We began with introductions, the six of us around the J-blogosphere table, going a little deeper than we did last night with our one-line "here's my name and my blog."
The panel was sparked by the questions I posted recently here; we began with the question, what makes a Jewish blog? Midrash, Reb Arthur offered. We draw on the text in order to go forward. The Torah is self-transformative. Demands its own transformation. Biblical and Rabbinic Judaism don't offer the answers we need.
Harriet noted how fascinating it is to read Orthodox blogs. She gets a different perspective on Orthodoxy than what she grew up with! Jewish blogs therefore are a way to see all parts of the spectrum. So the challenge is to comment without alienating, to make connections.
Barbara added that sometimes online we're freer and more tolerant than we are in our RL communities. Or vice versa.
Rabbi Jill noted that the blogosphere makes all the boundaries more permeable. We can say things on our blogs that we can't say within our communities, and then tap into people in other places who feel similarly. Blogs open up the internal chatter; we can see some of the conversations going on in the hareidi world, e.g. And that allows for a deeper relationship, both internally and externally.
Mik offered, you know a Jewish blog because the blogger calls it so! Some blogs don't seem to be about Judaism but the blogger has self-identified as a Jew and tagged the blog in that way. Technorati can't go through and say "you're not Jewish enough, you can't use that tag."
Barbara said that blogs made Judaism accessible to her. They opened the door of Judaism in a certain way.
I told the story about my post about nusach a few years ago, and how I wound up corresponding with a very Orthodox reader who helped me see the tradition in a new way -- and that's a conversation we would never have had in RL, because I don't davven where he davvens and even if I did we wouldn't cross paths in a personal way!
So to what extent do we need to show a "good" face of the Jewish community to the world? And to what extend do we need to be honest, and what does that mean? What about how our blogs are focused -- domestic, political, personal...?
Reb Arthur noted that Israel is the big issue of non-consensus, the big dividing point. We talk about how and why JSpot focuses on domestic issues, and I made the point that my aggregator has a whole lot more posts about Israel and Iraq than about domestic stuff like worker rights. Mik notes that in a way, the Israel conversations can bog down a blog, it gets exhausting. Gay rights is a consensus issue for the Jewish community (unlike maybe the evangelical community), whereas Israel really isn't.
We talked some about who we read. Jewschool came up; sites like Torah.org and Chabad; Kesher Talk; Radical Torah; Renegade Rebbetzin, Soferet. How being online allows people like Nice Jewish Girl to talk about being shomer negiah.
Reb Arthur asked about differentiating between a blog and a list-serv. People offered points like: on a list, anyone can talk; it's less hierarchical. But on a list one has to sign up to participate, whereas blogs are find-able via google. Reading a blog is less of a commitment. Also anyone can start a blog, so it's more democratic; it's harder to start a list and get people to join. The virtues of regular emails in addition to our blogs, and of crossposting things so that different segments of the community find each other. And that's all we had time for...