This week’s Two Voices asks: How can Judaism harness the power of social media?
A recent article in Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue’s magazine headed ‘Our Global Network’ shows how much Liberal Judaism has moved into the ‘virtual’ world. It’s now connecting with a congregation who are ‘at home’ at their place of worship and also ‘away’ through streaming their Shabbat services on the internet.
The ‘away’ group includes those on holiday who want to remain in touch, those who live some distance away, those who are recovering from an operation, those too old or infirm to get to synagogue and even families who are thinking of joining.
Most communities are in touch regularly with their members through weekly email updates and thriving websites. Those preparing to read from the Torah for bar/batmitvah or for Simchat Torah can now go online to learn their passages and even how to pronounce and chant.
Facebook and Twitter help rabbis communicate with the younger generation, while knowing they also need to venture into Instagram and Snapchat to keep in touch with teens.
Meanwhile, live streaming helps older and more distant members get more out of their tablets – not just those they put in their mouth!
We live in an inclusive, connected world. Where we live is no longer important.
• Richard Conradi is leader of the streaming group and a former chairman at Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue
Ed Herman says:
I am frequently asked to discuss the benefits of social media. Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s original proposal for what became the worldwide web was described by his boss as “vague but exciting” – add a dose of nerves, and this sums up what I often hear.
The nervousness in the Jewish community is that social media might detract from face-to-face interaction that’s crucial to Jewish life. My view is that it not only enhances it, but opens up Judaism to those who may not otherwise find it accessible. Like Liberal Judaism, to borrow from the old Heineken slogan, social media reaches the parts others cannot. It can give the whole community a voice through which it can create, share and exchange all sorts of information, ideas and images.
So the machers can reach out further, while those less regularly connected can at least keep in touch in a way that was impossible before. Online streaming of services in particular offers those who are unable to attend a synagogue the chance of a spiritual and communal Jewish experience, irrespective of location or ability.
‘Social’ is a concept at the very heart of Judaism. Jews are a people, am Yisrael, not just a religion. Interaction with others is central to our lives; together we pray, play, learn, mourn, celebrate, debate.
Social media offers another channel to do so.
• Ed Herman is trustee of Liberal Judaism with responsibility for communications