The following is an email from my colleague at The Jewish Education Project about Thanksgiving.  It touches on some specifics to her position in the Early Childhood and Family Engagement department, but I loved the sentiment and the ideas she articulated so well, so I thought I would pass it on... 

Hello Colleagues,

I would like to take a minute a wish you all a very meaningful and relaxing holiday & long weekend; and to share a new perspective about Thanksgiving that I have come to see through G2E. 
Personally, I have never been that keen into what I was taught Thanksgiving is about- even as a child I don’t think I bought that everything happened so peacefully and magically between the Pilgrims and Native Americans.  As I got older, I became more and more frustrated with the way our country portrays the events and how I feel we “sell” that story to our children.  Now, I understand that it is a tough decision as we want our children to understand the meaning behind the holiday, and without a context that is a hard message to share.  Especially now that I have my own three year old, I am struggling between my moral integrity to share the real story of how we overtook this land versus the more age appropriate “version” we are told from an early age.  Since my son was born I have been apprehensive about how I was going to explain Thanksgiving.  This year, through G2E, I believe I have found the answer.   

 As I participated in the Westchester Professional Learning two weeks ago at Westchester Jewish Center, and engaged in the session led by Storahtelling, I realized that that there are many age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate ways to not only share out the meaning behind Thanksgiving, but to also connect it to our Jewish history, tradition, and values.  I realized that there are many truths and messages behind Thanksgiving that so clearly line up with our tradition of harvesting the land during Sukkot, and giving thanks for things we have in our lives through the daily prayer (often said in our Early Childhood Centers)- Modeh Ani .  It occurred to me that although we set aside one day of Thanks in America, in Judaism this is a very consistent theme in our daily prayers and activities.  I thought why not introduce the concept of giving thanks through the lens of what it means to be a good, decent person and how to do that in a Jewish way, as well.  So, I took out the prayer Modeh Ani and I showed it to my son.  I sang it and explained it in 3 year old terms, and connected it for him to Thanksgiving.  We have been talking about  what being thankful means for a little over a week now, and it wasn’t until I could integrate the Modeh Ani into my “mini-lesson plan” that I truly felt like I was passing on a substantive, meaningful message to my son about I hope he can live his daily life.  I plan to continue to reinforce this message throughout the year, because what I really want for my son is that he know that being thankful doesn’t happen once a year, but that to be a good, decent person in this world, we must be aware of being thankful all the time.  This isn’t to say that I want my son to be so consumed with this that he can’t understand what feeling thankful is, but rather to begin teaching him that having an aware mindset is an important part of being Jewish and being an American. 

I’d like to share the text that Storahtelling presented to us about the Declaration of Thanksgiving as a holiday by George Washington in 1789.  While reading this text, I saw many similarities between this and Jewish prayers and texts, and all of a sudden felt much more connected to Thanksgiving than I have in decades.  I plan on sharing this text at my Thanksgiving meal tomorrow and I am curious and excited to see what kind of conversation this sparks.  Personally, I finally feel a little more comfortable with celebrating Thanksgiving, but more importantly, I finally feel armed with enough information to be able to educate my son on the “the true meaning” behind Thanksgiving and to be able to connect that to our Jewish roots, values, and identity.  As a relatively new mom with a strong connection to justice and Judaism, this is something I’ve been searching for for a long time.  Because after all, I am a Jew, but I am also an American. 

I hope you each find your connection to this holiday, and that it is peaceful, relaxing, and festive. 

With many thanks,
a message from Stereo Sinai

Heya Thumpers!

It's (almost) here!!  The highly-anticipated debut album(s) from Stereo Sinai!  And Thumpers, we are so excited because: 

  1. We are releasing not one, but TWO full discs of music - "Biblegum Pop" and "The Revelation Will Not Be Televised" - 25 SONGS in all!
  2. Our awesome album art was expertly crafted by the very talented Elke Reva Sudin
  3. Both discs feature special appearances by unbelievable guest artists
  4. ...and all kinds of other surprises!
The albums will be available to the masses by Chanukah, but YOU, our dear Thumpers, are invited to book your copies NOW at a DISCOUNT, before anybody else!   

Click Here to Pre-Order Now
We're so excited about these tunes; we know you (and everyone on your holiday gift list) will love them.

(And Thumpers in New York and Chicago - keep your eyes open for tour dates, more info shortly...)

Also - and we can't believe it either - this week is the anniversary of the release of G-dcast - Lech Lecha!  

G-dcast continues to be a remarkable project, and we are so proud to have been a part of it.  So in honor of forging new paths, and remembering journeys past, here is our G-dcast piece once more:  

Check Out G-dcast - Lech Lecha

Special thanks and congratulations to Hannah - 2nd grader, artist, Thumper extraordinaire - winner of the Stereo Sinai Coloring Contest!  She will receive a free copy of "Biblegum Pop"; way to go, Hannah!  (Fan us on Facebook to view our favorite coloring contest entries, and keep up with other contests, give-aways and fan specials.)

That's it for now, but there is much more to come...stay tuned!


Miriam and Alan 
Stereo Sinai

p.s. Got questions?  Looking to book Stereo Sinai in your community?  Just want to shmooze?  Talk to us!

EmailTwitterFacebook, or phone (262-6SINAI6).
Originally published on Darim Online's blog, JewPoint0
Photo Credit: j&tplaman
Trying to get your community or organization engaged in networking through social media, but running into roadblocks with colleagues who aren’t quite there yet?  Instead of getting frustrated over what’s not working, what’s not growing, let’s refocus. 

What’s already happening online?  Where are seeds just taking root?  Where are the fertile areas you can cultivate, and spread from there?

Taking time to tend your social networking garden can be hugely rewarding for everyone, and will help spread the message of the power of online social networking to even the most skeptical colleagues when they see what fruit it can bear!

Social Networking Gardening Tips:

Step 1: Seek out the gardeners. Find out who among the people you work with is blogging, tweeting, active on Facebook or LinkedIn, etc., by doing basic searches in those networks and asking around.  See which friends you have in common – you may be surprised and delighted at the connections you find!

Step 2: Watch their seeds and shoots. Subscribe to posts and friend these folks in whatever way you feel most comfortable (adjust your privacy settings as needed).  Put them in lists you can easily come back to (Twitter/Facebook), subscribe to blog posts via RSS, and bookmark whatever other sites might be relevant.

Step 3: Add sunshine, water, and fertilizer regularly. Schedule a regular time to focus just on networking with these groups.  Try taking ten minutes, two days a week, to go through the friend lists and RSS feeds you created and comment, reply, and retweet.  Share resources you think might add value to that person’s work and suggest people they may gain from being in touch with.  For some cases, it may be best to send a personal email or make a phone call to deepen the connection.

Step 4: Bonus step! Find the other gardens where your gardeners’ seeds have taken root. Uncover the conversations where your colleagues and their work are being talked about that they might not even know of!  Set up a Google Reader or Google Alerts.  Go to Google Blog Search.  Type in the names of the people and/or institutions you work with and see what comes up.  If there are a few meaningful, relevant results in the search, subscribe to that search by scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking the RSS link.  Check in on that RSS feed every now and again and share with those people the (good) news you found about them.

Some additional tips:

Be sure to subscribe to comment feeds on the blog posts you reply to so you can see where the conversation goes and easily follow up.

Use a consistent username across platforms so that folks will begin to recognize your presence and personality.  This will also make yourself more searchable in the future.

Put a pause between your fingertips and the keyboard – think about your voice, tone, and the value you’re adding to the conversation.  Be consistent.  If your organization has one, make sure to adhere to the guidelines of the social media policy, and develop that document as needed based on your interactions.

Don’t neglect IRL (in real life) and other media. Networks need to flow within and among different platforms to be truly effective.  Mentioning a Facebook post in a phone call, or a blog comment in a coffee date, then tying those conversations back to their original host platform can be a great way to weave people and ideas.

Serendipity happens! Being active in social media means you open up all kinds of potential for new connections – whether you plan on it or not.  Have an open mind and welcome the unexpected!

How have you found and cultivated the fertile areas in your organization?  What resulted from these interactions?

An evil magician has drained all the color from Stereo Sinai's gig poster, and only you can bring it back!

Dramatic, eh?

Grab Stereo Sinai's gig poster here.

Color it in however you like (on your computer or IRL; crayons, collage, fingerpaints, whatever! the more creative the better) and send it to by Oct. 28th. In addition to having your artistry featured in every city and town across America, you will win a FREE copy of the new album, "The Revelation Will Not Be Televised"!

Pretty cool, huh?

Thumpers of all ages are welcome and encouraged to participate.

Check out the Facebook event here.
Originally published in Darim Online's blog, JewPoint0
Facebook groups have changed a lot in the past year or so, and they’re more powerful than ever.  Here are some helpful hints to make your Facebook group a truly vibrant platform:

Maximizing group features for networking and engagement:

Tagging individuals in posts. This is an excellent means of publicly introducing two (or more) folks within your group.  Include bragging rights – what makes these members unique?  Give them a question to explore together, and encourage the dialogue.  This means you have to know your group – who they are, what they’re up to, what they need, etc.  Think:
  • How can I encourage others to use the group in the same way, not just as a means for marketing/broadcasting information?
  • How do I go from network weaver to empowering others to weave one another?
The power of pictures. Facebook is a “picture economy” (whereas Twitter is a “link economy”); pics are the most engaged content, the most in-demand.  Pictures are great conversation starters.  Tagging folks in pictures and asking them to tag themselves also increases engagement, puts a face to a name, and humanizes the process by bridging online and on-land worlds.

Questions and polling.  Thoughtful, simple, directed questions can be a powerful engagement mechanism.  Think about allowing others to add their own options to the poll – when is it appropriate, and when is it unnecessary or confusing.  Expect to get answers both in the poll itself and in the comments, and run with both!

Group chat. Facebook groups mostly function asynchronously, but a synchronous activity now and again can really rally the troops. (Note: this feature does not function with groups of 250 members or more.)  Consider the following:
  • What are the deeper conversations your group seems inclined to have?
  • Can you assign someone to host that conversation and empower them to lead the charge?
Docs. Docs are like super-simple wikis, and probably the most truly collaborative aspect of a Facebook group.  Because they are collaboratively editable, they are great for anything that requires a teasing out a group voice – agendas, statements or announcements, etc.
  • Docs live in a designated place within your group and are therefore not as subject to the news feed, which is more timely.  Docs are great for posting information that you plan to come back to again and again.
  • Conversations will naturally spring up in the comments section of your document.  It’s important to manage the flow between what is being written in the doc and what’s happening in the comments.
Events. Creating a group event for actual in-person meetings makes a lot of sense, but there are other ways the events feature can be used – general publicity, announcements, calls to action, booking a time for a group chat, etc.
  • Events need not be restricted to members of the group.  Use them when you want to introduce a broader audience to your group’s good work.
  • Bear in mind – events can be great, but tend to get lost in the new Facebook layout.  Timing is key.  Be conscious of who you are reminding of the event and how often.  Remember you can also post the event’s unique link to the group or your personal profile page.
  • Finally, events, like docs, also have a comment stream attached.  Monitor accordingly.
Other big ideas:

Have a goal for the group, or at least a project everyone can rally around.  Give the group a sense of purpose.

No one person “owns” a Facebook group. It belongs equally to all the members and should be treated as such. (Think about using the Docs to build a group statement of values – decide as a community how you will use the group and treat one another while active in it.)

It’s easier to post than to reply. Engagement takes investment. Try setting aside a specific block of time every day or week to monitor and engage the group.  Ask other members to do the same – spread the responsibility around and see what kind of ROE (return on engagement) you get.

No medium exists in a vacuum. Think about the relationships between what happens in the group, on Facebook in general, over email, on the phone, in person, at events, etc.  To be truly effective, the online experience should be tied – topically, in culture, in voice, in attitude – to the experience(s) of the group in other spaces.

Groups don’t provide hard analytical data the way Pages do, so it’s up to you to gather both the qualitative and quantitative results. Consider asking:
  • Who’s posting most often?  Who’s replying?
  • What topics are folks posting about?  What topics are getting the most feedback and engagement?
  • What times of day are people posting?
  • Are members typically sharing links, photos, videos, event invitations?
  • What else can you learn about your members through their activity? What do they care about?
How have you made Facebook Groups work for you?  What are your success stories?
Originally posted in Darim Online's blog, JewPoint0

Beth Kanter and Allison Fine accurately quip in “The Networked Nonprofit” that “social media is a contact sport.”  You can’t expect to succeed without getting your hands dirty.

As it happens, that’s just how the young nation of Israel agrees to learn the Torah - standing at Sinai, overwhelmed by the presence of the Divine, they collectively intone “na’aseh v’nishma” (Exodus 24:7 - what an appropriately enumerated verse).  Loosely translated, “we will do, and (then) we will hear/understand.”  Or, even more loosely translated, “first we will give this a try, then we’ll have some idea what it’s all about.”  Israel agrees that the Torah is not an intellectual exercise, it is a lived experience. 

“Na’aseh v’nishma” is your social media call to action. 

Knowing conceptually that it would be useful to connect with other people free of the constraints of time and space is an important step.  But it can’t compare to, for instance, engaging your network on Facebook to help find the modern equivalent of “na’aseh v’nishma.”*  Sensing that social media increases the likelihood of serendipity doesn’t hold a candle to finding your next job through Twitter.  Believing that social media is a key part of your communications strategy is very different from putting that belief into action. 

But what about those who need to feel the ROI (or rather, ROE - return on engagement) before diving in?  What about the “lo n’aaseh” (“we will not do”) folks? 

On the one hand, there are those who will take on this challenge only because they “have to.”  A friend recently told me about a colleague in her office who, upon taking the job, was cajoled into creating a Facebook account for the first time.  The position involved working heavily with teens, and the person he was replacing realized as he was ending his tenure that he had missed out on opportunities for engagement by avoiding social media - “Facebook” was the advice he passed on to his successor.  The new colleague is seeing early signs of success, meeting the teens in their own space, in their own language.  Another friend had a similar experience:
On the other hand, there are those for whom working in social media may never feel like the right fit.  It may move too frenetically, require too many technical proficiencies, feel too exposing or time consuming, or any number of things.  At the same time, social media is becoming part of the vernacular of our culture. Even the most reluctant of us may have to reexamine our practice in light of new ways of working.  This is a familiar story to some:
Ultimately, you can’t really “get” social media without saying “na’aseh v’nishma” and engaging it as a contact sport.  Facing reluctance is tough - there are always reasons not to do anything!  So if you’re working on a co-worker, easing them into working with and through social technologies, it would be useful to have the following things in mind:

  1. Have a plan and a goal. Pick one thing, something that requires little effort, but can reap big rewards.  Choose an internal project to work on in a Facebook group instead of over email, or tweet out questions during conference calls to solicit input from your organization’s followers and fans instead of (or as part of) a newsletter.  Talk about both how things change, and what that means for your work.
  2. Blend online and on-land experiences. Reference Facebook in phone calls, share a great question from an email conversation on LinkedIn, bring digital spaces into your in-person conversations.  These online spaces are not something “other,” they are powerful connective tools that can weave worlds - and people - together.
  3. Once you get started, remember that these things take time. Look for the bright spots, the places where your colleague is having success (or learning to redefine success).  Focus on those, and encourage growth from there.
With social media, as with so many things, the understanding is in the doing.

Admittedly, this is no easy task.  Success in social media does take an investment of time, energy, thought...much like any meaningful human relationship.  But this is how we learn.  We do, and we do again.  And then we understand.

What was your “na’aseh v’nishma” moment?  When did the “doing” make all the difference? (Share your voice in the comments and one lucky commenter, chosen at random, will receive a free copy of the book “Switch”.)

*The modern equivalent of “na’aseh v’nishma” could arguably be found in cognitive psychology: “effort justification.”  It’s a fancy way of saying that when we work at something, when we dig in and invest ourselves, we understand it better and appreciate it more.  Hat tip to Jay Schreiber and Rabbi Josh Yuter for helping me out on that one.
Shana tova, and thanks for being such a devoted Thumper!  As an expression of our appreciation for your continued Stereo Sinai fandom, please accept a token of our affection in the form of a free mp3 of our new song "If You Go, I'll Go": 

Get the Song

We think the message of the song is fitting as we move into the new year of 5772.  We've got some big, fun things planned ahead (new album on the way - stay tuned!), and we're so thankful and excited that you're joining us on this journey.

Wishing you wonderful year full of music and light,
Miriam and Alan 
Stereo Sinai

By the way, got questions?  Looking to bring Stereo Sinai to your town?  Just want to shmooze?  Talk to us!  Shoot an email, find us on Facebook or Twitter, or give us a call at 262-6SINAI6 - we'd love to be in touch!

My parents came to visit Alan and me this summer, and we spent some time wandering around the beautiful Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.  After wandering through the cherry tree lane, we sat down and watched a small group of kids who had clearly broken off from their class as they goofed around and inspected a plaque near a small, dark, twisty tree.

"No, it was in 2005!"

"No, it says right here, 2001."

"Yeah, it was on 9/11.  That's why you dial 9-1-1."

Their teacher came by a moment later and scooped them up, hauling them along to the next patch of flora.

I gaped at Alan for a moment, taking in what we'd heard.  These kids couldn't have been more than nine - so they were born after the attacks on 9/11.  They live in a world in which America has always been embroiled in several wars against terrorism.  The dark irony of their misunderstanding left me with all kinds of questions. 

How will 9/11 be taught, especially to those who aren't old enough to remember?  What other misconceptions, mixed metaphors, and faulty analogies will we have to confront, and will we have the courage to confront them?   

I remember first seeing the buildings fall on TV.  I remember how scared we were, and how confused.  I grieve for the needless loss of so many lives - I can't imagine how those families must be feeling.  I am proud of those who showed so much courage on behalf of their friends, loved ones, strangers, during those horrifying hours and the difficult days that followed.  And ultimately, I am hopeful, because I do believe that people are really good at heart and that, as time moves forward, we're getting better.

But there's a lot that I find unsettling about this 10-year anniversary of 9/11.  The fact that we are still at war, that it took us so long to find the main culprit behind the attacks, that it's taken ten years for a proper memorial to be erected, that the rescue workers who were so valiant after the attacks weren't invited to the ceremonies today... and even as we remember, I wonder how we will remember.
Musician friends!  Care to join me in a last-minute undertaking to do some good?
Remember Playing for Change, that awesome series of videos of people from all over the world playing the same song, spliced together in expertly-edited harmony?  It was amazing, right?  

So, Playing for Change is now a foundation that is "dedicated to connecting the world through music by providing resources to musicians and their communities around the world."  Yes.  Also amazing.  Sign me up.

The first Playing for Change Day is happening this year on Sept. 17th (now you get the whole last-minute part, right?).  It is "a global day of action where musicians of all varieties perform on stages, cafés, city squares, and street corners worldwide and raise money to bring music into the lives of young people."  The money raised from events on Playing for Change Day will go to building music schools, establishing music and arts programs, buying instruments, and connecting kids and their communities.

So, I clearly just found out about this, but I'm excited.  And I hope you are too.  It's late to put together a really effective on-land event, but, dear musician type folks, it is not too late to make something awesome happen online.

Care to join me in putting together an as-yet undefined worldwide music something on Sept. 17th?  Get in touch!  Email, Twitter, leave your thoughts in the comments, whatever.  Let's make this happen.

Originally published on the Darim Online Blog, JewPoint0.
This year’s Social Media for Nonprofits conference in New York wasn’t actually about social media.*  It was about values and personality.  Two ideas in particular stood out – uncomfortable transparency and practical optimism.  Here’s how they came through…

Uncomfortable Transparency:

On charity:water’s fourth birthday, the young nonprofit celebrated by live-streaming an ambitious new drilling project…and failed.

When Paull Young, charity:water’s Director of Digital Engagement, told this story at the conference, it was with genuine disappointment, but also gratitude.  Charity:water’s followers and fans posted on Facebook comments like, “We appreciate your transparency,” and “I think this is perhaps even more important than sharing your successes.”  Donations  flooded in, and the next day charity:water got more hits on its website than ever before.

Young called this “uncomfortable transparency.”  He urged us to be honest about our failures as well as our successes, and to “fail fast and learn.”  Ultimately, he reminded us, people want to hear the truth.  (Several months later, charity:water returned to the drill site, this time striking water.)

Practical Optimism:

Seeing Alexis Ohanian on stage showing a picture of a grinning kitten and declaring that this shot embodied his feelings about the Internet, the audience couldn’t help but be charmed.  We were surprised and delighted by his joyfulness.

Ohanian, a co-founder of RedditHipmunkBreadPig, and other do-gooder projects with goofy titles and terminally cute mascots, is a firm believer in the “benevolent web.”  At the beginning of his presentation, he asked for a show of hands, “How many of you believe that most people are fundamentally good?”  The vast majority of attendees smiled, lifting their hands high.  “If you believe that, then most of the people online are good, too…”  He went on to talk about a Reddit community devoted exclusively to sending pizzas to one another, and a save-the-whales naming contest that resulted in both the cancellation of a whale-hunting expedition and a several ton sea creature being dubbed “Mr. Splashypants.”

Ohanian’s enthusiasm was contagious.  I walked away from his presentation feeling like I did after seeing “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” – really believing in the eventual triumph of love over hate, of light over darkness, and knowing that I could be a part of that.  His optimism wasn’t blind hopefulness, either; it was authentic, even strategic.  Essentially, he reminded me that you can’t work in the nonprofit world without believing that things can be better, and that people want to be good, and do good.  That fundamental assumption, that practical optimism, should be reflected in the way we work online.

There were many other outstanding presentations, and I encourage you to check out the hashtag (#sm4np) and Slideshare for some great resources.

*(Ok, you got me – #sm4np was about social media, too.  The conference provided a solid overview of some important themes in effective social media use: listening, storytelling, branding, analysis and reflection; all kinds of good stuff.  Farra Trompeter of Big Duck, who also spoke at the conference, wrote an excellent overview of the complete line-up of sessions, which you can see here.  Gatherings like #sm4np provide excellent opportunities for getting introduced to new tools and concepts, as well as prime networking time.  I highly encourage representatives from Jewish organizations to attend these events when possible, hear about what’s happening in social media and the nonprofit world, and share what they’ve learned!)

Do the concepts of “uncomfortable transparency” and “practical optimism” resonate with you?  Share your thoughts in the comments!