Posts Tagged ‘beth kanter’

 

A Preliminary Theology of Social Networks

Posted on: January 2nd, 2013 by Hayim Herring No Comments
A Preliminary Theology of Social Networks

photo from: Master isolated images, freedigitalphotos.net

One of my findings from  interviews with rabbis that I conducted for my book, Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today,was  their lack of specific, intentional connections between their personal theology and their congregation’s organizational structure. I asked them how their personal theology influenced their congregational governance, how they worked with volunteers and similar types of issues that are often labeled as the “business” or “administrative” side of congregational life. This lack of conscious connection really didn’t surprise me because structural issues and theology don’t naturally mix. They require a leader to constantly work at making those connections and creating patterns of organizational behaviors that are infused both with spirituality and effectiveness at getting work done.  And it’s difficult for rabbis who are juggling many balls to reflect on how their theology can amplify their work on the structural side of congregational or Jewish organizational life.

As people like Beth Kanter and Allison Fine made clear in their book, The Networked Nonprofit, networks are the new form of organizational structure in the 21st-century. (Actually, Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps predicted in 1994 in The Age of the Network that networks would be the signature form of organizations in this century and I wrote about network organizations for the Jewish community in 2001 in Network Judaism). The bedrock of social networking sites, the platforms that support network organizations, is relationships. Social networking sites enable many different levels and types of relationships. They allow people who know one another well to remain in closer touch, permit people who know one another casually to deepen relationships and facilitate brand new relationships. They encourage people who share common interests to collaborate in sharing resources and solving problems. Social networks are blind to issues of socioeconomic class, race, gender, sexual orientation, levels of education, professional titles – and the list goes on. In theory, social networks give individuals an equal voice regardless of difference and they enable people to transcend national boundaries.

Networks are really beginning to reach their potential to reshape organizations, so now is the time to ask, “What role can a theology of networks play in our awareness of synagogues and Jewish organizations?”

As I reread the first chapter of Rabbi Art Green’s most recent book, Radical Judaism, I began to glimpse what a Jewish theology of social networks could be like. Green, one of today’s most original contemporary theologians, describes himself as a neo-Hasidic Jew and a religious humanist.

On page 18 of his book, he writes:

My theological position is that of a mystical panentheist, one who believes that God is present throughout all of existence, that Being or Y-H-W-H underlies and unifies all that is…’Transcendence’… (in this context) means rather that God-or Being-is so fully present in the here and now of each moment that we could not possibly grasp the depth of the presence…There is no ultimately duality here, no “God and the world,” no “God, world, and self,” only one Being and its many faces…There is no end to its unimaginable depth, but so too there is no border, no limit, departing that unfathomable One from anything that is. Infinite Being in every instant flows through all finite beings…”

And again on p. 29, he writes,

Every creature and every life form is a garbing of divine presence. The way in which we treat them and relate to them is the ultimate testing ground of our own religious consciousness….The purpose of our growing awareness is to reach out and appreciate all things for what they really are. This is especially true with regard to our fellow humans.”

Without meaning to reduce Green’s deep theological thought, he makes the case that the same One underlying unity is within each of us. That awareness is precisely what social networking can reinforce within congregations because networks have the potential to span significant differences. I wonder what the experience of being a part of a congregation would be like if rabbis maintained a vigilant awareness that God’s presence was actually pulsing through all aspects of the congregation and that the current structures and organizational divisions that characterize congregations actually conceal their inter-connectedness and make the parts less than the sum of the whole. Social networking as an organizing concept can enable participants in a congregational community to connect with one another, to share, to learn, to solve complex problems and to see the possibility of each part of a system contributing to a transcendent whole. And if that is not a manifestation of the divine, I don’t know what is.

I understand that social networking has a very dark side to it as well. My point is not to argue the benefits and the detriments of this relatively new way of organizing. Rather, it’s to encourage rabbis and Jewish theologians to bring our theological beliefs to this new form of organizing. Compartmentalizing our beliefs from one aspect of organizational life diminishes the overall power of that organization to have a deeper impact. And that is especially true of congregations.

These are some preliminary thoughts about a Jewish theology of networking.I realize that they are a little amorphous and preliminary. So I’m asking you: what other theological stances do you bring or aspire to bring to congregational life so that belief can animate the structures of your congregation in a way that nourishes them?

cross-posted at ejewishphilanthropy.com

A Sabbath from Technology: Turn Off and Tune In!

Posted on: May 4th, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments
I’m starting my post with a thank you to one of the most valuable blogs on social media’s potential for societal good: Beth’s Blog: How Non-Profit Organizations Can Use Social Media to Power Social Networks for Change.
Beth writes at the end of her most recent post,

We’re all struggling with balance of technology and a purposeful life.  We need to reflect inward and examine our motivations, patterns, and use of technology – understanding when we’re mindful and not.

Then we need to integrate ways of finding the right balance.  That balance is not a simple on and off switch – it is understanding how to integrate focused and receptive attentions into our online and offline lives.

In her post, Beth recommends a few tips about how to get into the habit of disconnecting from our electronic tethers: smart phones, laptops, Kindles, iPads—and whatever will be next. But the insight that caught my attention was that disconnecting is only a part of the problem. The other part is integration—given that technology is becoming increasingly embedded in our lives (and now, our bodies,) how do we work with it, so that it doesn’t work against us? Futurists and science fiction writers have a long history of creating scenarios about computers or robots taking on human characteristics. I’m more concerned lately about human beings becoming too robotic and losing our essential humanity.
Religious traditions which have a Sabbath offer much wisdom on this subject. Here’s a slice of this wisdom from the Jewish tradition, one that I know reasonably well. While the book of Genesis gives work a bad reputation (Adam has to work the garden after he and Eve violate God’s rule against eating of the forbidden fruit), the book of Exodus (20:8) views both rest and work as positive commandments.
A life of all work is prohibited because it’s destructive. But a life of no work isn’t healthy either from a Jewish perspective, which views humanity as partners with God in working to sustain and enhance the created world. It’s all about balance. And, ironically, by scheduling a day with no creative work, we return to life reinvigorated and attuned to our surroundings and the people who matter to us.
For me, the solution to this problem of electronic enslavement is turning off in order to tune in. Call it a Sabbath from Technology. Integrating technology in my life means not exhibiting a Pavlovian response to the chime of an email or instant message and freeing myself from the pressure to take every call when it comes in—regardless of what I’m in the middle of.  And increasingly, I’m feeling a need to cultivate mindfulness so that multi-tasking doesn’t take a permanent toll on my ability to concentrate. I recognize that I’m the only one who can take this kind of control of technology in my own life.
So—how do you feel about this age-old problem of enslavement taking a new digital guise? Is it over-exaggerated? Or, is it something that you feel but don’t talk about too much anymore? Do you have other suggestions about navigating these issues? Please comment!
Thank you,
Rabbi Hayim Herring

I’m starting my post with a thank you to one of the most valuable blogs on social media’s potential for societal good, Beth Kanter’s: Beth’s Blog: How Non-Profit Organizations Can Use Social Media to Power Social Networks for Change.

Beth writes at the end of her most recent post,

We’re all struggling with balance of technology and a purposeful life.  We need to reflect inward and examine our motivations, patterns, and use of technology – understanding when we’re mindful and not.  Then we need to integrate ways of finding the right balance.  That balance is not a simple on and off switch – it is understanding how to integrate focused and receptive attentions into our online and offline lives.

In her post, Beth recommends a few tips about how to get into the habit of disconnecting from our electronic tethers: smart phones, laptops, Kindles, iPads—and whatever will be next. But the insight that caught my attention was that disconnecting is only a part of the problem. The other part is integration—given that technology is becoming increasingly embedded in our lives (and now, our bodies,) how do we work with it, so that it doesn’t work against us? Futurists and science fiction writers have a long history of creating scenarios about computers or robots taking on human characteristics. I’m more concerned lately about human beings becoming too robotic and losing our essential humanity.

Religious traditions which have a Sabbath offer much wisdom on this subject. Here’s a slice of this wisdom from the Jewish tradition, one that I know reasonably well. While the book of Genesis gives work a bad reputation (Adam has to work the garden after he and Eve violate God’s rule against eating of the forbidden fruit,) the book of Exodus (20:8) views both rest and work as positive commandments.

A life of all work is prohibited because it’s destructive. But a life of no work isn’t healthy either from a Jewish perspective, which views humanity as partners with God in working to sustain and enhance the created world. It’s all about balance. And, ironically, by scheduling a day with no creative work, we return to life reinvigorated and attuned to our surroundings and the people who matter to us.

For me, the solution to this problem of electronic enslavement is turning off in order to tune in. Call it a Sabbath from Technology. Integrating technology in my life means not exhibiting a Pavlovian response to the chime of an email or instant message and freeing myself from the pressure to take every call when it comes in – regardless of what I’m in the middle of.  And increasingly, I’m feeling a need to cultivate mindfulness so that multi-tasking doesn’t take a permanent toll on my ability to concentrate. I recognize that I’m the only one who can take this kind of control of technology in my own life.

So – how do you feel about this age-old problem of enslavement taking a new digital guise? Is it over-exaggerated? Or, is it something that you feel but don’t talk about too much anymore? Do you have other suggestions about navigating these issues? Please comment!

Thank you,

Rabbi Hayim Herring