1. Describe in around 100 words the way in which you are involved in Jewish Work?
My involvement in the Jewish community is extremely limited. Essentially, I am a regular ballebos (layman) with a normal job in the corporate world. On the side, I run a small publishing company called Yashar Books that specializes in contemporary Orthodox scholarship in English that combines the best in Torah and secular knowledge. Additionally, I write the Hirhurim blog, which is my way of discussing Torah and related concerns with people who share these interests.
2. You were one of the first Jewish Bloggers around. Did you ever think Blogging would become so big?
When I started blogging, it seemed like a new medium that was only for the most intense web surfers. It has now become much more mainstream and seems to be one of the preferred methods of online interaction. However, many of my readers are uncomfortable with the informal nature of blogs and the amount of time someone can spend daily reading blogs. A surprising number of readers tell me that they have given up on most blogs and read only Hirhurim and maybe one or two others. In that sense, I think that Hirhurim’s being early in the game has helped with whatever success it has achieved. Latecomers to the blog world will probably be unable to gain the readers who have decided not to look at any but their favorite blogs. So the new blogs don’t have a chance with these readers. But that doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t post their thoughts and insights to a blog with the goal of sharing them. They just have to have realistic expectations.
3. What motivated you to become active in the Jewish World in first place?
The prophet Yirmiyahu speaks about how when he received a prophecy it would shake his body until he would tell others about it. It would practically burst out of him. That is how I sometimes feel about Torah ideas that I want to share. The blog is my way of sharing and teaching those ideas.
4. Do you have any advice to people who would want to use the internet as a tool to help the Jewish World?
I think that the most important thing is to be authentic. Write about what you feel is important and write with honesty and care. But be mindful that not everyone sees things the way you do so be respectful about other people’s sensitivities. One of the most amazing things about the internet is that people from a wide variety of locations and backgrounds can interact with ease. We just have to be sensitive to the potential landmines this can expose. I know that I have readers from across the Jewish spectrum — including Reform and Conservative rabbis — and also a few from the Christian world. I try to keep that in mind when wording my thoughts.
5. Are there any causes which you hold closer to your heart?
In general, I feel that there is a lack of available Torah on a relatively high level for people who are interested in discussing contemporary developments in Jewish thought. Examples include new approaches to the Bible, the latest trends in philosophy, Torah approaches to science, and philosophically informed attitudes to contemporary issues. I don’t pretend to be a cutting edge scholar but I try to at least discuss what is going on and put thoughts out there for discussion.