Back In The Day

“Back in the day”, there were two primary means of communication. The telephone, and written communication that included the letter and printed materials on paper like newsletters.

The telephone has changed dramatically in my lifetime. My parents had three telephones in their home, with long chords so you could go to the other end of the room. Having a second line was an extravagance. Only doctors had answering services. Answering machines became the norm in the 1980s.

Most of us look at the telephone very differently today. Land lines are becoming extinct. And for those of us who have them, screening calls is now the norm as it is inexpensive.  On our cell phones, the caller’s name most often pops up on the screen.

Emails and texts have emerged as the preferred means of direct communication.

As a graduate student, my field work assignment was with a national Jewish organization. I was tasked with writing the quarterly community service newsletter. When I was done writing a draft on a yellow pad of paper, then I would transcribe it onto an IBM Selectric (no longer a word choice in spellcheck) typewriter. Senior staff often had assistants able to “take dictation”.

It took a couple of weeks to prepare the contents of the newsletter, and than another 10 days for design and printing. While word processing was invented in the 1960s, I don’t remember it being the norm until the 1980s. Carbon paper was most often an important tool.

It didn’t seem too long along that the synagogue newsletter was the primary vehicle for informing congregants as to the goings on at your synagogue. Even in the 1990s articles had to be submitted to allow enough time – perhaps 1-2 weeks-before it had to be disseminated to the membership. The advance of PDF files has certainly impacted the synagogue’s relationship with their local printer, and the U.S. Post Office as well.

The monthly newsletter is still a staple at many synagogues, sent most often with a link in an email to congregants. In some synagogues, weekly email blasts have taken its place. In those synagogues still utilizing the newsletter, most often there is a form of weekly communication – a fancy email – as well.

Technological advances may have made the work easier to perform, but there is certainly a lot more of it.

Synagogue leaders have great expectations regarding communications. Who does all of this work? Clergy? Other staff members? Volunteers? I know from my own experiences that websites need to be kept current. And that is true for all social media platforms, including Facebook pages, Instagram and Twitter. Again, keeping up these various communication and marketing tools is an ongoing endeavor. Unless there is a dedicated person who has this responsibility, keeping such social media platforms current will be a significant challenge.

Some synagogues do have dedicated staff members for communications. This mirrors what is going on in the profit world and with not-for-profit organizations, many of which have a Marketing Manager or a Social Media coordinator.

But what about synagogues that don’t have the funds to have a dedicated staff member? Does this fall to the rabbi, among many other important responsibilities? And while volunteers are always well-intended, there is always a chance that something will come up – vacation, medical appointment, family stuff are just a few things that immediately come to mind.

Today’s blog may be rambling. The point is this: there is a lot of work in this area that has become essential to the synagogue’s operation and needs to be done. And we need to figure out a way to make it happen.

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