First of all, the preliminary round of voting for the Jewish Israeli Blog Awards started yesterday. Click here if you’d like to vote. As you may or may not know, we’ve been nominated in a few categories, but I won’t give you direct links so that you can vote just for us and then move on. The whole point of the JIBs is to promote Jewish blogs in general, so if you want to vote, be an informed voter. Visit some of the other blogs, try something different. Vote for us if you think we deserve it, or don’t vote for us – it doesn’t matter. The point is try something new. I’ve already benefited greatly from having read some blogs that I would never otherwise have visited. I’m sure you will too. Oh one other thing, visit the Yada Blog, the best Jewish blog dedicated to pop culture that, for some odd reason, failed to garner a nomination.
When it comes to blogging and creating content for a specific audience online, you are going to want to know how it is doing. And with the option to check google position using various software, this could make it a lot easier when it comes to making better SEO decisions and potentially help grow the traffic that leads to your blog, regardless of what you write about.
In our ongoing effort to foster cross-blog dialog, I’ve taken it upon myself to review the nominees for the JIB Awards. The first post I did on the subject dealt with the Mega Blog Category and now I am going to look at the Student Life Blog category.
The first listed is Beach Hillel. This is the Web site of the Long Beach Hillel. With content provided by the students as well as Rabbi Yonah and Rachel the Hillel director, this is more than just a blog. The site contains a message board, video games, a calendar of events etc. The content is both fun and informative, providing a snapshot of both student life and news of interest to students. In case you can’t tell, I like this site. Granted, I helped design it, and they host the Jewlicious @ the Beach conference, so maybe I’m biased. Visit Beach Hillel and tell me what you think. Personally, I think they should win, but you probably already guessed that!
The next blog is Campus J. Campus J is a project of Journalist Steven I. Weiss of Protocols (influential early JBlog, no longer active) and Canonist fame. Weiss does most of the blogging and is assisted by student bloggers on 8 campuses. Campus J’s stated purpose “is to be as comprehensive as possible in covering the Jewish campus world. Expect daily updates from all the campuses that we cover, and in-depth coverage on issues of particular interest.” Sadly, Campus J seems to have become a bit of a one man show. The student bloggers post infrequently and the list of campuses covered lacks a certain measure of depth. All of this is too bad because Campus J’s mission is a good one and the site itself is also quite well made. However, Campus J does seem to be on its last legs. Maybe someone out there wants to help out? Visit Campus J and contact the Web master – it would suck for such a noble project to tank.
Cinnamon Rugelach is the blog of Brownsvillegirl, a student at Hunter College and a member of the Punks of Zion blog. Just as a side note, Punks of Zion is one of many notable absences in the JIB Awards and should have been nominated in the Student Blog category – but in typical student fashion, no one got around to it and so here we are. Sorry guys. In any case, having recently met Brownsvillegirl in Jerusalem I can say I like her and I like her blog. It’s really more of a personal blog than a blog about Jewish student related issues, but Brownsvillegirl is often entertaining and funny, even without the benefit of a kamikaze.
Michelle of In My Humble Jewish Opinion… describes herself as “a 20 year old Bais Yaakov graduate, with not a lot to show for it. I have strong opinions on the way things are handled in the Jewish Community and I enjoy sharing them.” Indeed, talk about understatement! Michelle is not a University student, but rather a seminary student. Seminary is basically Yeshiva for women. Michelle and her strong opinions on everything from the shidduch crisis, to high school drama productions to the intersection of pop culture and the yeshivish world, offers an eye opening view into a society the more secular amongst us never get to see. Don’t go in here expecting a passive baby machine – Michelle is sharp as a tack and actually kind of entertaining. I doubt I would have ever come across her blog were it not for the JIBs – see? This stuff actually works! Michelle also gets lots of comments… may this be the dark horse blog that takes the category?
Jewish Journey‘s zemirah is an Australian music student who is Jew-curious. See, she’s not really Jewish and in fact does not know any Jews at all. However, in the course of her spiritual quest, she’s discovered Judaism and is contemplating conversion. In a recent post she stated “I have to wonder, will I ever fit in among Jews? Will I one day feel as at home walking into a strange Synagogue as I do entering a church? Will my children eat Kosher food every day, and see it as completely routine? Will I be able to read the Hebrew signs and pronounce Jewish names without hesitating?” Zemirah seems to be headed towards Orthodox Judaism and it is, again, enlightening to read her sensitive take on various issues that those of us born Jewish may take for granted or not even contemplate at all. Is this a Jewish student blog? I don’t know, but it does make for some damn fine reading.
Seth Feldman is a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He runs a blog called Judenstadt. As you can imagine, the blog centers around his daily life in Israel and in Jerusalem. Far from being a ccollection of posts about who he has a crush on today or what cereal he ate this morning, Seth puts us in the shoes of a student studying for a year at Hebrew U.’s Rothberg School for Overseas students. For those of us who have been, the opportunity to relive those glory days is awesome. For those of you poor suckers who haven’t, well… you get to kind of see what that’s like. Seth also has the good taste to link to us and that guy on his site davening by the beach in a colorful talit? That photo was taken by laya. Consequently, I like Judenstadt!
In the same vein as Judenstadt is My year in Haifa, Israel. Debra Hemel, the blog’s author, is a graduate of Williams College and a Fulbright scholar currently studying at Haifa University. Her research will focus on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder… Now that’s 2 Fulbright scholars I know of in Israel studying PTSD. What’s up with that? Duh … So basically Debra is a smarty pants. Her blog offers us a pretty refreshing glimpse of life at Haifa U., in a university and city often overshadowed by Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. She illustrates most of her posts with some pretty good photography and her writing and observations are engaging enough that the blog ought to be interesting beyond the obvious audience of Debra’s friends and family. Another thing I found notable about this blog is that unlike her peers in Tel Aviv and especially Jerusalem, Debra seems to be interacting more with the society around her rather than just hanging out with other Americans. Consequently she graces us with interesting observations about the culture around her and her interactions with it. I find that refreshing given my current status as a Rechavia Rhodesian who spends most of his day speaking English whilst surrounded by Israelis. I gotta do something about that. Thanks for the wake up call Debra. ×©×œ×•× × ×™ ×ž×ž×© ××•×”×‘ ×—×•×ž×•×¡
There. That’s a start.
Next we have More Tales of Crime and Treason on the High Seas written by Fudge, a freshman at Stern from Wisconsin. First I have to ask, what the hell is it with people from Wisconsin?? Our own Michael hails from there. He plays the drums, writes well and is wicked funny. Fudge plays guitar, writes well and is also funny. I was expecting, I dunno, freshman angst? Little girl comes to big city and finds it overwhelming? There are “frum” people here who are not frum like we were back home? Boys, boys, boys? Well there’s a bit of that in there for sure, but, well what can I say. I had fun reading this ridiculously named blog. I am still laughing at a post she wrote about a conversation she had with a cab driver. Seriously read it and unleash the Stern girl that resides within each and every one of us.
Sister Soul is a first year social work student whose blog has quickly evolved away from the student thing into a dating blog. Who would have thought shidduch dating could be so complicated and fraught with peril? Sadly, I was left wanting as Sister Soul only has a couple dozen posts under her belt. Consequently it was a little hard to make a full assessment of this blog. I wonder what hosting service they use. If you’re interested, check out some comparisons for hosting services here. This blog is interesting though, Looking forward to more though …
The last two blogs, Tsmicha and Yoni in Israel are written by Yeshivah students spending shana aleph learning in Israel. Yoni studies at Yeshivat Ma’aleh Gilboa and Tsmicha’s Dan, who is from Montreal btw, studies at Yeshivat Hakotel. Yoni’s blog is designed, at least in part, to keep friends and family updated as to his comings and goings. This is also the case with Dan’s blog – after reading the blog his mom emailed him stating that it seemed all he did in Israel was dance at the kotel! Both blogs provide a glance into Yeshiva study in Israel – inside stories about Shabat, Cholent, Dvar Torahs, friends, other Yeshivas, daily schedules etc. Yoni seems a bit more straightforward and is sometimes funny (if the twelve tribes were a baseball team, where would everybody play? 20 kashiot etc.) whereas Dan is definitely more, uh… exuberant. Maybe it’s because Yoni is Ashkenazic and Dan is Sephardic. Note to Yoni: The main difference between Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews is decidedly not based on the eating of kitniyot on Passover.
So nu, conclusions? We have 11 blogs nominated in this category and fully 7 of them are primarily Orthodox in focus. Is this because of the Jerusalem Post’s involvement in the JIBs this year? Is it a reflection of the general apathy more secular Jewish students feel towards their Judaism – ie is a student blogger who happens to be Jewish less likely to make Judaism the focus of his blog? Probably I suppose. But I guess we’ll see how the voting goes!