17 August 2010

Shorter Davenings & "Siddur Baseball"

In this past weekend's issue of the Jewish Journal, Dennis Prager wrote a column entitled "Siddur Baseball", in which he bemoaned how lengthy shabbat morning services are - they are not only long, but boring, etc. The shul I attend here in Long Beach has figured out how to handle shortening services. The shul is called Shul by the Shore and the structure is that from 10-11, the rabbi has a discussion on the weekly parshah; then from 11 and onwards, Torah reading is held, followed by musaf and then kiddush, with those who daven shaharit as well as pesukei dezimra and Shema and its blessings doing so beforehand. Now, if I were to start a davening like this, I would be called non-Orthodox or otherwise trying to ruin the tradition; however, it is led by a Chabad rabbi, primarily for a non-observant constituency. I enjoy the set-up of it and, for the rest of the time that we are here in Long Beach and can continue walking to it will continue to enjoy.

16 August 2010

Hillel & Twitter Follow-Up

Apropos of my post on Jewlicious last week regarding Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life not operating a solid Twitter account, I asked around and about why Hillel's Twitter account was so lacking. The answer I basically got from having discussed it was that the resources just aren't there, as opposed to Hillel:FJCL just not recognizing either the significance of social media or understanding how Twitter can factor into their PR. In better times, the department that handled these matters had a few more staffers, but, as with the rest of the economy and many other non-profits, staffers are on the short side of the budget (especially for social media). So, even though I got many people agreeing with my online as well as at the conference, but it doesn't seem like this will change Hillel's social media strategy on account of the economy (unless a donor out there decides that it's important (c'mon, you know you're out there - Hillel is a 501(c)3...)).
As an aside, during the last night of the conference (held at the awesomest museum), there was a presentation held in recognition of some of the Hillel professionals for having served for such a long time. For a visual, they put up a screen behind the speakers with a Twitter feed for Hillel Institute. But here's what's peculiar, although there exists a Twitter feed for HI, it only includes one post. Which means, instead of actually inputting and actually tweeting, they created a computer simulation of the HI account tweeting about such and such person (pictured above).
I don't know whether that indicates that they get Twitter, in that they are using it in a presentation, or the opposite: that they get that it's hip, but don't know how to use it. Either way, it was still strange and I think that they haven't realized how they can harness Twitter to work for them yet.
While talking this over with someone afterwards, I realized they should incorporate what they are doing, much like what goes on in some classrooms and at other conferences: which is to put up a screen with a live feed of a certain Twitter hashtag that is germane to the discussion. This allows not only a fuller conversation to take place (because there are more people contributing to the conversation than simply the people speaking in the room), but the speaker(s) can reference some discussion points taking place in the Twitter hashtag feed. Moreover, not only does the conversation in the room become more robust, but also people not in the room can participate or at least be aware of the discussion underway.
Hopefully, Hillel will catch up soon....

11 August 2010

Shepping Nahas for Rabbi Weiss: Musing on "Kiddush Open Orthodoxy" at the Hillel Institute

This week, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life is holding its inaugural Hillel Institute, along with a Pre-Hillel Institute for new Hillel hirees that took place prior to the conference, which I am attending. One thing that has struck me is that a few people to whom I've introduced myself have remarked, once I identify which rabbinical school I attended, "I've not met a YCT guy I didn't like" or something along those lines. Although at first I caught myself wanting to facetiously say "You haven't met many have you?", I realized YCT does graduate good guys (which I like to call a 'kiddush Open Orthodoxy'). But it's not simply that, but also specifically within a Hillel context: that YCT graduates are excellent for enriching the lives of Jewish college students.
Moreover, there has recently been an explosion of YCT rabbis going into the campus rabbinate: there have been more graduates in the last two classes in the field than there were in the previous four. If you want numbers, out of the total 62 guys who have gone through the program and graduated, of the 20 graduates in the last two years, 7.5 of them have gone into the campus rabbinate (one of them is splitting his time between working in a shul and on campus), while six of the first 42 graduates went into it (and four remain in it at present).
And those numbers have been showing a little bit this week: the YCT guys are bringing a robust Judaism to the table. Interestingly, the primary theme for guided discussions this week has been balancing breadth and depth and, although Hillel has been working on the breadth aspect for years,
the latter of which is something to where YCT graduates are poised to bring Jewish knowledge, wisdom, and tradition. What's fascinating to me is that, while a YCT student, I thought many times while in the course of discussions being held at school, speakers talking to us, or certain topics being tackled, we were at the forefront of rabbinic education and poised to lead the Jewish world to greater heights - but, at the time, it also seemed like mere pie-in-the-sky musings. However, seeing the YCT graduates here is definitely starting to make it seem a little bit more realistic.