The Times They are A’Changin

Bandlands 1I spent last week at a conference for rabbis on communication skills. On the one hand it seems like this should be pretty standard stuff for rabbis and since I have been a Rabbi for over 30 years, why would I need a conference on Communication?

This post is part of the reason. Once I was pretty regular about posting to my blog. Over the past few years, I got away from it. I have Facebook and Twitter accounts that I barely use. It just seemed to me to be time to upgrade my skills and take on a role in social media.

I will take a short moment of pride: One of the presenters was my daughter, Ashira. She did her usual excellent job of teaching and explaining the uses and abuses of Social Media. For rabbis who don’t fully understand Social Media, she held their hands and helped them find a role for themselves. It is really wonderful to see others appreciating my daughter for the special skills she has and she even inspired me to get back to posting. I am hoping that this will be the beginning of getting myself back online.

There was also a great deal of time given over to honing our speaking skills. A team from Broden Consulting came to work with all of us. We covered everything from speech writing skills to speaking to the media. For some of the rabbis, the workshops brought out their insecurities about public speaking but even old hands like me learned a lot about how to strengthen our skills.

There are many Jewish organizations that have a strong presence on Social Media. In many ways, Conservative rabbis have been slow to take on the challenges. I can’t speak for every rabbi but for many, the technology is changing so quickly that it is hard to keep up. I realized that I am going to have to deal with video and audio recordings and not just print media. For some rabbis, the privacy and public face of Social Media is frightening. What we say is out there forever, and mistakes never go away. Social Media only amplifies mistakes that we make so some feel it is “safer” just to stay away. I have always felt that while there are lots of things to fear in life, you can’t live your life afraid. I have always believed in being careful, learning from others and then taking on the challenges directly. That is why I have been writing online for many years. Now I have to find a way to switch over to other media. I am very happy to be living in times that are changing in so many ways.

I am now part of the largest Conservative congregation in Alabama. We live stream our Shabbat and daily services to the entire state. We are the only daily minyan in Alabama so we try to connect with other Jews in smaller towns all over the state. It is time now for me to reach out to them in new ways. Birmingham is also home to one of the best teaching hospitals in the country. It is time I reach out to the Graduate Students, Research Fellows, Professors and Researchers who are part of the University of Alabama, Birmingham. These are not “old media” Jews. They deserve to find Judaism through the media that is so much a part of their lives.

We have classes that we can record and post. We have presentations about life cycle events and holidays that we can use to teach those who are far from our city. There is so much we can do if we are ready to enter Web 2.0.

Look for more from me. I am excited to be expanding my world.

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