Thursday, June 07, 2007


This is from the Vancouver Jewish Independent, June 1 2007:

High-tech hobnobbing

Rabbi uses web to disseminate his words.


Chaim Steinmetz is making it easier for people to access a rabbi at any place and any time, simply by using an Internet browser.As the rabbi for Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem (aka "the Baily Road shul") in Cote St. Luc, Que., the 43-year-old not only gives sermons from the bimah, but has found a way to offer words of wisdom through a virtual pulpit, by blogging.A blog (short for "web log") is a regularly updated journal on the Internet where people are invited to comment on entries. Steinmetz claims to be among only a dozen rabbis in North America that have or operate a blog, a handful of whom are in Canada. He refers to this ever-growing Internet tool as "the ultimate megaphone." By opening this digital door, the rabbi has invited people all over the world into his shul and into his head.One of the many advantages he cited for having a blog is that his sermons reach beyond the synagogue bulletin and the community."In this way, anyone anywhere can see something of interest to them," he said. "A rabbi gets up on Shabbat, presumably because he has something to say, and on a blog, hopefully a lot more people can take a look at it."His blog, like most, includes archives of previous postings. By last month, Steinmetz had written 100 entries. Recent postings included an array of topics such as "big fat weddings," chutzpah and how not to become distracted by taking too many photographs.Of the latter, he wrote, "People can become so absorbed in taking pictures and movies that they simply forget to experience life itself. Perhaps the photographic class could gain something by occasionally putting their cameras down."Another recent posting was entitled "Why unhappiness makes sense." The self-dubbed "Happiness Warrior" noted that after hundreds of funeral sermons in more than 15 years as a spiritual leader, he learned that others might benefit from blog entries pertaining to overcoming loss. "Putting those insights on the web is an opportunity for people to use that positively," he said. "I found a real connection in working with people on lifecycle events."Part of what he says brought him to blogging four years ago was the chance to connect with a wide group of people of all religious spectrums, both Jewish and gentile, even though the rabbi is Orthodox."It's something that could have a wide audience. It's really just to connect with people and to share Shabbat morning sermons and basic Jewish wisdom for a good life," said Steinmetz. "It's the most gratifying thing." In the last six months, he has been blogging regularly and said he tracks some 250 visitors a week.According to the rabbi, he receives e-mail and visitors from North America, Europe, Australia, Kuwait, China and the United Kingdom. A professor in Scotland, after seeing Steinmetz's entry on Adam Smith – the 18th-century Scottish philosopher and economist – offered criticism on the rabbi's interpretation of Smith's writings. "The web is an amazing way to connect, not just with congregants, but with the entire world," he said. "I've noticed my writings reach places I never thought they would."Citing his congregants as his greatest source of inspiration and criticism, he said they often approach him with observations and commentary of their own. They inquire about his choice of subject or suggest topics."This is co-authorship. People feel like they're partners with you," said Steinmetz. "I think blogging is in some ways more approachable than a website or a sermon. It certainly offers people an opportunity to come back with comments. It has this feel of a discussion in which the blogger shows, 'Look, I saw this, and what do you say about it?' "The medium and the message don't stop at blogging for the rabbi. Next up are mini video sermons on, linked to his blog. He plans on being just as circumspect on video as he is in writing."I'm not too controversial, because it weakens one's ability to communicate," he said. "Controversies never help communities. I am always exceedingly careful about what I have to say. My blog always has words of sensitivity, words of justice and moral focus.

Visit the rabbi's blog at

Dave Gordon is a freelance writer. His website is

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