Expanding the Use of Social Media: URJ’s Eric Yoffie Sermonizes on Technology (and food)
by Rabbi Paul Kipnes
(Originally posted on Or Am I?)
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?