30 July 2012

Starting a Facebook Page for My Rabbinic Personality

Facebook page for my rabbinic persona I created this month
Earlier this month, I created a Facebook page for my professional persona, Rabbi Drew Kaplan (go ahead, you can 'like' it) and I realized it was worth reflecting on, especially in light of a discussion I had last summer.
     At last year's Hillel Institute (annual staff conference for Hillel: the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life), I was chatting with a new graduate from my rabbinical school and he was bothered by a common phenomenon: often, rabbis seem to strive to have public personas that seem to be about themselves, whether websites or other outlets...   He said that we were taught in rabbinical school that it when we spoke, wrote, etc., we were not supposed to make it about ourselves as rabbis, per se, but to focus on the Torah that we were teaching.  Moreover, there could be a danger of charismatic leadership that might overstep its bounds.  Once he said that, I remembered the exact same sentiment from my time there and that it totally resonated with me that that was what it was supposed to be.   However, when I first arrived in Southern California, it was told to me that I should  strive to be a magnetic personality, as that is what draws people....
          That was my dilemma when I started my job: how to cultivate a magnetic (perhaps charismatic) personality and to draw in people to take part in activities, etc. versus what I had learned in rabbinical school to not strive for my rabbinate to be about me.
        While speaking with a student this past shabbat evening, I did say that I didn't mean this Facebook page to be an egotistical endeavor (e.g. "Look, I've got dozens/hundreds/thousands of people who 'like' Rabbi Drew Kaplan!"), but rather a way for people to connect with my work and me as a rabbi.  She suggested to me that, in this time, people are looking for different ways of connecting with each other, and that it is also true regarding rabbis.  Thus, by creating a multiplicity of platforms for people to connect with us, be accessible to them, or simply for them to follow us, the better and more people with whom we can share our Torah. 
           True, we shouldn't, as rabbis, think of ourselves so high because of what we do, but we do have to recognize that people connect with other people generally and not exclusively about the ideas they espouse.  Meaning: it's not reasonable to expect that people will just simply connect with me because I teach Torah/Judaism, but it also has to do with me, as the medium through which they can access that connection to their heritage.  Thus, as rabbis, we have to be aware and cultivate our personas and attract people if we can to teach them Torah. 
       So, I'm hoping that, as I use my Facebook page (in addition to my twitter account), it can serve as a helpful resource for people to follow my work, stay connected with me, and to continue to see what I have to offer.

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