Saturday, September 8, 2012


This post is a bit of a follow-up to my previous one, Congregation and Community, which focused on a front page article in our local community newspaper, Leonia Life, on an event held last month at Congregation Adas Emuno, the report including a quote by yours truly.

So, we've been doing pretty well with that local paper since then, as they included two of our press releases last week, which I've provided links for just in case you were curious:  Adas Emuno in Leonia Announces High Holy Day Services, and Leonia Congregation Welcomes New Student Cantor

And this week's issue of Leonia Life features another front page report by Raeshelle Middleton on our recent screening of the documentary Connected, by filmmaker Tiffany Shlain, daughter of Leonard Shlain.  And you may recall my post here on Blog Time Passing about the film last September, Get Connected!, which itself was connected to the special screening we held at Fordham University, one of the first screenings of the completed documentary anywhere.

So anyway, the article in Leonia Life is entitled Leonia Gets ‘Connected’with Film, and here is what Raeshelle had to say about the event:

Community members gathered to watch Tiffany Shlain's documentary "Connected," which discusses the interconnectedness of human society, at Congregation Adas Emuno Aug. 25.

Before continuing with Middleton's report, I do want to thank Tiffany Shlain for her generosity in giving us permission to hold this exclusive screening of a film that is still making the rounds of film festivals, and was recently shown at the Democratic Party's national convention. It was a privilege for those in attendance, as well as a treat.  Now back to the article:

Focusing on the mind, the filmmaker referred to present topics such as the advancement and use of technology, the issue of pollution, health and some of the advances in modern science and how this has affected the evolution of human communication.
The film focused on multiple subjects as the documentarian went into detail about what was going on in her personal life at the time as well as the relationship that she had with her family.
Members of the community from all age groups came out to watch the movie. There were refreshments served and almost every seat was filled. Afterwards there was a discussion about how the audience viewed the film.
The movie studied how during different eras people have used different parts of their brains such as the right side and the left side during certain circumstances. One of the subjects that were introduced in discussion was the way that friendship is viewed in modern day with the increase in dependence on social media and technology for communication and how that affects face-to-face interaction.
Let me interrupt for a moment to note that the audience enjoyed the film quite a bit, and there was a great deal of appreciation for the personal side of the film.  And the report now turns to some of the discussion that followed the screening:
"What's happening to those brains when they get overloaded, when if you're like me and you check your cell phone for e-mail 100 times a day?" said Rabbi Barry Schwartz.
Now, here's the view of an older audience member who was a bit disdainful about Facebook: 
"Young people and old people my age talk about friending, and then I recognize that this is a person that they've never spoken to or seen face to face, and they think that this is a friend. To me the internet has separated people. It has brought more information into my life but is hasn't brought more friends into my life." said Muriel Haber. "A friend in my definition is somebody that I can call up and say, 'Hey meet me for coffee,' and speak on a very intimate and depend on."
And here's a point that I emphasized in the discussion, and that I do think is a wonderful idea: 
The movie also spoke about Technology Shabbats, which is encouraging people to unplug technological devices on a particular day in order to become more mindful of the world. The movie discussed subjects such as the overuse of the Internet and the cellular phone which may be responsible for changing the way of thinking for many people.
And now what you all have been waiting for, to wrap it all up, another quote from your humble servant: 
"Unplugging and taking a break is how we can become mindful of what we are doing, rather than doing it unconsciously," said Lance Strate, president of the congregation.

And, after all, while Marshall McLuhan stressed art as an anti-environment to provide some objectivity in regarding the electronic media environment, and Neil Postman made a similar point about schools, the same can be said of religious services and houses of worship, that they can take us out of our constantly wired and plugged-in, always-on-call worlds, and provide a counter-environment that is rooted in an older, calmer, quieter kind of situation.  Just remember to turn off those cellphones when you come in, okay?

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