6 thoughts on “JSpot’s Narrow View of Jewish Blogs and Jewish Life – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. J-Stop & Jewish Funds for Justice focus on areas in which, so far as I can tell, tiny bits of unity and agreement can be fashioned in a sometimes significantly divided community. Many organizations focus their scope. (The otherwise — in my view, wonderful Drum Major Institute ignores Congress Members’ votes on the Iraq war in their ratings, for example) For me, J-Spot is an interesting mix of politics and Jewish thinking — even if I disagree with some of what’s written there.

  2. I agree with you on yr views of JSpot & I thought long & hard before writing this. And as I wrote I don’t have a problem with an organizations focussing its mission on a certain limited set of objectives. But a blogroll isn’t an organization. It’s not even a blog. It just represents a set of online interests that the blog author has that s/he’s willing to share with his or her readers.

    And JFJ/Jspot’s decision in this matter perfectly represents to me why I can’t be deeply involved in any Jewish organization. They all seem to have a mania for internal organizational discipline at the expense of seychel or Jewish commons sense. They’re entitled to their narrow view of Jewish life and I’m entitled to my more expansive one.

  3. Richard –
    I did not respond to you most recent email because I have been out of the office recovering from bronchitis. So I will admit to being a little put out by your assumption that I am ignoring you.

    That said, if you understand why JFSJ focuses solely on domestic issues (which has been JFJ’s policy since you have been an active supporter of the organization), i’m not sure why you are so upset that our blogroll reflects our organization’s mission. A blogroll is almost always a list of recommended websites. We do not take a position on issues regarding Israel. Therefore, how would you suggest that we choose which blogs to recommend? Note that we don’t link to blogs that talk about international issues either.

    While it is true that there are blogs on our roll that discuss Israel, it has been my judgment that these blogs are not primarily about Israel whereas your blog, while you do include posts on non-Israel topics, is largely about Israel.

    Whatever you may think about our blogroll policy, I think it is a shame to discourage people from supporting Jewish Funds for Justice. Although I can understand wanting to devote your time and money to organizations that have a broad mission, I would just ask if you would also stop giving money to NIF, or Brit Tzedek v Shalom, or AJWS, because those organizations don’t work on building affordable housing in Los Angeles, or passing living wage legislation in Maryland, or gun control in Chicago? Or is it only domestic focused organizations that must broaden their scope to include Israel, while Israel or international focused organizations can maintain their narrow focus free of similar criticism?

  4. I will admit to being a little put out by your assumption that I am ignoring you.

    I recall that I wrote you my last query several weeks ago if not longer. If you have been out sick for that long I apologize for making the assumption that you deliberately chose to ignore my message.

    i’m not sure why you are so upset that our blogroll reflects our organization’s mission.

    We’re talking about a blogroll here, not a mission statement or funding guidelines. There is a difference.

    We do not take a position on issues regarding Israel. Therefore, how would you suggest that we choose which blogs to recommend?

    I think this reflects that you haven’t successfully mediated the tension between whether you are truly a blog or an extension of JFJ’s website. Right now, yr blogroll guidelines turn you into an organizational appendage, rather than a true blog. Do you really believe that in creating a blogroll you need to have a set of guidelines governing who gets in and who doesn’t? Should someone write a position paper?

    For what it’s worth, here’s my philosophy of what a blogroll is (or should be). It’s like sowing seeds. You throw thousands of seeds in the ground and hope they will germinate and bear fruit. Some will, some won’t. The key is to sow the seeds in fertile soil. But if a blog decides it can only sow seeds in a limited area of fertile soil then it reduces the yield. Returning to blogging, a blog shouldn’t want to reduce its yield. Rather, the opposite. So if Jspot is only blogrolled in 40 blogs when it might be blogrolled in 70 then this runs counter to the purpose of blogrolling. Unless your object isn’t to increase yr readership but rather to speak to a limited cross section of yr possible audience. And to speak of the opposite, if JSpot could blogroll 40 progressive Jewish blogs but refuses to blogroll 15, then you’ve denied those blogs the benefit of your readers possibly visiting their sites AND you’ve denied your own readers the benefit of finding new progressive sites they might not other wise find.

    To break this down into numbers, what I’m saying is that JSpot may have a readership of 2,000 per day. If it were linked in a portion of the blogrolls that it now refuses to link to, that number might be 2,100 a day. If JSpot is referring 500 of its readers each day to sites linked in its blogroll it could be referring 550 or 600. This is the law of the blogosphere. What you give will be returned unto you. If you limit yr giving yr return will be limited as well.

    I would just ask if you would also stop giving money to NIF, or Brit Tzedek v Shalom, or AJWS, because those organizations don’t work on building affordable housing in Los Angeles, or passing living wage legislation in Maryland, or gun control in Chicago?

    Actually, I have encouraged Brit Tzedek unsuccessfully for years to create its own blog & its to your & JFJ’s credit that you’ve seen the light & created Jspot. That being said, IF BT created a blog & refused to link to JSpot I’d be royally pissed (as long as you were willing to link to BT which you wouldn’t be–but that’s another matter). I believe in solidarity among Jewish progressives. I believe in breaking down barriers. I don’t expect JFJ or JSpot to work for I-P peace, but I see no reason why yr blogroll can’t acknowledge other progressive Jews working on issues like the ones that concern my blog.

    NIF does have its own blog & does not link to Jspot. I think that’s a mistake. And if your blog was willing to link to theirs I’d tell them so.

  5. Richard –
    You sent the email on Nov 4; you posted on Nov. 11.

    After this exchange, I have a better understanding of your concern. What it boils down to, it seems to me, is a slightly different approach to creating a blogroll. If that is all this is, then it does not (IMHO) seem to rise to the level of condemnation you have put forth in your post.

    A few thoughts;
    It is not easy to create an institutional blog that is also interesting to read. This is because too often institutions are so skittish about losing control of their message that their blogs end up being glorified dumping grounds for press releases. As you know, jspot was created and is run by Jewish Funds for Justice. Yet only around 10% of the posts even mention JFSJ, and disagreements among contributers is not uncommon. A wide range of domestic issues are discussed, including many issues that JFSJ does not work on. Yet because it is an institutional blog, we have set what I believe are reasonable – yet firm – limits. That includes no posts about non-domestic issues.

    Our blogroll, unlike those at other sites, it substantial. We did not limit it to a handful of organizations or blogs. There are many smaller blogs on our blogroll. It reflects the same kind of openness you will find in our posts. Yet it also is under the same limitations as everything else on our site; domestic only.

    What you seem to assert, particularly in your most recent comment, is that by its very nature, a blogroll should live by different standards. I don’t completely disagree with that; however, the line is drawn somewhere. A blogroll that is too long is useless; folks who come to jspot and look at our blogroll know that they can expect to find blogs or websites that address domestic justice issues or the U.S. Jewish community (the primary topics on jspot). I actually don’t think you disagree with limiting ones blogroll, if the blogroll on your own site is any indication. You have three main catagories on your blogroll: folk music, mideast peace, and progressive blogs. Why don’t you have groups like IAF or Acorn on your blogroll? Why not independent minyanim? Where are groups like Hazon, or AJWS, or Jdub records? Aren’t they worth organizations? By your logic, aren’t you being unfair by excluding them?

    In your post you advise your readers to consider not giving money to JFSJ simply because we haven’t placed certain limitations on our blogroll. All things considered, including all of the important work JFSJ does to fight poverty in the United States (among other things), is that really fair?

  6. I didn’t realize only 7 days had passed from my last e mail to you without hearing back. So I apologize & hope you’re feeling better.

    If that is all this is, then it does not (IMHO) seem to rise to the level of condemnation you have put forth in your post.

    One thing you have to understand is how hard it is being a progressive Jewish blogger esp. one writing a personal, rather than institutional blog. Many of us struggle to find and retain readers. We seek every opportunity to expand our sphere of influence in the blog world since we are a relative minority in the online world & Jewish world.

    I see my blogroll as an opportunity to recognize those doing important progressive work. I also appreciate those who link to Tikun Olam in their blogrolls. Blogrolls, as I wrote, help create online community. That’s why they can be relatively important vehicles for building traffic.

    So when I encountered your site I immediately linked to it in appreciation of your work. As I wrote to you, a year later when I noticed you hadn’t reciprocated (& after we’d had some positive interactions related to NJDC) I thought I’d ask whether you would consider doing so. Your rejection, while politely phrased, came as a bucket of cold water. I know you didn’t mean it that way. But I felt slighted. That’s why I wrote what I now consider to be an intemperate response expressing my frustration.

    A blogroll that is too long is useless

    So you think adding 5 or 10 blogs like Tikun Olam to your blogroll would render it so long as to be useless?

    folks who come to jspot and look at our blogroll know that they can expect to find blogs or websites that address domestic justice issues or the U.S. Jewish community (the primary topics on jspot).

    And you think if you added a category for Progressive Jewish blogs that included Tikun Olam that would confuse your readers? What’s more, you’re making an admission that you are more concerned with maintaining organizational discipline & staying “on message” (even in yr blogroll) than you are with building site traffic from fellow Jewish progressives. I guess that’s a luxury you have. But we individual bloggers welcome sympathetic readers from wherever we can find them.

    I wanted to return to the issue you raised about the nature of my blog. I reviewed my post categories & found that my Mideast Peace category contains 1,000 posts while my Politics & Society category (which is where I mostly post about domestic politics including domestic Jewish politics) contains 900 posts. So personally I think you’ve made a rather artificial decision in rejecting Tikun Olam. And I certainly address domestic justice issues and the U.S. Jewish community. But I won’t argue this point further because you’ve made clear that my blog is ineligible.

    Why don’t you have groups like IAF or Acorn on your blogroll? Why not independent minyanim? Where are groups like Hazon, or AJWS, or Jdub records? Aren’t they worth organizations? By your logic, aren’t you being unfair by excluding them?

    I don’t know what IAF is. I don’t include ACORN because I’m not familiar enough with their work. I don’t include minyanim because, while I’m interested in Judaism & Jewish spirituality & write about it in my blog, I’m less interested in Jewish institutions. I don’t know much about Hazon or Jdub. If AJWS asked me to link to their blogroll I’d be delighted to do so. In fact, I may do so based on yr suggestion.

    The key issue here that differentiates us is that if I know of your work and like it I’ll link to your site regardless of what category you fall into. While if you know about and like the work of a particular site you won’t link unless it falls within rather strict institutional guidelines.

    Regarding giving or not giving to JFJ, I see organizational discipline as both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it keeps the organizataion “on message” and allows it to maintain continuity & effectiveness. But such discipline can also put you in a box and stifle creativity & narrow yr vision. I won’t be involved with JFJ because it has taken the position it has about Jspot’s blogroll & excluded me and other progressive Jewish blogs from it. My readers may be less concerned about this issue. I don’t expect my views will hinder JFJ’s fundraising & I’d encourage those for whom JFJ’s message resonates to continue to donate to it.

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