When Technology Needs a Day of Atonement Too

Cross-posted to Jewish Techs

I’ve been following the Offlining campaign pretty closely. It’s the brainchild of Eric Yaverbaum and Mark DiMassimo. They partnered to launch Offlining, an initiative to promote unplugging that was introduced on Father’s Day, to ask people to make a pledge to have 10 device-free dinners between then and Thanksgiving. To date, more than 10,500 have signed on to this pledge.

Yaverbaum told Jessica Ravitz, a reporter for CNN.com, that he “is as guilty as anyone of making technological transgressions. He’s ignored family to check emails while at the dinner table and tuned out of actual conversations to tune into Twitter… I’m the guy who sleeps with his BlackBerry. I’m raising my hand and saying, ‘Yes, I’m an addict.'”

Perhaps that’s why Yaverbaum, who is Jewish, and DiMassimo, who is not, have decided to use the Jewish Day of Atonement as their next big day to get people to give their gadgets a rest. They encourage everyone, religious backgrounds aside, to make Yom Kippur (September 18) a technological device free day. That means that in addition to refraining from eating, drinking, showering, wearing leather shoes, applying perfume, and having sex, the Offlining guys are saying “no” to cellphones, Facebook, Twitter and texting too on Yom Kippur. Jews and non-Jews both use technology to do the precise things we ask forgiveness for on Yom Kippur, like gossiping, so I guess it makes sense to give those things a rest on this day.

As DiMassimo was quoted in the CNN.com article as saying, “It’s annoying to be in a room with people, and yet not be really with them. My dad’s an electrical engineer, and he’s always said, ‘We invent this stuff to serve us, not for us to serve it.'”

The Offlining campaign isn’t the first attempt to get people to give their tech gadgets a rest. If you remember, Reboot launched a Sabbath Manifesto a few months ago to get people to avoid technology and connect with loved ones for a 25-hour period. Signing the Sabbath Manifesto not only meant putting cellphones and computers on hold for the day, but it also meant getting outside, avoiding commerce and resting.

Offlining has a catchy marketing campaign. Using DiMassimo’s advertising company, they’ve created posters with images of celebrities who have gotten into trouble through the use of modern communication technologies. The tagline is that you need not be Jewish to amend for your tweets (Lindsay Lohan), give up drunk dialing (Mel Gibson), or atone for your texts (Tiger Woods, of course) on Yom Kippur.

When I spoke to Ravitz last week about her upcoming article on the Offlining campaign (my quotes apparently didn’t make the final edit), I explained that “it’s great that Offlining’s campaign is directed at everyone, not just Jewish people, because we all use our technology to sin sometimes. Whether it’s texting gossip or belittling someone on Facebook, we need to put technology aside to really atone on Yom Kippur. Plus, without the nuisance of our phones and computers we’ll be able to concentrate on the task at hand much more attentively on the Day of Atonement (prayer and seeking repentance).”

On Yom Kippur we fast — refraining from food and drink — and it has a cleansing feel to it. I think that in the 21st century, a fasting from technology is a necessary cleanse as well.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Saying Sorry with Social Media

Cross-posted to Jewish Techs

Is tweeting teshuvah a cop out?

Last Yom Kippur, I delivered a sermon explaining how Jewish people have begun “doing teshuvah” — seeking repentance from others — through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. A week before Yom Kippur the religion editor of The Detroit Free Press, Niraj Warikoo, called to find out what I’d be speaking about on the Day of Atonement. My topic interested him and he wrote a cover story about how some people spend the week before the holiday asking acquaintances for forgiveness for perceived wrongdoings by offering blanket apologies in their Facebook status updates and tweets.

Several newspapers, blogs, and the AP picked up the story from the Free Press. Warren Riddle on Switched, AOL’s tech blog, wrote, “At least one member of the Jewish clergy, Rabbi Jason Miller of Michigan, is asserting that the rise of social networking is diminishing the significance of repentance. He believes that people are using sites like Facebook and Twitter to issue mass, unspecific apologies in order to eliminate uncomfortable, individual personal interaction. Miller said that, in order to protect the true meaning of Yom Kippur, ‘There should be an effort, a little challenge to go up to another person and seek forgiveness, to admit our wrongdoing.’ Incorporating technology into religious holidays and services is a hotly debated issue. Some groups welcome modern and creative ways of attracting new members, specifically young folks, while other religious leaders bemoan technological advances. Miller’s comments, though, should cross all denominations. Some sentiments and feelings are best and most effectively expressed in person — unless, of course, you’re comfortable with your failures being eternally stored for public judgment.”

Of course, I’m sure that when it became possible to send letters quickly through the postal service, there were rabbis who felt that it wasn’t appropriate to send requests for teshuvah through the mail. And when the telephone was invented, there must have been opposition to this impersonal way of seeking repentance. Just like several years ago when many questioned if it was appropriate to offer forgiveness in an email message. While face-to-face is undoubtedly the best way to seek true repentance from our friends and family, we must also face the reality that social networking and text messaging are how many of us communicate on a daily basis, and some will use those media to apologize before Yom Kippur.

My recommendation, however, is that if you are going to ask someone for teshuvah on Twitter of Facebook, at least make it a personal plea and send the message privately.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Social Media’s Role in Religion

Cross-posted to Jewish Techs

Sunday’s Detroit Free Press ran a cover story detailing how social media is being used by religious leaders. In his article “What Would Jesus Tweet?,” religion editor Niraj Warikoo looks at how houses of worship are using Facebook and Twitter to reach out to its membership and potential members.

He writes, “Religious groups are increasingly trying to harness the power of social media — from a Pentecostal church in Canton using Facebook to reel in new members to a Catholic priest in Plymouth [Michigan] who uploads podcasts of sermons to an Oak Park rabbi sparking national debates on his blog. And with its own particular rules and rituals, the world of social media has become, in a way, its own religion.”

Interviewed for the article, I explained, “The fact that I can disseminate my Torah, my Jewish wisdom, to so many people is a modern miracle of sorts.” The article ties in well to the current Jewish month of Elul when Jews around the world are pledging to improve in the coming new year and offering repentance to those we’ve wronged.

Miller argues that during the high holidays — a time when Jews are called upon to repent and seek forgiveness from those they’ve wronged in the past year — it’s inappropriate for people to apologize through Facebook or Twitter. And posting on Facebook isn’t the best way to convey your condolences to a close friend who has lost a loved one, he says.

Jews have long had religious laws that today have implications for social media. They include rules that prohibit inappropriate slander such as motzi shem ra, which refers to spreading malicious lies that harm a person’s name.

Read the entire Detroit Free Press article

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Email, May it Rest in Peace

Cross-posted at Jewish Techs
Email is like a cat. I don’t know if it has nine lives, but people still use this form of communication even though it’s been pronounced dead many times in recent years.
The general consensus among experts in online communication is that social media is killing the medium of email. Just as companies and organizations are getting pretty good at making their email newsletters look professional, it seems that more people are rendering email as the means of communication from a bygone era (sorry ConstantContact.com!).
As a rabbi who has worked a lot with Jewish teen communities, I learned a few years ago that teens had given up on email. To reach their virtual inbox, the communication has to come in the form of a text message, online chat, or Facebook message. For the young generation that’s never had to handwrite a letter, email just seems too formal.
Once I noticed that teens were neither reading nor replying to standard email messages I decided to give out my cellphone number. All of a sudden I found that the communication with the teens was flowing via text messages.
I’m not saying that teens will look at an email account the same way they look at a Fax machine or a VHS tape, but they’re preferred method of communication doesn’t involve the @ sign.
So, how does one reach the target audience if email is dead (or at least on life support)?
Englin Consulting added its voice to the “Email is Dead” discussion by blogging:
“…the advent of devices like iPhones and Droids that make it easy to quickly delete emails without even looking at them, plus the spreading reach of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, plus the email overload many people experience in their inboxes equals the demise of mass email lists as a productive tool. Facebook’s COO recently revived the debate, saying that because young people don’t use email the demise of email is imminent.”
However, the consulting firm still maintains that email is an important and effective commuications tool, albeit one that could use some strategic rethinking.
On its blog they offer three things to consider about your organization’s email list, including 1. Size matters; 2. Content matters; and, 3. Email matters.
Email isn’t dead, although it’s dying. A recent study, quoted by Englin Consulting, reveals that 58% of people check email first thing in the morning before doing anything else online. And mass email lists remain a critical and even growing component of many organization’s fundraising, advocacy, and education program — one that still delivers results. However, that same study showed that more than 10% of people log onto Facebook first thing, 20% start with a search engine or portal site, and 5% head first to online news.
Businesses and organizations need to be more creative with their email marketing. Maybe social media hasn’t killed email, but it’s certainly giving it a beating… Don’t believe me? Just go here and click the “SMACK” button.
(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Tweeting the Flotilla Attack

Cross-posted at Jewish Techs

Peter Beinart’s essay “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment” in The New York Review of Books argues that most of the mainstream American Jewish organizations have abandoned liberalism on the issues of the Middle East and are responsible for a generation of young Jews who hold no connection to Israel. He writes, “not only does the organized American Jewish community mostly avoid public criticism of the Israeli government, it tries to prevent others from leveling such criticism as well. In recent years, American Jewish organizations have waged a campaign to discredit the world’s most respected international human rights groups.”

Beinhart’s essay has of course drawn much criticism and debate within the American Jewish world, both from the right and the left.

Perhaps the best way to see the divide in the American Jewish community over Israel is to look at the dissemination of information and the debate on the Web today following the IDF raid of the Mavi Marmara and other ships in a flotilla traveling to Gaza.

Here’s what happened today: American Jews woke up this morning — a vacation day from work and school in commemoration of Memorial Day in the U.S. — to learn that Israeli commandos raided a Gaza aid flotilla, killing nine and injuring dozens of others. Since American Jews didn’t head to work this morning, there was no water cooler at which to debate the issues. Did the Israelis act in self-defense? Who struck first? Was the flotilla carrying humanitarian aid workers or political demonstrators? Did the men on the flotilla have guns and knives or was it a peaceful transport to Gaza? Were the IDF soldiers stabbed and beaten when they boarded the ship? Did the crew of the Gaza flotilla try to lynch the Israeli soldiers?

So, with no water cooler by which to stand, no office coffee to share, and no bus on which to commute, American Jews took the debate to Twitter. On the social media site users tweeted their latest discoveries from their choice online news networks. With links from Fox news, the Jerusalem Post, the New York Times, etc., Twitter users included hashtags featuring the newly popular term “flotilla” — from the Spanish, meaning a small fleet of ships — and voiced their opinion on the controversial event. Some pro-Israel tweets included the hashtag #freedomflotilla with the word “not” included parenthetically.

Some users of the microblogging service complained that Twitter apparently censored the #flotilla hashtag in discussions about the convoy deaths. Charles Arthur at the Guardian explained that Twitter didn’t censor the #flotilla hashtag. Rather, as #flotilla began trending, users started using the #freedomflotilla hashtag in its place. Also, as Mike Butcher at Techcrunch points out: “This surely was a case of anti-spam filtering [as] there had already been a “flotilla” story in the past week – the anniversary of Dunkirk (for non-Britons: a dramatic rescue during the second world war of British and French troops from the Dunkirk beaches by small craft). And Gaza is frequently topical. So Twitter’s anti-spam algorithms – that is, the machines – likely decided that this was a spam attack trying to piggyback on old hashtags, and pushed the “#flotilla” hashtag out of the trending topics.

In addition to Twitter, YouTube also figured as a prominent player in today’s Flotilla debates. Tweets sent readers to the YouTube site to view videos from both sides of the attack — there was footage taken by the Israel Defense Forces of the  Mavi Marmara Passengers Attacking IDF Soldiers as well as video footage from Al Jazeera of  Israeli troops storming the Gaza flotilla after the white flag was raised.

On this lazy Memorial Day Monday morning in the U.S., Americans had no where else to go other than the Web with their views on the situation in the Middle East. Perhaps this virtual debate over the flotilla attack is the best litmus test for Beinhart’s assertion of how American Jews connect (or don’t) with Israel.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Rabbis Gone Virtual: From Facebook to Live Streaming Rabbinic Conventions

Cross-posted at Jewish Techs

For me, it began a few years ago. That’s when I first heard the words: “Rabbis, you need to have a presence on Facebook if you want to succeed in the 21st century!”

I heard these words at a STAR Foundation (now defunct) retreat for rabbis. STAR’s former director Rabbi Hayim Herring stated unequivocally that in this Internet Age rabbis would be reaching their congregants through social networking and new media applications like Facebook and Twitter, and those who became comfortable using these new communications would be most successful in the future.

I had already figured this out. I was an early user of Facebook at the University of Michigan where I worked for two years at the campus Hillel following graduation from rabbinical school. There I employed the services of Facebook to post events, connect with unaffiliated Jewish students, and post photos of Birthright Israel trips and other programs. But early on, many rabbis were ambivalent about signing on to Facebook or tweeting their 140-character commentary to the week’s Torah portion.

Gradually an increasing number of rabbis have embraced social networking. Of course, Chabad rabbis (especially those on college campuses) have utilized these applications to promote their programs and to connect to potentials. After all, these social networking sites make the Chabad emissary’s job of keruv (outreach) all the more easier.

How are rabbis taking advantage of technology?

Darim Online has run seminars and webinars for rabbis to teach them how to blog for their congregations. Having served as a virtual panelist for one of Darim’s blogging webinars, I noticed that most rabbis introduced themselves with the words: “I swore I’d never start a blog, but…”

In Los Angeles, the Board of Rabbis decided it was time to teach all the local rabbis how to use Facebook. So, Rabbi Dan Moskovitz of Temple Judea led a workshop for the rabbis titled “The Well Connected Rabbi.” He covered such topics as why Facebook is useful for rabbis and how to determine what is appropriate to post.

Rabbi Josh Heller, a Conservative rabbi in Atlanta has used Google Maps and Google Apps to create an application that plots each of his congregation’s member units on a map by zip code. This has allowed him to create geographically-based chavurot (small social sub-communities) within his congregation.

On Twitter, Rabbi Andy Pepperstone, a Conservative rabbi at Cleveland’s Gross Solomon Schechter Day School, tweets his take on the week’s Torah portion. In October 2009, Rabbi Pepperstone and six other rabbis self-published Twitter Torah, an anthology of their Torah-commenting tweets that were featured on their individual Twitter feeds. The effort was cross denominational and included both Orthodox and non-Orthodox Rabbis.

Rabbi Brad Artson of the American Jewish University has been podcasting his lectures and Torah commentary for years. Rabbis, from college campuses to large congregations, have realized that for some members it’s best to let them download the rabbi’s words of wisdom to their iPod so they can listen on the drive to work, on their flight, or on the walk across campus.

YouTube lectures, distance learning courses and webinars have all found their way onto synagogue websites where rabbis have broadened their reach.

At this week’s Rabbinical Assembly Convention in Manhattan, selections of the Conservative rabbi gathering were streamed across the Internet to guarantee more participation, including the ability for members of the assembly to virtually vote on resolutions. I asked Rabbi Ashira Konisburg, the Rabbinical Assembly’s technology guru some questions about the RA’s decision to go hi-tech this year.


Who’s idea was it to video stream the convention this year?

I think this idea came as a concept from Rabbi Julie Schonfeld (RA Executive Vice President) and I’ve been working on the development and implementation. We wanted to have a way for colleagues to take part in convention even if they can’t make it here in person.


How will the online voting work (technically speaking)?

We used webex which has a polls feature. Colleagues were able to vote and submit comments by email. It also had video hookup and many other features that we didn’t need for this event.


How many members does the RA Administration expect will attend the convention virtually?

We don’t know as it is still experimental. So far our experience is that there are between 20-40 people who watch it live (which is quite impressive considering the lack of advance notice). But the archives have between 100-250 views per video and they have only been up for a couple of days.


Have there been any technological problems in doing this?

Mostly just the quirks that come from doing things from the first time. The first session did not get recorded from the beginning, but was broadcast properly. There are of course things we would do differently next time, now that we have experience with this.


Was there any concern that more members will not attend future conventions in person now that they know then can attend virtually?

We discussed this at length, and decided that this time we’d experiment with this and see what the reaction would be. We have gotten lots of positive feedback so far. (from Israel, England, and far flung places in America) We hope that we enable colleagues to feel a part of what is going on here in New York even if they can’t make it, and that this will encourage them to come next year if they can make it. After convention we will evaluate and determine how to move forward. Also there are some parts of convention (collegiality,  networking, and some professional development seminars) that you just need to be at convention to experience more fully. I should say that there are lots of other ways that we are using technology including a Flickr stream, facebook updates, and sessions for participants (basic and advanced) on web resources, IT, social networking, etc.

Perhaps your rabbi still isn’t on Facebook or using Twitter, but rest assured this will change. While many rabbis were reluctant at first, there’s no question that for rabbis to be in touch and to be able to share wisdom in the marketplace of ideas, social media is a necessity in the 21st century.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Around the Cyber Seder

Cross-posted at Jewish Techs

As we approach the Passover Seder, here are a few cool sites and videos to enhance the Passover experience:

Bangitout.com – Seder Sidekick 2010
Isaac and Seth Galena, the brothers behind the popular Jewish humor site Bangitout.com have once again published a Seder Sidekick to help bring some levity to the Passover Seder. Dedicated to the memory of Dr. Harold Galena, the 38-page PDF document includes song parodies, top ten lists, silly jokes, quizzes, and funny pictures.

OurJewishCommunity.org – Online Passover Seder

The online Seder, created by Rabbi Laura Baum and Rabbi Robert Barr of Cincinnati’s Congregation Beth Adam, will take place on Tuesday, March 30 at 5 PM EDT and participants can sign up at on the Seder website. The online Seder will use the award-winning Haggadah, made by the congregation, that creates a Passover ritual that is meaningful, relevant, and appropriate for all modern-day Jews. It provides direction for beginners and comfort for seasoned participants as they celebrate Passover. Last year, Rabbi Baum tweeted two Passover Seders on Twitter. Baum and Barr’s OurJewishCommunity.org reaches out to thousands of unaffiliated Jews and others who are looking for a meaningful connection to Judaism, but had not previously found one.

The Open Source Haggadah – By Daniel Sieradski

The Open Source Haggadah allows users to assemble a personalized haggadah from texts and images that come from a diverse and inclusive array of Jewish sources, including — most importantly — user generated content. Launched in 2002, the site was a proof-of-concept for Open Source Judaism, a view which proposes that Judaism is not simply a religion to be believed in, but one to be considered, discussed, and evolved. Jewish texts and rituals are not closed, but open to commentary, disagreement, and even revision. Inspired by the values expressed in Douglas Rushkoff’s Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism, the Open Source Judaism Project sought to advance public discourse around the use of technology in the reimagining of our relationship to Jewish texts and ideas. The Open Source Haggadah was the first in a series of experiments that illustrated the value of giving individuals the ability to “customize” their Judaism and Jewish experiences.

How to Perk Up Passover’s Plagues – Wall Street Journal

This Wall Street Journal article has some new ideas to make the Passover seder more fun and interactive using Twitter, Charades and “Jewpardy.” Rabbi Oren Hayon of Dallas thinks he has just the way to integrate “American Idol” into the ancient tale of the Haggadah. Building on a growing movement to add a bit of fun to the plagues and pestilence, he has recruited a handful of fellow rabbis to act out the Passover story in 140-character Twitter messages, accessible at twitter.com/tweettheexodus. Of course, you can also rely on the good old Plagues Bag.

The Passover Humor Files – Jacob Richman

Israeli technology maven Jacob Richman has compiled a list of links to various forms of Passover humor. He posted 70 Passover files ranging from jokes and stories to song parodies. Both kids and adults will find them entertaining (and sometimes educational). The Passover humor website includes the First Plague as reported on Twitter, Pesach Cleaning 2010, the Computer Engineer’s Haggadah, Dr. Seuss 4 questions, and An Adam Sandler Passover.

G-d Cast – The Passover Seder with the Four Sons
G-dcast is a weekly cartoon about the story Jews are reading in the Torah right now. A different writer explains the Torah portion (or Jewish holiday) in 4 minutes through stories, country songs or hip hop! Then it’s animated. Check it out:




The Jewish Robot – The Matzah Ball Olympics
Commissioned by the Manischewitz Company, William Levin (The Jewish Robot) created this wildly funny video:

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Facebook Haggadah 2.0

Cross-posted to Jewish Techs

After the success of his 2009 Facebook Haggadah, I predicted that Carl Elkin would say “Next Year on Twitter.” Apparently, that prediction didn’t come to be.

However, I am happy that after his brilliant Facebook Haggadah parody last year, Elkin is back for more. The creator of last year’s spoof has created a new and improved 2010 Facebook Haggadah, complete with a status update from the 1st sister Miriam who reveals the color of an article of her clothing just as her descendants do thousands of years later on the social media site for breast cancer awareness. In the new version, Elkin also makes comical references to Farmville and FourSquare. Woody Allen, Sarah Palin, and Albert Einstein all take part in the social networking seder discussion.

Even the prophet Elijah is a part of this haggadah. Clearly a technophile, Elijah updates his status letting us know about his latest gadget: “My new smartphone with Nav software and turn by turn directions is making this year’s rounds a breeze! Currently 350 households ahead of schedule.”

Elkin, a Boston-based computational chemist, also created an app called YesWeConserve.com to to help get people involved in fighting global warming. The app is designed to help people find and share popular energy-saving ideas.

I’m not going to hold my breath for a Twitter based Haggadah, but at the end of this year’s Facebook Haggadah Elkin does promise that next year’s version will be an iPhone app!

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Our Tweeter in Washington

Cross-posted to Jewish Techs

Much has already been made of the social media posting habits of William Daroff. Whether on Twitter or Facebook, the well-connected director of the Washington Office of The Jewish Federations of North America (and its VP for Public Policy) isn’t afraid to go public with his whereabouts, upcoming speaking engagements, or even his drinking buddies.

Earlier this month, the JTA’s Ron Kampeas dubbed Daroff “The Fastest Tweet in the Jewish Organizational World” and the Fundermentalist (AKA Jacob Berkman) tweeted about Daroff that “the JFNA’s crackberry head has a serious case of the twitters.”

Some in the Jewish Federation network may think that this Washington insider tweets too much, but others appreciate the bird’s eye view that Daroff provides. His embrace of social media and lack of restraint when it comes to providing his daily schedule may lead to more transparency in the Jewish communal world.

Keeping up with Mr. Daroff’s professional life — knowing which D.C. movers and shakers he’s wining and dining, and which cities are on his travel itinerary — is a glimpse into the life of a Federation executive that most never had. Letting the world (or at least anyone who follows the @daroff feed on Twitter) know when he’s in a meeting with Israeli leaders on Capitol Hill or at the White House Hanukkah party removes much of the guessing game about the Jewish community’s political access in Washington.

Of course, it’s easy to take the tell-all nature of Twitter too far. There have been times when Daroff’s Blackberry tapping fingers took him into TMI territory.

A friend of mine, who’s a Jewish communal professional, found himself drinking Scotch with Daroff at the hotel lobby bar at this year’s Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) conference. (Single Malt Scotch is certainly one of Daroff’s own trending topics on his Twitter feed.) Before the first sip, the list of imbibers was tweeted around the Internet. Back at the office following the conference, a few eyebrows were raised following Daroff’s tweet and my friend had to explain to his colleagues that the bar tab wasn’t paid for with agency funds.

Adam Kredo, writing in the Washington Jewish Week, also noted the gray area in which Daroff navigates when he Tweets his opinion. This past Fall, Daroff tweeted that the left-leaning Israel group J-Street “stands with the Mullahs and the hard left at NIAC [National Iranian Action Council]” who are “opposed to sanctioning Iran.” That tweet might have gotten Daroff in some hot water, but as he aptly put it, “I have a cool job and get into cool places. You shouldn’t have to buy me a scotch in order to hear what I’m up to, and Twitter allows for that.”

Web 2.0, in addition to opening doors into new media, has also forced us to raise questions about the dissemination of professional and personal information. Is it appropriate for Jewish communal non-profit executives to divulge what they do when the workshops and plenary sessions come to an end at professional conferences? Is it unseemly for Jewish communal executives to fire off quick missives from their Blackberry before their communication department has a chance to review them? Is it wise for leaders of Jewish organizations, rabbis, day school heads, or foundation leaders to keep us up to date in 140 characters or less? Will social media help us gain a better perspective of what our Jewish communal leaders do on an average day?

My own sense is that William Daroff’s “tweeps” do in fact appreciate his candor. And with over 2,500 Twitter followers and about the same number of Facebook “friends,” he’s built quite an audience. Perhaps if more Jewish leaders follow Daroff’s lead and aren’t afraid to share their activities (and ideas) with the community-at-large, there will be more young Jews eager to connect to the organized Jewish community.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Shabbat Unplugged

This morning at the JCC, I was checking my email on my phone when an elderly gentleman came up to me and asked what I do with that “thing” on Shabbos. I explained that while I am quite connected to my cell phone during the work week, I have no problem putting it aside for the 25 hours of Shabbat. He told me that he found that impressive and then told me what he remembered about his parents’ Shabbat observance when he was a child.

As connected as I am to technology, I find it healthy and refreshing to put it aside for one day a week. And that is precisely what Reboot, a nonprofit think tank, is encouraging Jewish people to do this weekend. In yesterday’s New York Times, Austin Considine explained:

The Fourth Commandment doesn’t specifically mention TweetDeck or Facebook. Observing the Sabbath 3,000 years ago was more about rest and going easy on one’s family — servants and oxen included.  But if Moses were redelivering his theophany today — the assembled crowd furiously tweeting his every sound bite — one imagines the frustrated prophet’s taking a moment to clarify what God meant, exactly, by a “day of rest.”  For starters, how about putting down the iPhone? 

Beginning at sundown on Friday, March 19 will be the first annual National Day of Unplugging. The organizers of this day will draw attention to Reboot’s “Sabbath Manifesto”, which seeks to fight back against the tidal wave of technology taking over society and our lives. They encourage people to put down the cell phone, stop the status updates on Facebook, shut down Twitter, sign out of e-mail and relax, as part of our National Day of Unplugging.

As a way to get people across the nation to reclaim time and reconnect with friends, family, the community and themselves for 24 hours, they have even created cell phone sleeping bags.

Following the launch of the iPad, Newsweek’s Daniel Lyons wrote: “Our love affair with technology is also about a quest for control. We’re living in an age of change and upheaval. There’s an overwhelming sense of powerlessness. But technology gives us the illusion of control, a sense of order. Pick up a smart phone and you have a reliable, dependable device that does whatever you tell it to do. You certainly can’t say that about your colleagues or families.”

I certainly agree with the concept behind this day of unplugging. On an average day, I’m Tweeting, updating Facebook, sending and receiving hundreds of emails, checking voice mail messages and returning calls, and taking photographs. Yet, from Friday evening through Saturday night, I am unplugged from battery powered communication and find myself spending much more time with my wife and children. It is also my sacred time to read books (as opposed to the other six days of the week when I’m reading articles, Tweets, and status updates on the computer).

I’m curious to know how many people who are not regularly Sabbath observant will unplug this Shabbat. Hopefully, those who do will share their experiences on the Sabbath Manifesto Website. I just hope they wait until it’s dark Saturday night to post!

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller