NJOP Brings Something New To the Shabbat Table

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New social networking site invites Jews to 'sit down and Shabbat up'.

SAA 2.0 was designed to integrate with Generation Facebook, and represents a groundbreaking way to leverage the power of online social networking to inspire a reconnection with Jewish tradition.

Facebook meets Friday night as Jews connect on SAA 2.0, a site that leverages the outstanding popularity of online social networking to bring Shabbat to young Jews. Since launching the acclaimed SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA Program in 1997, the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP) has brought tens of thousands of Jews together for an annual Friday night event occurring at hundreds of locations simultaneously. This year, the newest locations will be virtual, as NJOP turns the tables on an age-old tradition.

"If you don't have a Facebook account and a MySpace page...if you aren't LinkedIn, SAA 2.0 may not make much sense," said Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald, founder of the National Jewish Outreach Program. "SAA 2.0 democratizes Shabbat, making it accessible to all Jews, allowing each to make it his or her own. You don't need to know all the rituals or even the people at your table. This site is peer-to-peer, Jew-to-Jew and designed for members of today's generation who live their days increasingly online. Two thirds of young adults use social networking sites* and we believe SAA 2.0 is just the Shabbat dinner invitation they have been waiting for!"

Modeled after popular social networking sites like Facebook, SAA 2.0 puts Shabbat back on the table for a community of young adults who are often eager to identify with Judaism in a virtual world. On SAA 2.0, users gather around virtual Shabbat tables they create, and invite their friends--"chosen people," as the site calls them--to share in the experience. Once invited, guests can choose to 'bring' virtual food items (chicken soup, challah, wine), political positions (liberal, right-wing), and social inclinations (green, grumpy) to the table. Unlike most social networking sites however, SAA 2.0 also encourages virtual Shabbat tables to 'get real' by taking their table offline and into reality. Sleek design paired with kitschy cultural references keep SAA 2.0 informal and inviting, doing away with seriousness that might turn-off a young crowd.

"As young Jews in their 20s and 30s become more involved in social media sites, they seek modes of expressing their Jewish identity---and solidarity with other Jews---in the online space," said Esther Kustanowitz, a writer and online media consultant, citing the proliferation of Jewish-related Facebook groups and widgets that encourage members to customize their online identities. "SAA 2.0 was designed to integrate with Generation Facebook, and represents a groundbreaking way to leverage the power of online social networking to inspire a reconnection with Jewish tradition."

"Offline, each Friday night, Jews worldwide gather around tables with family and friends to "unplug" from the work-week and relax, enjoy good food and good company," said Susanne Goldstone, NJOP'S SAA 2.0 Coordinator. "SAA 2.0 promotes the value of a Shabbat experience to a generation of Jews more likely to receive information and influence from peers online than through traditional advertising."

SAA 2.0, which encourages members to ditch daily activities in favor of a family and friend-focused Friday night meals sans BlackBerrys (unless they come in pies,) also serves as a conversation piece, poking fun at our busy lives. The site allows members to invite real friends and virtual friends, listing Jewish notables past and present including Barbie, Moses, Sigmund Freud and Emma Lazarus. To join the chosen people, log on to http://www.ShabbatAcrossAmerica20.org.

About NJOP:
Founded in 1987 by Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald to address the crucial issue of the spiraling losses of Jews from Jewish life due to assimilation and lack of Jewish knowledge, NJOP is now one of the largest and most successful Jewish outreach organizations in the world. To date, more than 990,000 people have benefited from NJOP's innovative, free programs which have been held in 3,665 locations---including synagogues, community centers, military bases and college campuses---in all 50 states, nine Canadian provinces and 37 countries around the world.

  • According to the Pew Research Center: Internet's Broader Role in Campaign 2008 Social Networking and Online Videos Take Off


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