On the homepage of her thesis, fifth-year rabbinical student Melissa Zalkin Stollman writes, "In today’s world, the Internet is the first stop for people of all ages when they need to find answers or community, even when it comes to Judaism. My 36-year old brother brought this home for me this past December when I asked if he needed me to email and sing the Chanukah blessings to him. He responded, 'No thank you, I got them on Google through my new Droid phone.' If that doesn’t sum up where Judaism is today, then I don’t know what does. He used his cell phone to find his answer instead of using it to call his sister, the almost-rabbi. Who needs a synagogue when you have a Smartphone?" Melissa's thesis, entitled "Envisioning Jewish Peoplehood Beit Knesset Yisrael: Envisioning the Place of Am Yisrael in the Lives of North American Reform Jews," is not in a paper document filled with chapters, but a website filled with pages, links, blog posts, "tweets," YouTube videos and music. This dynamic format, the first to be submitted to fulfill the requirement for ordination, may pave the way for other students to express their creativity when completing HUC-JIR's fifth-year thesis requirements. The pages are not lacking in the substantive research or content that one would expect to find in a traditional thesis; but they are also filled with educational and creative content to be used by educators, clergy and lay leaders in Reform congregations Using new and creative ways to look at holidays, children's books, and Jewish music through a "peoplehood lens," she incorporates enduring understandings, rationales, downloads and discussion questions, as well as a new ritual for celebrating Aliyah within a Reform context as a peoplehood ritual.
Since its launch on February 1st it has been receiving quite the buzz in the twitter and blogospheres by congregational educators and rabbis. Visit the site often as Melissa adds new content to be used for holiday celebrations, blog posts about Jewish peoplehood and additional research from the field. Melissa welcomes your feedback on the pages within the "comments" sections. She writes, "This project may ask more questions than provide answers. It is about the different questions that arise when trying to understand Peoplehood as a concept for Jewish education, Jewish identity building, Zionism, and so much more. As this website continues to grow and develop, it is my hope that you will contribute to this blog and to the many resources found throughout the site. Blog posts will be updated weekly so visit often!" The site can be found at www.jpeoplehood.com.