Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rabbis and Blogs - another look

We've discussed the issue of rabbis and blogs and professionalism before, such as in Hypothetical Question and in Rabbis friending children on Facebook.

Here's a look from "Should your doctor be on Facebook", a column by Dr. Danielle Ofri in today's New York Times. It's about doctors, but it could just as easily be about rabbis. Here's an excerpt:

I worry that it is impossible to maintain a perfect firewall, so I’ve decided to limit my online presence to the professional side of my life, keeping personal information off the Web. And before I post anything anywhere, I try to imagine what a patient of mine might think if she stumbled across it. Would it make her cringe? Would she feel awkward during her next office visit? Would this somehow compromise our relationship?

This means letting go of the fun and casual side of social media, but I think that’s simply part of the territory of being a doctor. It’s the same reason I don’t wear flip-flops and shorts to work, much as I’d surely love to. Giving up posting vacation pictures doesn’t seem like a particularly high price.

Doctors — like everyone else — are entitled to private lives, with all the attendant warts, embarrassments and unflattering moments. But now that any patient can Google a medical team, doctors — like teachers and lawyers — need to consider issues of professionalism before sharing their private lives.

Much to contemplate here. For example:

Will you see your Rabbi as a leader, if you read his blog post about entering the rabbinate and you know he is less than confident about leading, or he is not properly trained?

Will you accept your Rabbi's moral instruction, if you have seen his taste in music and you think he's coarse and unsophisticated?

Will you be able to concentrate on the Rabbi's speech on Shabbat Shuvah once you have seen him in vacation shorts and a Hawaiian shirt?

And so on.


  1. "or he is not properly trained?"

    Sorry if I'm going off a bit, but this statement is truly worrisome. If the rabbi is not properly trained then how did the congregation come to hire him? What comes to mind is that he lied, either by omission or commission. Either he failed to mention his lack of training or proper training--and the hiring committee didn't pick up on that omission--or he fudged his resume so that it showed proper training which he truly does not have. Yes, for such a rabbi posting on a blog or social network site could spell the end of his job--but did he truly deserve that job to begin with if he doesn't have the proper training to do everything he has to do?

  2. Which responsible professional will not have some personal doubts about the efficacy of his or her training when beginning a new position? We all learn most of the important aspects of our professions "on the job." The point here is that when people post personal musings they tend to be misinterpreted! And often in ways that are not intended.

  3. ProfK-
    No, neither omission nor commission, just what people may read into his ramblings. I hope you are not surprised to learn that I expect rabbis to have proper training.

    Ari Hahn-
    Exactly; thanks.

  4. Ahhh, the statement was referring to self-doubt? That I could see as possibly problematic should a congregant read it online. But then again, this idea of not publishing self-doubt applies to far more professionals than the fairly restricted group of doctors, teachers and rabbis--it should apply to anyone who works, regardless of how we rank that job in the professional ranks. Frankly, I'd personally be more upset to hear that my plumber or electrician or lab technician or physical therapist had these self-doubts then to find out my rabbi had them.

  5. A relevant comic from the scifi webcomic Schlock Mercenary... while being open about insecurities may feel healthy for the leader-type person, it can open up doubts as to their leadership capabilities.

  6. ProfK-
    Not really self-doubt. More the extrapolations that come from self-revealing comments. And I agree that this applies far beyond the rabbinate.

    Cute, thanks. And on target.