Good question. When I took the job at The Shul on the Beach on Venice I thought that it would be smart to create an online presence with Jewish and non-Jewish content. The idea was that people find shuls and rabbis on the Internet and we should make sure that we are marketing ourselves online. That's why I started the blog. The first year of the blog was boring. I got some visitors but the posts were not about contemporary Jewish issues. It was more like my personal Jewish / rabbi spin on whatever was going on outside the Jewish community. I posted all the interesting stuff on DovBear's blog (he helped me get started - thank you DovBear whoever you are!)
Then I wrote a post about Esther Petrack (the orthodox Jewish model) and a follow up to that post. People were interested in what I had to say. The Facebook post about that blog post got hundreds of comments too. It was clear. The people wanted a place and a forum to talk about Jewish issues in our communities.
So it kind of just evolved from there. The Asifa was another thing that people wanted to discuss and we talked about it a lot on the blog and Facebook.
Then (after some people helped me see this) I realized that to a lot of people I was the rabbi of the Internet. I started getting emails and messages from people around the world. It's been like that for a couple of years now.
Now I consciously try to drive important conversations and discussions. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. But it's almost always fun.
I've been able to use the Internet to bring a lot of exposure and opportunities to my shul. TV and other media appearances have come our way because of the blog and my social media presence. We get visitors for Shabbos who know me from the Internet. It's been positive, mostly. There are some people who dislike what I do online and for them it has been negative. But I would say positive overall.
There's an interesting theory in one of the Freakonomics publications (don't ask me which) that directly correlates the decline in education to the exit of women from the classroom into general professions. The theory goes that once women could be lawyers, doctors, hedge-fund managers etc. they no longer wanted to teach. And once the very best and brightest women were no longer teaching, education began to suffer.
Do you think we might now see a reverse effect where the best and brightest women who are now empowered by spiritual leadership roles will go back into the classroom and the synagogues creating almost disproportionate value proposition for those institutions?
Dr. Sharon Weiss-Greenberg and I go back about 10 years. We were sitting in Camp Stone -- I was in the Beit Midrash and Sharon was running the loudspeaker -- when I said to her (and this is not an exact quote) "You really should be Rosh Mosh (head of camp)." I thought it would be really powerful for the girls in camp to see a strong female leader.
I give myself a lot of credit for realizing that Dr. Weiss-Greenberg could be a real powerhouse in the Jewish community, but I NEVER could have imagined how far she would go. It's really exciting, especially in light of the first graduating class from Yeshivat Maharat, where she is director of recruitment, to get DSWG in for a conversation.
How are you feeling almost a week removed from the first Yeshivat Maharat graduation?