Tweeting Up a Hurricane in #NOLAGA

by Florence Broder

From Bloggers’ Alley to a Schmooze Up creatively titled NOLAISM (New Orleans Innovators and Social Media), social media of all kinds was definitely on the radar screen of this year’s General Assembly. So much so, that JFNA CEO Jerry Silverman made it a point to say that by the closing plenary there had been over 4000 tweets about the GA.

What made this year’s GA different than last year’s? JFNA was aggressive early on in promoting the #NOLAGA hashtag over Twitter. Major Twitter influencers in the Jewish world like @estherk, @jewlicious, @jewishgps, @rabbiyonah, @benjilovitt and the über tweeter himself, @daroff latched on and it helped create buzz. Their presence at the GA was announced in the JTA’s Fundermentalist blog. Long before the conference, tweeple were simply posting that they were excited about meeting up with old friends. After all social media is first and foremost about being social!

Beyond the influencers many more Federations have an active presence on Twitter and on Facebook. Darim Online CEO Lisa Colton, moderated a panel titled, Ten Commandments of Social Media: New Rules of the Game for Federations, featuring UJA-Federation of NY, Federation CJA, and CJP Boston as case studies. A common thread that ran amongst all their presentations is that more than ever the “establishment” is beginning to understand that social media is a two way street. They recognize the need to take risks – meaning they are more comfortable with losing control of their brand. This panel was one of many that dealt with issues of social media to build community and for fundraising.

Another critical factor was that this was a much younger GA and there was simply a fervent energy in the air. There were 600 Hillel students and more NextGeners than ever. With them they brought their tech savyiness which filled a significant void. They were armed with their smart phones, laptops, and more. Additionally, their presence demonstrated that they are interested in sitting at the Jewish communal table along with everyone else.

But what does this shift signal? Is there something deeper happening to the psyche of the Jewish community? If the Futures Conference is any indication, it appears that the establishment is finally making peace with the fact that they can’t do “business as usual.” They have to meet the younger generation where they are to bring them into the fold. Last year’s GA was about about bargaining and this year we saw that they are moving toward acceptance. These are big steps after years in denial.

A Twitter debate currently ensues regarding what next year’s hashtag should be for the GA in Denver, illustrating once again that JFNA’s audience is now taking control of the brand and running with it. The suggestions have run the gamut of #CoGA, #SkiGa, #DenCoGA, #GA11 and more. Will every Jewish communal institution be able to relinquish control of their brand? How will they be able to appease their audience? How will the establishment move to attract the next generation of leadership? How will they keep up with latest technologies to ensure that they keep speaking the same language the youth are speaking? No matter what the answer, it’s clear the NextGeners have used technology to launch a coup and have a seat at the Jewish communal table.

Florence Broder manages social media for the Jewish Agency for Israel.

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  1. says

    #NOLAGA was a good start. At other conferences, there are often hashtags for individual panels, or for trends at the conference (#IsraelGA, #JusticeGA, wd have been some). Wd like to hear from JFNA people about whether they were OK with the politics of all the tweets–if they worried about GA brand at all.

  2. says

    Great article, Florence. Speaking from the JFNA social media perspective, we were very cognizant of and comfortable with the lively exchanges using the #NOLAGA hashtag. It’s the nature of the medium; we’d put up the hashtag on much of the GA signage hoping to spark a virtual conference where many of the same issues that came up at the GA would be hashed out via tweets. And if some of those tweets diverged from our official message and organizational perspective, that’s a reasonable tradeoff for ensuring that Jewish Federations are a key part of the discussion of those important issues. If you go to
    you can see the roughly 5600 tweets that have accumulated so far.

    Oh, and as of now, the planned ‘official’ hashtag for next year is #COLOGA. Some of the other ones being proposed (like #GA11) are too generic and might result in our virtual conference overlapping with other folks using the same hashtag. That happened in 09, so live and learn…

  3. says

    I was the one of the panelists mentioned above in the Darim Online Ten Commandments of Social Media panel.

    Though we are a program of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston (CJP), I was invited to speak in my role as Community Manager for

    I know it is a confusing distinction, but it is important to note that I was speaking for and not for CJP as a whole.

    Thanks for including us!

  4. says

    Thanks Florence and EJP for this recap and conversation. I too left NOLAGA feeling like something had really shifted — for the better. I give JFNA credit for allocating much of the official agenda to themes of innovation and social media, for encouraging many young people to be in attendance, for bringing the tweet-up in house and on the agenda (and Jew-i-fying it with a fancy new name: Schmooze Up!), for encouraging the tweeting, and being open to all that this flattening makes possible. #COLOGA it is – let the fun begin!

  5. says

    It was truly wonderful to be able to follow sessions at the G.A. via twitter, even as I sat in other sessions at the same time. There have been recent articles about use of Twitter in Jewish classrooms and even during services. And yet, sadly, there are still congregations that in misguided use of “security concerns” haven’t climbed aboard the social media train. I am pleased to join you and the many others leading the charge for harnessing the power of social media to move our community work forward.