No matter the medium, the Jewish message stays the same
It’s time to rely on digital media to promote Jewish messages
As a camp director, I believe in getting back to nature and getting outdoors away from our compulsion with electronics (especially now, as our J nature play spaces are under construction). Not everything new is bad, however. Yossi Prager, executive director of Avi Chai North America, wrote the following on eJewish Philanthropy: “The Talmud rules that of all the vessels in the Tabernacle constructed by Moses in the desert, only the trumpets had to be refashioned in later generations. A teacher of mine, Rabbi Simcha Kraus, explained that the trumpets are a medium for conveying a message. The medium changes over time as society evolves. The message — and the mission of the Jewish people — remains eternal.”
Our challenge is using the many new gadgets to enhance our learning and experiences especially if we want to get the message to our younger generation (and to the “old” folks who have embraced the new).
As “People of the Book,” will we become “People of the SmartPhone?” It could very well be. The app possibilities are endless on digital devices, from the Tanakh, to the Haggadah, to the shofar, and even an iMenorah. You can find apps for blessings, Jewish calendars, Jewish games and music — everything you need and more!
Is this a positive thing? The question we should really ask is whether kids (and adults) are using these electronics to access the Jewish world. What is the goal — do we want to be more Jewishly engaged and knowledgeable? If the answer is yes, then does the medium matter?
At camp, we want our campers to learn and practice Jewish values — discussion and text study will always be part of Jewish learning. What if our text comes from a song with a rock beat? Can we sing songs that are not traditional? Should we? All of these questions help us continue the search for the right medium to convey the message.
As Prager said, “The message — and the mission of the Jewish people — remain eternal.” As parents and educators, we must know the message and mission first then go with the flow as the trumpets are refashioned by each generation.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.