There's An App For That


This is a guest post by Emily Cutts.
If you are reading this, you probably already know how to work the series of tubes we call “the internet.” You may even have a smartphone. Welcome to the future of technology and the way we get our news, share information and live our lives.
We Jews and Jewish organizations are embracing this technology.
The JTA, a global leader in Jewish media, recently came out with a smartphone-friendly version of their website. The JTA’s mobile site is designed to load quickly and allow for easy sharing. It’s always* exciting when a favorite news source becomes accessible on your phone (although I’m just assuming this because I’m still using a lame flip phone without internet access).
Synagogues around the city are also embracing technology to reach their congregants and communities. Temple Israel, a reform synagogue in Minneapolis, is a great example – they recently started a blog.
“We want to engage our community online, as well as in the sanctuary,” Katie Wood, Temple Israel communications director said.
The blog went live June 11th with a post by Rabbi Zimmerman titled “Conversations about Israel.” In her post she discusses the flotilla incident and Temple Israel’s stance on Israel. Rabbi Glaser has also been contributing posts during his recent trip to Israel.
The travel blog format has also been used by Mount Zion, a reform congregation in St. Paul. Rabbi Spilker and 45 members of the congregation traveled to Israel this June. While on their trip, different members of the congregation wrote about the day’s activities and included photos. Travel blogs aren’t uncommon – students who study abroad make them, and people who love to travel start them, so it isn’t that surprising that shuls would use the same format to chronicle their travels in a publicly-accessible format.
What is surprising (to me, at least) is for a shul-run blog to discuss more serious issues affecting the Jewish community in an arena accessible to anyone, regardless of affiliation or connection to the community. After all, much of the content on the internet is not restricted to a set group of people. There are exceptions, like with password-protected online communities. But, for the most part, anyone can read the content posted to a shul’s blog whether or not they are part of that particular community.
Some may argue that by sharing opinions and ideas openly you are creating a global community but I’d argue that you run the risk of losing touch with those who are located in your geographical community. A blog is a great way to share information about your life but it is a lot less personal then getting together with the sisterhood and playing mahjong or sharing a few words over coffee at the oneg after Shabbat services.
The internet is all about convenience and 24-hour access, something we have grown accustomed to but access doesn’t necessarily create community. More information is always better but let’s just hope that community building continues to happen face-to-face.
(Photo: Wikimedia commons)
*We know not everyone feels the same way. In May, we posted that the American Jewish World announced that it had “no plans to port the AJW to the iPhone…or any electronic gizmo.”