January 26, 2006
A Blog World After All
Last year, the Pew Internet and American Life Project estimated that 8 million American adults had created blogs. Although the number of specifically Jewish blogs is unconfirmed, those with knowledge of the blogosphere say the pool is substantial. Jewish blogs, or Web diaries, run the gamut from kosher cooking to Israeli advocacy. They include leftist rants, dating melodramas, rabbinic ruminations and secular musings from all corners of the globe.
"I'd estimate the number of active blogs at some several thousand," says Steven Weiss, who currently blogs about religion (canonist.com), food (kosherbachelor.com) and the Jewish college experience (campusj.com).
"Among young, highly affiliated Jews, J-blogs are very popular," the 24-year-old New Yorker continued. "As you move up the age brackets, the popularity drops off somewhat, though many in the organizational and rabbinic establishment have started paying a lot of attention to them."
What exactly are these Jewish bloggers seeking on the Web?
Some, like 30-something New York blogging guru Esther Kustanowitz, say the blogosphere connects them to a larger, global Jewish community.
"I started looking at other Jewish blogs to see if there were other people like me out there -- single, Jewish and blogging," she explained.
The No. 1 thread on Jewlicious (jewlicious.com), a group blog focusing on Judaism, Israel and pop culture, addresses premarital sex in the Orthodox community. It pulled in 676 comments.
The No. 2 post, with 502 responses, tackles an equally contentious topic -- the identity of Conservative Judaism.
Oftentimes, noisemakers walk a fine line between healthy debate and mudslinging.
"There are definitely blogs where the conversation tends to be acrimonious," said Barenblat, who recently received anonymous hate mail. "People feel free to be obnoxious because it's just through a computer screen."
Fiery language also peppers the Jewlicious site, with posts often descending into vitriolic exchanges.
"It's a paradigm for disagreement," Kustanowitz said. "I think because of the anonymity and lack of accountability, people tend to not think before they write."
Where exactly this blogging phenomenon is going remains unseen.
Schiano, for one, predicts a continuously evolving blogosphere.
"I think there will always be this room for grass-roots voices on the net," she said.
And as long as rabbis continue to preach, advocates to crusade, singles to gripe and ideologues to spar, Jews will continue clicking -- and posting -- away.