Torah and Twitter?

Telling stories. It’s part of what makes us human. Which stories we choose to tell is what defines us as individuals and as groups. Every Shabbat, we Jews tell the same stories, again and again, looking for new meaning in the sacred words of Torah. For centuries, our scholars have looked at the implications of applying Torah to the lives we are leading, whether in 12th century Spain, 17th century Europe or 21st century New Jersey. Some weeks this is easier to do (the Book of Genesis may also be the first family therapy handbook ever) and some weeks it’s more of a struggle. Case in point is this week’s parasha (Torah reading), Tazria, which, take my word for it, is not easy to access. But your rabbi will help enlighten you, so go and see what he or she has to say. It’s good to be a part of Shabbat community to help understand our stories.

 

I have another place for you to go to learn more stories of the Jewish people. On Wednesday, April 6, the Northern New Jersey Region of Hadassah and Women’s Philanthropy of UJC MetroWest are holding Education Day, starting at 9:30 a.m. at the Aidekman Family Campus in Whippany. The theme of the day is “The Power of Stories.” We have a wide range of authors, speakers, and performers, including our headliner, Peninnah Schram, one of today’s foremost Jewish storytellers. You can see the entire program by clicking on this link. Or you can visit www.nnj.hadassah.org and click on "Our Events" and then on "flyer and registration form" for Education Day. Simply download the form, fill it out, and send it in! It will be a fantastic day of Jewish learning and I look forward to seeing you there.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about how the Jewish world tells its stories in the 21st century. How do we connect — are we connecting — when we post pictures of baby namings and Bar Mitzvahs on Facebook? Can Jewish learning happen on Twitter? (Should it?)

 

Dr. Arnold Eisen, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, gave the keynote address this past Sunday at Jewbilee, a celebration of Jewish learning that was part of Oheb150, my synagogue’s year-long commemoration of our 150th anniversary. His talk was titled “Jewish Life in the Age of Twitter.” Dr. Eisen is a renowned scholar on the topic of modern Judaism and a thoroughly engaging speaker, so given that he was speaking on his area of expertise, it was a true treat to hear him address how he thinks social media will impact Jewish life.

 

His ultimate conclusion is that Judaism has responded to changes in how information has been shared for thousands of years and that the advent of Facebook and Twitter may or may not enhance Jewish life, but that we will endure. It will be interesting to see what Jewish communication looks like when Oheb Shalom celebrates its 175th! Dr. Eisen told us that because our Adult Education co-chair Ed Zinbarg had raised the title as the topic for the keynote address, he has decided to enter the world of Twitter. So look for tweets from Dr. Eisen starting sometime after Passover.

 

I am also about to engage with the world of Twitter, so I will keep you posted on when Dr. Eisen’s tweets appear. I don’t intend to tweet myself, at least right now, but I finally feel like there are people who are or who will be on Twitter who I would like to follow. I understand that William Daroff, vice president for Public Policy and director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America, is a prolific and entertaining tweeter (I have simply no idea if these are the terms one actually uses in connection with Twitter, but I’m going with it!) and our own Shelley Labiner, director of Marketing at UJC MetroWest, also tweets. I joined Facebook when I decided it was a good way of communicating with my Jewish world; the same thing seems to be happening with Twitter.

 

I hope you hear (or tell or even tweet) a good Jewish story this week!

Leslie

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