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October 21, 2014 | 27th Tishrei 5775

Harnessing New Technology to Build Community

Union for Reform Judaism's 70th General Assembly

BACKGROUND

From the time of Ezra, who rewrote the Bible in a new script, Jews have always adapted to our environment and taken advantage of the latest technologies. To encode our conversations and sacred texts, we moved with ease from stone tablets to parchment to paper, and we move now to the electronic word.

Today's interconnected world does what Judaism has always aspired to do: It opens up the vast treasury of Jewish knowledge to everyone. Judaism is not a religion of elites; we are all expected to learn and to know. The Web provides access to Jewish learning on a scale that was unthinkable a decade ago.

As the URJ has begun to recognize, through its own blog and other communications avenues, the Web has the potential to empower our members and democratize our synagogues. The synagogue is the grassroots address of the Jewish world, and the Web gives us an instrument to involve and include Jews as never before.

We recognize that synagogue members do not have the time they once had. We are working more and sleeping less, and we can't get to the synagogue as much as we once did. Carving out an hour or two for a class or committee meeting is harder than ever. In this world, we need the benefits that online community brings.

This effort is especially important in reaching out to young adults. We need to know who they are, where they are, and what they want. Having grown up in the digital world, theirs is a culture of interaction and enablement. They want to inquire, discuss, and argue. They are natural collaborators and community-builders. And they will not be attracted by authoritarian Judaism; they want a synagogue that is more bottom-up than top-down.

It is time to welcome diversity, encourage community, and join ancient tradition with cutting-edge culture. It is time to create an online, Oral Torah of ongoing Jewish discourse and invite in the opinions of our members.

THEREFORE, the Union for Reform Judaism resolves to:

  1. Urge each member synagogue to sponsor a congregational blog that enables members to share their personal stories and Jewish memories and encourages hotly debated, multi-voiced, civil discussions around current events and issues of importance;
  2. Offer training to facilitate congregational blogs (including providing a congregational blogging platform) and to assist congregations in technological experimentation and creative online approaches, including online forums, web-streaming, virtual board meetings and congregational technology audits;
  3. Develop a plan to realize the potential of new technology to expand our outreach to, and work with, young adults;
  4. Model usage of new and emerging technologies internally and in communicating with its member congregations.

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