The Social Sermon: An Innovative Approach to Community Building, Engagement and Torah Study

November 20, 2009

Source: JewPoint0 


In this blog post, Philip Brodsky, Darim Online Intern, proposes a new way to help build community, engaging community members in Torah study and creativity by the intelligent use of social media. He suggests that Rabbis make use of digital social media to engage community members in discussion of aspects of the upcoming Torah Portion, utilizing the resulting communal discussion in developing his Shabbat sermon. By the time the rabbi delivers his Shabbat remarks, he or she could be drawing inspiration from, or even representing the discussion of hundreds of his congregants!


What will The Social Sermon look like? At the beginning of the week a Rabbi posts a question on his or her blog, or on Twitter with a particular hashtag or as a Facebook post on the congregation’s Page. The first post would describe a theme of the parasha, or link to some text, and at the end, pose a question.


As comments and responses start to be posted, the Rabbi then facilitates an ongoing conversation through the week — responding regularly with insight, text, links, answers to questions, and more questions to guide the discussion.


By the end of the week, several things will have happened:

  • New people are engaged in Torah study. Likely a portion of the online participants are a demographic that doesn’t often come to mid-day or evening adult education classes. (On-site classes – adult and youth – can also participate);
  • Participants will have formed new relationships through the online discussion, perhaps following each other on Twitter, friending each other on Facebook, etc. which leads to ambient awareness, thus strengthening your community;
  • The Rabbi will have a better understand of what aspects of the parasha resonate with the community, and be able to design a Shabbat sermon that is the most relevant for the congregation, and will have ideas, quotes, context to make the sermon even more rich;
  • More people may show up for Shabbat services, feeling more educated, connected and like they have some ownership over the sermon that week. 
  • And for those that missed the service, they could read it the next day when the rabbi posts the sermon back on the blog or web site, with a link on Twitter and/or Facebook.
Updated: Nov. 23, 2009