Jumo: Good for the Jews? (Guest Post: Tova Serkin)

December 19, 2010


Let’s get right down to it. Jumo is a new social networking platform that intends to improve the way nonprofits, organizations, and individuals communicate online.

But what value does it have given how many others options are already available? Does it offer us something beyond the benefits of Facebook? And most importantly, is it good for the Jews? I asked Tova Serkin, a leading expert in Jewish peoplehood and nonprofit fundraising to find out.

Tova’s Take on Jumo

Prospects for Jumo’s Success

I want Jumo to succeed – I really do – but I wish I were more optimistic. The newest social network to break into the field, Jumo was launched last week as a platform for those interested in social change and charitable organizations.

Created by one Facebook’s founders, Chris Hughes, the site has already garnered tremendous press – and the pressure for success is on. Because of Hughes’ extensive experience both with Facebook and Barak Obama’s online fundraising campaign expectations, also in the from of venture capital, are high.

But through my time at JGooders, I have seen first hand how difficult it is to engage even the most committed activists in e-philanthropy of any sort. Here is my take after a few days of exploring the site.

A Quick Glance

Screenshot: Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley. Best practice model for Jumo. Gives you an idea of how a Jumo page looks if you aren’t already a user

If you don’t look carefully, at first you might think Jumo was just another Facebook redesign – the similarities are multiple and conscious. Creators figure that if we are familiar and comfortable with one platform, some of that might transfer to them.

And in fact, you must have a Facebook account to use the system effectively. Essentially, social causes open pages, and users choose to follow the projects and charities that interest them. The focus is on relationship building as opposed to soliciting donations, but recognized charities in the US are able to raise funds as well.

Overall, barring some initial kinks in the Beta version, the site is clear, easy to understand and heralds a new way of interaction with organizations – at least in theory. But Jumo faces some tremendous uphill battles before it can truly take off – while on paper it the idea of building community around specific social causes is compelling, in my experience, it is virtually impossible for most organizations.

— Keep reading to learn about Jumo’s utility to Jewish organizations and for comparison shots of how one organization operates across its website, Facebook, and Jumo —

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Amplifying Women’s Voices in Israel and Palestine (TEDx HolyLand)

December 11, 2010

There’s no question in my mind that women do it best when it comes to relationships.

We’re more giving with each other, more intimate, more talkative, and more forgiving. That’s why hearing and amplifying women’s voices is so important to the process of Middle East peace. After all, the essence of meaningful coexistence is strong, healthy relationships.

If you care about women and the Middle East, it is essential that you listen to the voices of the women in these videos.

TEDx HolyLand

This morning I came across TEDx HolyLand– the only TEDx conference in the world devoted to women’s voices and narratives. (Note that the full name of the conference is TEDx HolyLand: It’s Time).

In the conference’s opening video, co-organizer Israeli Liat Aaronson explains:

“We want to have women’s voices heard in an effort to progress toward the end of Occupation and the end of violence in our region. That’s what we’re about.”

Co-organizer, Palestinian Hanan Kattan asserts:

“The Palestinian people and the Israeli people have many individual challenges they have to work on separately. And yet, ultimately, a truly sustainable future relies on both sides understanding that they cannot do it alone. This connection to each other, this working together, is essential to make anything truly worthwhile happen.”

Kattan explains that the HolyLand conference was sponsored by a Palestinian (lesbian) woman who wishes to remain anonymous. As someone who cares about these issues, I can’t think of a better use of funding to forward peace.

Treading on Transboundary Identities

Here I also want to note how many of these women tread the borderlines of mixed identities, as you will hear below. They are Arab, and Israeli; they are Muslim, and sometimes lesbians; they are Middle Eastern, but occasionally educated in Europe or the United States. It is my belief that the power of their voices comes from their experience with transboundary identities and the spiritual beauty that comes from exploring all aspects of the self.

— Keep reading to hear the powerful voices of women in Israel and Palestine as well as extended resources for recommended reading and viewing —

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The New Jew: Microblog– An Experiment in Social Media

June 17, 2010

Reflections via Luis Argerich on Flickr

In December 2009 I took fingers to keyboard and wrote with a heavy heart that I was signing off from The New Jew. Thing is, it was harder to leave it than I anticipated.

Let’s ignore the fact that my page views and subscription numbers are higher than ever (proof that it’s not always the front post that matters), the deep devotion that lead to the founding, development, and ongoing creation of The New Jew are still very much with me.

While I recognize the fact that I in no way have sufficient time to dedicate to full-time blogging as I once did (and what a true joy it was), I am embarking on an experiment in microblogging with Facebook as my platform. Join me at The New Jew: Microblog— an experiment in social media (http://tinyurl.com/TheNewJew).

New Beginnings

What does this mean? Well, let me back up and tell you how I came to this idea. In the fall of 2009, I began work at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Department of Donor Affairs (you won’t hear me talking about this frequently as I think work issues deserve to stay internal, but in this case it provides a general context for discussion).

Coming from a blogging background and understanding the importance of a good social media presence, I encouraged the university to create a Facebook fan page and Twitter account (which I co-administer and run, respectively). Working with Facebook fan pages helped me understand how versatile they can be– and how easy they are to use as a social media platform, especially in relative terms.

During this time, I’ve been investigating how organizations, and bloggers in particular, were using Facebook fan pages to reach their audiences or provide a different channel of communication to their readers. My overwhelming conclusion is that they are not. The two seem to be binary: there’s either a blog or a fan page, but not both.

— Read more about the experiment and what you can expect —

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Saying Goodbye to The New Jew

December 13, 2009

Dear Friends,

It has been a long time coming, but today, with a heavy heart, I am closing The New Jew for good. Creating and sweating over The New Jew was an amazing, passionate, edifying experience– one that I definitively no longer have the resources to pursue. The blog, which continues to receive many thousands of hits a week despite very little posting, will remain open as a resource to all for the time being.

Thank you so much for your loyal support and participation over these past two years. Wishing you all Hag Hanukah Sameach,

~ Maya


Mourning the Loss of Dr. Gary Tobin

July 9, 2009

Dr. Gary Tobin [Image]

The New Jew mourns the loss of the esteemed Dr. Gary Tobin (Z”L), may his memory be a blessing to all he touched.

Sourced from the Institute for Jewish and Community Research:

Founder and president of San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish & Community Research (IJCR), Dr. Gary Tobin passed away on July 6, 2009 at age 59.

Dr. Tobin was an innovative teacher, writer, researcher, and community builder who worked courageously and passionately to help the Jewish people grow and thrive.

In all his work, Dr. Tobin challenged the status quo of institutions for which he cared deeply yet always believed could be better.

Whether it was the Jewish federation system, American academia, or the State of Israel, Dr. Tobin was never afraid to challenge and provoke, always expecting better and more. He believed the greatest expressions of affection came not through blind praise but through thoughtful criticism and unlimited optimism for the things that meant the most to him.

At his last Passover Seder, Dr. Tobin reminded his family that the Jewish people entered the Promised Land without their leader Moses. Dr. Tobin worked tirelessly to coach his team of colleagues at IJCR. He wanted his work to live beyond him, not for the sake of his own legacy but for the sake of the greater good he always pursued. The Institute for Jewish & Community Research will continue to advance his visionary research.

For more information please visit GaryTobin.org.


Blessing the Sun: Photos from Brooklyn to B’Nei Brak

April 16, 2009
Blessing the Sun over Tel Aviv (Sandy Teperson)

Blessing the Sun over Tel Aviv (Sandy Teperson)

On the eve of Passover 5769, Jews around the world celebrated the Blessing of the Sun (Birkhat HaChama).

Here are some photographs from around the world of the festivities. I’ve chosen and arranged them intending to give you a feeling of the celebrations as they were happening. You will get the most value out of these images by viewing each set as a unit rather than scrolling through to see all the photos together. Enjoy!

Location: Brooklyn Bridge

Photographer: Sam Feinstein-Feit (Shir Yaakov)

Birkat HaChama 2009/5769

Location: Woodmere, NY (Congregation Beth Emeth)

Photographer: Charlie Roemer

Birkhat HaChama, Congregation Beth Emeth

Location: Miami

Photographer: James Kirkpatrick (photos for sale here)

Sun Rising in Miami

Women Praying at Dawn

Miami Sunrise

—– Click on the link to see a wealth of photos from Atlanta, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and B’nei Brak —–

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Blessing the Sun: April 8, 2009

April 7, 2009
bBlessing the Sun by Exothermic/b

Blessing the Sun by Exothermic

As we open our eyes to greet the new day tomorrow, we bless the sun with the words:

“ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם עושה מעשה בראשית”
Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the Universe who makes the works of Creation.
“Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha’olam Oseh Ma’aseh Breishit.”

Birkhat HaChama

The blessing on the sun (birkhat hachama) is said at the beginning of the 28 year Jewish solar cycle, celebrated next on April 8, 2009/14 Nisan, 5769, when Jews believe that the sun returns to its exact place at the time of its creation. We commemorate it tomorrow for the 206th time.

The Sun Blessing is shared with other natural phenomena, such as lightning, comets, meteors, and upon seeing “wondrous natural topography, such as great mountains, rivers, and vast wilderness.”

For more information, please see Bless the Sun.

“And God said: Let there be lights in the vastness
of sky to separate day from night…
And they shall serve as lights in the
vastness of space, to shine upon the earth.
And it was so.”
(Genesis 1:14 -15)

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