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(photo credit: Sasson Tiram)
Aimed at tackling challenges faced by Jewish bloggers both here and in the Diaspora, over 300 bloggers attended the Second International Jewish Bloggers Convention in Jerusalem at Beit Avi Chai on Sunday evening.
Although the convention attempted to help bloggers discover how to best make use of the Internet for promoting their cause, Tova Serkin of JGooders warned that "social media are not the 'magic bullet," and explained that while the Internet is indeed "the future," it remains merely a tool that needs to be harnessed.
The conference, titled "Uniting the Jewish Community through Social Media," included eight workshops followed by two panel discussions aimed at advancing Jewish, Zionist and charitable causes.
Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief David Horovitz, kicking off the convention, confirmed the assembled bloggers' belief that blogs are becoming increasingly influential, telling the crowd that "one of our writers, Haviv, used blog posts by two prominent bloggers in an article of his. His article was one of many that condemned the recent failed Masa campaign and while I don't know which coverage ended up breaking the camel's back, the blogs definitely contributed."
Introducing one particularly hotly anticipated workshop, "Defending Israel through social media tools," Yishai Fleisher of the Kumah blog quoted Texas Rep. John Colberson as saying, "If the printing press made us all readers and Xerox made us all publishers, then the Internet made us all journalists."
Fleisher lauded the Internet's power and potential. "We now have the ability to reach people around the world in an instant," he said, adding that "it's important that bloggers remain opinionated - objectivity is not the holy grail; subjectivity is what it's all about."
The workshop Fleisher hosted featured Ashley Perry, an adviser to Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, along with prominent bloggers Carl of the Israel Matzav blog and the anonymous "Jameel" of the Muqata blog, two of the most referenced and respected pages among the online Jewish community.
Introducing the writer of the Muqata blog, Fleisher told the audience how even the name of a blog can be used as a tool to influence opinion, explaining that if someone tries to run a "search for the Palestinian resistance movement, you instead find a Jewish blog that actively promotes Israel."
Perry, one of the founding members of Honest Reporting, the Jerusalem-based media watchdog which campaigns on behalf of Israel, noted that the bloggers in attendance had vastly different political perspectives, implored the Jewish and Zionist blogosphere to reunite, and took the opportunity to "issue a call of unity," explaining that "Israel has only overcome major issues when we've been together."
"Jameel" agreed, explaining that "finding a common denominator for defending Israel is very important."
Perry highlighted the worrying trend that "it's increasingly hard to explain Israel's rights - not Israel's actions, but rights."
Recognizing the influence of blogging, Perry added, "The greatest threat to Israel and Zionism is Iran. As bloggers, as opinion shapers, we have to try to get people's attention to this issue. Iran is threatening through its extremism, through its propaganda.
"But at the moment, we're preaching to the choir... we need to reach out to Europe in particular - maybe 10 percent of the population are extremists either way and are 'sold,' but the middle 80% is up for grabs, and we're losing that battle. American Jews and Zionists tend to think that Europe is a 'lost continent,' but I'd say that that's not true," he added.
Yael Katsman of Nefesh b'Nefesh, which hosted the event, told The Jerusalem Post that "the convention, following the success of the first bloggers convention last year, should help bring the Jewish community together. We have helped bloggers meet one another and hopefully we can advance our cause together."
For some though, the convention was an opportunity to meet other blog authors. "It's fantastic to get to meet all these bloggers. Over the last four or five years that I've been blogging, I've become part of a community with these other bloggers... it's great to meet them in the flesh," one writer, Akiva Marks, told the Post.