These days our children are continually exposed to the positive and negative influences of a society guided by social media. They see directed advertisements on TV and websites; they follow influencers on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter; they mimic the behavior of classmates who seem to be liked by everyone; and the family’s capacity to influence our young one’s is tempered by this.
Not everything the younger generation is exposed to can be considered harmful or bad. Some of these influencers are encouraging their followers to engage in acts of Tikkun Olam, to be kind, to give Tzedakah, and to look for the positive. Facebook often shows short, meaningful videos or links to fundraising campaigns for relevant causes. Many tweets represent a call to action or encourage social justice.
The Torah has always been the greatest influencer of the Jewish people. In fact, the Embassy of Israel in the Netherlands states on it’s website,”sacred texts carry a variety of meanings—from a spiritual, moral and practical guide to everyday life, to a historical and cultural wealth which is critically examined and studied.”
As Jewish people, different generations have continually been exposed to a variety of cultural, moral, and ethical influences. We need to exist harmoniously within whatever society we find ourselves, in order to thrive. With that in mind, let’s not only focus on the negative influences that come our way from a societal perspective, but acknowledge the positive and know that in the end the wisdom of the Torah has sustained our people and will continue to do so well into the future.
SUE PENN is currently the Director of Congregational Learning at University Synagogue where she oversees all education from ages 4-104. Sue has been honored for being an innovative educator and is committed to creative approaches in Jewish Education. Sue currently sits on the Board of the Jewish National Fund of Orange County, and of the Reconstructionist Educators of North America, where she was a previous chair. She is also co-president of the Orange County Jewish Educator Association. Sue also runs educational webinars for the Reconstructionist Movement.