Home April 2012 Phoning in Your Jewish Communal Life

Phoning in Your Jewish Communal Life

Check your pocket, your purse, the leather case on your hip or the messenger bag over your shoulder. Chances are that in one of those locations, your smart phone sits, waiting for you to play “Words with Friends” or to check “FaceBook.”  After purchasing a “smart phone,” it became apparent that applications, aka “apps,” would maximize the use of my phone’s capabilities.  Likewise, it makes sense that the Jewish organizations are trying to maximize the value of Jewish community for Orange County residents.  I found a connection between my love for technology and my undying love for OC’s Jewish community.
Utilizing modern technology places Jewish professionals at an advantage, being able to maximize their potential to expand and increase their programs and objectives.  Websites like “Jewish iPhone Community” create a forum for Jewish knowledge to be shared by showcasing apps that apply to Jewish audiences.  This site has a Jewish date converter, religious information, Jewish talk radio and Holocaust studies information.  Is Orange County utilizing technology to convey Jewish communal activities, opportunities and jobs?
A major challenge for Jewish communal workers is how to attract participants or how to recruit the unaffiliated Jews in their community.  Organizations need to create a link that connects the community to local organizations; an app could potentially be the technological link OC’s Jewish community is missing.  The idea of apps making OC’s Jewish community more accessible and innovative helps Jewish organizations to overcome challenges.
Costs for creating apps vary, but according to “appmuse.com,” the cost of an app depends on the size and complexity.  App development starts at a few thousand dollars and increases with the complexity of the app.
Basic, simple apps can aid in difficult jobs, such as recruiting specific demographics.  Young Leadership Division (YLD) annually recruits Jews between the ages of 22 and 26 who have never been to Israel on an organized trip for Birthright.  Locating Jews in this age demographic becomes more challenging, because the individual has had the possibility of going in high school or college.  If an app was created for smart phones, Jewish communal workers could spend less time looking for this very specific group.  Jews in Orange County would be able to express interest in Birthright and become part of a database by downloading the app.
Synagogues’ attempts at increasing membership could benefit from apps.  OC already has a regional list of synagogues; however, an app would allow them to display information about programs, events and opportunities – right on their smart phone.  New families or those in search of a place to pray could find a local synagogue on their phone through the database OC could provide.  This idea would particularly benefit synagogues who are trying to attract new members and become a tool for the lonely traveler.
“Jewish Miami” is an app that unifies Jewish causes in Miami and makes connecting donors and Jewish organizations easier.  Promoting philanthropy is difficult, but an app can unite organizations.  By creating a “Jewish App for Giving,” philanthropies can list themselves and make donating easier.  The app allows people who might otherwise not know about a particular philanthropy the opportunity to donate.  This small stepping stone creates a culture of giving and may attract new donors to Jewish organizations in Orange County.
Orange County’s Jewish life is growing and could benefit substantially from utilizing technology.  The events and holidays become confusing.  Apps such as an “OC Jewish Regional Calendar” would help organizations communicate which events they’re hosting to participants as well as other groups.  Such an app can provide highly customized information based on user preferences.
The app world is being utilized by the Jewish religious world, like iSiddur, Chabad App, iBlessing, Kosher and more.  The Jewish communal world has not embraced the use of apps at the same level.  OC’s resources and talent could create apps that improve local life for OC’s Jewish residents.  Websites seem like enough of a technological connection to the community at large, but times have changed, and people no longer wait to get to a computer when their cellular device can provide the needed information.  Jewish communal life in Orange County needs to be at the fingertips of its residents.

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