hollywood.

(It’s not available on DVD yet but I’m sure it will be…in case you missed it. Or, like me, only saw the last hour. Which, by the way, was enough to get the whole story!)

A very nice edition of Haveil Havalim, the Jewish Blog Carnival,
is now up over at Ima on and off the Bima. Check it out!

War in Gaza Update: Who’s Saying What?

So much being written about Israel and Gaza. Here’s a rundown, compiled by Random Thoughts blog. Note that MSM (=Main Stream Media) and Blogsphere (=info and insights from bloggers worldwide):

Make sure to scroll down to the bottom to learn about Hamas in its own Words.

January 08, 2009

War in Gaza Update #13

Welcome to the War in Gaza Update #12. It is part of the continuing series of news and information about the War In Gaza.Previous editions of the round up can be found below:1* 2 *3* 3.5* 4* 4.5* 5* 5.5* 6*6.5 *7* 7.5* 8* 8.5.*9, *9.5, *10, *10.5, *11, *11.5, *12, *12.5.From the MSM:

Time: Can Israel Survive Its Assault on Gaza?
CNN: Security Council calls for cease-fire in Gaza
NY Times: Israel Condemns Vatican’s ‘Concentration Camp’ Remarks
NY Times: What You Don’t Know About Gaza (Biased, skewed and misleading.)
FOX: High-Profile Doctor in Gaza Called an ‘Apologist for Hamas’
Guardian: Obama camp ‘prepared to talk to Hamas’
YNET: A day with our troops in Gaza
YNET: ‘Not all Israelis are bad’
Artuz Sheva: Israel Accused of ‘War Crimes’ in a Complaint at The Hague.
Artuz Sheva: United Nations Calls for Ceasefire, United States Abstains.
Artuz Sheva: Netherlands: No Sanctions on Israel; Another Ceasefire Idea.

And now onto the blogosphere:

Aussie Dave and The Muqata continue live-blogging the war.

The IDF blog has all sorts of interesting information. Click here for pictures of tunnels that were dug for the purpose of kidnapping soldiers. This link provides a brief summary of things that were accomplished including information humanitarian aid trucks that rolled into Gaza, discovery of more tunnels, weaponry and the neutralization of some terrorists.

Seraphic Secret has updated It Can (and is) Happening Here. At Yourish W. abandons Israel again.

Treppenwitz writes about the rockets in the North. At the Jawa you’ll be shocked when you see Hamas Kills Innocent Palestinians (Rare Video). Augean Stables blogged Hamas in their own words. The Occidental Israeli Operation Cast Lead – Israeli Public.

I am going to keep hammering this story ‘Protestor’ Calls for Jews to ‘Go Back to the Oven’. Emmanuel Lopez is a ignorant fool who encourages the worst sort of behavior. The inherent hypocrisy he exhibits is shameful.

It is about time we get to read A Gaza Chronology that covers more than the past two weeks.

LGF covered A Staged Scene in a Gaza Hospital? – Update: CNN Yanks Video and Video: Hamas In Their Own Voices.

Yglesias covered Carter on Gaza. It is pretty much a festival of ignorance in the comments. Commentary reflected on Carter.

The Moderate Voice shared Gaza: Pride of the Arabs – Le Quotidien d’Oran of Algeria. Mother in Israel shared Updates and list of injured soldiers and civilians.

From Joshuapundit we have Hamas Torpedoes Egyptian Ceasefire Attempt. At No Quarter you can read BREAKING NEWS–UN Security Council Acts on Gaza.

EU Referendum shared I don’t think they understand. Snapped Shot says Israel Found Evidence of Hamas Crimes Against Humanity. The Elder Shared More on the jihadists’ joy at dead civilians and PalArab press roundup Jan 8 2009. In the American Thinker you can read Human shields: Where’s the outrage?At What War Zone BREAKING NEWS: Gaza War Turns Nuclear! Shiloh Musings has the International List of Rallies for Israel- Friday Jan. 9 And After and Traveling the Red Zone, Part D (Habad Shelter, Nitzan).Lady Light asks What can We do When Israel is at War. At Global Voices you can read Egypt: Bloggers on the Fence.Chabad has Editorial: Where Wills Collide, Israel Survives. Pat Buchanan’s big mouth is at it again.Dry Bones has Israel Breaks the Rules.This concludes our round up. Stay tuned for the next edition from Jack.Link

Come to the Jewish Blog Carnival

A very nice edition of Haveil Havalim, the Jewish Blog Carnival, is now up over at Ima on and off the Bima. Check it out!

Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Jack. The term ‘Haveil Havalim,’ which means “Vanity of Vanities,” is from Qoheleth, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other ‘excesses’ and realized that it was nothing but ‘hevel,’ or in English, ‘vanity.’

Post categories include:

  • Israel on our minds and our blogs…
  • Jewish Life and Culture…
  • And Everything Else… (Jewish and blogged)

Check it out here.

The Morning Routine

Since the Gaza Operation began, here’s what I do every morning.

  • Up before 6AM.
  • Turn on computer
  • Review Ha’aretz newspaper for news from Israel. Then Jerusalem Post, Ynet and others.
  • Hit the blogs, starting with Jack’s Gaza Round Up Part Three, following links all over the blogsphere. A Soldier’s Mother, reminds me of the importance to call my niece in the IDF (army)
  • Review my Rabbi Listserves for updates from Israel.
  • Then onto NYtimes, Wall Street Journal, CNN and Fox (gotta love how on every issue they see the world through different eyes).
  • Blog updates and links…

Then back around again and again. Until my wife or kids pull me away.

Some say I’m a news junkie.
Others believe it is just that I am an Oheiv Yisrael, a lover of Israel.
My wife and kids think I have become a blog addict. I once wrote an article about being a recovering Crackberry addict (the gist of it is here). Have I substituted one addiction for another? Or perhaps its just because I’m on vacation and I’m concerned about what is happening in Israel…

Of course, I’m loving blogging. Blogging daily was one of my top 4 things to do on my vacation.

Here’s why blogging is fun, from Eddie’s Rainbow of Thoughts.