The exploding popularity of social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter) presents a golden opportunity for social activists to get the word out, recruit people, organize events and drum up support.
Recognizing this, SHATIL recently gathered Jewish pluralism activists for a hands-on training of these applications.
"The echoes of the Obama campaign's successful use of social networking sites have reached Israel," said workshop leader Ma'ayan Alexander, 29, SHATIL's webmaster and Internet and technology consultant and a regular on Facebook herself. "It's a way to reach people where they gather. Facebook started as a social network for college students but it evolved to meet the needs of its burgeoning clientele."
Scene from the social networking training. Ma'ayan is on the far right.
SHATIL has opened a Hebrew-language organizational profile on Facebook to update people about events and activities. As part of SHATIL's efforts to spread the word about the huge potential of social networking for social change, Alexander met with the International Coalition for Agunah Rights (ICAR) and suggested using a Facebook group as part of their efforts to raise awareness about the importance of signing prenuptial agreements. Groups are one of the main organizing tools on the site, with many drawing hundreds of thousands of members.
All ICAR director Robyn Shames knew about Facebook was how to see the photos her children had uploaded onto the site. "Our prenuptial agreement campaign came up and Ma'ayan found time to meet with me quickly," she said. "With the picture from our flyer (created pro bono by an ad agency Robyn met at a SHATIL workshop), we created a group called 'I too am aware of the existence of prenuptial agreements to avoid get refusal.' Ma'ayan, Shira [Ben Sasson Furstenberg who heads SHATIL's Jewish Pluralism project] and I invited all the "friends" on our Facebook lists to join and asked them to invite theirs and within a short time we had recruited 200 volunteers to distribute flyers and help spread the word in other ways." ICAR's prenuptial agreement campaign called "Signed with Love" suggests all Jewish couples sign such an agreement to prevent future problems and provides possible texts for such an agreement. Many of the ideas for the campaign arose in meetings with SHATIL consultants, Shames said, including hooking up with a pro bono designer and getting 15,000 copies of the flyer into Israel's Bride and Groom magazine.
Now that it's gotten its feet wet, ICAR has also begun using social networking to organize events.
"Social networking is at its beginning and right now it's mostly for young people," said Shames. "This is how my kids conduct their social lives. But it will be used more and more in the future and we're all going to have to figure out how to use it to our best advantage."