When Devora Kidorf wanted to help a family of four from northern Israel displaced by Israel's battling with Hezbollah, she knew where to turn. Having hosted the family for a night but needing to make room for relatives from abroad, the English teacher and mother of seven posted an urgent message on Janglo -- the ultimate online networking service for English-speaking ("Anglos") in Jerusalem -- seeking accommodations for the family she had just met.
Within minutes, Kidorf started receiving offers on behalf of the family. Within hours, the family was trying to decide between multiple options.
"Instant chesed [loving kindness]," said Kidorf, a Connecticut native and long-time Janglo user. "They're a very caring people, the Janglo community." Having just marked its fifth anniversary in June, Janglo founder and moderator Zev Stub is in the midst of upgrading the online site, where information is swapped, goods are bought and sold and mitzvahs are requested and performed. Janglo has roughly 10,000 members.
During Israel's fighting with Hezbollah, Janglo and its kid brother Taanglo -- for Tel Aviv/Dan area residents -- played a useful role in aiding those in need. Messages offering free counseling services, assistance and transportation to northern residents, as well as solicitations for donations and favors, were posted on a regular basis.
"If you look in our [Janglo] archives, you'll find a ton of people who wanted to open up their homes and wanted to help any way they could," said Stub, who studies at a yeshiva and is a former Jerusalem Post business journalist. "It's amazing the way the community wanted to help."
While Janglo usually doesn't accept real estate messages, it made a special exception during the conflict, because of the large number of displaced residents in the north, Stub said.
He is in the process of removing Janglo and Taanglo from its Yahoo list service and placing it on its own site, expected to be up around Rosh Hashanah. While the service will remain free, the two will become profit-making ventures by becoming incorporated and hosting their own advertising.
The Taanglo site is run by computer consultant Beau Schutz, originally from Washington, D.C., and has about 2,800 members in the Tel Aviv area. Similar sites with various names and formats have sprung up independently in many smaller communities throughout Israel.
The new Janglo/Taanglo Web site will offer business listings, such as restaurant and entertainment venues, as well as a place to rate them. Listings will also be categorized under topics, such as events, for sale and real estate -- similar to the U.S.-based Craig's List -- rather than being randomly organized as they are now, Stub said.
Stub, who immigrated from Chicago, founded Janglo after constantly being solicited about home appliances, general advice and rentals. The tall, wiry 29-year-old said he felt a sense of duty to connect English-speaking residents to one another to share information and opted to automate such a service through Yahoo Groups.
With up to 150 postings a day, offensive messages -- including ads for pornography sites -- have occasionally slipped by moderators. Stub, who is instantly notified about these by a barrage of furious e-mails, is quick to apologize to members and said such experiences have "taught me a lesson about strength and sticking to the rules."
Because of differences in taste, jokes, political statements, inspirational or religious materials -- other than to publicize events -- are not allowed. But such rules hardly deter fans who swear by these sites.
Members claim they have located lost passports, had important items transported to them from other cities and even found their life's calling through ads posted on Janglo and Taanglo.
Jerusalem resident Shari Fisch spotted a Janglo posting for a job with a publishing house -- where she has now worked for nearly three years -- just as she and her husband were depleting their savings. "I told the Janglo moderator at the time, 'You guys saved my life. This is amazing''" said Fisch, an immigrant from New York.
Sharon Sleeper, who advertises her bed and breakfast business on Taanglo to find renters for her home during the summer months, agreed, saying, "It's the greatest thing since sliced bread for the English-speaking population."
Brenda Gazzar is a Jerusalem-based freelance writer.