Social Media and Jewish Teens: The Good, the Bad and the Inappropriate

In the early 1990s I was an active leader in my synagogue’s high school youth group. Even as a young teen I appreciated the importance of communication in cultivating new members to the congregation’s chapter of United Synagogue Youth (USY) and for keeping current members abreast of upcoming events. This membership communication came in the form of photocopied flyers on colored Xerox paper, phone messages left on the family’s answering machine, and hand drawn posters attached to cork boards with push pins in the synagogue lobby. Once every two months we assembled a cut-and-paste newsletter to be photocopied, stapled and sent to members’ homes.
social networking and teens
Teens and Social Media – sheknows.com

 

Much has changed in the past twenty years when it comes to teens and communication. Everything is now instant. Those mailed event flyers often took as much as a week to arrive in teens’ mailboxes, but today’s texts and tweets arrive in the blink of an eye. Direct communication, of course, has become easier as we’re almost always available to chat. No more leaving messages on answering machines as teens can connect virtually anytime using Skype, FaceTime or text messaging. Parents, however, are often out of the communications process in the 21st century. Each teen has her own cellphone to talk, text and video chat so parents often don’t know what their teens are doing or where they’re going unless they ask (or snoop).

For the most part, the growth of instant communication and social media has been a positive for teens in general and the success of Jewish teenage youth groups in particular. But despite the ways social networks like Facebook and instant messaging services have made it easier for teens to communicate with each other and for Jewish teen leaders to promote their group’s programs in more efficient ways, there are some very scary consequences that come with this high tech communication and social sharing.

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Jon Stewart and Jason Bateman Shmooze in Yiddish

The great Yiddishist Leo Rosten was hopefully rolling (with laughter) in his grave last night. The late author of the book “The Joy of Yiddish” worked very hard during his lifetime to bring the dying Yiddish language into the mainstream.

Last night’s five minute dialogue between actor Jason Bateman and Jon Stewart included more Yiddish words than we typically hear on television. It was as if Bateman wanted to drop some of his well-rehearsed Yiddishisms during his interview on The Daily Show. As soon as Jason Bateman sat down he told Jon Stewart that his “It’s nice when nice happens to nice” opening comment sounded very Yiddish. And from there it became a Yiddish word competition between the two men.

Jon Stewart and Jason Bateman Speak Yiddish on the Daily Show

Jason Bateman explained that he recently learned the Yiddish word “chazerai” which seemed to confuse the Jewish host of The Daily Show (the former Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz) who mistakenly said the word means a guy who’s a bit of a chazer (pig). Bateman correctly defined chazerai as garbage, but Stewart disagreed. At the end of the show Stewart actually returned to publicly apologize to Bateman for correcting his Yiddish since chazerai indeed does mean garbage.

Bateman then threw out mishegas and Stewart responded with meshugena. The conversation then turned to Bateman’s self-identification as a goy (gentile) and his experience at a friend’s Passover seder. Here’s the video of them shmoozing on the show last night:

Zei gezunt to Jason Bateman and Jon Stewart… and thanks for the early freilich Purim gift! 

Shabbat Saved this Guy from Dying on the Malaysia Airlines Flight. Or Did It?

Purim begins this Saturday night and once again the Jewish people will tell the story of our salvation. We will listen to the words of Megillat Esther, the story of how our ancestors were miraculously saved from their tragic death.Indeed that story is one that celebrates life. The Jewish people were saved from death in ancient Shushan (Persia), as the story goes, because the heroes Mordechai and Esther rose up and saved their people from destruction.

As we are preparing for the Purim holiday we are also glued to the TV waiting for any news of the fate of those aboard the Malaysia Airlines Flight #370 which disappeared somewhere between Kuala Lumpur and its destination of Beijing. Oftentimes when a tragedy such as a plane crash or a terrorist event occurs there are those who claim that by some miraculous turn of events they evaded the tragedy. Sometimes these stories are accurate and other times they are debunked by websites like Snopes.com.

 

Malaysia Airlines Shabbat Miracle

I learned this morning of a story that has been circulated on the Web about a Jewish man who tried to book a flight on that Malasia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, however the travel agent being an ultra-Orthodox Jew refused to book him on that flight since it would require traveling on Shabbat. (According to Jewish law even arranging for another Jew to travel on the Sabbath is in violation of Jewish law.) The story, as reported in a blog by Daniel Eleff, the CEO of online travel agency DansDeals.com, claims that his friend was the Sabbath observant travel agent who refused to book the man, whom we only know as Andrew, on that flight.

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Purim YouTube Videos – Top Purim Videos for 2014

Purim is here! In preparing for my annual rundown of the top videos for Purim this year a few thoughts emerged: First, nothing really impressed me this year. Second, there wasn’t a lot of creativity (did a memo go out limiting people to only use Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” and “Let It Go” — the theme from the movie Frozen?). Third, where’s this year’s contribution from the Maccabeats? Maybe they’re too busy touring around the world and appearing on TV with Katie Couric?

I’m hopeful that the creative geniuses out there will get working on next year’s Purim spoofs and parodies and come up with some fun videos that are more creative than the t-shirt above. It’s actually easier for me to choose the best Purim videos when there’s more to choose from. While it was slim pickens this year, there are some fun ones below. So Happy Purim… and here are 2014’s top Purim videos:

HAPPY Purim (by Pharrell)

The Haman Remembrance – Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, Michigan

Megillas Lester Official Trailer

Kinderlach – Purim Chagiga

Miracle – Gad Elbaz and Naftali Kalfa featuring Ari Lesser

“What Does Haman Say” by A.K.A. Pella

Star Wars Lego Movie Purim Trailer

Let it Go Frozen – It’s a Purim Song

Michelle Citrin – Shake Your Grogger (A Purim Song)

Bob Dylan Purim Shpiel (Robert Zimmerman)

What Does Purim Say? (What Does the Fox Say?)

Everything Is Purim (from the Lego Movie)