Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Op-Ed in the Jerusalem Post

Jewish blogs make up the ultimate shtetl square

There is probably no more powerful and understated tool in democracy's toolkit than the ability and freedom to stand on one's soapbox in the middle of the town square and speak one's mind. The issue is not whether anyone is listening to what you have to say, but that you have the right, the freedom and the ability to try to convince those around you that your ideas are correct.
Illustrative photo.

This free and open exchange of ideas is what makes democracies so healthy and vibrant.

In our Web 2.0 world, the town square is the Internet and the modern day soapbox is the blog.

Anyone can set up a blog, promote his ideas and beliefs and rally fellow advocates around them. There is certainly no better way to refine your arguments and positions than by tempering them in the fire of opposing views. Simultaneously, there is no harsher way to find out that your opinions and theories are wrong and indefensible than to have them unmercifully torn apart one by one.

It is this freedom of speech that scares countries like China, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, compelling them to block access to blogs and arrest bloggers who dare speak their minds. What greater threat is there to an autocratic regime than people challenging its authority?

MY COMPANY, WebAds, recently organized the first International Jewish Bloggers Convention, hosted by Nefesh B'Nefesh. Some 1,600 Jewish bloggers from around the world participated on-line and in person in Jerusalem.

"Two Jews, three opinions." After reading the comments on the blogs, and being in a room full of some of the most diverse and stridently opinionated people in the Jewish world, I will never doubt that statement again - from blogs such as IsraelMatzav (on the political right) to DovBear (on the left).

The question arose: Do Jewish bloggers represent a community? Beside being Jewish, what do they really have in common? At the convention we saw Jews of all stripes and persuasions - liberals, conservatives, haredim, ultra-secular and all the colors of the rainbow. The strongly worded outbursts made clear that not everyone agreed with everyone else.

IS JEWISH blogging just a shared hobby or do Jewish bloggers actually form a community?

Unlike the bloggers, I don't have an answer, but former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who spoke at the convention, certainly gave us a big hint. Netanyahu asked to speak, not necessarily because he wanted to address a community of bloggers, but rather because he wanted to reach the on-line communities these bloggers created and to the real-world communities their readers are members.

On the simplest level, every blogger creates his or her own community of followers, but these communities and their ideas then ripple out and trickle down into the real world. It is the ultimate shtetl square for the Jewish nation.

Whether Jews as bloggers are a community or not is unclear, but they certainly are the gateway into Jewish society at large, since bloggers have the ability to influence the communities of which they are a part.

Nefesh B'Nefesh's participation in the convention was to engage the bloggers with the idea of aliya. The organization wasn't specifically interested in bloggers themselves making aliya, but rather that aliya become part of the common dialogue and conversation of the Jewish people.

Blogging isn't about beating someone over the head with your soapbox to win an argument. Blogging is about dialogues that engage interest and introduce ideas to create changes over time.

Simply put, Jewish blogging is about creating dialogue to help lead Judaism into a healthy and vibrant future.

The writer is the founder of WebAds, a company that delivers niche- and community-targeted Internet advertising, blog trend analysis and consultation.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The First International Jewish Bloggers Convention

Wow. Wow!

The First International Jewish Bloggers Convention is over. Some 200 bloggers participated in person, and 1400 (that’s right, 1400) bloggers participated and watched the convention via the Webcast.

The speakers were excellent, and there was something for everyone.

What I walked away with was how important and influential bloggers really are.

Former Israeli Prime Minister (and Prime Minister Candidate) Benjamin Netanyahu heard about the conference from reading one of our bloggers, and as a result called up and asked to speak to this audience.

That is the power of blogging and a clear indication that blogging has gone mainstream.

We look forward to running this again.


Update: First International Jewish Bloggers Convention

Hundreds of bloggers have registered to participate in person at the convention this evening (and many more online). We're looking forward to meeting all of you.

Our selected bloggers flew into Israel on the Nefesh B'Nefesh flight yesterday, and all are reporting what an emotional experience it was.

We have a surprise blogger coming to the convention. Former Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu will be speaking to the crowd for a few minutes.

We knew this was going to be big when we started planning it, but we never expected it to grow to the scale that it has already reached.


Monday, July 21, 2008

First International Jewish Bloggers Convention

Dear Bloggers,

I am thrilled to announce the First International Jewish Bloggers Convention – Hosted by Nefesh B’Nefesh, and Powered by WebAds.

The theme of the convention is “Taking JBlogging to the Next Level”.

This convention will be a great opportunity to meet other Jewish bloggers from all around the world, to network, to learn, and just have fun.

There will be panel discussions with leading Jewish bloggers from around the world on issues such as how to be a more influential blogger, how to increase your traffic, and blogging on issues related to Israel and Aliyah.

The keynote speaker will be Zavi Apfelbaum, Director - Brand Management Team, Foreign Ministry of the State of Israel.

Zavi is in charge of a new initiative by the Government of Israel, to promote pro-Israel branding and PR on the Internet, particularly in interactive forums such as blogs.

Among the bloggers on the various panels will be Treppenwitz, Jewlicious, Hirhurim, My Shrapnel, and others (see the website for all the name).

Also offering a special guest performance, direct from America, and right off the special Nefesh B'Nefesh Blogger flight, will be the comedy of FrumSatire.

As it’s a convention (of Jews), there will also be great food.

The convention will be on Wednesday, August 20th from 5pm to 9pm (Israel time) in Jerusalem.

Space is limited and registration is required, you can register to attend in person, or watch it all by webcam and forum.

Registration is at the following URL:


This promises to be an exciting event and we look forward to seeing you all there.

If you have any questions, just email me.

And please, feel free to forward this to other Jewish bloggers who may be interested in attending.

Friday, May 2, 2008

How To Use Your Data - Out of the Box

We have a client who always asks us to break down the geographic data from her campaigns in very different ways.

I happened to ask her why she always wants it that way.

She said that besides all the great leads we supply here, the geographic information supplies here with even more.

From the reports, she learns which communities are interested in her projects. She learns of new neighborhoods of potential buyers. She discovers the relative sizes of the different communities in terms of numbers of potential buyers. She identifies which neighborhoods expressed more interest in terms of relative size.

And what does she do with all that?

She goes out on road shows all the time to the different neighborhoods and communities based on the data we supply her.

Now that’s smart thinking - taking your data out of the box.


Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Letter from one of our Advertisers

We received the following letter from one of our advertisers in the "Jewish" community niche. He asked that we send it out to all the publishers who participated in his campaign.

An Open Letter to the Jewish Community of Bloggers,

On behalf of the 2,500 Warm the Needy families, I thank you for your generous and invaluable support. As you may know, this winter has been the coldest Israel has seen in thirty years. Twice, Jerusalem was blanketed with snow. A record number of cold-related deaths were reported. This made our efforts ever so important.

Thanks in significant part to you, Warm the Needy was able to distribute over six hundred heaters this winter as well as assist over 1,500 families with their electric bills.

We could not have possibly done so without your help.

As a grassroots organization, we do everything we can to ensure that 100% of every dollar is spent solely on actual aid work. There are no paid employees but a team of dedicated volunteers who work day and night for the cause.

In partnership with the Israel Electric Corp., we have developed and maintain a sophisticated system spanning the entire country. We continue to work hand in hand with several major aid organizations across Israel battling the severe poverty now affecting over 1,678,000 Israeli classified as living below the poverty line. Our activists are spread throughout the country and ensure every family is dealt with professionally and in a self-respecting manner.

With the winter coming to a close we look back at what we have achieved. Simply stated, through your assistance, we did a tremendous amount.

I wanted to personally thank you all for for your contributions, for your assistance, for your connections, for your kind remarks, and even for just taking an interest.

Best wishes for a healthy and warm winter,

Hershel Puretz
Founder, Warm the Needy

Thursday, January 3, 2008


It's been a year since we started WebAds and it has been an exciting year. We're now expanding the company into new and unique communities and niches. We've set up a new website, and other changes are on the way.

I haven’t decided yet what the exact theme of this blog will be, other than it will be related to blogging, web advertising, and WebAds (but I’ll be happy to hear from you what you think we should write about).

So stay tuned, and lets see where this goes.