On January 2, 2013, Ha'aretz published a piece I'd written about how the community can support those who grieve (if there is a paywall on this link or any of the ones below, please contact me and I'll send you a PDF). It might have seemed a strange way to begin a year, a year whose start is supposed to inspire optimism; but I saw it as an opportunity to reconnect, post-New Year's revelry, to those in the community who need our support, but who may not know how to ask for it. The piece was received very well - I still get people asking for copies of it - and seemed to answer many questions held by the "grief-adjacent" - people who were not primarily affected by a particular loss but who wanted to help friends or family members who were. But this post also set the stage for other Ha'aretz pieces, reaching a wide audience of people on a number of subjects about how the Jewish community could improve the services it was offering.
In a piece about what is expected of Jewish leadership in the digital age, I suggested that today's Jewish leaders learn to mobilize the power of online media, both in terms of distributing their message and in terms of responding to constituents' questions and challenges. After attending a series of conferences, Jewish and non-, traditional and innovative, I shared some ideas about how conferences can become more "disruptive," improving their format toward making a greater impact. After the Jewishly themed media went crazy about the results of the Pew Internet Study, my largely tongue-in-cheek piece about how to craft your own response to the Pew Report was widely circulated.
The year ended with a story I never wanted to write about - but after thousands sent emotional support to Phyllis and Michael Sommer during the tragically-terminal illness of their son Sam, I was desperate to show my support - this story of a community reaching out in comfort was a piece I could produce, a something I could do when there was really nothing to do.
After the piece was published, I got quite a few comments and letters - someone asked me if I had obtained permisison from the family before writing about them - a good question that I had been thinking about but ultimately decided not to bother them with. There's a perception that the Sommer family is now public domain, but the realm of their grief is private, and I didn't want to intrude. I hoped that pieces like mine would be perceived as a virtual version of the embrace I wished I could render in person. When I posted the piece on Facebook, Phyllis left a "heart," so I have to believe she understood and approved.
Social media was a big part of this story, with blogging at the core of the connection between the Sommer family and the rest of the world. I knew what blogging could do, how it could bring people together and create relationships from words typed and published in the ether of the internet. I knew it because it had been happening to me every day over the last decade; as I shared my thoughts and observations, I was unconsciously laying the groundwork for an international network of connected individuals, reaching more people than I had possibly hoped to and receiving comments, feedback, criticisms and praise from all over the world.
On February 2, 2014, I will celebrate the tenth anniversary of my stumbling into blogging. While I look forward to the new opportunities that are already beginning to bubble up with promise for 2014, I also plan to look back at what blogging has brought me, both personally and professionally, over the last decade.
Here's to a new year with more happy stories than sad ones, and to connecting with our friends, colleagues and wider networks, creating a larger community of stories and individuals who provide support for each other, whether virtually or in person. And thank you all for reading.