hartmanorgil ARTICLEScu @ temple: Social media transforming the way synagogues, members connect
Congregation Ner Shalom in Cotati puts its prayers and blessings on YouTube so memberscan learn the melodies before a High Holy Day or Shabbat service.By using Google documents, Congregation Beth Israel in Berkeley has made it simple for members to sign up online at their convenience to read Torah, teach a Shabbat class or hostother members at their home for Shabbat.Congregation Adath Israel in San Francisco updates its members about the status of its eruv— an enclosure that enables Jews to carry items on Shabbat — in a most contemporary way:via Twitter.Within the past year, Bay Area synagogues, religious schools and other Jewish groups havebeen signing on to Facebook, blogs, Twitter and other social media, eager to learn how newtechnology can strengthen their organizations and improve their outreach.Faith-based organizations have been “the last to the social media party,” said experts at theNonprofit Technology Network, a membership organization of nonprofit tech professionals.But lately, faith-based organizations have been jumping in with enthusiasm — even the popehas a Facebook page that boasts nearly 80,000 fans.“Technology allows us to connect more deeply to each other,” said Rabbi Menachem Creditor of Berkeley’s Congregation Netivot Shalom, which uses Facebook, Twitter, Google Calendar and Ning to better connect its members.Ning is a Palo Alto–based Web site that allows people to join and create their own socialnetworks — a personal Facebook of sorts.Sixty-five Netivot Shalom members have signed up for the synagogue’s Ning site, where theycan view other members’ profiles, watch videos posted by the rabbi and read blog postsabout world and community news.The synagogue also uses Google Calendar to embed a monthly calendar into the site. It listsminyan times, b’nai mitzvah, fundraisers, funerals, classes, special events and even dates therabbi is out of town.“So many people lose themselves in the virtual world … but we forget that the reason it existsin the first place is to get us to connect in the real world,” Creditor said. “Technology can be avery appealing invitation for a real experience.”That’s been the case for Margee Churchon, a program associate at the S.F.-based JewishCommunity Relations Council. She first participated in a young adult service at CongregationEmanu-El in San Francisco after hearing about it through a tweet on Twitter. She followsseveral Jewish Bay Area organizations on the site to find out about community events andShabbat candlelighting times.Churchon has often “gone to events as a result of what I’ve seen on Twitter,” she said.For Gabby Volodarsky, program director at Temple Sinai in Oakland, Internet technology hashelped her rally support quickly for someone in need.For instance, someone posted a note on the temple’s year-old Facebook page saying thatshe was “praying for the speedy recovery” of two new members. Volodarsky wrote backimmediately and found out that the couple, who didn’t know many people in the congregationyet, had been in a car accident.