Judaism is another religion that has taken to social media to voice its beliefs and connect its members.
Lisa Colton, a member of Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, Virginia writes for Reform Judaism Online, the electronic version of the widely-circulated Jewish magazine. She is also the founder and president of Darim Online, a company that offers Internet strategies for Jewish organizations, including a free social media boot camp.
“Congregations are about relationships, which means they need to be where the people are. And these days, people are on social media,” she writes.
There is even a Jewish social networking site called Schtik! that helps Jewish people from around the world connect.
Synagogues and Jewish communities are reaching out with social media at a critical time. Following the trend of all major religions in American, according to the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, the number of nonreligious Jews in the United States is rising.
Approximately 4.2 million American adults identify as Jewish by religion, a number that twice as high in the 1950s (according to Pew).
The Pew Research Center surveyed 3,475 Jews from across America in earlier this year in order to better answer the question, “What does being Jewish in America mean?” According to the survey results, 15 percent of American Jews said that being Jewish is mainly a religious matter, while six in 10 said that being Jewish is about culture, ancestry and identity. However, among the 15 percent that claimed Judaism as a religion, less than one in three said that religion is very important in their lives.
Daniel Burke, co-editor for CNN’s Belief Blog, reported on the results and potential consequences of this trend earlier this week. One of the questions his post presented was that with the number of Jews who identify only with Jewish culture and the growing number of Jews marrying outside their faith or culture (60 percent of Jews who have married since 2000 have non-Jewish spouses), what does this mean for the future of one of the world’s oldest religions and historical communities?
Last year blogger Esther Kustanowitz presented at the World Council of Jewish Communal Service Quadrennial in Jerusalem on how “sharing, liking and tweeting build stronger Jewish communities.”
In her presentation, Kustanowitz talked about how it was in the Jewish community’s best interest to embrace social media so that “everyone can be a rabbi or a writer or an activist” and Jews can become “a nation of priests.” She encouraged her audience to be committed to listening first and foremost, and then responding and engaging to deepen relationships.
I thought the most profound thing in her presentation was the phrase “trust the transparency” of social media. By embracing social media resources, will the Jewish community see a rise in followers? The trends reported by the Pew Research Center serve as a motivator to embrace social change and use today’s most powerful tools to try.
Check in tomorrow for Judaism & Social Media, Part II!