[Note: Jewishrecon.org underwent a facelift in early 2018 to become ReconstructingJudaism.org]
Learn. Act. Connect.
These three verbs, in many ways, encapsulate what it means to live as a Reconstructionist Jew today. By design, they are the first three menu items on the recently redesigned www.jewishrecon.org.
The website is now an accessible and compelling online resource for those seeking to learn about the Reconstructionist approach to Judaism. For example, the site’s “Learn” section contains articles by a range of writers, exploring contemporary issues such as ethics and decision-making, religious experience and spirituality, Torah study and social action.
It is streamlined and robustly searchable. For example, a search for “Shabbat” reveals hundreds of results, including personal reflections, lesson plans for use with the Reconstructionist youth prayerbook Kol Ha’Noar, and tools for congregational decision-making on Shabbat policies. Each resource page ends with a list of clickable related materials for further exploration.
“Contemporary Judaism today is about dialogue; it is about fostering community and mobilizing people to help make the world a better place,” said Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College & Jewish Reconstructionist Communities. “Jewishrecon.org is a wonderful tool to facilitate Jewish learning, action and connection. We invite all to visit, explore and share the site with others.”
The site replaces an earlier platform primarily meant to serve individuals and congregations already connected to Reconstructionist Judaism.
Jewishrecon.org still fulfills that purpose, but it also offers the widest possible audience a compelling, fluid look at contemporary Judaism and Jewish community. The site is a resource for those looking to explore how Jewish wisdom informs many facets of life. The accessibility and ease of navigation of the site reflect a commitment to making a compelling case in the marketplace of ideas and reaching people where they are. Other goals for the site include:
- Providing Reconstructionist congregations and havurot meaningful resources to strengthen their local communities;
- Making it as easy as possible for users to connect with a Reconstructionist congregation or regional event;
- Offering a trove of opportunities for people to study Torah and learn from Jewish wisdom.
The website is the result of the ongoing collaborative efforts of RRC/JRC staff and faculty, as well as rabbis and lay leaders throughout North America. Overseeing it all is editor in chief Rabbi Michael Fessler, a 2001 graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
Fessler noted that a great deal of attention went towards presenting ideas in a contemporary and visually appealing manner. The clean, welcoming design reflects the movement’s contemporary aesthetic. Unlike the previous incarnation of Jewishrecon.org, the new site is optimized for mobile and tablet use.
“An ever-increasing number of today’s Internet users are on mobile devices,” said Fessler. “It was important to us that our message be accessible to as many people as possible.”
The site’s focus on accessibility goes well beyond considering users with mobile devices. For the visually impaired, the site is compatible with screen-reader technology such as Voiceover, while the hearing-impaired can expect audio and video content to be accompanied by a transcript or subtitles.
For Fessler, who has served as a congregational rabbi and teacher, managing the particulars of website design might seem like a departure. Yet he views his shaping of the website as an extension of his rabbinate, enabling him to reach others on a scale not possible in a more traditional rabbinic role.
“It has been incredibly rewarding to think hard about the questions people have about Reconstructionist Judaism—what they’d like to know and what they should know—and then to curate and edit high-quality materials,” said Fessler. “Now that we have laid the infrastructure of the new site, I can spend more time as an editor and curator. I can’t wait to introduce new materials and bring dialogue about Reconstructionism into the public square. With our new platform, there’s no limit.”