Blogging changes the Jewish community

 

We live in the age of information technology. The evolvement of blogging over the past few years has been a phenomena that has developed a status and culture of its own. Blogging preceded some the more advanced forms of social networking that we have seen develop over the past year, but I believe it will also outlast some of the more abbreviated forms of communication. This is because of integrated media opportunities it offers.

Some people use blogging as an online diary, others as a reference depository. In some cases there is a cause to advance, and in others it is merely an occupational pastime. Our JewglePerth blog was established to provide a medium of communication and awareness for the Orthodox Jewish community in Perth.

There are many blogs appearing around Australia that provide a direct line of communication between those people that want to access the views and opinions of Australian Jewry, and those people who want to measure what the issues and attitudes are, and general pulse of the community is.

Here are just three of many good examples of other blogs, all of which help to deliver a new style of media for Australian Jews in their own unique way:

Aussie Echo

AJN Watch

Galus Australus (a successor blog to the Sensible Jew, and we wish them all the best, especially in light of the recent signoff post by their predecessor, that articulates the need for an alternative community forum in much the same way that we do)

The social change that blogging represents is worth thinking about. Many articles have been written from a Rabbinic perspective that discuss blogging formats from a halachic perspective. The laws of Lashon Hara, the isssues of bittul zman, matters of general respect, anonymity, and the controlled use of the internet itself are serious issues that are addressed from a Jewish perspective. I am not qualified to comment on this, but I am conscious of the positive and negative level of influence that blogging can create.

In an age of ever increasing scrutiny, the accountability and responsibility of publishing anything is becoming more important. The responsibility of a publisher is an awesome one. All publishers should welcome inquiry and critique, provided that it is appropriately directed. This is especially so for bloggers.

From a sociological viewpoint, I believe the traditional structure of the Jewish community will be transformed by the form of free speech that blogging delivers. Most of this I suspect will be for the good, but it will also sadly come at the expense of many things, including traditional community models and structures.

The blog delivers a forum that allows views to be expressed outside the scope of the editorial control of an organisation or the Jewish media. Suddenly the freedom of expression is not limited, and issues and perspectives that were not within the scope of discussion before (or stifled by the community leadership) are suddenly within the public domain, whether or not that is desired.

This is where I would like to suggest that generational cultures within the community have begun to clash, and this is where things are starting to change with our community structures here in Perth. But it is not just the Jewish community, and it is not just locally. We now live in the global information age. As a JewglePerth blogger I am proud to be part of the media transformation. I like to try to use this communication medium for the good, but I’ve come to find that it is not all good. For example, even though it is distressing to feel compelled to draw attention towards unethical activity, I elected to do so in an attempt to realise a positive change for the community as the ultimate outcome.

Through the use of our electronic media JewglePerth provides a different style of forum for Perth Jewry to engage. We have the capacity to deliver an alternative platform for the local Jewish community to exchange ideas, challenge views, and express themselves. The market of ideas is an open marketplace.

It is not just the free expression of the forum, but also the medium itself that represents change. A weekly newspaper can take up to seven days to deliver its message. Electronic media can do so within seven seconds. It has the capacity to be more interactive and proactive. Just a few weeks back the general media fed itself into a frenzy over the way in which the Iranian elections and protests were being reported through realtime social networking technology. The Iranian regime could not control or repress the use of electronic media to conceal what was happening. The use of Twitter, YouTube, the blogisphere and other technology allowed the public to see what they otherwise may never had the opportunity to see. Suddenly the media had their own moment of realisation. They demonstrated how the use of information technology transcends any organisational structure and at the same time immediately impacts public opinion. They also know that this capability is potentially scaleable to the point of their own redundancy.

The flow on effect of borderless media and complete freedom of expression, is in the rupture within the structures and powerbases of community itself. Much of my recent blog experience suggests me that there is an intergenerational gap in the Perth Jewish community, that the value sets associated with this make the gap even more pronounced. I have concluded that the entrenched institutionalisation of Perth Jewry could well do with a good refresh in many areas due to apathy and lack of accountability.

It is not just the Maccabean that I find represents a culture within Perth Jewry that suggests that “beyond-reproach institutionalism” is embedded in our collective psyche. Whatever the organisation, I find that the internet is the antidote to those institutional and structural barriers that manage to stifle and limit community growth due to the leadership bottleneck.

There are many organisations in the Perth Jewish community that do not have the ability to engage new people, transition a new and future leadership, adapt their routines and activities to meet changing lifestyles, or cater for the way in which young people want to involve themselves in community activity. Directly related to this is the inability of our organisations to update their information communications technology to allow their members to engage in modern ways. Technology is vitally important in our times as communities connect electronically as much as they do face to face. Without the online interaction attractive opportunities for leadership development and the shared platform to discuss an evolving identity cannot be modelled into community development.

It also follows that the nature of community leadership has been changed by the freedom of speech offered by technology. When an organisations leadership cannot be respectfully challenged, then that organisation has no future. In the words of Rabbi Wein “The leader is judged, willingly or not, by the results of one’s leadership.” The Generation Y, and the new Generation Z amongst us also expect leaders, including voluntary leaders, to exercise absolute accountability and responsibility for the tasks they take upon themselves. Expectations are higher, the job is harder, and therefore the number of people committing to voluntary involvement in Jewish community organisations is diminishing at an alarming rate. If we reverse the culture of institutionalism and open up a new culture of social networking, then we have a better chance of actively growing our community into the future.

This blog was set up not as a medium to attack the Maccabean or any other community organisation, but rather as a means to bridge a gap. JewglePerth wanted to fill the void of local news and comment from an Orthodox standpoint, and also deliver a more contemporary medium for discussion. This objective remains. Sadly and regrettably we have found ourselves at odds with the way things work in our community. However the media world is changing, and this blog represents part of that change. Our small Jewish community is also changing, and we are also part of that change too.

 

 

With the understanding that the intentions of blogging are constructive, lets try and tackle some of the more important and difficult issues that confront our future.

 

By sheer cooincidence, this video is called, Did You Know?

 

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL9Wu2kWwSY[/youtube]

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