(lubavitch.com) New among the workshops and panels at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival in Austin, Texas, was Judaism 2.0. A first for the premiere social networking event that drew some 13,000 social media experts, bloggers, venture capitalists, web developers and programmers March 12-15, it offered Jewish participants an opportunity to explore the convergence of Judaism, Israel and the Web.
Introduced in 1994, the Interactive festival has in recent years become the premier event for innovation and discussion in the so called “New Media.” Twitter, one of SXSW’s breakout successes, was unveiled in 2007.
The brainchild of Justin Oberman, founder of Derech Digital, a think tank for the exploration of Torah and the Web, he conceived Judaism 2.0 after he noticed that despite a large attendance by Jews, including many Israeli startups, no panel at the festival had yet been created to explore their role on the web.
Judaism’s 2.0 panelists included Chaviva Edwards, a noted Blogger, Dave Weinberg, a community manager for DC based tech company, and Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone of lubavitch.com. According to Lightstone, the subject of Judaism and new media is one of critical importance.
“The power of Social Media allows us to create an intimate dialogue with an audience far beyond one previously accessible by traditional means.”
His experience with @Lubavitch, the official twitter handle of Lubavitch.com, Lightstone continues, has shown that “the future of communication truly lives in the immediacy of social media.” The panel, streamed live via web simulcast, attracted an audience of 40, including staff from Microsoft Israel, and served as a springboard for discussion on topics of Jewish identity online, combating anti-Semitism, and the role of new media in involving Jewish youth.
Edwards, who has blogged publicly about her spiritual journey and Jewish growth since 2006, said, “I think that it’s great exposure for really making the future of integrating Judaism on the web and in social media a force to be reckoned with.”
Much of the networking at the SXSW Festival happens at the after hours partying in the downtown area. That’s when Jewish participants looking to connect with like-minded digerati joined the lubavitch.com barbeque. A first for the festival, the kosher barbeque was hosted in conjunction with local Chabad representatives.
Word of the event, with entertainment by Jewish rapper Kosha Dillz and his partner Flex Mathews, spread virally, over Twitter and Facebook, attracted some two dozen Jewish festival goers who got busy tweeting over smart phones while washing down their kosher burgers with soft drinks.
Web entrepreneur Aaron Dragushan was particularly impressed by the gathering. Having attended SXSW for six years, the barbeque offered “an exciting experience to connect with others.”
“I know that there are many other Jewish attendees, and it was so great to have a place to come together.”