At your best attended service how many people are there to hear your sermon?
This was the question that was posed by our facilitator, Reverend Kellie Anderson-Picallo, from the Auburn Institute as she challenged us on how we spread and share our message. The size of our communities are the first limitation, restricting our listeners to those who are present on any given day in any given service. We can of course live-stream our services extending our community beyond the physical walls of the building and then we can ensure that our sermons are shared on blogs, podcasts, or YouTube. However, even with all of these avenues for sharing our message she questioned how many people were we really reaching.
As her facts and figures made clear, for us to reach the widest audience possible we needed to ensure that our writings were being shared by mainstream and online media. In the academic world it is a case of “publish or perish,” in our rabbinic world perhaps it is a case of “publish to promote our message, values and ideas.” When our article or blog post gets picked up by another publication, our message’s reach increases exponentially and the impact we have grows significantly.
At the time I participated in the Auburn training, I had been struggling with my response to the epidemic of gun violence, which continues to plague our country. I wanted to speak out, I wanted to share my message, but I was unsure where to begin. The training helped me to hone my message into the sermon that I had been waiting to deliver, but it also gave me the tools and the drive to take it to the next level. I shared the sermon on my blog and edited our service live-stream to post my words to YouTube, and then I edited it further.
I took the sermon and edited it into an Op-Ed, an opinion piece sharing my voice as a Rabbi, ready to be shared in response to the next incident of gun violence. When that happened, I clicked “send” and offered the article to a number of sources, one of which said yes. While I was pleased to have my message reach a wider audience, my synagogue also took pride in having their Rabbi published in the wider world.
Prior to the training with Reverend Kellie Anderson-Picallo from Auburn I had not thought strategically about how to get published in the wider media. And more than that, when I tried to convert sermons into articles, I struggled with what to keep and what to cut. The Auburn training provided me with a wonderful set of tools and resources for spreading my message.
In the current political climate I am sure that many of us feel a greater urgency and obligation to speak out and to share our message and our values. The Auburn Institute training provided me with a wonderful set of tools to not only improve my writing, but to help me write in a way that catches the attention of editors. The CCAR is partnering with the Auburn Institute and Berlin Rosen to offer “Media Savvy: Harnessing Your Rabbinic Voice in Troubled Times” on April 24th and 25th in New York City. Now more than ever it is important that we speak out and are heard; this training will be a great aid in achieving that goal.
Rabbi Danny Burkeman serves the Community Synagogue of Port Washington, New York. Register for Media Savvy: Harnessing Your Rabbinic Voice in Troubled Times now.