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The People of the Nook: Jewish Use of the Internet

TitleThe People of the Nook: Jewish Use of the Internet
Publication TypeBook Chapter
AuthorsSheskin, I, Liben, M
Book TitleThe Changing World Religion Map
internet, Jewish

Considered both an ethnic group and a religious group, there are about 13–14 million Jews worldwide (0.2 % of the population). The 6.7 million Jews in the U.S. constitute about 2 % of the American population. Internet usage by the American Jewish community is significant as an educational resource and a communication tool. As early as 2000, the National Jewish Population Survey found that 40 % of Jewish adults used the internet for Jewish-related information in 1999, a remarkable figure given that the internet only really entered the public domain in a significant way in the mid-1990s. Thus, the “People of the Book” have embraced technology to become the “People of the Nook.” First, we examine those using the internet both for general information about Jewish-related items and their local Jewish communities. The extent to which various demographic and religious subgroups of American Jews use the internet is also explored. Second, internet uses are examined, including educational purposes, ritual obligations (z’manim, counting the Omer, eruvim, electronic Yahrtzeit boards), convening a minyan, and conducting research. From the proliferation of mobile applications and web-based communication tools to the ever-growing storehouse of information, modern technology has made a significant imprint upon Jewish religious practice. The internet continues to play an important and positive role in Jewish religious life, as both an educational medium and a tool for performing religious tasks. Judaism, like other faiths, puts significant emphasis on community and physical proximity. The use of the internet to form a community by overcoming geographic space at almost no cost is an exciting opportunity allowing people to participate who might otherwise be unable because of time and cost constraints or physical limitations. But does this community downplay the physical proximity that allows one to comfort a mourner by a hug or a pat on the back?
Book Editors

Stanley D. Brunn