A stadium full of my dreams

By Tracy-Ann Oberman, May 24, 2012

Maybe my expectations were too high. The dream too unrealistic. Maybe when I put pen to paper for my last column I imagined the floodgates opening and a grass-roots uprising.

To recap: a few weeks ago I wrote an impassioned column, a "call to arms" if you like, to all Jews who had access to a computer. "New Media", I posited, was the new weapon of choice for anyone with something to sell, a political point to canvass, or hearts and minds to win. This weapon, I stated, is one that we had better get up to speed with, pronto. I urged the community to look to our youth to set up witty pithy Twitter and Facebook campaigns that would counteract the spurious, inaccurate and often offensive untruths "out there" in the Inter-Web-Land about Israel, Judaism, and the dirty word of the moment - Zionist. I even put out my Twitter address for a point of contact.

I awaited the feedback. I sat back hoping that a group of brilliant advertising clever clogs would contact me and spearhead a campaign. Or some student activists would jump on board. Or a retired political animator would decide they now had time to make a genius cartoon and it could go viral. I waited and waited. Finally a response came. From a very nice lady in Wales. Agreeing with me.

I told the Friday Night Dinner Gang, over my mum's strudel, that people were probably busy and online agitating (in fact, agitating just isn't our bag. Unless it's designer).

Well, imagine my jaw-dropping surprise to learn that only last weekend 40,000 Orthodox Jews attended a rally at the New York Mets Stadium that was so oversubscribed that they had an overflow next door at the Arthur Ashe Stadium involving a further 20,000 Orthodox Jews. That is some overflow. It makes our shul's Rosh Hashanah service look positively roomy.

A very nice lady in Wales agreed with me

Ironically, the rally was about the dangers of the internet and how to use modern technology in a religiously responsible way. It seemed in direct opposition to what I was asking my fellow Jews to do. Eytan Kobre, the lawyer who masterminded and is spokesman for the event, managed to get 59,999 more of my brethren up and out there than I did.

Kobre said: "There is a significant downside to the internet. Our ability to pray uninterruptedly, to focus, to concentrate. We have to learn to control ourselves". And he's right. The lure of the Blackberry, the iPhone and the iPad often gets in the way of remaining in any moment, let alone a prayer filled one. Moments are turned into bite-sized tweets, or captured on Instagram or downloaded on to YouTube. We do need to stay present for our loved ones, for meaningful communication.

But I still think that conscious internet use is a good thing. And if that means utilising the web for communicating a positive message about our community, and about Israel, then so be it.

Next time I'm hiring Arsenal's Emirates Stadium for my call to arms.

Last updated: 3:52pm, May 24 2012