Rabbi Arnold Samlan’s 10 Commandments of Social Media

By Rabbi Arnold Samlan
Originally posted on eJewishPhilanthropy.com

A hallmark of my work as a rabbi and Jewish educational leader has included the use of social media, be it as a blogger, and as a user of Facebook and Twitter. Social media gives me the tools to stay in touch with colleagues and former students, to share and learn from others, and to test out new ideas. At the same time, I use it as a social network and have developed some meaningful friendships that have become part of my “real life.”

Over the period of a few months, I became increasingly sensitive to the “dark side” of social media. In a few seemingly innocent discussions, friends of mine were told that they were behaving “Nazi-like” or “like Capos”. And I noticed that more frequently posts or comments by others had language or other content that neither my organization’s leadership nor my students should have to see. I’m not all seriousness on social media, by any means. And I do know how to control who gets to see what. But I aim for transparency and integrity and found myself backed into a bit of a corner as I decided how I was going to manage and reclaim the social media presence that I wanted.

Cleaning up my social media mess became a bit like using a mikvah, albeit without the option of immersing my modem. For a month, I held back off from my usual weekly routine of posting, focusing instead on posts that re-purified and reclaimed my social media in a way that was true to both my personality and, at the same time, to my role in Jewish education.


What are the ten commandments of social media engagement for a rabbi or Jewish educator?

In a sense, my social media reclamation revolved around Ten Commandments:

1. Develop Friendships – Facebook has redefined what it means to be a “friend”, and not for the better. Let’s retake the classic definition of friendship that includes mutual trust and respect; people we want to spend time with; folks who we want to share our stories with. Reaching out is important. One friend of mine spent a week in which she called one Facebook friend (usually one she had never met) by phone each day.

2. Build Community – I am a community-builder and a connector. Most of the time, when I introduce people via social media (or e-mail), the connection turns out to be a positive one. People make new friends, learn about new ideas, or meet a colleague. One “discussion” that I am a part of has been going on for several months and has included everything from food ideas to personal issues to theological concerns. It even resulted in people sending a gift card to someone in the group who had just gone through a personal challenge.

3. Respect Others – The idea of “what is hateful to you, do not do to another” is Talmudic. And makes absolute sense in cyberspace.

4. Construct a Parapet – Yes, the biblical idea of fencing in a roof so that a guest doesn’t accidently fall off applies in social media. All of us who use social media need to insure that our friends and contacts are safe. Bullies and haters have to be dealt with quickly and decisively.

5. “Serve God with Joy” – This verse from Psalms / Tehillim rocks. Social media should include music, humor, celebration. Be sure to add some. Daily.

6. Learn and Teach – Life on the internet is a havruta happening, a series of learning partnerships. Try to always add knowledge and make use of the wisdom and experiences of others.

7. Engage in Cheshbon Ha-nefesh – The idea of self-reflection is powerful. Does my current image reflect who I really am and the way I wish others to know me? Do I still have posts from my ancient past that no longer reflect who I am today, and need to be edited?

8. Perform Acts of Tikkun Olam – Repairing the world. Every action either adds or diminishes kedusha, sanctity, from our world, even our cyber world. There are amazing opportunities to make a difference in the world, using the amazing technological tools available to us today.

9. Tzimtzum – The Jewish mystical concept of God withdrawing from a space to give room for creations works online. We need to limit our “selfies”; not everyone wants to see our smiling faces every time they come online. On the other hand, there are others online who can use a kind word, a joke, or that latest viral video that’s going around.

10. Remember the Sabbath Day – The idea of giving social media a rest (or at least dedicating it to a higher purpose) one day a week, reminds us that technology is a tool, not an end goal. Give it and yourself a rest. You’ll also find that you have more to contribute when you return.

Rabbi Arnie Samlan is executive director of Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education in Miami, FL and founder of Jewish Connectivity, Inc. His Facebook page is Jewish Connectivity and Twitter feed is @JewishConnectiv.

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This blog looks at how modern technology affects Jewish life, particularly the impact of the Internet on Jews across the globe. The Internet has made the Jewish community seem smaller. The Jewish Techs blog, written by blogger Rabbi Jason Miller (The Techie Rabbi), explores the places where Jewish culture, education and faith intersect with technology. Of course, like anything, Jews will continue to ask if technology is good or bad for the Jews – the age old question of our people. Good or bad, it is undisputed that technology has changed Jewish life. If you’re Jewish or interested in technology or both… you’ll enjoy the conversation. Thanks for reading the Jewish Techs blog.

The Techie Rabbi – Rabbi Jason Miller

Rabbi Jason Miller, the Techie RabbiJason Miller is NOT your typical rabbi. Known as the Techie Rabbi, he launched Access Computer Technology in 2010 and has grown it into a full-scale technology firm that provides social media marketing consulting and web design in addition to IT support. Ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary a decade ago, Rabbi Jason has made a name for himself as a popular blogger, social media expert, educator and entrepreneur. Based in Detroit, his congregation includes more than a million people who read his blog and follow him in Cyberspace. He began the Jewish Techs blog in January 2010 as the New York Jewish Week's technology expert.

An entrepreneurial rabbi and an alum of Clal's "Rabbi Without Borders" fellowship, Jason Miller is a rabbi and thought leader whose personal blog has been viewed by millions. The Detroit Free Press called him “the most tech-savvy Jewish leader" and the Huffington Post ranked him among the top Jewish Twitter users in the world. A social media expert, Rabbi Jason is a popular speaker and writer on technology and its effect on the Jewish world. He writes the "Jewish Techs" blog for The Jewish Week and the monthly "Jews in the Digital Age" column for the Detroit Jewish News.

Miller won the 2012 Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the West Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce and is one of the winners of a Jewish Influencer award from the National Jewish Outreach Program.