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28 Days, 28 Ideas: Idea #2

During the month of February, six very different media outlets, with six different readerships (plus a major Jewish organization for good measure…and so no one gets hurt) have partnered to create aplatform and a mini-blog appropriately titled 28 Days, 28 … Read More

By / February 2, 2010

During the month of February, six very different media outlets, with six different readerships (plus a major Jewish organization for good measure…and so no one gets hurt) have partnered to create aplatform and a mini-blog appropriately titled 28 Days, 28 Ideas to share some of the best ideas that we have heard from ourown segments of the Jewish bubble.

The rat pack includes:  JTA & The Fundermentalist, the Forward and its Sisterhood Blog, eJewish Philanthropy, Jewcy, Jewschool, the Jewish Federations of North America and 31 Days, 31 Ideas,a project of Daniel Sieradski.

Each of the partners in the collaboration have lined up entries fora specific day of the week (Jewcy has Tuesdays – woohoo!).  As a group, we will give you one idea per day for the 28 days of February.

The goal is to produce some great new ideas for helping out theJews, and introducing each other to our respective readerships becausesomething tells us that your average Jewish Federation follower mightnot be a regular Jewcy reader, and vice versa.  Moreover, if we get these ideas out, maybe someone will run with them (we’re too busy – yo!).

To kick this party off right, we have Patrick Aleph (aka Patrick A) from Atlanta, GA.  Patrick is the lead singer for the punk rock band CAN!!CAN and founder of PunkTorah.com.  Through his work, music, and freelance writing, Patrick uses technology and pop culture to bring Jewish spirituality to people who are disconnected from traditional Jewish life.  Rock.

 

I attend Jewish outreach events at least once a week, and frankly the majority of them are pointless. If we don’t fix that, the future of Judaism is at stake.

There are two forms of Jewish outreach: social and religious. For a long time, Jewish outreach was based around the idea of getting Jews in a room together so they could feel a sense of social-cultural connection. It’s the "lonely Jew" syndrome. Tired of being the only person on your block without a Christmas tree? Go to a Hillel event! Wish you could find a job that would respect High Holidays? Go to a Young Jewish Professionals networking party.

But in today’s society, that model is not relevant. Jews do not suffer the open anti-semitism of the past. In fact, recent studies show that Jews are loved now, more than ever, and that the majority of Americans either view Judaism in a positive or "very positive" way.

Then there’s religious outreach. Synagogues and organizations like Chabad are interested in making Jews live according to their movement’s sense of Jewish spirituality. And for the most part, it doesn’t work. Synagogues focus on ritual, law and life cycle leaves a lot of people "out to dry". Also, as interfaith marriages and the overall movement away from theism grows stronger, the Jewish community seeks out spiritual alternatives.

Both of these approaches don’t work because their motives and techniques are outdated. Luckily, there is a solution to the problem: the internet and social networking.

By moving Jewish organizations entirely virtual, we are able to reach a wider audience. Marginalized people such as Jews from interfaith households, Jews of color, LGBT Jews, converts and people who in other ways feel outside the Jewish "mold" will be brought into the conversation in ways they have not in the past.

Making these organizations collaborative in the way that Facebook groups and Wikipedia operates means that people who normally would never volunteer for Birthright Israel Next or some other group will begin to connect with one another.  Jewcy.com has created the perfect model for this, with Jewish media as the medium for collaboration and peer connection on a global level. On a social level, people will begin to form virtual friendships that may lead to real relationships over time.

On a practical level, it is much cheaper to run an organization online than brick and mortar. Sure, a potluck Shabbat is fun. But the cost and time to put something like this together doesn’t appeal to the average Jew anymore. Instead, streaming an alternative Shabbat online and including a Second Life session or a game of Wii Tennis afterwards would honestly reach more people. It’s hard to sell kugel and cantors in a Hot Pocket and Game Cube world.

The trend is already there. In full disclosure, I run a Jewish spirituality website called PunkTorah.com, focused on alternative Jewish spirituality. An online D’var Torah that’s three minutes long averages 120 hits during that Parshah’s week. When was the last time you saw 120 people at your synagogue? 

OurJewishCommunity.org is actively working on creating a web-based, humanist Jewish shul to address the spiritual needs of the evolving Jewish community. G-dcast.com presents the Parshat every week, through the medium of narrated cartoons. Facebook, Myspace and YouTube have seen a flood of Jewish organizations and content, as the next generation uses technology to create the Judaism of the future.

If we don’t face the fact that falafel parties at Temple-Blah-Blah-Blah no longer matter to the average Jew, than we will lose Judaism forever. The future is here, so get used to it and change with the times.

 

Check out yesterday’s idea "Jewish Media Mashups," get ready for tomorrow’s mind blower at eJewish Philanthropy, and don’t forget to visit 28days28ideas.com for the full list of ideas as they progress.

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