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Rare Finds | Article

Dec 21, 2010 | Category: Rare Finds

Twitter + Community + Jewish Education = Social Sermon

Whether it’s a sermon from the bimah or a lecture in the classroom, rabbis and educators are making them more grassroots driven.

The Social Sermon is a unique approach using social media to make synagogues, classrooms and other educational settings more participatory and communal.

The approach allows a rabbi, for instance, to compose a weekly sermon by posing ideas from the weekly Torah portion into an online communal conversation and allowing a discussion to unfold on Twitter or Facebook. Come Shabbat, the rabbi’s sermon reflects a communal conversation, not just his or her personal reflections.

Darim Online, a Covenant Foundation grantee organization, is spearheading the concept and encouraging educators, rabbis and other communal leaders to adopt it.

“People who participate in these sorts of decentralized conversations learn the content, connect with the rabbi, educator and/or other members of the community, and have some skin in the game,” said Lisa Colton, president of Darim Online.

“The sermon is no longer developed in isolation. Rather, the Social Sermon allows participants to feel represented in the rabbi’s sermon, or a teacher’s presentation or a Torah study, for that matter. That we can own and shape these teachings and ideas collectively is very powerful.”

Driving development of Social Sermon was Darim Online’s Phillip Brodsky, a Covenant Foundation-sponsored graduate student intern.

“Everyone is always talking about the importance of social media, but it seems like everyone is just using it as a way to advertise,” said Brodsky, who graduated from Brandeis University in May and is now Campus Team Manager at The David Project.

The concept is gaining traction as rabbis and educators experiment with it. Darim Online has conducted Social Sermon webinars and helps those experimenting with the concept to share their experiences with others.

There is no wrong way to use the Social Sermon approach, as organizations tailor it to their own needs and personalities, officials said.

“Jewish organizations have to get past just seeing social media as a way to post and share their newsletters,” Brodsky said. “Even if they don’t use the Social Sermon approach, then hopefully they will at least see that they can use social media in very innovative ways for community engagement and participation.”

For more information about Social Sermon, go to Darim Online’s blog, And follow a communal conversation about Social Sermon on Twitter at #socialsermon.

The Covenant Foundation wants to know what you think about the Social Sermon. Have you used this approach? Have you seen it in action? What might its real or potential effectiveness be? Comment here.

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