JWA News Release: May 2, 2011
Contact: Leah Berkenwald, Online Communications Specialist (617) 383-2258.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
#JWAPEDIA: Tweeting the Encyclopedia
Jewish Women’s Archive tweets online encyclopedia of Jewish women during Jewish American Heritage Month
(Boston, MA) – May 2, 2011 – In honor of Jewish American Heritage Month, the Jewish Women’s Archive (JWA) has launched a campaign to tweet its online Encyclopedia of Jewish women’s history. A diverse group of influential Twitter users, including organizations, clergy, lay leaders, social media professionals, and fans of JWA, has signed on to help tweet the Encyclopedia using the hashtag “#jwapedia.” The project poses an intriguing and entertaining challenge: to summarize a scholarly article in no more than 140 characters. Gail T. Reimer, JWA’s Executive Director, expressed admiration for the tweeters who “dare to approach history in a way that speaks to people using new media in different ways.”
The #jwapedia project uses a popular social media tool to bridge the gap that so often separates scholars and the general public. Tweeters jumped at the chance to tackle topics of personal interest to them, including Broadway performers, Canadian Jewish history, cookbook authors, and labor activism history. In turning articles on these topics into tweets, Reimer says, they “become interpreters of history, a role previously reserved for scholars.”
“This fundamentally challenges the top-down model of history,” said Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder, Ph.D., Rabbi-in-Residence at Be'chol Lashon (In Every Tongue), the Global Jewish Community Institute for Jewish & Community Research in San Francisco. “Tweeting an encyclopedia has the potential to connect a wide variety of audiences to the power of historical learning.” Rabbi Abusch-Magder, a contributor to Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, proposed tweeting the Encyclopedia; JWA’s Online Communication Specialist Leah Berkenwald and Director of Public History Judith Rosenbaum enthusiastically embraced the idea.
“I believe both in serious scholarship and the power of social media,” Rabbi Abusch-Magder said. “While some might worry about marrying the two, I see this project as enhancing both. Just as in ancient times Rabbi Hillel met the challenge of teaching all of the Torah in one phrase that contained a critical lesson but in reality led to more learning, a successful tweet will impart a critical nugget of knowledge that will open up an opportunity for more learning.”
Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, which includes over 1,700 biographies, 300 thematic essays, and 1,400 photographs and illustrations spanning the globe from biblical to contemporary times, is the first comprehensive online source for the history of Jewish women. In 2009, Gloria Steinem praised the Encyclopedia as "user-friendly and thoughtfully compiled, as much a joy for the casual browser as for those who come with a purpose. Whether you are a scholar in search of the past, a journalist in need of facts in the present, or a young Jewish girl looking for role models for dreams of the future, the encyclopedia is a treasure-trove." Originally created as a CD-ROM, the online version of the Encyclopedia was launched on March 1, 2009 with an improved user interface and Web 2.0 features, including the ability for users to discuss and add content.
Starting with a select group of partners, #jwapedia is expected to grow exponentially through crowdsourcing. Anyone can join the campaign by tweeting a link to the Encyclopedia using the hashtag #jwapedia. Follow the campaign at Twitter.com by searching for #jwapedia or following JWA at @jwaonline.
About the Jewish Women's Archive
The mission of the Jewish Women’s Archive (jwa.org) is to uncover, chronicle, and transmit the rich history of American Jewish women. JWA is nationally recognized as a vital contributor to a more expansive and inclusive vision of Jewish life, past, present and future. Through its innovative uses of technology and its collaborative partnerships, JWA has successfully changed the way history is researched, recorded, and taught.