by Rabbi Adam Grossman
“Bond, James Bond.” Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the film series this past October, this famous introduction – expressed in the initial film, Dr. No, and uttered in every movie since – personifies pure confidence and sophistication. This leads the fictional character to be calm, cool, and collected no matter the circumstance or pressure he faces. While Bond’s self-assurance is intoxicating, what many fail to realize is that behind 007’s poise, success and adaptability sits the fictitious Q – the head of research and development for the British secret service. The character Q helps to ensure that Bond is prepared for any situation that might arise, especially in arming him with an arsenal of savvy gadgets.
However, these tools, which can make any technological guru envious, are by themselves inconsequential. What makes the technologies important are Q’s and Bond’s ability to create a plan for unexpected situations, to simplify the uses of these technologies, to take risks others might not be willing to take, and to be flexible in the ever-evolving world. How, one might ask, can this be helpful in our mission to better connect and engage our communities?
Whether we are a technological savant or newbie in our fast-paced and ever-changing world, we have to be knowledgeable and prepared to utilize the four skills vital to Bond’s success.
- Build a plan. The first and most important question to ask when delving into any new technology is “What’s the point?” Spending time learning a new system or a new tool without figuring out the need it fulfills or the way it can better serve one’s constituency is ineffective. By taking time to plan a course of action, one can define the audience, articulate the goals and establish markers of success. At Temple Israel in Memphis, in deciding to use a new technology or social media account, we force ourselves to state how it benefits our goals to engage our community more deeply with Torah, spiritual fulfillment, community, and tikkun olam. While some might disregard this planning stage, successful organizations realize the importance of slowing down before speeding up.
- Simplify, simplify, and when all else fails… simplify. Crafting a Jewish message, while seemingly simple, is in fact quite complex. As religionists, we promote the most abstract and difficult concept to comprehend – God. Many Jewish leaders, including myself on many occasions, have a tendency to over complicate a message leading to the “curse of knowledge.” By understanding this reality and simplifying our messages (which is not to be confused with “dumbing down”), we can make Judaism more accessible. This can occur through tweets or Facebook posts by expressing the irritation after receiving a speeding ticket then following it up with a Jewishly based article on anger management or the creation of Temple Israel’s “How To” series, which was crafted when a toilet in my house needed replacing, and I found a step-by-step video from Home Depot.
- Roll the dice. It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again with the expectation of a different result. In an online world dominated by choice, we need to move away from predictability. Too many organizations explain events or communicate information in the exact way as was done 50 years before: title the event, share the details, expect a crowd. In an online world, this does not work. Rather, we must spark the curiosity of our constituents through innovative and audience-centered experiences that personally connect with and elicit an emotional response from our communities. Temple Judea’s “Call Me Zeyde” video and, although by no means the same number of hits, this Temple Israel video are examples of ways to generate excitement, educate the community, and start many meaningful conversations.
- Be comfortable with the uncomfortable. When we buy a new computer, cell phone, or tablet, it seems that as quickly as we take it home, the technology changes. This fast-paced world is constantly evolving and it is vital not only to be adaptable with new technologies, but also be comfortable with change. Our goal, whether through opening a social media account like Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, creating an app, or using images and videos in new ways is to constantly remember our mission to engage individuals with Judaism, to provide informal and formal learning platforms, and to inspire our communities to take action.
Hopefully, we never find ourselves in the exploits typical of James Bond. However, his confidence in any situation – especially with the help of Q – can most certainly aid Jewish institutions and leaders fully realize their potential with the use of social media and ever-evolving technologies. By experimenting, having fun, and continuing to evaluate results, these four guideposts can provide us a way to further engage each other as our world continually advances.
Rabbi Adam Grossman is the associate rabbi at Temple Israel in Memphis.