Joshua Mason-Barkin of Torah Aura Productions recently wrote a guest blog post on the Darim Online Blog in response to the Rabbi Eric Yoffie's annual sermon delivered at the recent URJ Biennial in Toronto. Building on Yoffie's call for URJ synagogues to integrate technology into their communal operations, Mason-Barkin outlines four suggestions for maximizing this effort.
- Congregations should form committees (or task forces) to develop thoughtful strategies for using technology to increase the efficacy of communication. Every synagogue should gather their most technologically savvy members to decide which of the many available technologies - social networking, microblogging, podcasting, mass texting - could best serve the needs of the community. The URJ could be indispensible in providing consultants and experts to help congregations get on this path.
- Technology can help Reform congregations do an even better job of running organizations that live up to the highest values of the movement. For example, synagogues could live up to their commitment to environmentalism by going totally paper-free, replacing hard copy with digital media in their communications. The URJ can support congregations new to these technologies by teaching professionals to use these tools, empowering congregants with tech skills to be leaders in their communities, and by pairing temples at the beginning of this journey with those who’ve already found success.
- Technology is an important part of the future of Jewish education. Jewish education should be using tools to help learners connect deeply to Jewish texts, helping schools to better communicate with parents and using inexpensive video conferencing to bring diverse teachers to isolated Jewish communities. Synagogues and Jewish schools should be thinking about how to utilize new technologies to allow for collaborative (hevruta for the new generation!) learning? How the internet can help engage (and empower!) parents and families in new ways? How can technology be used to open up the world of Jewish education to better integrate the arts, science, and communication? The URJ should nurture and support technology integrating projects and help to bring those tools to congregations and their learners.
- Technology is an excellent opportunity for collaboration. To truly move forward to empower member congregations to embrace a 21st-Century social-media-savvy technologically-engaged existence, the URJ should seek out organizations, educators, clergy, innovators, experts, academics and thinkers who can help congregations do their best work.