Introducing the Social Media Policy Workbook for Jewish Organizations

In just a few years, the use of social media has gone from being the exclusive domain of a few innovative organizations to a required aspect of any organization’s communication plan. One of the greatest challenges, and what has kept many synagogues from greater engagement with social media, has been the lack of guidelines. With the Social Media Policy Workbook for Jewish Organizations, congregations now have at their fingertips the resource for creating those guidelines. The Union for Reform Judaism is proud to be one of the sponsors, along with other leading Jewish organizations, of this Workbook. Partnering with experts in this field of social media, Darim Online and Idealware, this Workbook speaks specifically to congregations and their concerns.

Synagogues carefully cultivate their image, from signage to websites, from temple bulletins to weekly email blasts. Social media offers a very different way of communicating, and plays by different rules than we may be used to. Information, once released, can take on a life of its own. The lines between personal and professional are not always so clear. Perhaps most stunning, in social media our communications become dialogues over which we have less control, but which also can be more engaging. It is no wonder that many otherwise savvy congregations have shied away from social media. But synagogues do so at their own risk. With everyone blogging and tweeting these days, temples can quickly seem like dinosaurs if they are not engaging with and taking advantage of the power of social media. Social media offers the opportunity to connect with new audiences and allows our congregants and followers to connect with each other. What’s more, social media levels the playing field. The smallest synagogue can have as robust a Facebook page as the largest synagogue.

Policies and procedures can help us take advantage of all that social media has to offer and can help us avoid missteps. What makes this resource so valuable is that it is not merely a book –it is a workbook. When it comes to policies, one size does not fit all. Each congregation has the opportunity to create a unique set of guidelines that are the perfect fit. In addition to multiple examples and scenarios, the Workbook includes multiple worksheets to assist you in facilitating discussions and formulating your own policies.

Developing guidelines is a process. This is an opportunity for your synagogue to reflect on its core values and to consider how those values affects the way you communicate. Whether you are a small congregation running on volunteer power, or a larger congregation with full-time staff, consider involving a wide cross section of congregants in this process. You will be fascinated to learn how different members of your community use social media in their daily lives. And as social media continues to expand, refer to this Workbook often, as new outlets will require new guidelines.

When the Israelites came to the Red Sea, they were fearful of entering the waters. It was not until Nachshon waded into the sea, with the water almost up to his nose, that the sea parted. As the Yiddish saying goes, “be Nachshon.” Social media may seem like the Red Sea, but it may just be the promise land.

So, are you ready? Download the PDF, then gather your team together, start the Social Media Policy Workbook, and enjoy the journey!  Make sure to report back and share your progress! Interested in learning from others who are working on their social media policy too? Join the discussion in the Social Media Policy Facebook group. URJ affiliated organizations are also invited to participate in the URJ Social Media Boot Camp, a series of webinars to provide synagogue representatives training on the tools and strategies to help their synagogues thrive in the connected age.

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Rabbi Victor Appell

About Rabbi Victor Appell

Rabbi Victor Appell is the URJ's Congregational Marketing Director. He previously served as the Specialist for Marketing, Outreach & New Communities for the URJ’s Congregational Consulting Group. Rabbi Appell grew up in the Reform Movement, serving as a regional NFTY president and a staff member on Eisner Camp. He was ordained from Hebrew Union College in 1999, and began working for the URJ in 2005. He, his partner, and their two children live in Metuchen, NJ.

One Response to “Introducing the Social Media Policy Workbook for Jewish Organizations”

  1. Larry Kaufman

    Synagogues carefully cultivate their image, from signage to websites, from temple bulletins to weekly email blasts.

    Nice of you to say so, Victor, even if we all know it ain’t necessarily so. That’s precisely why projects like this, and the URJ’s service of helping congregations build their websites and giving them content to keep their sites fresh and informative, is so enormously important.

    The other important thing about this new handbook — which I admit to not having yet downloaded and studied — is that it is NOT a URJ project, but one that is sponsored by the URJ in concert with other organizations, role modeling the importance of collaboration with other organizations as part of properly stewarding the Jewish “taxpayer’s” dollar by avoiding unnecessary duplication.

    What I hope is covered in the workbook is how to engage the community in these social media so they are interactive and not one-way communication tools. For example, my congregation as an institution is aggressively and astutely using social media, but my congregation as an assemblage of some 2000 individuals is not. Our active Facebook page lists only 30 Friends; the last post to our blog was on April 26th, and that was from me.

    In any event, keep up the good work. Yasher koach.

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