Beyond The Press Release

August 7, 2013

National Jewish organizations are famous for their press releases. But while they have mastered the email blast favored by older Jews, a provocative op-ed piece in the Algemeiner gives the organizations poor marks in managing the social media tools — Facebook, Twitter and others — favored by younger Jews.

“The organizations have minimal knowledge of one of the most necessary tools to reach the sub-40 audience, which compromises much of American Jewry,” public relations consultant Ronn Torossian wrote. Torossian said he surveyed “52 national Jewish agencies representing the leadership of the American Jewish organizations,” and found “very little or ineffectual
activity” on social media.

Torossain gives praise to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, the Jewish Federations of North America and The Jewish Agency, who appear to have kept pace with social media communication.  But he says they are the exceptions. More common is the American Jewish Committee  — “no blog, a mere 4,100 Twitter followers,” and President David Harris doesn’t Tweet. Neither does the ADL’s Abe Foxman. Torossian said Hillel, which serves the very population that uses social media, “should certainly have more than a mere 5,500 Twitter followers.”

While Jewish groups large and small are exploring social media, Torossian and others make it clear that a social media program is only as good as the person responsible for it. Writing in eJewish Philanthropy, fundraising consultants Robert I. Evans and Avrum D. Lapin offered a social media primer. Should an organization have a Facebook page? Yes, they say.  “Membership-based organizations, such as synagogues and JCC’s, have the most to gain from being on Facebook.”

Whether the situation is as dire as critics such as Torossian say is debatable. Yet, it’s clear that methods of communication are changing quickly. And while mastery of social media won’t necessarily save the Jewish people, updating the way Jewish organizations reach community members will unquestionably help them stay in touch.

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