JWA is Tweeting Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

In honor of Jewish American Heritage Month, the Jewish Women’s Archive (JWA) has launched a campaign to tweet its online Encyclopedia of Jewish women’s history. A diverse group of influential Twitter users, including organizations, clergy, lay leaders, social media professionals, and fans of JWA, has signed on to help tweet the Encyclopedia using the hashtag “#jwapedia.” The project poses an intriguing and entertaining challenge: to summarize a scholarly article in no more than 140 characters. Gail T. Reimer, JWA’s Executive Director, expressed admiration for the tweeters who “dare to approach history in a way that speaks to people using new media in different ways.”

In turning articles on these topics into tweets, Reimer says, they “become interpreters of history, a role previously reserved for scholars.”

“This fundamentally challenges the top-down model of history,” said Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder, Ph.D., Rabbi-in-Residence at Be’chol Lashon (In Every Tongue), the Global Jewish Community Institute for Jewish & Community Research in San Francisco. “Tweeting an encyclopedia has the potential to connect a wide variety of audiences to the power of historical learning.”

“I believe both in serious scholarship and the power of social media,” Rabbi Abusch-Magder said. “While some might worry about marrying the two, I see this project as enhancing both. Just as in ancient times Rabbi Hillel met the challenge of teaching all of the Torah in one phrase that contained a critical lesson but in reality led to more learning, a successful tweet will impart a critical nugget of knowledge that will open up an opportunity for more learning.”

Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, which includes over 1,700 biographies, 300 thematic essays, and 1,400 photographs and illustrations spanning the globe from biblical to contemporary times, is the first comprehensive online source for the history of Jewish women. Originally created as a CD-ROM, the online version of the Encyclopedia was launched on March 1, 2009 with an improved user interface and Web 2.0 features, including the ability for users to discuss and add content.

Beginning with a select group of partners, #jwapedia is expected to grow exponentially through crowdsourcing. Anyone can join the campaign by tweeting a link to the Encyclopedia using the hashtag #jwapedia. You can follow the campaign at Twitter.com by searching for #jwapedia or following JWA at @jwaonline.