Using Facebook to Build a Jewish Dialogue

by Rabbi Yossie Goldman

What do King David and the hilltop youth have in common?

What would King Saul have said about exacting vengeance in response to terror attacks?

Interesting as these questions are, few of us have time to come to a scheduled activity – isn’t it easier to log onto Facebook to participate in the discussion?

In today’s world, it’s harder than ever to get people together in one room for a staged program or activity. Hillel Israel’s leaders are fully aware of both the difficulties created by our modern schedules and the power of the social media to reach and engage young adults. Why not harness the social media, like Facebook, as a means to explore Jewish questions, learn Jewish sources, and express opinions about burning issues?

Face the Book of Books is an innovative, Facebook-based learning community initiated by students at Hebrew University Hillel. Any time that students are online with Facebook – day or night, at their convenience – they can take part in discussions about the “Book of Books”, which is of course the Bible. Participants initiate new posts and add comments and links to existing posts, in an exciting and stimulating dialogue, in Hebrew or English.

In addition to the ongoing postings, the project recently offered a special event in which group members entered the site and participated in a guided discussion led by International Bible Contest winner Doron Sopher. As part of Israel’s national holidays – Memorial Day and Independence Day – students and young adults joined a lively half-hour discussion about King Saul and King David. Why did King Saul “fail” in his position, to be replaced by his rival? What were (and are) the necessary characteristics of a leader? Doron offered insights into specific issues from the Bible, inviting members of the learning community to contribute their viewpoints and opinions on the ancient sources and how they are relevant to the young generation of the 21st century. Members of the Face the Book of Books community sat “together” in a virtual study hall to share opinions, ask questions, and offer answers.

The public is invited to join Face the Book of Books at any time. It is a great way to build bridges among Jews around the world, regardless of geographical location or background.

As committed Jewish leaders shaping a new generation of Israelis who will take our society in new directions, Hillel Israel is utilizing the social media to the utmost, challenging students and young adults to shape their Jewish identity in new ways, making the most of both media and content.

Rabbi Yossie Goldman is Founding Director Hillels of Israel and FSU.