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Online convention to foster Jewish education via Internet

NEW YORK, Dec. 3 (JTA) — Jewish Internet sites will soon hold their first online convention. “The People of the Book are clearly becoming the People of the Web,” said Martin Kaminer, co-director of Jewish Web/Net Week, a weeklong convention that is slated for February.
Thousands of Jewish Web sites already exist and Jewish households are “very strongly represented” among Internet users, he said. Convention planners expect some 600,000 Internet enthusiasts to visit at least 613 participating Jewish sites. Encouraging Jewish education through the Internet is a primary goal of the event. With that in mind, the planners have carefully chosen the projected numbers of participants — there are 613 mitzvot, or commandments, and there were 600,000 Jews who fled Egypt with Moses. “The sheer magnitude of sites will allow people who aren’t involved in education to be involved,” said Alisa Schwartz, producer of Jewish Web/Net Week. The Jewish Theological Seminary and the Jewish Education Service of North America, for example, are jointly developing an online course to help educators use the Internet effectively in their classrooms. According to Kaminer, the event hopes to attract the attention of Internet users who do not normally visit Jewish sites as well as “people who are very involved in Jewish life and learning, but don’t use the Web.” Jewish Web/Net Week will imitate the schedule of a standard convention, though participants will attend simply by sitting at their computers at home or in the office. Approximately 70 sites will have special live programming during the event. “A live event may be an online Jewish singles event, a panel discussion, the chance to gossip with a Jewish celebrity or a live broadcast by an Israeli statesman,” said Kaminer. Live events allow participants to give immediate feedback similar to in-person responses. Sometimes the communication is limited to responses typed back and forth. Often video and audio effects are used to enhance the communication. Event planners are seeking the participation of Jewish organizations across the political and religious spectrums. “We want people to come forward to represent their site, sect or movement,” Schwartz said. When users access the Jewish Web/Net Week site, their computer screens will display common pages connecting the event’s participating sites. One of the pages will have a list of “channels,” divided by subject matter. The “channels,” an Internet metaphor for organizing material, will direct users to sites which cater to their interests. A calendar of events will be made available both on and off-line. The Jewish cyber-festival is scheduled for Feb. 22-27. The deadline for groups that want to register their sites is Dec. 31. Jewish Web/Net Week’s Internet address is http://www.jww.org

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