The Reality of the Virtual: Looking for Jewish Leadership Online

By Ari Y. Kelman

AVI CHAI Foundation, 2010

Both journalists and scholars have argued that the internet will radically reshape the commercial marketplace, alter how we regard knowledge and education, challenge our understandings of marketing, shift our conceptions of power, and even change our relationship to democracy. Of course, the changes initiated and enabled by the internet are affecting Jews as they are everyone else. What does it mean for Jewish communal organizations when individual bloggers can challenge the Jewish Agency over its characterizations of diaspora Jews? How is the diversity chorus of voices on the internet changing the qualities of Jewish communities? What do dynamics like these mean for a global sense of Jewish communal membership? How is the internet challenging some of the established structures of Jewish life, and how is it reinforcing others? How does what happens online inform what happens offline? As a response to these questions, this paper will focus primarily on the internet as a representation of communal life, one that is connected to offline realities, but that operates according to a slightly different set of rules and norms. Focusing on the internet means exploring the ways in which Jewish websites and blogs interact with one another to create a network, but it also means never losing sight of the fact that the internet functions, effectively, as a representation of offline Jewish communal dynamics. Jewish communal organizations, activists, advertisers, resources, and services all contribute to the online network of Jewish websites and blogs. Insofar as every website has a person or people behind it, they are all representations of something offline, and their online relationships capture and produce communal dynamics that cannot appear through surveys, interviews, or other social scientific methods of investigation with which Jewish communal professionals are more familiar. Focusing on the network of Jewish websites and blogs as a representation of Jewish communities and communal dynamics offers another window into questions of community, influence, information and leadership.

Topic: Peoplehood, Internet, Change, Power, Technology, Leadership, Community Building

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Genre: Report

Coverage: United States , World

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Publisher

Copyright Information: Download for personal use, freely distribute link

Bibliographic Information:
Kelman, Ari Y. The Reality of the Virtual: Looking for Jewish Leadership Online. AVI CHAI Foundation. 2010:


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