For those of you not officially cyber-introduced to me yet, my name is Maytal Kowalski, and I frequently Tweet/update Facebook for the MNjcc (but more about me in the bio below!)
When I initially started “moonlighting” in the art of social media, it was mainly because I wanted an excuse to hang out on Facebook and Twitter at work (you can follow our Twitter stream here, and my personal Tweets here). From the MNjcc Twitter account, I began to follow a variety of Jewish organizations, publications, notable figures and news sources. I realized that, although I am Jewish and very connected to my religion, customs and traditions, my day-to-day involvement in the community was lacking. As an Israeli and Canadian citizen, I couldn’t believe how much I didn’t know about current events in both countries and how they related to me.
One of my first tweets was while I was watching an episode of Glee in which Artie, the most talented kid at McKinley High on no legs, gets what can only be described as robot legs to help him walk. He proudly mentions that they were invented by “some Israeli guy.” For real?! I couldn’t believe it. The system is called the ReWalk and you can read about it here. I always knew Israel was incredibly technologically advanced, but advanced enough to get a mention on Glee? I was so proud, I was kvelling! (Oh hey, want to know what that, and other popular Yiddish terms mean? Follow this guy here).
In a world where Israel is always in the spotlight, most often in a controversial way; where it’s hard to stay connected to your Jewish roots in the Diaspora, where the majority of your friends’ knowledge of Judaism comes from Curb your Enthusiasm or Woody Allen movies (fun fact – I can’t watch Woody Allen movies because he reminds me too much of a particularly neurotic ex-boyfriend), I found myself re-connecting to my roots in the most surprising way – through social media.
There are simply so many great organizations, with so much fantastic information, that want to share it with you- and all in 140 characters or less! Today Jewish Tweets posted “Action: It’s Still Mimouna! Invite friends over this evening to celebrate Mimouna!” Huh? What’s Mimouna? It turns out it’s this. As it is primarily celebrated by the Mizrahi Jews it was not something that had ever entered my life. Oh and also because I eat bread during Passover so the end of Passover doesn’t really mean much to me. 🙂
And there’s another good point – I struggle with my Judaism sometimes, as I’m sure most people struggle with their faith – whether it’s Judaism, or another religion in which they were brought up. I also struggle with my love of Israel. No, wait. I don’t struggle to love it. I simply LOVE it. The most devastating day for me was when you no longer had to step outside off the plane in order to get to the terminal. Those days looked like this. There is absolutely nothing like getting off a 10-hour flight to the warm Israeli air and that smell that is just… indescribable. But I digress…
I don’t agree with every decision the Israeli government makes, just like I don’t agree with every decision the Canadian government makes. When you live in Israel, you can criticize your government. It’s a more sensitive topic in the Diaspora. Think of it like this – if you complain about your brother to your friend, you’re just venting, letting off steam. If your friend complains to you about your brother, you jump to defend him, right? So where does that leave me? If I criticize, am I a bad Jew, a bad Israeli? And if I post a fantastic story about Israel, do I risk criticism and backlash? With social media, I can ask those questions, and I can read articles, and I can comment on them, and read others’ comments and thoughts. I can find out that other people struggle just as I do, and that helps me struggle a bit less.
Sometimes I tell people I work in social media. They scoff. That’s not a job. That’s a person going on Twitter and Facebook! Like it or not, social media IS changing the way we live. The revolution in Egypt? Check out this book. Want some more examples? How about these tweets that shook the world in 2010? Information is getting out into the world in higher quantities than we’ve ever seen, faster than we’ve ever seen, more widely spread than we’ve ever seen. What would’ve happened if twitter had existed during World War II? Or the founding of the state of Israel? The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. or JFK?
Our world is changing, and we can reject it or embrace it. If you struggle with your own identity, whatever that identity is, or if you don’t and love reading about your culture, religion, tradition and homeland, try getting involved in social media. And if you have any questions, there’s a comments section just below this post waiting to hear from you!
Maytal Kowalski is the Administration and Production Coordinator for the Al Green Theatre in the MNjcc. In her spare time (because she has oh-so much of it!) she Tweets and FBs for your reading pleasure. Maytal graduated with a BFA (Hons) from York University’s dance program and has lived in Israel off and on since the age of 11.