Here’s a letter I submitted to our Temple’s newsletter:
I recently read an article in Reform Judaism Magazine celebrating our ever-evolving faith. Reform Judaism recognizes that our sacred heritage has evolved and adapted over the centuries and continues to do so. The full and equal participation of women in our services is a powerful example of this. Today, the tremendous rise of Social media has empowered people to seek freedom as demonstrated this past spring across the Arab world. How can we, as Reform Jews, in Somerset County, NJ incorporate the power and value of social media to elevate our own Temple Beth-El experience?
For one, we will obviously have to relax our “no cell-phone” policy and instead encourage the use of smart phones albeit in silent mode during our services. Let’s allow our congregants to check-in on location based services like FourSquare when attending a TBE service. There would be rewards (social currency) to promote this activity. For example, the tenth person to check-in would receive a Minyan (the required amount of people to hold a service) badge, checking in at least once a week for an extended period would allow one to earn a Fromer-Yid (very religious) badge. If your entire family is in attendance, each would receive the gantza mishpucha (entire family) badge.
Let’s also utilize Twitter to inform congregants as to what goodies are being served at this week’s Oneg (after service snacks). Let’s concede that some people (not me or you of course) base their attendance on whether or not chocolate rugalach or halvah will be adorning the tables in the social hall after the service. Once one person reads a tweet that bagels and lox will be served at the Kiddish, the word will quickly spread (might I say schmear) to the entire local Jewish community raising service attendance and leading to an increase in Temple membership.
Personal empowerment is a big driver of Social media. Let’s allow our congregation to choose the closing hymn just like we vote for winners on American Idol. Text BethEl1 for Adon Olam, BethEl2 for Hatikvah, or BethEl3 for Ein Keloheinu. Of course we can’t open up the entire service to the wisdom of crowds. Imagine if we were to allow people to vote for which Shofar sound would be bellowed from the bema? There could possibly be 8 Tekiah Gedolahs and not a single Teruah. Even the most talented Shofar blower wouldn’t be able to catch his/her breath. (The tekiah Gedolah is a set of notes played on a ram’s horn that can last upwards of 2 minutes) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJMv1XMIf_Q
Let’s fully embrace the power of Twitter. Every time we tweet during a service or Temple function, we would include the hash-tag, #TBE. This would allow us to post Twitter results limited to those of our congregation on monitors installed in the aisles. This activity would limit the amount of talking during the service and since all tweets would be posted and dissuade frivolous comments like “Look what she’s wearing to Temple – it’s a shanda! (embarrassment)”, or “Didn’t the Rabbi give the same sermon last year?” However, it would encourage people to post relevant commentary and questions about this week’s Torah portion or a gentle request to lower the air conditioner. For example this tweet could be responded to by others in order to avoid an embarrassing situation:
“I have a really bad stiff neck – can I say my own name for the Misheberach (prayer of healing)?”
Maybe we’re not ready to adopt all these ideas, but why not at least LIKE our TBE Facebook page and extend your TBE experience online?